Published on March 9th, 2015 | by AjayLikesGaming3
Dragon Ball Xenoverse – Review
NOTE: Names and spellings in this article adhere to the original language version of the show.
Dragon Ball games have grown rather stale over the years, with each title retreading the same old, familiar ground – covering Z’s story from the arrival of Raditz up to the demise of Majin Boo (and many not even that far!). Some titles have taken to working in the (sadly) less popular, original Dragon Ball series, while others have opted to acknowledge the creations found in GT. One thing’s for certain – there are virtually no more areas of Toriyama’s most famous work to cover.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse makes efforts to rectify this by crafting its own unique narrative over the top of this age-old material. As the timeline is fractured by an unknown entity, Trunks of the Time Patrol – a group formed in the now defunct MMO, Dragon Ball Online, and where the game takes many of its concepts from – summons Shen Long and wishes for a saviour, and conveniently, that saviour is you.
Though the story is extremely convoluted, the addition of new characters and some of the more exciting turning points should be more than enough to carry players throughout the 20+ hour main campaign.
This is a fighting game, after all!
Players begin by creating their own unique character that will serve as their avatar for the entirety of the game. From Earthlings, Saiyans, Majins, Namekians, and a ‘Freeza Clan’ race, each option’s appearance can be customised extensively to create an entirely unique character for play.
Each race and gender feature their own benefits and drawbacks. For example, the Majin race offers higher defence than other races, but lower stamina recovery speed. Males have more health but slower movement speed, while females hold the opposite.
As you level your character, you gain points to boost a set of attributes. These include health, Ki, stamina, basic attacks, supers, and Ki-based supers. Combined with the ability to customise your moves, players can tailor their player to their own playstyle.
Following your character’s creation, you are thrust into the world of Toki Toki City, where the MMO influences continue further. The city acts as a hub world, where the player can interact with other users, access ranked online play and purchase items and new outfits.
Likewise, access to the game’s main mission and side quests are all handled within the city. While the initial feeling of walking through this densely populated area is one of wonder and awe, it soon becomes apparent that there’s very little to do other than tediously walk between the necessary points to access your desired menu.
While there’s no doubt that utilising the in-game gestures to pose with friends is quite amusing, as is the ability to interact with the series’ main characters, it still can’t detract from what is a very underutilised area that could have very easily been relegated to a convenient, albeit less exciting, set of menus.
Dragon Ball games have teetered between two design philosophies – some have opted to simply reskin a 3D-plane fighter with some Ki blasts thrown in, while others have made attempts to emulate the blistering speed and power of the show’s combat.
Neither have quite managed to appease both sides of the fanbase. Fortunately, Xenoverse makes great efforts to combine the two philosophies into a reasonably complex fighter that still manages to hit the key aspects of the series’ beloved action.
Dimps are probably most well-known for their work with the Street Fighter series, so expecting a reasonable amount of depth is certainly not unreasonable. On the surface, the combat definitely appears to realise these expectations – a reasonable combo list, and the ability to customise seven different moves, all point towards gameplay that can be tailored to your individual preference.
Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the case. While you can certainly opt for a more Ki-focused style of play – choosing to stay back and fire blasts until you feel comfortable rushing in for an attack – you will soon find yourself repeating the same set of familiar combos until you achieve victory.
I opted for an extremely melee-focused character, one who utilised dodging over guarding, with a strong emphasis on pulling off complex combos. Despite this, I found myself continually resorting to the same set of moves. I would dash towards the enemy, hit him with my heavy attack to send him flying into the air, followed up with a quick flurry of combos before launching a Ki attack, and repeating the entire process.
Despite the game’s inclusion of a ‘Master’ system that allows you to be taken under the wing by your favourite characters, tasked to complete a list of objectives to learn their ultimate moves, none of these additions to your arsenal actively encourages unique play.
It’s somewhat surprising then, that the game is quite as difficult as it is. Folks looking for a quick romp through the game’s main story will be met with nothing but frustration as it soon becomes clear that they must level their character through the game’s side quests to succeed.
Named ‘Parallel Quests’, these missions present some of the hardest the game has to offer. Often forcing you to fight up to six main characters in a row with no AI companion, and no checkpoints. This would be a fantastic inclusion in a sea of pitifully easy anime fighters if it weren’t for such exceptionally poor design.
The game’s mechanics simply don’t cater to having three or more players attacking you at once. More often than not, you are left stuck in a painful chain of combos without any ability to evade. This is further emphasised by the game’s brutal AI who take no qualms in continually spamming their ultimate moves. Whenever I finished one of these quests, it almost always felt like pure luck rather than genuine skill.
While the aforementioned story-mode fans will be fine levelling through the easier quests to proceed, those looking to unlock each and every move and costume will be forced to grind through each mission multiple times, as drops seem to be tied to unspecified arbitrary requirements, and random number generators.
Fortunately, the main quest is wonderfully designed, offering up a stark contrast to the cheap, thoughtless missions in the Parallel Quests. With each fight feeling well balanced, and most importantly, fair – my time spent with the game’s plot was truly a joy to work through.
On top of this, the flawed gameplay is genuinely fun. Beating your enemy down with a mesmerising burst of speed, followed up by one of the spectacularly realised ultimates is a visual feast that will leave even the most cynical amazed. As repetitive as the combat may be, this blistering pace and the extravagant set pieces are more than enough to fill the hole for fans longing for a game that truly captures the essence of the series.
Given Japan’s reputation with the PC platform, it was surprising to find such a competent port. Featuring a frame rate of up to 150fps, refresh rate support of up to 144Hz and beyond, and even native support for 4K resolutions, this is a breath of fresh air for Japanese PC ports.
Optimisation is exceptionally good, with a GTX560ti running the game maxed out at a solid 60fps at all times. A GTX980 unsurprisingly runs the game at 4K with an average FPS of 80-120 depending on the number of players on the field.
Unfortunately, a bug on launch caused Ki and aura effects to vanish with higher resolutions. This was fixed within a week, alongside another bug that caused teleporting to work incorrectly.
With various balance changes being implemented, too, this appears to be a game that Dimps plans to support into the future.
With over 50 hours of content, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is undoubtedly a refreshing take on a stale series. With a remarkably fun story mode, it’s a real shame that the frustrating lack of care taken with the game’s side quests significantly diminishes the overall experience.
The ability to customise your character’s appearance and move sets is a wonderful addition to a fun group of basic mechanics. It’s unfortunate, then, that the lack of real depth leaves the chances of players earnestly working to the game’s total completion, exceptionally low.
With some impressive sales figures across all platforms, fans can only hope Dimps get the go ahead for a sequel. Xenoverse’s fun but flawed design shows great potential to be expanded upon into something fans may hold to the same light as the much-loved titles found during the PlayStation 2 era.
If you’re a diehard fan looking for a great game in comparison to the franchise’s other offerings, then Xenoverse is easily one of the best additions we’ve had in years. For fans looking for a fighter that stacks up against the very best in the genre, this may be something to try out in a sale.
Summary: Fans of the series should adore the game despite its flaws. Those looking for some real depth, and impressive design may be left disappointed.