July 13, 2024

WARNING: Embedded videos may include rough language

The games studio behind the beloved Batman Arkham games, Rocksteady, dropped their latest venture into the live service games genre, Suicide Squad Kills the Justice League, eight years after their last flagship release of Batman Arkham Knight in 2015.

“A new game set in the beloved Batman Arkham games universe? Sign me up!” is what I would have said before it launched on Jan. 30. 2024.

The game’s main story can be completed in roughly 10 hours, but that doesn’t mean the game’s over. In fact, the whole point of a “live service” game model is to essentially have an everlasting gaming experience, well, at least until the money keeps flowing in to keep the game profitable. The biggest example you may be familiar with is Fortnite, which is dominating the market, a game almost every other company has tried and failed to recreate.

The glaring issues with Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League

There’s simultaneously too much going on to fully wrap your head around it and not enough to keep you engaged. Even as someone with well over 30 hours into the game, I find myself unsure of what exactly each icon on the screen indicates. 

On the other hand, most of the missions have you defend points from waves of enemies until the game tells you to stop, which quickly gets repetitive. I’ve found that I’m either too overpowered, where I essentially one-shot enemies, or so under-leveled that the mission timer runs out before you can even eliminate a single target.

Weirdly enough, I don’t hate the game like so many people online seem to. As a big fan of the characters present here, I was able to enjoy my time playing with supervillains, such as swinging around Metropolis as Harley Quinn or reaching great heights as Deadshot, who I used for most of my time with the story.

Another issue with the game is how it seemingly throws away iconic leading characters like Batman and Superman in one-off boss battles, with very little explanation aside from some missable audio logs. Since it is a live service game, it is very possible they will flesh out the story in upcoming seasons. However, for now, I and many other players feel like we should have spent more time with these DC comics legends, particularly how they fit into the Arkham games’ universe.

Enter Helldivers 2

Right as Suicide Squad is struggling to find its footing, here comes Helldivers 2 to show them how it’s done.

Helldivers 2, developed by Arrowhead Game Studios, is the latest live service game to really make a splash on the scene. Personally, I wasn’t too interested before the game’s launch, and all the marketing seemed like your average shooter, but now things have changed.

Full transparency: I have not gotten a chance to play Helldivers 2 myself yet, but boy, I want to.

In the viral clips going around on X and TikTok, players are immersing themselves in this war against giant aliens and machines like I’ve never seen before. Clips like these, with players roleplaying together, are the best marketing any live service game can hope for.

TikTok user blackknight1016 showcasing Helldiver 2’s exciting gameplay
@kay.coolie

They was hatin on my “ill hold them here go on without me” aahhh moment 😂 #helldivers2 #kaycoolie #funnygamermoments #fypシ

♬ Avatar death song – PlayerH8r
TikTok user kay.coolie messing around with friends in Helldivers 2

This can’t be achieved by marketing agencies, but only through clever game design and player freedom.

Something Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League severely lacks.

Comparisons

In addition to Helldiver 2’s online presence and praise, the data further drives the point home.

Player count comparison between Helldivers 2 and SSKTJL showing the peaks and valleys of Helldivers 2 versus a flat line for SSKTJL (Steam Charts, 2024)

As of March 2, Helldivers peaked at roughly half a million players online, and since this data is purely Steam players, the real count would be much higher considering its dual release on PlayStation 5. Whereas Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League maintained around 600 players on Steam. This is not an ideal scenario for Rocksteady or Warner Bro’s Games, especially if this game is supposed to carry on for years to come.

A large comic book live-service game falling flat on its face made by a game studio renowned for its single-player titles reminds me of the time Marvel shared a similar fate with their Marvel’s Avengers game in 2020.

Developed by Crystal Dynamics, known for their Tomb Raider games, Marvel’s Avengers was supposed to be a long-lasting Marvel video game piggybacking off the success of Avengers Endgame, but it ended up getting cut short.

Not only did the game receive middling reviews, but in 2023, the developers completely killed off the game, canceling future content plans and even taking the game off all digital marketplaces. That was three years of Marvel’s Avengers, but how long can Suicide Squad last for its relatively smaller yet loyal fanbase?

Considering Helldivers 2 is $50 and Suicide Squad is $90, Rocksteady would be in a PR nightmare if they pull the plug this quickly without offering full refunds.

What now

Even Warner Bros. can’t ignore the failure of Suicide Squad. Gunnar Wiedenfels, Chief financial officer at Warner Bros. Discovery, said the game had “fallen short of our expectations.” Which could be the nicest way for a large company to call their product a flop.

At the moment, Rocksteady seems to be focused on fixing gameplay bugs and server issues. Helldivers 2’s only concern has been the opposite, as they work towards increasing server capacity due to how successful it’s been, which I’d consider a good problem to have.

I hope for the best for Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League to continue supporting their game for years to come because there is fun to be had here, and I would hate to be out of $90 with nothing to show for it.

Rocksteady has revealed their roadmap for the next couple of seasons, the first of which will be introducing their new take on the clown prince of crime, Joker. Hopefully, they take a few notes from Arrowhead Studios on how to make their live service game…alive.

Otherwise, this could be the first and last content drop we receive.

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