The Devil makes work for players’ hands to do.
I watched The Omen for the first time in my life last year, and I didn’t care for it. It is a story about a child, who is supposed to be The Antichrist, and he is the least interesting character in the movie. Everybody dies around him, and he’s barely an active player. Fast forward to 2012’s Lucius, which very clearly is an homage to The Omen, and the titular boy is literally controlled by an active player. Though I’ve never had the joy/misfortune of playing the previous entry, I can definitively say Lucius II is as empty as its source material and annoyingly buggier.
After Lucius successfully murdered everyone at home in the first game and convinced a detective that his father did it, he is committed to a hospital, powerless and practically catatonic. During an attempt at electroshock therapy, he awakens and begins his murder spree anew. Lucius catches wind that he has a destiny to fulfill, and in order to do that, he needs to search the hospital for clues and work his way towards arising as The Antichrist.
Although you play through the story, it feels like a non-entity. Lucius himself never expresses a single emotion or says a single word. Aside from murdering everyone around him, he simply plays an unknowing errand boy to the narrator, who knows more about what’s happening than he does. Between each chapter, there are well-animated cardboard cutout cut-scenes that are more interesting than anything that plays out in-engine.
However, given how much time you spend playing instead of watching these, I’d have preferred something more integrated. For each task that Lucius completes, there’s a musical cue, and the narrator reveals a bit more, his voice often overshadowed by the music and other sounds. And it’s not like there are any remarkable twists or turns—Lucius just becomes more evil and removes both figurative and literal roadblocks in his way. All other characters are also completely flat, providing no motivation for players to become invested.
But maybe you’re not playing Lucius II for the story. This is a game about murdering people left and right, sometimes creatively. Well, you certainly can do that. If anything, I’d compare the gameplay to a bargain-bin stealth title. Starting with the tutorial, every part of the presentation and controls feels loose and janky. In order to get around, Lucius has to avoid arousing the suspicions of his victims, hospital employees in the first half of the game. This means staying out of restricted areas and, oddly, not being caught holding any objects. Rather than putting anything in his hand, Lucius levitates items right above it, so just holding a can of food for too long is suspicious and can lead to a game over if you’re not careful. Magically dragging carts holding defibrillators or air tanks doesn’t fare much better.
So that’s a thing. Among the objects he collects to assist his terror campaign are items to throw at breakable fixtures, sharp objects to put in pressurized slots, and various poisons and flammable liquids. Lucius must murder indirectly, so it’s all about the setup. He can knock electrical wires out of panels to shock people, throw fuel cans through vents to land on active stove-tops, and electrify faucets. Despite the myriad number of ways there are to kill, they begin to repeat themselves very soon and very often, rendering much of the gameplay mundane. Every now and again, a few more creative methods enter the fray, such as altering prescriptions for waiting patients or bees, but they are easily missed and few and far between.
Your victims are fleshy meatsacks who are all dumb as rocks. Avoiding arousing a furtive look is not challenging in the least, and Lucius’ wandering is generally met with a “Hey there, Son!” even when he wanders in a dangerous chemical lab or MRI lab. As Lucius slaughters, he can level up his recovered supernatural abilities. He can possess others, making them wander into traps or create some, move objects telekinetically, and stoke nearby fires or burn bodies.
These abilities allow Lucius to exploit the general lack of panic experienced by the dwindling staff. When they encounter a dead body, they do panic briefly, but that is a glitchy mess as they run around, calm down, say hello to Lucius, and then notice the same body again, alerting no one. Unlike some stealth games, there’s no fail state for alerting too many people, though it can become erratic to eliminate running targets. Until later levels, there’s no requirement to kill everyone, but you’ll miss achievements and experience points.
Whatever enjoyment I experienced while playing Lucius II was balanced out by a number of bugs, including severely frustrating and game-breaking ones. Characters would become stuck in place or enter endless panic cycles for no reason. At some point, every time I tried to throw certain items, they’d become frozen in the air. Add on to this the significant number of noticeable typos in item names and descriptions, including objects labeled “NULL” like the developers just plain forgot.
Later on, one victim died from an explosion, which knocked a key, one I needed to move on, completely out of time and space. And after eliminating a boss, a tracking fireball lingered for minutes, eventually killing Lucius. When he recovered, the boss was alive but inanimate, preventing the goal from being completed. These latter bugs forced complete restart of those chapters, wasting significant time. By the way, I experienced all of these and then some after the release date. The game is just unfinished, which is appalling.
Even as I get older and begin to take a more critical look at video game violence, I feel like I can recommend plenty of other games where you can recklessly kill people left and right. Hell, I’d even suggest Dead Rising 3, which I wasn’t nuts about. The killing doesn’t disgust me in Lucius II. The awful bugs, lack of polish, boring story, and repetitive gameplay are gross enough. I suggest watching The Omen. There are less bugs, and it’s significantly shorter.