Reviewer: Craig Reade
Quick Rating: Passable
Platform: X-Box 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
Developer: Silicon Knights
Genre: Action RPG
# of Players: 1
US Release Date: 09/27/2011
X-Men: Destiny is a different a bit of a departure from Activision's previous X-titles... and change is always a risk. In this case, I don't think the risk was such a bad one. I just wish they put a little more effort into the game.
The core story is a good one. Set in San Francisco, the game opens at a "peace rally" put on by the X-Men and the Mutant Response Division. At the event, a statue of the deceased Professor X is set to be unveiled. An unknown force attacks the rally, setting mutant against human in an all-out civil war. The Purifiers begin attacking and kidnapping mutants for some unknown reason (under the guise of maintaining order), while the Brotherhood and X-Men struggle against them.
You assume the role of one of three new mutants whose powers manifest during the attack on the rally. As the game progresses, your powers grow naturally, and you also get various enhancements from X-genes found during the game.
The game's script was penned by Mike Carey, and the story was probably one of the strongest things about the game. It was a good, standard, X-Men script and the tale really carries you through some of the weak spots in the game. If this were a comic book, I think it would be fairly well received.
While the story was good, there wasn't enough of it. This game clocked in at around five hours. Now I don't have a problem with short games if they are especially well-made - even better, if the game has a lot of replay value. X-Men: Destiny seemed like it should be just such a game. With three different mutant characters to explore with three different base-power sets that you could evolved, combined with the moral-choice system that would have a real impact on the game's story, it's a lock that you are going to want to play through this game a few times, isn't it?
Sadly, that isn't the case. Each character does have a different background which makes things interesting, and it is interesting to see the different powers, but that's about it. The much-hyped "branching storyline" turned out to be just that - hype. I found that none of the choices I made had any impact on the game at all, outside grumbling or complementary comments from some of the characters. Your alignment doesn't even impact your final choice in the game - you can play this game as sympathetic to the Brotherhood as you can possibly be, and you will still be able to join the X-Men in the end. This probably wouldn't be so bad, if this game wasn't promoted on the basis of your choices having a real impact on the game. They don't - and because of the promotion, that absence is felt.
The game's effort to be an "Action RPG" instead of just an Action game proves problematic as well. In a traditional RPG, you have a lot of different people you can talk to or ignore. In this game, you occasionally encounter a mutant that you can speak to, and are given a dialogue tree to communicate with them. This just didn't work for me. Nothing you say changes anything (with the exception of accepting or declining missions) and without that it just becomes a list of topics you want to listen to. These encounters would have been far better (and shorter) if we were just presented with a brief cut-scene, presenting choices along the way.
The power customization isn't perfect, but it works. At the beginning you can select from three different power sets (Density Control, Energy Projection, and Shadow Matter). As the game progresses, you are presented with different choices to see how your power evolves. I loved this - it fit with the theme that mutants develop and discover their power in times of stress. Additionally, you can equip X-Genes which augment your powers and costume from existing character sets.
Now this is a button masher - no question. However, my take on the combat in this game is a little more forgiving than some of what I have read. Even the best X-Men games could be considered button mashers, but in this game I found that I was able to use powers in a much more effective manner. Sure, a couple of the powers don't work in every situation - but my take on that is: every power shouldn't be good in every situation. I think the way combat flowed in the game was actually quite well done. I didn't like the giant "X Enemies Remain" notification that would plot down in the middle of the fight occasionally - it blocked your view and added more load to an already bogged-down combat system. Occasionally when there is too much going on the game drags - and in large fights this is especially difficult.
Speaking of notifications, the pop-up notifications are annoying. You have to dismiss them. While this can be good - since it is so easy to miss a notification - but the box is so large that is blocks a huge portion of the screen. Dismissing it totally disrupts your combat flow, leaving you vulnerable if you want to regain your lost visibility.
Overall, I have to say that this game feels rushed and unfinished. Graphically there are some very good looking sets and characters, but some of the models look bad - especially when they are standing next to a great looking character. This game was rushed to release when it did - and that is keely felt. I can't help but wonder what this game would be if it was given some more time in development.
Still, as an action game, it was enjoyable (as short as it was). One of the biggest pluses of the game is that you really feel your development. At the start of the game you are a brand new mutant hopelessly out of your depth. By the end, you find you are completely comfortable fighting alongside veteran mutants. The challenge curve was perfect - especially impressive considering how short the game is.
X-Men: Destiny is not everything promised, but it isn't completely bad either. I am very disappointed in the length, but I did have fun playing it.
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