By Grant Stoner | Staff Writer
In 2013, NetherRealm Studios released “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” allowing comic book fans to finally answer the age-old question of who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman? Not only that, “Injustice” excelled at delivering fast-paced, fluid encounters, solidifying the title as an excellent addition to an already expansive genre.
Four-years-later, “Injustice 2” sets the bar even higher, bringing with it a compelling story, better animations and a uniquely addictive loot system.
Ever since their 2011 reboot of the “Mortal Kombat” franchise, NetherRealm Studios have incorporated intricate campaigns into their games, and “Injustice 2” is no exception. Following the events of the downfall of Superman’s regime, “Injustice 2” focuses on the rebuilding of a shattered world.
While not as morbid as its predecessor, the story mode feels like an arc taken directly from the pages of “Justice League.” I could not help but smile as Green Lantern recited his Corps’ Oath, or when Bruce Wayne donned his armor to confront Brainiac. Heroes fighting heroes, campy dialogue sequences and the reassembly of the Justice League are elements of comic book enjoyment in its purest form.
Players can also enter the Multiverse, “Injustice 2’s” iteration of the classic ladder mode. For me, this new feature proved to be the highlight of the game. Missions are timed, lasting anywhere from days to hours, forcing me to decide between an easier array of opponents, or a tougher, more rewarding event.
To further differentiate the Multiverse, each sequence of fights can include random battle modifiers. For example, one of my more recent excursions involved having to avoid sporadic lightning strikes. While they also damaged each enemy, they occasionally interrupted my combos, forcing me to forgo longer, more intricate strings, for shorter bursts of damage.
Throughout the story, as well as with each completion of a Multiverse event, players are rewarded with Mother Boxes. Similar to the loot boxes in “Overwatch,” Mother Boxes consist of five tiers, with equipment ranging from common white to epic gold. However, unlike traditional cosmetic items, these pieces of gear include adjustments to a character’s stats. I’m currently collecting the rare “LW Mark” set for Batman which, when completed, will grant an additional 200 points in strength. This is a significant boost, making some of my basic combos deal upwards of 40% more damage. Yet, this may take some time, as each Mother Box is procedurally generated. Despite this, I haven’t become frustrated when receiving items. With almost 30 characters in the current roster, each piece of loot makes me want to test, and attempt to perfect, every fighter.
Online functionality makes a rather unassuming return, with little to no changes from the first “Injustice.” King of the Hill lets players watch others as they fight, traditional 1v1 battles return as well and more competitive gamers looking to increase their leaderboard standings can compete in ranked matches. However, ranked matches do not allow for equipment buffs. Instead, unlockable gear results in cosmetic appearances only, leaving skill as the deciding factor for each fight.
Player-owned guilds are introduced as well, letting gamers team up with their friends to climb the online boards. Guilds do little to change online interactions, but they do grant players opportunities to unlock more Mother Boxes.
Long after beating “Injustice 2’s” incredible story mode, I found myself continuing to return to the Multiverse, hoping to unlock further pieces of gear. The drive to acquire epic loot for every character, as well experience new modifiers, has already made me sink countless hours into this game. And, if at any time I’m feeling bold, I’ll join an online lobby, hoping to show off my skills as the Batman.
“Injustice 2” is, in a word, addictive. In a time when superheroes are consuming movies and video games, it’s satisfying to see that NetherRealm Studios managed to successfully maintain the integrity of DC Comics’ beloved characters. Even if players find fighting games to be too difficult, “Injustice 2’s” story and Multiverse are certainly worth exploring.