I’ve always been a fan of the X-Men and I always look forward to the release of any comic book related video game. That being said I was optimistic about X-Men: Destiny, especially with the team at Silicon Knights developing. I was a fan of their critically panned Too Human and in many respects X-Men: Destiny is a very similar game.
X-Men Destiny allows you to play as one of three characters who are just coming into their mutant abilities. Each has their own back story to give them some depth but really never plays much importance during the events of the game. Specific dialogue regarding your character’s back story is often shoehorned into cut scenes and often times do not make much sense or it breaks the continuity of the scene.
The story picks up sometime after the death of Charles Xavier in the comics, with Cyclops as the leader of the X-Men who have relocated to San Francisco. Throughout the story your hero will run into several famous characters from both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of mutants. Many of these characters will invite you to go on quests with them that take you to challenge areas. Taking quests for either the X-Men or Brotherhood will change your alignment towards one faction or the other. Unfortunately your alignment with each faction never really matters. Some characters may refuse to give you a quest based upon how chummy you are with the opposition but beyond that the ramifications are nonexistent. There is one moment in the later stages of the game where you have to choose whether to join the X-Men or the Brotherhood. This sequence is incredibly forced and inorganic. The alignment you have been building throughout the game boils down to picking one of two options.
Choosing either faction does not matter anyway as the two sides end up working together immediately after you’ve made your decision. Some dialogue and character interactions change but beyond that there is no impact to choosing either side.
While there are some missteps in the story department, combat in X-Men destiny is serviceable. While it may be billed as an Action RPG, X-Men: Destiny is a beat em’ up with light RPG elements. As you progress through the story new powers are unlocked at designated points that dramatically evolve the combat options and combos available. The mindless beat em’ up combat is fun to a point but from a developer like Silicon Knight I expected a much deeper RPG system or higher level of character customization. At pre-designated points in the game you are forced to choose between two new powers that can then be levelled up. Levelling up consists of simply putting XP into each power to make it more powerful.
Aside from choosing which power to upgrade, your mutant can also be outfitted with a new suit and X-Genes. These seem like an addition to appease those who simply want to play as their favourite character as opposed to playing as a new mutant. X-Genes are abilities that you can add to your character in order to give them similar attributes as other mutants. You can find Wolverine’s defensive X-Gene which will allow your health to regenerate or Iceman’s offensive X-Gene which will allow your character to do ice damage. Similarly you can equip a suit that resembles other characters. These suits do nothing unless combined with three of the same character’s X-Genes allowing you to use X-Mode. X-mode enables you to behave like whichever character’s suit and X-Genes you are using. X-Mode for Wolverine allows for faster health regeneration and quicker attacks.
While the combat in X-Men destiny is the game’s strongest attribute not as much care was given to the level design. Despite being based in San Francisco, every area is nondescript and very linear. Each level essentially boils down to a series of kill rooms, where you need to finish off every enemy before the door to the next area will open. Some levels also reuse environments from previous areas and have invisible walls and texture pop-in sprinkled throughout. There are also areas where the camera is fixed which create some brutal boss fight sequences.
X-Men: Destiny has some very questionable checkpoints which often result in dying over and over. I wouldn’t normally complain about this if it wasn’t for the long loading screens and the fact that the lengthy cut scenes cannot be skipped. While I appreciate both the appearance and voice acting of my favourite comic book characters I don’t want to be locked into seeing the same scene multiple times. While on the subject of cut scenes, they are done in game and often mess up. NPCs will often be standing in front of the camera blocking whichever character is trying to speak or worse will be standing exactly where the speaking character is, fusing the two character models together.
As a whole product X-Men: Destiny seems rushed. This rings particularly true during the final moments of the game. I found the sequence of events leading up the conclusion very confusing, calling into question the logic of the X-Men. In addition both the X-Men and Brotherhood think that your character who has been a mutant for about 48 hours is qualified to fight the big bad guy all on his own. There are a few gaps in logic that just completely took me out of the experience.
If Game Dev Story taught me anything it was that developers work on games for others so that they can fund their passion projects. I hope Silicon Knights gets enough money from X-Men: Destiny to make Too Human 2. While I appreciate some of the small touches in X-Men: Destiny like the ability to playthrough the credit sequence or the self referential valkyrie achievement, the overall experience was just passable. As a comic fan I enjoyed fighting alongside the X-Men but being a comic fan also makes me just wish that this game was so much more.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of X-Men Destiny.