Everyone who plays a lot of video games knows that licensed games are a mixed bag. If a game’s based on an existing IP, it’s really up in the air whether or not you’re going to enjoy what you get. Over time, though, the Dragon Ball series has lent itself to some of the best licensed games that the industry has seen. Dragon Ball Xenoverse, the latest action-RPG outing from Bandai Namco and DIMPS, continues to demonstrate that a license might not be the kiss of death. Yes, it’s actually good. It’s so good, in fact, that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you skip it.
We have to start by talking about the combat, of course. This is a Dragon Ball game and battle is a typical Dragon Ball-style affair; if you haven’t played any of the other recent games in the series, it could be compared to something like Zone of the Enders where you’ve got full 3D control of your character. Basic attacks work a bit like Dynasty Warriors, where you mix taps on a normal and special attack button to create combos, and each character can have up to four special moves, two ultimate moves, and a combo-breaking evasion technique. Most special and ultimate attacks consume Ki, basically magic points, while dodging, blocking and moving quickly will consume stamina. Generally speaking it’s great fun to fight your favorite characters from the series and the game feels very true to the source material.
Xenoverse features two main styles of play. First, you’ve got the single-player story mode, or Time Patrol quests, where you travel through time to different significant moments in Dragon Ball history. You’ll have to get involved in some classic battles to correct changes to the timestream; any fan of the series is going to love this mode, as it provides some interesting “what-if” scenarios. The other are Parallel Quests, self-contained quests that you can take on solo or with friends. The co-op offered in these quests could be the game’s main selling point, actually, since it’s loads of fun.
It’s a little unexpected, but Xenoverse has a lot in common with the Monster Hunter series and other hunting action games. Parallel Quests each include a listing of what goodies you might earn from completing them. This can range from new attacks to clothing options to crafting materials, and chances are you’ll find yourself farming the quests that offer the stuff you need. Since most quests are pretty quick affairs, this doesn’t get too tedious, and it’s actually a lot of fun to get together with friends and help each other search for the special move of your dreams.
Those moves and gear you pick up are going to go on your created character, naturally. The creation system isn’t as in-depth as something like an Elder Scrolls game, but it’ll be enough to make your own unique-looking hero. You can choose from five races – Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin or Frieza – each of which has different stats, available moves and clothing options. Naturally, Saiyans are the most popular choice and have a couple perks that the others are missing like transformation abilities, but you’ll see a decent mix online. Each race and gender also plays slightly differently from the others thanks to altered combos and throws. You’ll need to be careful with your first created character, though, as you’ve only got a single character slot at first and you’ll need to unlock more through gameplay.
Your character will level up as you play and earn attribute points that you can use to buff up your stats. What’s more, the gear you find will also affect your stats and you can train under signature characters from the series to learn more powerful moves. Focusing on a single attribute can result in truly impressive power; one of the players in my group made a highly specialized Ki-based glass cannon who could shred an enemy’s health bar with a single blast. Aside from the plot-based Time Patrol quests, though, you can play as a variety of signature characters from the series, so if you really have to be Goku, well, you can be Goku.
The only complaint I’ve had in my time with the game is that the online capabilities have been a little iffy since launch. Chances are that this is related to the game’s extreme popularity. Bandai Namco has been working to correct this, and you don’t actually have to be online to play with friends (at least in the PC version, which uses Steam to handle between-friends multiplayer) so it’s not a huge deal aside from difficulties logging into the game here and there.
Enough dallying about, here’s the skinny: Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a fantastic title and might be one of the best licensed games I’ve played. The sheer depth of the content and customization available combined with the co-op and competitive multiplayer make for a fantastic time, especially for fans of the series. If you enjoy Ki-charging laser-blasting martial arts action – and really, who doesn’t? – then you can’t go wrong.