People gave Lucasarts a lot of crap towards the end, mostly for being a company interested in nothing but licensed garbage. For the most part that was totally fair criticism. But there was once a time when Lucasarts wasn’t just brave, it was a little weird about it.
That era was the late ’90s, a fascinating time in the company’s history, when it was coming off the golden age of its adventure games, but hadn’t yet settled into its role as a factory for very average Star Wars games.
It was a time we saw the company get its freak on, releasing cult titles like Western-themed shooter Outlaws and Heaven/Hell simulator Afterlife, projects that both fall well outside of most people’s expectations for what a Lucasarts game could, or would, be.
It was around this time, in 1997, that Lucasarts tried something very un-Lucasarts. Taking one look at Blizzard’s success with Diablo, they decided to release a game that would compete directly against it in the marketplace. That game was called Justice Unlimited.
It was built from the ground up to be “Diablo, except with superheroes”, former Lucasarts designer John Stafford recalls in Rob Smith’s excellent Rogue Leaders Book. Between 1997-98 a small team put together concept art (some of which you can see here) and a story for the project, but that’s as far as it went.
Rogue Leaders (the source of the top two images) has some more art from the game, for whom it credits “artist unknown”, but one artist we know worked on the game was Kevin Micallef, who has the below image from his work on the project still viewable on his site.
Would the game have been any good? Given the fact it was shelved before it was even turned into serious code, the answer is probably “nope”. But then, given how weird and wonderful other Lucasarts games of the era turned out to be, it would have been awesome to at least see it in action.
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