Barely a year goes by where we don’t see an addition to the Dragon Ball game series, thus eventually they became a little samey. There’s no surprise there though because the popular stories they’re based on won’t change anytime soon. The last video game released had a fresh developer at the helm and Battle of Z followed that same path, however brought co-operative team based battling to the forefront successfully. With a different and very experienced developer of the series returning this time in the form of Dimps, how on earth can Dragon Ball XenoVerse rejuvenate the tales for its debut on the new generation of consoles?
Quite simply by making YOU the star of the show.
It is Age 850 and you have been summoned to Toki Toki City as a wish come true for the time traveller, Future Trunks. Something strange is going on in the history of time and he needs your help to correct the alterations made. It follows all the Sagas we have seen before (Saiyan, Cell, Majin Buu, to name just a few), plus a little bit more, albeit with strange alternative battles as a consequence of the meddling by an unknown force. You can be the saviour of time but only if you can prove to be a great warrior.
Who are you though? Well that depends on how you use the creation tools given to you by XenoVerse, starting with your race. Whether you want to be an Earthling, a Namekian, a Majin, a Saiyan or even a part of Frieza’s race, it’s entirely your choice, even the gender, although they do come with different positives and drawbacks related to their health, Ki etc. This design area may seem basic from the untrained eye but you only have to add an extensive range of clothing to the mix and take a look at the many characters created by other gamers to see there are so many awesome looking possibilities. My very own Saiyan can slip into battle cutscenes looking like he’s always been there and putting the player into the focus is done really well.
It will be slow going to actually become a warrior of great strength, mainly due to the attributes that can only be improved with skill points earned from levelling up. You won’t feel the greatness to be honest, even if you pile them all into super attack strength, until around level 30 which is far too long. There’s also a lack of power in some of the legendary moves we all love such as the Kamehameha, which you can use pretty early on and that probably doesn’t help matters. Fortunately, over time more skills will drop from mission rewards or you could become the apprentice of someone like Krillin and get given his moves as you earn more XP whilst under his wing. With lots of skills available to unlock, you will find the setup that suits your play style eventually. Don’t expect to go Super Saiyan for a while, even when it’s in the shops it’ll cost you lots of Zeni.
I’ll admit to previously being bored of the same routine fights to go through that have to occur in pretty much every Dragon Ball game, however this time it does feel fresher because of the slight tweaks in stories and the inclusion of the time interferers. These story missions though can be stupidly difficult, pointlessly difficult in fact and the only way around this is to level up more via repetition of these missions and the Parallel Quests, which I will come back to shortly. The cutscenes feel like they are lifted straight from the TV show and are second to none in quality visually; the same can’t be said for the voice acting. Having grown up watching the original TV series in which most of these battles occur, they sound terrible in comparison and these are by no means bad voice actors so I’m not sure where it went wrong. When your own character has a voice, chosen by you in creation, it’s a little disappointing that he’s a mute for the most part.
So, these Parallel Quests are basically battles that could happen as a result of the interference and are the go to missions to earn more Zeni and XP, amongst other things. To unlock the rewards available you won’t just have to complete the main objective but also secret ones that may happen by chance or triggered by you Googling them – Yes, we’ve all done it! You aren’t limited to just using the created character either, giving a purpose to the many other well known ones in the game such as Cell, Vegeta, Goku and even that goon Guldo, there’s a decent variety that’ll become available as you progress the story.
Again I enjoyed the creativity and freshness in the Quests, the sheer number of them (over 50) is great too. And if you remember me mentioning co-operative battles in a previous game then you may be pleased to know these can be attempted in the same way, which is lucky because the A.I. help is pretty useless.
This time co-op has been limited to just three players in a team too which I wasn’t awfully pleased about. To add further bad news, no longer can you really support each other using Ki blasts and health related special moves, instead players will have to use up their battle item capsules. During my online questing it was clear people only used capsules for themselves and generally ignored your calls for help as you lay dying on the Wastelands, leading to failure. You can obviously play with friends to dodge this issue, the only problem being when I invited a pal the session would end after each Quest and although Toki Toki City isn’t that big it gets monotonous going to the Online Parallel Quest part of the game hub. It’s a necessary evil to get through some of the trickier Quests.
Toki Toki City is the hub of everything you’re able to do in XenoVerse and once you learn where everything is it becomes pretty easy to navigate. In addition to the modes I’ve outlined you’ll be able to find item, clothing, accessory, skills and mixing shops as well as offline and online 1vs1 battles. And if you can get into the online version of the city you can really marvel at the tremendous characters that come from Dragon Ball fans’ imagination. The actual concept of the city works, however the implementation of making new friends and communicating is flawed. You can’t just play Quest after Quest without downtime in between plus the text boxes for the preset chat options get filled up by people spamming it.
Now to the most important aspect of any game with fighting as its roots, the actual combat. You’ve got two buttons to create combos with, ignoring the Special and Ultimate attacks that use Ki, and it quickly becomes a repetitive slog. Some may say that games from yesteryear thrived on such few buttons and I’ll say… but this is now and we have to advance. It doesn’t help that the movement for ascending and descending is awkward or that during an attack you can somehow be left at a weird angle which you can’t correct immediately. I did enjoy the look of the special moves, however the locking on mechanism isn’t all that great and with the amount of time it can take for the animation to begin, the enemies move meaning you end up blasting a rocky mountain instead.
The key factor in making Dragon Ball XenoVerse stand out from the many games in the series is quite obviously showcasing the gamer as the centrepiece of all things going on. There’s so much to do and for those who can overlook the combat that began to bore me, there can be hours of fresh battles to partake in. It looks good, the ideas on the whole make sense but when you’re playing it you’ll find little irritations. I’m not entirely sure why the difficulty fluctuates so much and so randomly either, I pounded one of the new evils with no issues and then I’ll be constantly out fought by a lesser power.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse is a game that fans will appreciate to a degree after years of being subjected to the same old stuff but it’s the small things that the makers have forgotten about which will have us slowly backing away. If you make playing with friends or potential friends a chore, the majority of cool rewards being completely random drops and have combos so generic that it hurts then don’t expect such a favourable reaction. Just Saiyan.