Rocksteady isn’t having a good January. The past few weeks have seen major leaks emerge online for Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League that include a full plot synopsis, character details, and even screenshots from a playtest build that provide a solid idea of exactly how this game will look and play. Surprise – it’s a lot like Gotham Knights. The leaked screenshot features four of our main characters outfitted with custom loot alongside a bunch of generic icons pointing to playable missions, cosmetic options, battle passes, skill trees, and all the stuff you’d expect from a live-service game. Ever since the first trailer this was quite obvious that was Suicide Squad’s direction, but all of a sudden gamers are turning their noses up at what they hoped would be a masterpiece.
Since the battle pass leak, Rocksteady has tried to alleviate fears by being upfront about the whole situation. There will be seasonal passes and six in-game currencies all translating to a variety of different features and mechanics. Naturally, this bloated approach and repeating of past mistakes has players a little worried, and I don’t blame them. While it came from Warner Montreal, Gotham Knights was promised to be a story-driven co-op adventure that benefited from teamplay while also possessing a robust enough campaign to be played solo. In reality, it looked, played, and felt worse than the foundation of Batman games Rocksteady had built, and much of the progression system came down to lightweight crafting and grinding for resources by completing a number of generic and repetitive missions. By all accounts, it wasn’t very good.
When Kill the Justice League was first announced I rolled my eyes. Rocksteady and Warner Bros. were clearly keen to capitalise on the popularity of live-service experiences favouring content updates and user retention over a new blockbuster every few years. On the surface it’s a smart move, and with the right execution can create an ecosystem similar to Fortnite, Warframe, or Destiny 2 that justify their continued existence with expansions and quality of life improvements, fostering communities and passion that few can match. There are just as many examples of beloved properties and developers trying this approach only to crash and burn in an explosion of their own transparent greed.
The landscape continues to change too, and has done significantly since Suicide Squad began development several years ago. Arkham Knight released way back in 2015, and chances are this project has been fumbling through production ever since until it finally (read: hopefully) sees the light of day later this year. I can’t envision a game like this not having to constantly iterate upon its own design throughout development in response to industry trends and live-service advancements, otherwise it outdates itself immediately.
It has toiled away on a game that aims to embrace the future, but by design it can’t escape the past. While millions of us tune into live-service games each and every day with an aim to complete our daily quests and contribute to the grind, the idea of a developer we once adored for sprawling open worlds and narrative adventures we couldn’t find anywhere bowing to the very same formula leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It represents how this medium is cannibalising itself into permanent homogeneity in an effort to take over our lives with games that mean nothing unless we put them on a pedestal.
Who knows, maybe Suicide Squad straddles the line of traditional single player adventure and live-service juggernaut that Gotham Knights wasn’t able to. Perhaps every character will boast their own skills, missions, and development that aren’t just bland reskins of things we’ve seen before. Rocksteady certainly has the talent, and all the trailers we’ve seen thus far hint at something more ambitious. It’s too soon to tell though, and this avalanche of leaks confirms my worst fears while surfacing a handful of new ones.
Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, plus the return of Kevin Conroy’s Batman and the rest of the Justice League is only part of an already stacked cast, and I bet fans are hoping to see them fleshed out and explored with distinct stories we haven’t seen in games before, not jammed awkwardly into live-service missions and gear customisation that puts grinding for resources ahead of meaningful gameplay and thoughtful narrative. It’s hard to know yet if Suicide Squad will live up to expectations, but being compared it to the likes of Gotham Knights, Anthem, and Marvel’s Avengers before it launches isn’t exactly a good start.
I still have high hopes for it, but this recent leak and all the delays are doing a pretty good job of keeping my spirits down. Come on, Rocksteady – both of us need a win right now.
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