If Heath Ledger and Alan Rickman have taught us anything, it’s that villains are a lot more fun than heroes. Villains RPG, despite its potential, doesn’t quite live up to this lesson.
You all probably know how RPGs work: you pick a character, you send them on missions, this gives you points you can use to make your character more powerful, they can do more difficult missions, get more points and so on.
Villains RPG is just the same, except the characters you pick from are all ‘villains’ – there’s a Dr. Doom-looking one, a Joker-looking one, a Dark Phoenix-looking one, and a couple of others. They all play the same, so your choice is pretty arbitrary.
Once you have your character there’s lots of stuff to do – battles, missions, tournaments. You can adjust your stats and abilities, build an army of henchmen, form an alliance with other players.
These are all accessed through menus and pages that I thought were quite nicely laid out as far as app games go – there’s a decent designer on the staff somewhere.
But the problem is you don’t really do anything. When you go on a mission, you just press the button that says ‘mission’ and then read some text that says ‘Mission Completed!’
If you challenge someone to battle, you just press the ‘Battle’ button and then read some text that says ‘You won the battle!’ or sometimes ‘You were defeated.’ I’ve never been a fan of turn-based combat in RPGs because it feels slow, stilted, and too much like maths.
But at least you’re doing something, and your decisions will affect the outcome of the fight. Here, you’re just pressing buttons.
I understand the limitations that designing a game for phones and tablets must set. I understand that you can’t have lush, unique animations for every mission or punch of a battle.
But even just some more illustrations would make a difference. We get to see what our character looks like, and some small icons for henchmen, buildings, some menus etc.
But just a static image of a cityscape before I do a mission, or a cool illustration of my character pulling back his fist before telling me the results of a battle, these would make the world of difference.
The design is good, but it’s all interface, no joy – this game is just systems admin, but in ‘villainous’ purple. The same company also make Superheroes Alliance , which I can only assume is exactly the same but with a different colour scheme and, I don’t know, sidekicks instead of henchmen.
Villains RPG offers in-app purchases if you want to max out your stats quickly or get a sweet power or whatever, but when these things don’t look or even really play any different, the appeal isn’t really there.
If you like managing resources and fulfilling quotas then you might enjoy this game. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by things like Infamous or Despicable Me, but I feel like there should be some fun and drama to being a villain. Villains RPG feels more like stocktake than anything else.