X-Men Destiny Review
Posted on Thursday, October 20 2011 @ 11:35:22 PST
Couldn't find a way to put this into the member reviews for the game, so I'll drop it here.
X-Men, I am your density. I mean…destiny.
Ever wished you could be a superhero? I know I have! As a kid, I wore a homemade Superman cape. I remember jumping off my roof onto my trampoline. I always wished the rush of wind could last a little longer. So when they sold this game as Choose your powers. Choose your allies. Choose your destiny. Well, the seven year-old inside me made the rental decision. Thirty year-old me knows what you usually get with licensed-material games, but I’ve enjoyed/bought the X-Men: Legends and Ultimate Alliances (I even bought X-Men Arcade). I love superheroes, I love super powers and I was strangely excited at the idea of making my own.
The game has a great intro, a comic sketch overview of how the X-Men Universe has changed. In a nutshell, the time-traveling sentinel, Bastion, came back in time and murdered Xavier. His death led to the breakdown of the X-Men and Mutant Rights, and the destruction of his school. Cyclops took the remaining X-Men and set off for San Francisco in hopes of rebuilding. But they’ve had little luck. End sketches and cue Havok engine graphics. The Mutant Response Division (a pro-mutant/human integration group) and the X-Men are holding a peace rally in hopes of unifying the mixed specie Bay Area. Everything is going swell but the feces hits the fan as the protest is supposedly disrupted by the Brotherhood. In response, the Purifiers (an anti-mutant militia) start a street war to quell the “mutant uprising.”
This is when you take over. The game gives you the option of choosing from three characters. Aimi Yoshida, the emo Japanese girl whose mutant parents smuggled her to the US from a less mutant-friendly Japan. She has all the unhappiness of an entitled American teen and a fetching scarf. Or there is the Southern beau, Grant Alexander from Georgia. Because who doesn’t love self-important meatheads? Fianlly, you have Adrian Luca. Son of an Purifier who died in battle, Adrian has been raised to hate mutants…just one problem… he is one! Right after picking your hero, you get to choose your powers. Your options are density control (change your body into rock), energy projection (hurl yellow orbs) or shadow matter (shadow knife rogue). Each one can be applied to whomever but it’s pretty easy to match up who should get each one. Lumbering jock turns into rock and the shadow matter matches Adrian’s tribal tats. Along the way you also collect Suits and X-Genes that slightly augment your powers. X-Genes come in three varieties: Offense, Defense, and Utility. Each one grants you a portion of another mutant's abilities. And if you can collect a full set, you can open up the X-Mode available from the specific mutant’s suit.
Choose your allies. In most X-Men games it’s X-Men against the Brotherhood, or even side by side facing a greater threat. But in this game, both sides have decided to move forward on separate but parallel paths. So you find yourself running into an amazing line-up of mutants from both sides. Toad, Gambit, Mystique, and Pixie to name a few. This is where you choose your destiny. The two sides ask for help in their particular quests and by aiding them you earn favor with the two groups. I thought this would affect the game, but I got as close to the X-Men as I could without them slapping a restraining order on me (95% X-Men/6% Brotherhood) and in the end of it all Magneto still offered me a spot on his squad! So much for the touted affiliation and branching story.
X-Men Destiny has some positives aspects. There’s a great list of cameos: Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Gambit, Mystique, hipster Nightcrawler, Quicksilver, Wolverine and more. They even use some of the more obscure villains. The cast is great and the voices were well-read and in-sync with the characters. Out of the gate, I was excited. I liked how they explained waypoint markers (Emma Frost projecting an image telepathically). I liked getting the option to craft my own mutant. And the setting appeared to be strong. The game is well crafted in the first hour of game play, the levels, enemies and characters are good looking and unique. The fighting animations for your character look beautiful too. But my enthusiasm took a quick dip.
Mostly because the game starts to wear thin. The look of the characters may be unique at the outset, but they wear thin quickly. Most of the models lack polish and the environments suffer from the same problem, looking good in some areas but plain and repetitious in the majority. Atop all of that the same enemy models are repeatedly spammed. The visual erosion of Destiny’s initial setting is accompanied by a story that gets weaker the longer it goes. The writing becomes clichéd, talking to the other mutants is dry and filled with jokes that fall flat. I found myself skipping conversations and disconnecting from the setting.
The fighting in a brawler needs to be strong, and Destiny just doesn’t deliver. The predictable enemies are granted a chance to win because the fighting is a mess. Your character is new to their powers and it shows in the clumsy way they maneuver on the battlefield. Attacks are inaccurate most of the time. I found myself using area attacks because I knew they would find targets. The targeting system provides no assistance as I found myself still missing with the ranged powers. Even the amazingly rendered fight animations become a negative point as they leave you open to enemy attacks without a break button. The worst part is that your special super powers can be ineffective. They cost a lot of energy (energy that is hard to come by) to use and can go off with little effect. The platforming and wall climbing is simplistic but frustratingly awkward at times due to the sometimes free, sometimes fixed camera. The boss battles are repetitive with bosses relying on A-B-C-repeat tactics that are obvious and easy to figure out. Instead of providing a smooth, engaging experience, the game play gets repetitive quick.
There’s a whole lot of choosing in X-Men: Destiny but the main problem is that I felt like none of it mattered. As I said earlier, who you fight alongside has no bearing on the outcome of the game. And despite the great cameos, that’s all they are. When you are teamed up with someone, you’re usually off doing your thing instead of working as a team. I felt similar frustrations about choices meaning nothing as I leveled up my character. At different parts of the game it gives you this-or-that options for new powers. But the descriptions don’t describe the powers well where a quick demo video would’ve done the job perfectly. I usually ended up with buyer’s remorse and the autosave function would lock me into the decision. I felt the same apprehension towards leveling up powers. XP gets tight towards mid-game and you can either upgrade your mutant’s powers or the augmentation X-Genes. I usually went with the more expensive personal powers, but for the amount I was spending I really didn’t get a positive return. The X-Gene/Suit system wasn't great either as the majority of the X-Genes did the same thing, which is pretty sad considering that there were probably only 15 in each category.
X-Men: Destiny advertises itself as an Action RPG, but you’re really just getting a big, dumb brawler. What’s disappointing is that I felt like they had a great concept and just didn’t flesh it out the way they wanted to. All the choices and options are just window dressing and add nothing to the experience. In the end, I found myself finishing the game out of determination to not waste my money. I felt like six year-old me again. Instead of really flying, I was just jumping off my roof onto the trampoline. A couple fleeting moments of excitement and some skinned knees. If you like brawlers or the X-Men, then you should catch this in the bargain bin.
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