Release Date: February 24th (NA), February 27th (EU)
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Rating: ESRB Teen / PEGI 12
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
QuickTime events, non-skippable cut-scenes and escort missions. All of these things have been public enemy No.1 in the eyes of the gaming community at one point or another. Over-saturated or abused, they now represent the worst a game can be. Dragonball: Xenoverse doesn’t have a problem with these, but it is having a love affair with the new hipster on the block – the Random Number Generator (RNG). Hearthstone has it, Destiny abused it, almost every RPG ever created needed it but Xenoverse is ruined by it.
Xenoverse starts as Future Trunks gathers the seven titular Dragonballs and wishes for a warrior worthy of defending time itself, which is a handy way for the plot to accommodate a custom character. Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin and even Frieza’s race can be chosen, each with racial and gender bonuses and the look can be customized further with sliders and additions. Once Shenron has birthed you into existence you are recruited by Future Trunks to become a Time Patroller and stop history from changing. This means joining in on historic Dragonball battles such as the Cell Games or the destruction of Namek – which for plot reasons do not pan out as they should and require your intervention.
Unlike previous titles such as Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, battles are a pretty simplistic affair, limited to basic punch/kick combos and skills activated by the push of a button rather than the more traditional fighting game stable of button combo’s and timing. Fights still take place in a 3D arena however and often across more than one with the inclusion of warp gates that serve as level transistors. You can play as any character variation you’ve unlocked, but the emphasis is to take your custom warrior as the playable and choose two existing characters for AI support.
Story missions quickly spike in difficulty and you are encouraged to visit the hub, Toki Toki City, in order to power up. Here you can become a student to unlocked characters in order to learn special skills, buy new gear or participate in Parallel Quests (Side missions). Character development is driven primarily by attribute points gained after enough EXP is earned from fighting, but it is also influenced by equipment: skills, clothes and z-souls (a character quote that you can ‘equip’ for stat bonuses). It’s here that Xenoverse lets itself down with the RNG.
Each Parallel Quest that you do has a list of possible rewards – for example a PQ against Vegeta might have a chance to drop his body armour, the Galick Gun skill, and the ‘OVER 9000!!!’ Z-soul but you might not get anything at all. All PQ’s have an ‘ultimate finish’, a secret set of conditions that must be met within the fight to trigger an event (e.g. maybe Vegeta goes Super Saiyan if you beat him in under two minutes) and some of these items won’t even have a chance to drop unless you get one. Even if you meet the conditions for the ultimate finish even that is held behind a RNG and may not occur anyway. The dice rolls just add up and you have to get very lucky to get some things to drop, which can stagnate your character and yourself when it doesn’t happen, because as interesting as the premise for the PQ’s are nobody wants to play each one 30 times.
You can collect dragon balls in PQ’s as well (if the NPC that holds them turns up and they drop one), which allows you to make your own wishes to Shenron to gain new characters, skills or equipment. Unfortunately getting one is hard, but as the chance to get one goes down the more you have, getting seven with the RNG in play can take all week. Even when seeking a new master to become student to, the RNG must have its say and only a few masters will appear in the hub, forcing a reload by logging out or completing a mission if they happen to be ones you’ve already learned from (frustrating towards the end, I assure you).
Online is hit and miss – It takes an age to connect to the server, and even if you do connect the hub feels clustered when inhabited by other players (the chat window chime is particularly annoying as people spam pre-made messages). You can take other players on PQ’s, but unless you are the host it won’t count as progress for you, negating much of the point. The real meat of the online is the PvP battles, which is split between traditional ranked and player matches and the king-of-the-hill styled mode Endless battle. Almost everyone here uses their max-level custom character with the best skills and equipment, which means you’ll probably get decimated. It would have been nice to have a more balanced mode only using standard characters, but with the limited battle system PvP seems like a pointless add-on
The title was reviewed using a review copy provided by Bandai Namco Games.
Pros +Huge skill collection and customisation options +Over 50 PQ's to keep you busy +Covers most of Dragonball history Cons -RNG for everything important -Poor online servers -Vegeta doesn't say 'OVER 9000!!!'
All that said, Xenoverse is a compelling game. I'm not a huge Dragonball fan, it wasn't a part of my childhood like it was for many but I still kept playing well past the end credits. The story is cheesy, the gameplay is dumbed down from its forebears, and the RNG is frustrating at the best of times but it still hooks you with its catchy opening video and pumped theme song. A curious combination of fighter, brawler, RPG and dice throws if ever there was one but one that has definitely sparked an interest in the brand behind the game.