Review: X-Men: Destiny

X-Men: Destiny seemed like a novel idea on paper: choose from three newly-initiated mutants, develop their fledgling powers, and fight alongside some of your favorite X-Men or Brotherhood characters. In practice, it feels much more like a horribly written fanfic than a full-fledged, completed video game. If you’ve ever written a Mary Sue character into the Marvel universe, beautiful, young, and naive, yet mysteriously able to join the X-Men after a mere few fights and near-instant mastery of powers, then you’ve probably got a good feel of how the game plays out. Here’s a hint: not very well.

As one of three young mutants attending a memorial for the late Charles Xavier, you witness an attack via Magneto which interrupts the calm reverie of the events at hand, tossing all into chaos. It’s then that you’ll need to choose what type of powers will awaken from the character you chose at the start. Your options are the young Japanese teen Aimi, football player Grant, and son of anti-mutant group “Purifiers” Adrian. Going by the fighter mentality that smaller Aimi might be easier to control in skirmishes, I chose the diminutive teenager and as the rally reached a climax, was presented with three powers, which offered the control of different elements and matter. My choice happened to deal with earth-like endowments and strength. Once I had made my choice I started down the path of the superpowered mutant, which apparently means “kill everything in your immediate vicinity.”

As newly-minted mutant Aimi I smashed, crashed, and bashed through every no-name bad guy who strode my way, ticking down a counter that would continually appear in the top right of the screen, muddling away at the endless stream of enemies with my combos and collecting XP and health orbs. Interspersed between these repetitive segments were snippets of conversation meant to resemble Mass Effect-like interludes where often there would only be one option for conversation and no means to skip it. A few times I found myself caught in a loop where there would be one option to go to the next “page” of conversation topics, but no way to leave the conversation without hearing the same information over and over again, which irked me to no end. Occasionally you’ll be faced with a mission that you can “accept,” which basically means you either accept the mission and get to work or get caught in a conversation that will not let you move on until you decide you’re going to take the mission.

There really aren’t any viable choices to be made, save from which powers you’re going to acquire and when, and whether or not you’re going to gain X-Men faction points or Brotherhood faction points, similar to the Renegade and Paragon options of Mass Effect, except with little or no bearing on the actual outcome of your game, save for which team you end up aligning with, though that’s a no-brainer since as you progress through the game the simple choices you make are self-explanatory: go with Cyclops, obviously you’re supporting the X-Men. It’s baby’s first action-RPG here.

When you’re not wasting time with useless story-related banter and beating X amount of baddies you’re tasked with simple platforming and seeking out X-Genes as well as additional suits for your character. You’d think at least the suits had a different look to them save from being what are essentially color swaps of their main civilian outfit, but in Aimi’s case especially even Wolverine’s costume resembled the most generic of superhero outfits. The rudimentary powers you gain from equipping these costumes or the X-Genes scattered throughout the world aren’t even worth seeking out for the most part; as they activate their effects aren’t particularly useful save for those that add additional health or armor. All you’re usually concerned with is how to cause the most damage while taking as little as possible to fight on to the next area. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

In the end when nearing completion of this 4 to 5 hour half-baked attempt at serviceable X-Men-related action, I realized the only real reason I had been motivated to continue were earning new powers, simply because that became the only dynamic that ever really changed: instead of “who am I going to face next?” since that answer rarely changed, it was at least interesting to expect new powers and new ways to administer sound bad guy beatings. It surely wasn’t to hang around to see some of my favorite X-Men in action. In fact, most of my time was spent wondering “when will the good X-Men get here?” Pixie and Caliban and the like weren’t exactly mutant royalty. Cyclops and Wolverine made up for the lack of more interesting characters somewhat, but I wasn’t particularly engaged with the “secondary” characters who kept showing up and needing my help, which brings me to another gripe: the X-Men who were available seemed decidedly less super than I remember…Emma Frost needing my assistance to wipe out a gaggle of nobodies when I’m some kind of helpless newbie? That’s a little skewed.

Random “challenge” arenas that seem to pop up at the game’s whim ask you only to do the same thing you’ve done throughout the entire game (put everyone out of commission) and framerate issues are further annoyances, especially when you consider the lack of replay value the game offers — each character is a veritable palette swap of the other with the personality of a board. Aimi’s voice actress particularly irked me, as well as her stereotypically Japanese ancestry and her sprinkling in only the most familiar Japanese terms that most Americans will know amidst her American accent. It felt so ingenuine I began to get embarrassed as I played through her campaign. Mary Sue, through and through.

X-Men: Destiny should have been so much greater when you consider what it’s actually offering you. Even opening up the floor for a customizable mutie would have been preferred over being forced to choose between such banal characters as these. It’s a lazy beat-’em-up masquerading as an action-RPG with layers that knows little more than “go here, kill that.” When you consider its full purchase price and the fact that there are far better X-Men-related titles out there, Destiny seems more like a hardcore purchase only — if you HAVE to own everything X-Men branded, I suppose this is a serviceable purchase. Or if you’re in it for the achievements only, there are plenty to find here. Otherwise, I’d suggest co-op with a friend in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 or if you’re looking to hit that RPG itch, finding one of the many better options released in the past couple of years. This type of fluff isn’t going to do you any favors.

Comments are closed.