When I first heard about X-Men Destiny, an X-Men Action RPG that lets you choose your own path and design your own superhero, I was pretty stoked. I liked the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series, but I sometimes thought controlling an entire team got in the way of the fun. I also yearned to create my own superhero, and while X-Men Destiny doesn’t allow you to create one from scratch, it does give you three different characters to choose from and three different power sets to use.
But as the release date approached, my anticipation waned. This wan’t because of anything I heard about the game. In fact, it was the utter lack of hearing anything that made me apprehensive. If a hype meter could go into the negatives, it would have been at -50 for X-Men Destiny. Even just days before the release, there was almost nothing being written about the game.
And after playing the game for a few days, I have to wonder why.
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X-Men Destiny is surprisingly good in some areas…
X-Men Destiny isn’t going to win Game of the Year. But it also shouldn’t find itself on anyone’s “worst game ever” list. The game play is solid and fun, if a bit monotonous. There are definite issues with the game, but it does have a certain amount of polish that is surprising for a game with so little hype behind it.
One thing that surprised me is that they voice acting is pretty good. It won’t be winning any awards, but Gambit actually sounds like Gambit, which is refreshing after hearing Gambit butchered in the Wolverine movie. The writing is not spectacular, but it is true to the different heroes and villains of the X-men universe, and extra care was given to make sure each of the three characters you can choose have their own personality. I especially liked how Adrian was haunted by his dead father throughout the game.
After choosing your character and watching a short intro, you are thrown right into the game. It seems there’s a nice little mutant rally going on that some purifiers aren’t too keen on, and when a statue dedicated to the late Professor X falls to the ground, one can’t help but wonder if Magneto is stirring the pot a little. All hell breaks loose, and in the chaos, a police car flies through the air, coming straight at you… and that’s when the game pauses and lets you choose which power set you are going to use.
It’s a nice way of introducing the game and making the choice of powers a little special. After choosing your powerset, you get to see a unique cut scene of your hero “coming into his own” and discovering his (or her) mutant abilities. This same technique is used to choose new powers within your powerset, with the game pausing and asking you to make a choice between two different powers to be added.
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Solid, if linear, gameplay
The game itself is about what you would expect from an action RPG. You run around and bash on dozens of minions at a time, with some infrequent appearances by mini-bosses until you work up to a big boss fight. The game does seem to dish everything out in bite-sized morsels rather than giving you an open game world to explore, and despite being able to choose from helping the X-Men and helping the Brotherhood, the story is pretty linear. In fact, you’ll often find yourself in the exact same fight no matter which side you choose.
But one aspect of the game makes this work: it’s pretty fun to smash those minions to bits. Whether you are going with Density Control and turning yourself into an obsidian ball to smash down on them or using Energy Projection to cause energy to shoot up in waves in front of you, knocking the baddies out of the game is pretty fun.
And while there are no true items to collect, you do get interested in collecting x-genes. Each x-gene can unlock either an offensive, defensive or utility power. These x-genes are from the different heroes and villains of the X-men universe, so you might get Toad’s leaping ability for fast travel and Iceman’s ability to turn to ice for defense. You can also find suits, which change your appearance but don’t unlock any powers until you match the suit with the three x-genes that go with it. At that point, you’ll unlock a major power, like Wolverine’s increased regeneration or Cyclops’ ability to be a real dork. (Okay, maybe the suit power doesn’t grant dorkiness, but you do have to put up with Scott Summers throughout the game. And he’s still a goody two-shoes.)
The game also has a certain amount of replayability thanks to the different power sets. The story is linear, so you’ll go through the same quests, but the power sets can lend a slightly different strategy to the game. Density Control is about being a tank, tough to kill, while Shadow Matter is more like a “light fighter”, able to dish out a good amount of damage but not quite as solid at taking hits. Energy Projection is billed as being a ranged power set, but it still plays more like a melee fighter. You can hit at slightly greater range, but you aren’t exactly on the sidelines shooting our bolts of energy. You’ll be right in the thick of things, and having the most fragile of the power sets, you’ll need to be careful not to go splat. But it’s worth it just to throw down that energetic can of whoop ass.
Will X-Men Destiny be the best game you play this year? Probably not. But if you love the X-Men universe and you like action RPGs, it’s definitely worth checking out.
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