Review: X-Men Destiny
X-Men Destiny is an Action RPG with a predictable storyline, repetitive gameplay and lacks character development.
- Worth The Time?Not even.
- Things LovedThe array of Marvel superheroes that made an appearance, and the assortment of different powers.
- Things HatedThe repetitve combat system, iffy character animations, cheesy storyline and general banality of the whole experience.
- RecommendationIf you enjoy third person Action RPGs with few RPG elements. This is for you.
- Name: X-Men Destiny
- Genre: Action RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, NDS
- Developer: Silicon Knights
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R451
- Reviewed On: PS3
Marvel’s latest forays into film adaptations have yielded success with Thor, Captain America and X-Men First Class dominating the box office. However, in the arena of videogames this is predominately a different kettle of psychic powered fish. X-Men Destiny is from the Dev team over at Silicon Knights, known for developing a host of sub-par videogames (like Too Human). This game was an opportunity for Silicon Knights to demonstrate a new take on the Marvel universe, and not dismally fail.
From the first playthrough, it is apparent that Silicon Knights had little understanding of the comic book property discrediting the X-Men franchise for all its worth (in a really bad and cheesy way). Well, it has been like this for awhile in the entertainment industry, but at least the recent catalogue of films are taking risks with their approaches to adapting the comic book source. This latest effort is proving to be a hard playthrough. Not because the game is amazingly difficult and harsh, but rather that X-Men Destiny is deprived of any creative vision, is paced with the vigour of an elderly gentleman in a walker, and has a lacking depth of passion for the subject matter. Equivocally, what remains is a substandard excuse of a game.
I can tolerate shoddy graphics, a benign and insipid story with no coherency (I’m playing Hard Reset) and even a dodgy camera. But when all of these misnomers are packaged in one game and sold on the shelf under the moniker of X-Men. It feels like super-gluing a Ferrari badge on a Golf GTI, and mismatching spinning rims because you couldn’t afford to purchase a whole set. It’s unsightly and breeds bad game design, and when other games have pulled off adaptations a hundred times better (e.g. Batman Arkham Asylum). It fundamentally pales in comparison. Therefore, X-Men Destiny is a great case study of how not to make a game.
Firstly, the game hammers it home that X-Men Destiny will gift the prospective player with the ability to create their own unique Marvel universe character. This was alluded to in the debut trailer, and the Dev diaries. What I played, disappointingly, was a predefined Action RPG with a limited range of only three characters (no appearance customisation, or other tweaking to be heard of). From the roster, you can select a bog-standard Jock (Grant Alexander) who by some extraordinary circumstance has received mutant abilities, a Japanese emo schoolgirl (Aimi Yoshida) whose parents smuggled her out of Japan, and finally the tenacious son of an anti-mutant extremist (Adrian Luca) who’s in conflict with his recently acquired mutant abilities.
I chose Adrian, in the hopes of playing through a story with emotional depth, and then was guided to the power selection menu where I was prompted to select powers from three categories. The three categories for core powers were: Density Control (whereby the player can manipulate their own body mass to deal devastating physical attacks), Energy Projection (in which the player can utilise a variety of energy-based attacks), and Shadow Matter (entailing the usage of “Shadow Matter” to equip one’s self with indestructible blades formed from matter). As is the case with this game, I could only select one core category of powers, and I picked Energy Projection. Before we proceed any further, one must take note that these powers are non-canon and from my experience removed some of the joy I was expecting in detailing a character with a “mish-mash” of different mutant’s abilities from the start (like Wolverine’s healing factor and Havok’s plasma-related powers). However, as I progressed through the game (and the repetitive storyline) I acquired canon powers, but many were inextricably tied to the core power category I had chosen. So if you crave the goodies from the outset you need to grind excessively in-game, in order to obtain that sense of satisfaction. Once you’ve acquired the powers (obtained through the collection of X-Gene power-ups) you can customise your character accordingly.
Yet these powers are more so enhancements for the predefined core powers you’ve selected. These enhancements are used throughout three base abilities consisting of: offensive, defensive and utility (such as increased speed or dodging) abilities. For example in the offensive category of the X-Gene abilities I picked Pyro’s power enhancement which layered my energy projectiles with heat damage incurring higher damage on enemies over a long duration. In the defensive category, I selected Ice Man’s ice shield which encased my whole body in ice and aided in shielding me from enemy attacks. From the utility abilities, I chose ‘Surge’ which regenerated my mutant power bar as I dodged enemy attacks. In terms of the mutant powers mechanic of the game, I felt that X-Men Destiny could have solidified its introductory experience by providing well known powers in the template creation of your character, from the first instance. It would really have helped to emphasise the point of X-Men Destiny which is to decide your own destiny, and essentially make choices of what powers suit your play style. However, this is more a preference than anything.
A great selection of powers, however, does not redeem X-Men Destiny in other parts where it is sorely lacking. Most notably, the game suffers in the gameplay, aesthetics and story departments. Gameplay-wise, my selection of energy projectiles as a core power meant that the majority of my offensive was shooting barrage after barrage of sparkly fireworks at my enemies (mainly The Purifiers a group of Anti-Mutant extremist and the odd mutant). My character had two types of attacks. With the first, being the ability to shoot an array of singular energy projectiles in short bursts, with the second iteration far more powerful but longer in range requiring a longer power-up period in comparison.
There are basic combos available but the diversity travels that far and doesn’t exceed the potential of mixing abilities; which is disheartening in a game which totes to offer free reign and ‘choice’. Yes, you continually do collect new power enhancements, but the combos are far and few between. You can jump mid-air and plummet to the ground causing enemies to scatter, shoot beams and generate a shield. But the repetitive fights draw out the novelty of the game with attacks and combos in battle becoming dragged out. This reduces gameplay to the level of a chore draining the enjoyment from the initial playthrough.
The sameness throughout is reinforced by the armies of foes consistently sharing the same character designs, with rarely any differentiation between enemies. The monotony is occasionally broken when other mutants join in battles or you’re facing a boss. This is staggeringly the majority of the gameplay, with missions structuring a framework for your character to move from battle to battle. Moreover, missions are characterised by pursuing mission objectives from the game’s two factions which are the Brotherhood of Mutants, or the X-Men. There is no grey area in between your moral choices. You either have to remain strictly ‘good’ or ‘evil’. The middle ground is implausible in X-Men Destiny because the notion of “choice” and fulfilling your own “destiny” are not the game’s focus. Furthermore, the game’s storyline does nothing either for the game as a whole.
The storyline doesn’t meet the expectations of the brief presented by Silicon Knights with the promise of a branching storyline and in-depth character development. Rather, the storyline is sordidly conceptualised with a dull plot, beyond the expected incoherency one has of the comic book source. The storyline follows cliches explicitly to the point that it comes off cheesy. The original comic books remain endearing, even with cliches and tropes of the genre. But X-Men Destiny seems to have been written like a misconstrued comic book plot which failed to make it to print.
X-Men Destiny’s story explores the repercussions of the death of Professor X, which has to led to Magneto recruiting a huge mutant army with your character caught in the crossfire of all out war. It’s your job to save people and avert the oncoming crisis. In comparison to other comic book videogames, the storyline is a bit drab and is really there to provide a basic motivation for characters to carry out their own mission. Adrian, who I played as, typically wants to help people but consequently is coming to terms with his own mutant abilities. The development of your character in X-Men Destiny isn’t fully expanded upon, and character development remains two-dimensional (irony at its worst). Furthemore, the visuals of the game don’t do justice to the source material.
Aesthetically, X-Men Destiny is dated visually and has texture pop-in issues with many of its character models in-game not up to scratch. Silicon Knights attempted to shift stylistically away from a graphic novel aesthetic and ended up in half-way house between bold outlines and a realistic style. As a result, playing the game is jarring and doesn’t help to emphasise the violence of the combat.
On a side note, the implementation of power-ups in the game is another negative aspect. As it draws attention away from the RPG element that Silicon Knights were attempting to focus on. There were also some sound design issues with characters’ voices feeling out of place (like Cyclops and Emma Frost), and were distractions from what otherwise could have been a good game.
This is really a pity because X-Men Destiny could have taken a different approach to adapting the X-Men franchise. Instead it falls into all the traps and loses the plot, or lack thereof. Taking on too may genre tropes and different gameplay mechanics is the reason why X-Men Destiny comes off as a second rate game.