by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
It’s About Time
With its memorable characters, larger-than-life villains, and break-neck action, the Dragon Ball anime series seems like an easy one to make into a great game. Unfortunately, reality has proven it not to be quite that easy. Despite some good games, none of them have really been great, and while Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t quite break into that upper echelon it’s still a fast, fun, exciting good time.
It would have been easier to make Xenoverse 2 a straight fighting game (well, if its predecessor hadn’t already taken a different direction, but the structure of the game sets it apart from both other fighting games and RPGs. I really felt like I was in the Dragon Ball universe. The game mixes some RPG exploration and constant character growth, just like in the show, and transitions into a three dimensional brawler for the fights. It provides the sense of place and progress that normally lacks in traditional fighters, while being a much better representation of the show’s combat than a straight action RPG would be able to deliver.
In Xenoverse 2’s campaign, evil is not threatening the present, but the past, which is largely the same setup as the original game. Time travelling villains are messing with the past timeline, and it’s up to you, a mighty Time Patroller, to set things right. On one hand I would have loved to see things tread a bit further from already covered ground, but on the other I enjoy revisiting classic battles and characters too much to get that worked up about it.
Despite its flaws, the game’s premise of revisiting the past makes it an easy recommendation for anyone who has watched through the classic anime. It would have been cool just to play through the scenarios I know and love, with the characters I looked up to or despised, but by messing with the timeline the game is able to keep even series veterans invested, surprising them with twists and turns that differ from the source material and instead present an alternate chain of cause and effect. It’s an exciting series of “what-ifs,” and I loved it. That being said, I’m not sure how compelling the actual story will be for players not familiar with the television show. While there is a narrative, it’s not particularly deep, compelling, or emotional, and bounces around fairly quickly. That’s not an issue when you already know the general situation and stakes, but its strength is undoubtedly in its nostalgia factor, and I’m not sure there’s a ton of meat there if you were to lack a pair of rose-tinted glasses.
You Are the Chosen One
One core element that’s sure to be a good time for anyone, regardless of Dragon Ball experience, is the satisfying character creation that lets you choose your character’s race, look, and moves, to create the Dragon Ball hero of your dreams. Though it was often times pretty cheesy, one of the stables of the show was watching characters grow stronger and bust out new powers as their enemies grew bigger and nastier, and this is represented well in the campaign. The RPG-like progression makes you feel awesome every time you get something new to unleash, while never letting you become so overpowered that the game ceases to be fun.
Combat is the (Spirit) Bomb
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Dragon Ball Z, or, heck, probably even if you haven’t, you’ll be aware that the climactic fights in each arc are absolutely bat-shit crazy. God-like beings fly around at the speed of light, teleport, level mountains, and blast enough energy at each other to power New York for a year. For better or for worse (but largely for the better), Xenoverse 2 captures this hectic feel better than any related game before it. While it’s certainly possible to just button mash some combos (and you’ll look pretty cool doing it), knowing the game’s mechanics is necessary to compete with other humans or the more challenging bosses. With Ki and stamina being depletable resources, you must not only strategize over when and how to use your specials, but also how to bait your opponent into wasting theirs.
Truth be told, there are almost too many possibilities in combat. Or, rather, the game doesn’t do a good enough job explaining them all. There really needs to be a better, more thorough tutorial. I eventually got the hang of things, but it took too long, and I felt like an idiot spamming buttons for quite some time. With things as crazy as they are I’m happy that the camera is as good as it is, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. When the camera points at the wrong spot or faces the wrong direction it’s usually only for a moment, but with the controls often times requiring character-relative directional input, it can sometimes be a bit of a headache.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 should be an instant buy for long time fans of the series, and warrants a deep look from everyone else. I’d love to see a bit longer of a gap between this and the (hopefully) inevitable Xenoverse 3 than the year between the first and second titles to really hammer out some of the game’s issues, but until then we’ve still been left with a fighting game that does enough well, and enough different from its competitors, to stand worthy as it is.
Campaign is a love letter to series veterans, character creation is great, customization and progression are robust.
Perhaps not enough campaign meat for series newcomers, needs a better tutorial, occasionally unwieldy camera.