X-Men: Destiny. This game had some major hype in the video game community as it was being developed, being touted as an RPG based on the X-Men world. This is the first time you’ve been able to essentially create a new hero and step into their shoes, so it’s an interesting idea.
When you begin the game, you choose one of three starting characters and you choose one of three hero powers. The downside is that your choice doesn’t really matter. This game is so simple and each power plays basically identical, so it doesn’t matter what you choose. The narrative adapts slightly, giving you some different cut-scenes and some different dialogue, but the meat and potatoes of the game remains the same.
So, here’s my #1 complaint: Why would I want to play a game as an unknown hero with mediocre powers and a subpar backstory? There are X-Men flying around and fighting and I’m stuck down on the ground doing nothing. I chose to play as Aidan, the son of a anti-mutant “purist.” I chose powers based on controlling rock, so I could put rocks on my hands and hit people and pull rocks up from the ground. It was cool for a few fights, but it was nowhere near the exhilaration of playing as Iceman or Wolverine or… anyone else.
My #2 complaint is that the very basics of the game, the combat at its very core, is superficial and shallow. This feels like an arcade game, built with a “weak” and “strong” attack button. There is nothing complicated and there’s not even much in terms of combos to spice up combat at all. And the enemies you fight are all exactly the same, even using the same character skins. It is lazy and lackluster work. I don’t feel like a superhero and that is the main reason people play games like this.
I’ve loved games like X-Men Legends, Spiderman, Arkham Asylum, and even Wolverine: Origins. Why? Because each game made you feel like you truly were Wolverine or Batman or Spiderman. They took what made those heroes great and let you run wild. Spiderman was an open world where you could swing from rooftop to rooftop. Arkham Asylum let you drop stealthily down behind opponents, grab them, and haul them up into the rafters. But this game, even though I’m supposedly made of rock, I can’t even break boxes. The only destructible environment is boxes that hold health and energy.
And the game is linear, to the point of frustration. An attack happens, and I see brawling, but I can’t just jump over this car in the road, I have to walk around it. I can’t punch boxes out of the way. I can’t destroy light poles. It is a facade of an environment, while forcing you down narrow and confining corridors. My #3 complaint is that the level design is shallow, horrific looking, and not at all intuitive to navigate. They utilize this ridiculous climbing system where you have to jump onto ledges and move around. It’s hard to explain, but it is one of the most ridiculous game mechanics I’ve ever seen. I died probably 10 times in one level just trying to crawl my way around a building. The camera wouldn’t show me the whole picture, so I’d jump to the next ledge and fall 20 stories down. Frustrating.
#4. The graphics are on-par with a title from maybe 10 years ago. The characters are blocky, textures are flat, animations are amateur, and even simple things such as basic fire effects look like a joke. Characters have clothing/hair/accessories that go in and out of their bodies. Voicework doesn’t match up with their facial (lack of) expressions.
Since I already said how I’d prefer a game playing as the X-Men, it’s a shame that this game forces you to interact with so many heroes/villains that are much more amazing than you. There is a huge cast and it’s fun to see them, but it’s not at all convincing why Cyclops would ask you to help fight Magneto. You discover that you’re a mutant and now all of a sudden, you’re investigating secret labs and fighting robots? I don’t think so.
The story is implausible, ridiculous, and the sham idea of “choice” is misleading.
Since the game was being branded an RPG, it’s hard to get that out of your mind when you play this game. You think that you’re going to create a hero/villain. But all you do is echo and mimic other heroes and villains. You get different outfits to wear, but each one is the outfit of another character. I wore Juggernaut’s outfit because it offered defensive perks. How can I feel like my character is unique when I’m wearing the same clothes as the guys fighting alongside me?
So it’s a shame that the RPG elements fell apart. Even in the storyline, there are shallow choices which allow you to side with either the X-Men or the Brotherhood. But whichever you choose, the storyline keeps going the same way. If I select “Side with Brotherhood,” the next cutscene will involve Cyclops saying “Please don’t do that again,” before giving me the next mission. It’s a slap on the wrist but nothing changes. The Infamous franchise managed to blend the idea of choice better into a superhero/villain frame (although I would still fight there needs to improvement on the morality front), so I’d look there for ideas. When you complete a mission for A, you can no longer complete B. Makes sense.
Update after playing the game a second time:
I was a little worried I might have been too harsh, so I wanted to play it through a second time and make sure I spot-on. Well, I was. But I can’t deny that I had a little fun. It’s mindless and easy combat that I can just mash buttons and not worry about losing. I beat the game in about 4 hours my second time through, even without being able to skip cutscenes and dialogue (which is really annoying).
I played as Aimi, a Japanese girl who’s parents were mutants and who shipped her to US to learn about herself. I gave her “shadow matter” powers. I was right about it playing exactly the same. Some moves were different, but in general it was pretty similar. I also chose the opposite choices I made in the first game and, as stated in the review, everything ended up the same. You fight Magneto no matter which side you choose. You fight Gambit no matter which side you choose. It’s a case of Dragon Age 2 disease, which had the fault of inconsequential choices.
Back to the original review. So overall…
This is not an RPG. This is a shallow and superficial game which destroys everything good about the X-Men universe and gives us a forgettable 5-hour experience that we wish we could have back. I believe a game could exist in the vein of what we hoped for, though. Imagine the world of Infamous, where you can choose powers that allow you to fly, turn into rock, shoot fire, etc. The game doesn’t need to be a button mashing linear tunnel of repetitive goons.
I hope this failure doesn’t deter other developers from trying, because a successful game like that would be something I’d get behind 100%. Unfortunately, this one was a flop.