Platforms Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC
Developer Dimps Games Publisher Bandai Namco Games
Genre Fighting Platform Played PS4
Growing up, Dragon Ball Z was my livelihood. Waking up every morning to catch the latest episode before school, the daily breakdown of the episode in the school yard, and the obsessed collection of every episode released on VHS (yes, those things). I also am not ashamed to admit I attempted to go Super Saiyan multiples times to no avail. The problem with this was whenever a new Dragon Ball Z game was released I found myself retreading the same story arcs, with the same characters and the same outcomes every time.
One of Dragon Ball Xenoverse’s strongest qualities is how it is able to acknowledge these iconic storylines with excellent fan service, but also turn them on their head to provide an interesting spin for hardcore fans. History is being changed, someone is travelling through time and altering the outcome of iconic battles in the Dragon Ball timeline. What would happen if Raditz had escaped Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon, killing Goku and keeping his Saiyan brother alive? Interesting outcomes like this are constantly showcased throughout the narrative. Though this is excellent for any hardcore Dragon Ball fan, Xenoverse doesn’t explain much of the events going on. If you haven’t experienced these stories at least once before, you may find it easy to simply have no clue what is going on. Xenoverse expects you to know what happened in these iconic moments, with that it doesn’t bother explaining, rather it provides a cliff notes version of what actually happened. As a big Dragon Ball fan I have no qualm with focusing on the new story being told, but new fans be warned – you may be lost very quickly.
Throughout this new story, players don’t control any of the usual suspects in the Dragon Ball universe, they control their own new character. It’s an interesting set up that provides a more personal adventure than any other Dragon Ball game before it. The narrative does not rival against some of the best Dragon Ball stories, but it was a serviceable and fun tale that felt fresh in comparison to the number of retreads the gaming series has seen over the years. Players are also able to choose between Japanese or English audio, with most of the original English cast returning; which is appreciated. Though the audio delivery sounds great, during English version cut scenes the lip syncing is extremely poor. There are also scenes where characters will simply not move their mouths while speaking. Though both problems are small, it was laughably noticeable and did get on my nerves throughout the dozen or so hours taken to beat the campaign.
The campaign is no slouch either, providing some tough challenges that will require excessive grinding in order to complete. Your created character will earn experience with each story mission, as well as completing Parallel Quests. Though the leveling system is fairly bare bones, without completing a majority of the Parallel Quests available you will find completing the story extremely difficult. What makes grinding out levels more painful than it needs to be is the unhelpful partner AI. While your enemies possess extremely challenging AI, your partners will barely provide you with anything more than a distraction to keep enemies off your back. This wouldn’t be much of an issue, but there are a lot of story missions and Parallel Quests that require a certain partner to stay alive in order to win; with their death resulting in an instant fail. The problem is because these AI partners are so unreliable, they seem to do whatever it takes to die. Watching a partner run into an ultimate attack repeatedly because they don’t understand the basic principles of dodging is frustrating, especially when this causes you to repeat the mission for the eleventh time.
Parallel Quests offer even more “what if” scenarios in the Dragon Ball universe. What if instead of Trunks going back to his timeline and defeating the Android threat, you teamed up with the Androids to kill Trunks and take over the Earth. Though these are only short missions, I loved being able to experience different outcomes and team up alongside the villains once and awhile. There are over 50 Parallel Quests in Xenoverse and they continue to increase in difficulty throughout. Defeating enemies will also randomly drop new ultimate and super attacks, as well as new customisable items for your created character.
When creating your character there are multiple races to choose from, including Earthling, Namekian, Saiyan, Majin, and even Frieza’s race. This does not just have a drastic visual difference, but they also have different stats. Saiyan warriors have less health but a higher damage output, while Majin’s have better defence, while humans a more balanced approach.
Once your race is chosen you are then able to dress your character and customise their look as you see fit. The number of options here are impressive, with iconic hair, facial options and clothing pieces available to choose from the start. I loved being able to customise my character’s appearance, including altering the colour scheme of my attire on the fly during the campaign. It is easy to spend a few hours messing around with the character creator, especially once you have unlocked multiple created character slots. Though I would have liked more original pieces of clothing and hair styles, hundreds of iconic items available unlock and purchase are impressive.
Xenoverse features its own Hub World, where your created character can explore and even interact with other created characters. If you choose to enter an offline version of the Hub World, you will see NPC versions of created characters, while entering an online lobby will see a larger selection of characters going about their business in the world. The Hub World itself is extremely bare and basically exists to showcase the selection of created characters. I found exploring the Hub World to be quite uninteresting as you slowly walk between locations and experience load times when entering new areas, presenting more of a hindrance rather than a helpful main area.
Fighting aficionados searching for an in-depth fighter will definitely find the gameplay offered lacking depth. There are simply two buttons used to produce physical attacks, with the other face buttons designated to ki blasts and dodging. Alongside these basic moves are also Ultimate and Super attacks. Initiating these attacks is either done by holding down one or both trigger buttons – and that is as in-depth as the fighting mechanics get. Though some will definitely find the fighting aspects lacking, those who may have been worried at the thought of pulling insane buttons combinations to produce iconic attacks will likely appreciate the ease of use. Fights also feel less generic than previous Dragon Ball titles due to certain characters producing unique dialog depending on their opponents during battle. For example Super 17 and Android 17 will comment on each other, as will Piccolo acknowledge Saiyan created characters. It’s a tiny detail, but these dialog moments help make the battles feel alive and certainly help the monotony of the basic fighting system.
The fighting system still suffers from some ongoing problem that has plagued the series. Flying never feels smooth unless you are flying in a straight direction, adjusting height in the air feels unresponsive and consistently ruined in-air battles for me. On the other hand, the lock-on system is horrible. After initiating the lock-on system the camera will stay behind you and keep you the best view possible of the character you have in your cross-hairs, but this is also where the problems begin. The camera will get stuck behind buildings, trees, mountains, anything that might be obstructing the view. The camera also consistently freaked out when I was close to the edge of each stage, struggling to keep up with the action.
It’s hard to fault Xenoverse visually as this is the best looking Dragon Ball game to date. It is obviously held back due to the fact Xenoverse is also available on last generation consoles, but it is step in the right direction. Each of Xenoverse’s huge cast of characters look fantastic and offer an impressive amount of various attires. Fighting stages also contains an impressive amount of iconic locations, though the visuals don’t rival the look of the fighters themselves.
I found Xenoverse truly excelled in the musical department. From the classic Dragon Ball theme playing in the main menu, to the excellent Sims-like tune playing when choosing a character. Xenoverse’s soundtrack is spectacular and I’ve constantly found myself listening to these tunes after my time with Xenoverse had ended.
Xenoverse also offers an online component, which sadly, as of writing this review is almost entirely broken. My experience is on the PlayStation 4 and despite a new update only just released, the server situation is still an entirely unpredictable and problematic experience. Over the course of my time with Xenoverse I was randomly kicked from my game over 20 times. Most of the time I was not even playing multiplayer, but for the most part you are still connected to the Xenoverse server even if you are playing single player. There is no option to simply play Xenoverse offline (unless you remove your internet connection completely) and I found myself only having a solid experience when the server was completely broken, forcing me to play offline. What makes this even worse is I was playing Xenoverse weeks after release, meaning this wasn’t even a launch problem, this has been an ongoing problem since launch. Sadly Xenoverse is one of the worst online experiences I have technically witnessed in recent memory.
Despite the server issues, the online competitive scene is a free for all when you actually do get online. Online matches are usually swarmed with Super Saiyan 4 characters, meaning underpowered custom characters will be demolished in record time. Xenoverse offers 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or even ranked matches, but the unmatched attributes of characters make the online experience unbalanced. The situation is completely opposite when compared to Destiny, which tried to create a balanced online playing field amongst players of any level. Xenoverse, however, throws everyone into a no holds barred Royal Rumble, with almost no rules, no balance, and an army of Super Saiyan 4’s to contend with.
As a hardcore Dragon Ball fan that has been seeking a fresh take on the iconic Dragon Ball Z storyline, I absolutely adore Xenoverse. The character creator is outstanding and the new narrative is fresh, while also recognising the most memorable moments from Dragon Ball Z. Though competitive fighting players may find the lack of fighting depth to be an issue, there is enough challenge throughout the main story and Parallel Quests to keep the basic gameplay difficult.
Useless partner AI and some poor camera features do frustrate, but the most problematic aspect is certainly the online stability. Even if you don’t intend to venture online at all, I’d suggest removing your internet connection so you are not affected by this ongoing issue. These severs may very well be fixed in the future, but as of now the issue is still going strong.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a mixed bag, but as a Dragon Ball fan this is one of the best entries in the series to date. But keep in mind, keeping your experience offline will serve you well.
- Fresh narrative, with interesting spin on iconic moments.
- Character creator offers a vast array of options.
- Excellent soundtrack.
- Poor lip syncing.
- Useless partner AI.
- Camera and lock-on features.
- Unstable severs and unbalanced multiplayer plague the online component.
The Score – 7.0