What on earth did I just play?
It’s hard to pin what the sweet saint hell Dragonball Xenoverse 2 actually is. It is fair to say I went into this game beyond blind. I had no idea this series actually existed. But Bandai Namco are not to be messed around, so I took a bullet and picked up this game.
24 hours later my friends and I were engrossed. We were dissecting the fighting down like it was the new Street Fighter. Where can we counter? What do each of these bars mean? How can we make the 35 attack combo for that quest we need to complete? How do we get through that goddamn Goku combo?! We went from cynical bourgeoisie gamers to dirty proletariat addicts in an instant.
But in all seriousness, Dragonball Xenoverse 2 is truly the phrase “hit and miss” made gestalt. The game can go from stand out anime cinematic moments to trauma-inducing in the space of seconds. The stand out moments are good enough to mediate this trauma for a time but this should have been either a fighting game or a RPG and the Frankenstein attempt has not been the success hoped for.
I have to highlight the issue with this game now, as the issue permeated through my playing of the game. What the game does well is the fighting, summarising quickly now it is dynamic and fun. What the game does wrong is all of the torturous RPG elements of the game. The mechanics are convoluted and unrefined making the simplest tasks far more difficult than it needs to be.
The story is the first thing to fall for this poor RPG construction. Summed down from about a billion hours of talking (actually about 30 minutes of cutscenes and talking before you actually control your character) you play as a Time Patroller, someone sent to keep time on track from people who do not wish to keep time on track. This sets a rather loose basis for everything else around it. I haven’t watched enough Dragonball Z to tell you if this is in line with canon but all of your favourite characters are there.
The bread and butter fighting of the game is by far the best part. Your fighting is broken into light and heavy attacks, with dodges and grabs when you begin to grasp the concept better and power attacks and super attacks on top. While the only customisable bit of the fighting is only really the power attacks and super attacks the fighting is built in a way that mashing just light and heavy attacks will make a stellar looking combo. The focus with fighting has been kept on the correct point: Making you feel like a superhuman being and that has been done very well.
You get used to the fighting quickly, as all of the quests in the game involve you fighting in some form and rarely evolves from that. Beat up this guy; beat up this guy and collect these items; beat up these guys for a period of time; beat up these guys and don’t let this guy die. It’s rather simple but it keeps you focused on mastering that mechanic. I found quite quickly an exploitable combo where you use your teleport to keep rather simple light attacks going as long as you have stamina and the enemy does not react; and that is what a fighting game should be doing.
When you’re not fighting you are thrown in the hub world of Conton City. From here you do the various RPG staple tasks. You change your clothes; get more quests and find other players to play with. The city has plenty of locations from the anime series so you can travel to Buu’s home and Freiza’s Spaceship if you desire. The travelling around has, like many other elements, been made over complicated; with you having to teleport to the teleporter if you wish to go to any of the other hub areas.
For those of you with friends there is a co-op questing element to the game (online only) as well as online and offline PVP battling. The battling continues to be robust, although the camera does tend to wig out and lose its lock on the players in local battles, meaning sometimes you are fighting blind which is a major no-no in a fighting game. You also cannot pit two custom characters against each other in local coop, which meant that ‘Big Junk Rick’ could only tackle series staple characters rather than his custom comrades.
Overall Dragonball Xenoverse 2 does one thing well: The fighting is robust and fun and really makes you feel like you are fighting to preserve time. It really is a shame that the RPG elements are not as refined and that really drags the whole experience down a couple of notches. But despite this perseverance will give you a fun fighting game for you and your friends to play, earning a 6 overall.