You might expect Dragon Ball Xenoverse to be a game for fans of the series – I watched Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) when it first aired in the UK back in 1998, but over the years I haven’t kept up with the events and lives of Goku and the gang – with my limited knowledge, can a Dragon Ball newbie enjoy a game like Xenoverse?
Quite simply the answer is yes. Xenoverse is a whole lot of fun – the gameplay is simple and focused on fights that are set in three-dimensional environments where movement can be made in any direction. This can make the combat quite disorientating at times as you wrestle with all the directional axis in order to target your opponent or fly toward their location – using the lock-on is certainly a must – the camera also seems to have issues keeping up with the action too, often crashing into the environment but always correcting itself relatively quickly.
Combos are simple and reminded me of my misspent years playing Street Fighter II although you won’t have to remember multiple special move sequences – Xenoverse’s combat is focused on button and trigger combos to produce an array of fast-paced brutal attacks. It’s simple, which means there is a risk that Xenoverse could turn into a manic button mashing experience. If you take the time to master the various combos, Ki attacks, special and ultra moves while on the offensive but remember to block, throw and use your evasion skills for defensive measures, you might find something that is far deeper than you first thought.
The game starts with various fights in history between popular Dragon Ball characters – history is rewriting itself and your role in the story is to stop it from completely writing itself and certain heroes out of existence. It’s not an incredibly deep storyline but because it’s set throughout Dragon Ball’s history during key moments in time, it will appeal to all regardless of any prior series knowledge.
Xenoverse’s main strength is the custom character creation, although this may appeal more to fans. You can choose a gender, race and from a variety of character choices to create a hero that wouldn’t look out-of-place if they appeared in the next episode of the show. As you play through the game you gain XP points that can be invested into your character’s various attributes as you level up – queue the RPG elements.
There are items to collect and craft by visiting the various shops in the hub world or by finding them in the various levels of the game – these come in handy for restoring health, Ki or stamina during the more difficult fights. Clothing can also be unlocked and bought, although with no try before you buy, you need to be clued up on your DBZ clothing or expect to waste plenty of money finding something you like – luckily each piece of clothing also has an attribute buff so you can just opt for something that plays to your character’s combat strengths.
Characters are really well drawn and celebrate the iconic art that DBZ is known for. During fights they wince with each blow to the face or stomach, cuts will form on their skin and hair will react as they are thrown across the screen from a powerful attack. It’s a shame that the environmental textures are rather bland and at times incredibly flat. Character animation is particularly great during super and ultimate moves but the playground they exist in is uninspiring even for a game based on an anime.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse doesn’t stop at borrowing RPG elements; it also borrows from the limited MMO experience of Destiny. Toki Toki City acts as the hub world where other players congregate. Here you can organise yourself into teams to fight other players in online battles or tackle one of the many Parallel Quests (PQ) – random timeline events that have been caused by time fragments shattering off when the universe’s main timeline encountered an anomaly. It’s a shame you can’t play through the campaign as a team!
PQ events serve as the grind mechanic to Xenoverse – if you’re stuck on a campaign mission you need to focus some time in PQ events to level up your character. Each mission can be played either as a lone player teaming up with AI controller Dragon Ball characters, with other AI controller player characters or via the online lobby system. This mode works really well but feels a bit removed from the main game – the concept of PQ events feels like it’s clutching at straws to find a purpose of being rather than something that is fully integrated into the main storyline.
If you’re a Dragon Ball fan you’ll love being able to create your own character, fight alongside iconic Dragon Ball characters (both good and evil) and even become their student. The story is enjoyable; albeit limited and the MMO and RPG elements will keep those that are happy to grind for hours more than entertained. For the rest of us there’s an enjoyable but limited beat ‘em up that might just get you hooked enough that you’ll soon be on eBay looking for a copy of Dragon Ball Z.
Thanks to Bandai Namco Games for supplying TiX with a promo copy
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