FBT babysits the Antichrist one last time…
The Lucius series does have its fans, at least those who enjoy it for what it is. The first, a dour tale of a little boy murdering his family for Satan was pretty much a walking sim – it was a lot of fun to watch, but not particularly satisfying to play – I wanted to murder my mom not watch it happen… Lucius II, taking onboard the comments that the original was too linear, was a batshit-crazy free-roam murderball where you killed indiscriminately. And was a terrible buggy mess that didn’t work. So, with the bar set pretty low, is it third time a charm?
Having claimed the scroll that holds back the Rapture, Lucius returns to his old town with McGuffin - the cop-turned-accomplice - in tow, to set about breaking the scroll’s seven seals so Old Nick can take over. Murder spree optional.
Like the sequel, we have an open world and this time it’s an entire town – I envision sneaking into houses, setting up accidents and murders, but there’s nothing here. It’s like wandering around Google Stadia. Not one person on the sidewalks, cars on the streets, not even people in houses unless they’re story-dependant; it’s entirely empty. Except for dozens of pointless Devil toy collectibles. I’m not here for achievements. Where’s the murder stuff?
McG takes Lucius for a wander to meet the locals/victims, then they set up camp in an abandoned fairground where they intend to recreate biblical events to break the seals. Lucius’ plan seems to be ‘find someone who vaguely relates to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and murder them’. Lucius III’s plan is to have us game like it’s 2003.
Lucius III is full of shoestring shenanigans. Cutscenes in particular come in for some serious budget-cuts. Often the voice-work sounds like it was recorded through a Mask, and scenes don’t reflect choices; I killed some kids and later went to their mother’s house where she told me the kids are playing upstairs - and they appeared in the final cutscene too. Characters float off, walk through walls or sink into the floor, and often freeze once the scene is over. When this happens the autosave is no use, so it’s back to the very start of the chapter, and that gets tiresome quick. Worst of all though, the cutscenes go on for an interminable time, often with everyone just kinda hanging about waiting for someone to say 'cut'. Instead of editing or altering them, the developers actually just added an achievement when you skip...
You can tell a lots been cut, most notably the Halloween party everyone bangs on about; Lucius even has an outfit for it, but we never go – or maybe he does and I missed it, you can miss some of the optional murders, which is easy given the plot-holes and slapdash shortcuts. It’s obvious this has been condensed; there’s seven seals to break, but once we have the four horsemen done, McG just locks everyone in the church and tells Lucius to kill ‘em all to hurry things along (And then afterwards asks where is everyone).
There’s a ton of other random bugs, shortcuts and weirdness going on, but they kinda add to the eerie feel of it. One bug even stopped me from getting changed in the morning, so I had to bring about the Apocalypse in my favourite stripy Bear PJs.
Lucius does seem to have calmed down a little. This is much closer to the original where only plot-dependant things can be interacted with. He has telekinesis, will get firey and can mind-control when needed but that’s it. A bizarre as it is pointless aspect is Lucius can now turn into a Raven and flit above the town to get a bird's eye view of how basic the game is. I only used it once with purpose, and in the finale where we descend into hell - a platforming sequence when the raven ability would be useful, we can’t use it. There’s a lot in this game that just seems unnecessary...
There’s a whole subplot which is exactly the plot of Psycho, but unlike Norman, Lucius will hurt a fly; one of the Horsemen is a black man who Lucius inexplicably kills by conjuring up some KKK to lynch him - and he even wears the cutest little outfit. He also uncovers a paedophile who he gets publicly arrested to maximise the family’s shame, then hangs him in his police cell in front of cops.
But, against my expectations, this really does have a charm. I didn’t expect it to, I thought the first was a missed opportunity, the second a mess, and this would be more diminishing returns but somehow through all the cheap, buggy issues, Lucius III is surprisingly effective.
It mostly comes from Lucius being downright unnerving. In the first game he was blank, in the second he was badly drawn, but here you can see him thinking. There’s an intensity to him, the way he’s just watches, oozing malcontent, glowering at an increasingly afraid McG... It’s a lot of fun watching him stare at people and thinking ‘ah shit you dead’ when you realise he’s fitting them up for a Horseman-shaped coffin. He’s inscrutable but clearly dangerous, and the way he just silently wanders off – like after using barbed wire to hang a Horseman while McG throws up - is really unnerving. I’m playing him and he’s scaring me.
It’s more of a puzzler than the original, this time we figure out how to do it and we’re more involved so the kills feel more ‘satisfying’, and the story builds so well – this is the end of the world we’re bringing about; it does feel like you’re summoning the Devil. And if you’re struggling with the main plot, you can always take a break and go side-murder someone. Lucius will kill people purely for shit n' giggles; like a weird Napoleon Dynamite character who he had zero reason to kill, or boys he tricks into taking LSD - they have no baring on the plot really, its just Lucius letting off steam after a tough day bringing about the Apocalypse.
Lucius III is buggy and cheap but its cold, dead heart is in the right place. Despite all the annoyances and logic-farts I had a great time. There’s a good/bad ending, which makes no sense and it’s totally laughable taking the good route; we’re the Antichrist, we were only ever going to choose the bad option.
I figured this game would send me to hell, and it did, but it’s all right here. I kinda like the little mute manic finally. No idea how many people we murdered together across the three games, but I’m gonna miss him. See you in hell.