DC Heroes & Villains first impressions preview - "A missed opportunity"
Whose intellectual level reigns supreme: Gorilla Grodd's or Lex Luthor's? Comic book fans will likely already know the answer, but DC Heroes & Villains plays everything out anyways in concrete examples through engaging dialogue. But while it's incredibly entertaining to see Lex sass Grodd in not-so-subtle ways, a game is really more than its narrative - and sadly, the gameplay of DC Heroes & Villains falls by the wayside here.Table of contents:
THE STORY OF DC HEROES & VILLAINSIt all starts with an underground pulse. As a mysterious wave of energy reverberates throughout Gotham and Metropolis, our favourite crimefighters band together under Batman's leadership to find out its origin. At the same time, Lex Luthor - master opportunist that he is - forms his own team under a hidden agenda, and both heroes and villains fight against thugs, scientists, and each other to further their own cause.
DC Heroes & Villains shines in that its dialogue sequences are superbly written without anyone acting out of character. I absolutely adored the back-and-forths between the heroes, as well as the witty quips from the villains' side of the story. This honestly could have earned a perfect score from me if the narrative was all it took to make or break a game - unfortunately, not even the entertaining dialogue (or my love of DC Comics) could keep the gameplay interesting.
DC HEROES & VILLAINS GAMEPLAY AND GRAPHICSAnd it's such a shame too because while all the fan-fave IPs are here in full colour, I felt like the game's potential was wasted on a dull match-3 mechanic. It doesn't help that about a third of the screen is exactly that - the match-3 puzzle front and centre, hogging up all the space in boring bejeweled tiles, squishing the cool-looking character cards down at the bottom.
Basically, you match similar-coloured tiles to clear them off the board and attack the enemies on top. Each row you clear attacks a certain row of enemies as well, with each colour corresponding to a character card's energy bar at the bottom. Clearing enough, say, yellow tiles will fill up Robin's energy bar and charge him up enough to unleash a special attack. There's also a rock-paper-scissors mechanic in play here, with some colours weaker or stronger against others.
While I do appreciate the level of strategy involved, it doesn't feel enough to really make each match interesting. For one thing, it would've been cooler if the character skills actually had an effect on the board itself rather than just different variations of attacks on enemies. For another, if the coloured jewels themselves were something else - like, say, avatars of the characters or even superhero icons - that small visual upgrade would've made each battle less dull.
WHAT'S THE VERDICT?While I can forgive the match-3-slash-RPG hybrid mechanics, what made the game more frustrating for me was that the paywall felt really, really huge - at least, at this point during the soft launch. The difficulty level is hard to scale for F2P players, in my opinion, since you can't move forward in the main story without trying to Autowin previous stages just so you can grind. Even then, you'll eventually run out of Stamina, or run out of coins used to level up characters.
Speaking of the gacha element, it's also a pain to pull from the summons pool here, as you'll mostly get fragments of heroes, and it takes a long time to earn enough in-game currency to pull full characters. And even when you do nab a full character, you won't be able to use them freely in the main campaign, since most stages have prerequisites you need to fulfill. If, say, you only have three villain characters in your party, then you won't stand a chance against enemies in a particular stage since it's five of them against three of you.
The same is true for other dungeon modes in the game - prerequisites vary from heroes and villains to even character classes like Fighters and such, so if you haven't pulled enough characters to add to your team, you're basically a sitting duck out there. Plus, there's no use leveling up a single character who might be able to carry the whole team, since that character won't be able to fulfill all requirements in all stages, anyway.
Case in point: I'm currently at player level 20 (which is your level cap), but I can't get past the Level 16 stage even if my characters are all at level 18. I also can't level up my characters up to my player level cap of 20, since I don't have enough coins to buff them all up. You can try your hardest to beat the enemies manually (by the way, you can set fights on Autoplay here, which is odd for a match-3 game), but at some point, you just won't have enough firepower to best a random thug who wipes you out in one hit.
Overall, it just feels like DC Heroes & Villains missed a whole lot of opportunities here. And it's not just because it's a match-3 game - the last title in the same genre that I thoroughly enjoyed was Million Dungeon, and that one had deep strategic mechanics despite it being a match-3 title. Here's hoping there will be more improvements when the game officially launches, because right now, it's sadly a bit of a letdown.