Dragon Ball XenoVerse ReviewKurt Horsting
Dragonball games have varied in quality since the late 80s. Although having grown up playing Japanese imports and Dragon Ball GT: a Final Bout, the most popular series for DBZ in America has to be the Budokai series. With however many previous DBZ games were before, Xenoverse tries to admirably do something interesting with the series; bring the player themselves into the world. Be able to live out the fantasy of being a Planet busting Kung-fu master and fight alongside the heroes we have grown to know for the last 20 years. Too bad Xenoverse falls short in delivering what could have been an amazing game concept. Outside of the aesthetics and the story missions, this game is a tiring grindfest with terrible pacing, boring combat, and extremely poor progression and rewards. This game just stops being fun and takes to long to get anything done. And to top it off, there are performance issues both with their online services and with the game lagging and slowing down in general.
Lets just start with what this game gets right, and that it fulfils that fan need to put themselves into the game.The character creation and customization is probably the highlight of the game. After a very awkward kind of tutorial where you play as Goku beating the shit out off all the bad dudes from several spots throughout the series, you get thrown right into the character creator to make that fan fic character you drew when you were 10 come to life (let's be honest, it was yourself as a super-saiyan). You get to choose between 5 races (Buu's, Saiyans, Humans, Namekians, and Freeza race) then change their skintone, facial features, horns, antenna, degree of hair spikiness, etc. All of the different choices fits the look of the DBZ universe and is simple enough to get done in several minutes. The only draw back is that you can't have a second custom character unless you beat the story mode.
Basically the plot goes that you are a time patroller wished into existence by Shenron to help Trunks with keep history from being altered by bad guys. Its an interesting enough premise to launch all the action from and its funny to see the "what could have been" version were the bad guy wins with a little help of some unknown pure evil. Its like watching a reverse character shield go to work against all your childhood memories. So they send you (some guy Trunks has known for a total of 10 minutes) to save the DBZ universe from an unknown number of trolls ruining the continuity.
The visual and sound design really sell the atmosphere of being apart of the DBZ universe. The Kamehameha ghostly blast, the Kienzan electric buzzing noise, the flying, the hits, it all feels like you're apart of the show and you're kicking ass. As much as I love to hear Team Four Star's Takahata101 Nappa as a voice to pick, I prefer the Japanese cast. A lot of attention to detail was made to make everything in the game feel as it belongs to the DBZ universe as a whole, even the hub world that feels like an in-between of snake way and the supreme kai planet. If only that quality was brought to the core gameplay.
The biggest problem come right off the bat is that the combat system is way too simple and restrictive for a combat centric game like this. You can't combo off of throws, everyone has the same combo strings, the fireball attack can be deflected by normal movement, even the big ass lasers will never land outside of combos because they are too slow and the lock on aim is terrible. This wouldn't be too bad unless it was for every attack in the game barely being able to shave singular pixels off of the massive health bars everyone seems to have. I know that fights in DBZ lasted for a long time, but it get tedious to do the same square x 5, triangle x 3, Kamehameha combos 10 to 15 times to kill a fucking Saibamen. Thats if your attack strings don't randomly drop due to the terrain or your attacks just doesn't feel like connecting. Blocking is too good, with its only real counter being throws. You can charge up and go for a guard break, but you can vanish behind a guard break attempt for only 1 stamina stock so doing so is too risky. This will also counter regular attacks as well. Perfect guarding is next to impossible and cannot be done in strings. And if you get hit, you can just teleport behind the opponent and punish them for free for just 2 stamina stocks. It's like if the game was designed around the assumption people would just be button mashing until the game declared someone a winner so no one payed any attention to how these systems worked with each other. There isn't enough for experimentation or innovation at any end of this system. The combat is very sloppy, boring, repetitive and tedious.
Another problem is that the AI for solo missions is abysmal to the point of ruining the experience. Remember the time in the Frieza saga were Krillin and Gohan got their asses kicked by goons like Raspberry and Appule? You know, those guys that couldn't fly and had to carry blasters? No? This happened like 10 fucking times during the mandatory escort quests cause the allied AI couldn't fight off the common cold or a slightly aggressive house cat. Not that the enemy AI is any better and constantly displays survival tactics designed by lemmings. You can literally stand still holding down the ki blast button and enemies will kill themselves running into your blasts and punching the air randomly. To compensate, enemy stats are given obnoxious boosts to compensate, including ridiculous amounts of super armor, stupidly high health, permanent transformations, and whatever else they decided to add in for a "challenge" instead of improving the AI at any point in the game.
Once you're done fighting things, you're now bogged down with the leveling and loot system. Leveling is really slow and grindy, forcing you to repeat missions to unlock specific loot. And none of the missions have a lot of variety, it's just beat up the dudes. Not like there is much else to be done with DBZ, but 95% of missions are: Here is the dudes to fight, beat the dudes to get xp and 1 random item. Its not like the items are even good, or convey how they improve your stats. I've been dumping all of my extra stat points into attack and I still only take off only a few pixels off of opponents. The only thing that was neat was getting signature moves to equip as rewards, and there are items that boost the effectiveness of moves that come from a certain character (i.e. Vegeta moves like Big bang attack or Final Flash), but the move doesn't tell you who uses it! So I have no idea who uses the move called "weekend" and I don't know what item to grind to boost it (Turns out it belongs to Raditz, but I stopped playing before finding that out).
I could barely play the multiplayer, which is the main draw of the game if it wants to be this online rpg thingy because the servers are completely unstable and constantly crash. Once a connection gets going, the lag can effect the camera and start making it spaz out and jittering to the point of causing motion sickness. For what is supposed to be the main draw of the game, its in quite a pathetic state. Although recent patches have been improving things.
So Xenoverse is a game that really fails at finding a unique selling point that isn't surpassed by other games. Other MMO's are much better at their pacing of rewards and personal progression; Other fighting games are way more deep and strategically rewarding (And have the catharsis of doing damage to things); And other DBZ games are give more bang for your buck for fans. The sad thing is, I really wanted this game to be good, and I look forward to a sequel if they really give this game a serious polishing. But in its current state its way too tedious and boring to even recommend. Normally I'd say for fans only, but if you're a fan of DBZ you probably already bought this. So I hope that you're not as disappointed with it as I am.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.