As a long standing fan of the Dragon Ball Z series, a new game release for the franchise inevitably ends in disappointment. The series has always had potential, and in the right hands should more than deliver a great game yet more often than not this potential is not realised. Dragon Ball Xenoverse was the first game in a long time that realised some of this potential, and looking beyond it’s faults it was possible to see some solid core mechanics and the first signs that the series may have at long last landed in some good hands.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is Dimps’ second iteration of the series that sees players tasked with correcting alterations in the time line made by chief protagonist Towa. You play the role of a member of the ‘Time Patrol’, a special team tasked with ensuring that events in the timeline progress as they should. The nature of your role and the story sees you visiting many of the moments from the Dragon Ball Z Story, which also means retracing your steps from the first game.
“So you can raise your power after all!”
For veterans of the first game, your first impression is going to be a rather strong sense of ‘Deja Vu’, almost to the point that you could be forgiven for thinking you had loaded the wrong game. The Characters, Graphics, Audio and even the Menus are almost a carbon copy from the first game. You should get used to this, as the feeling of familiarity will be with you throughout the game as the developers focus has been more on evolution rather than revolution. That’s not to say though that things haven’t got better. You will immediately notice the vastly improved frame rate, which makes a dramatic difference during fights and delivers an improved sense of speed.
The main story is predictable and overall nothing to write home about, but it serves its primary function to create a framework for you to relive many of the great battles from the Dragon Ball Z. The story is supported by a selection side quests, tutorials and battles to partake in which unlock new abilities, items and customisations for your character. Frustrations from the previous game have been identified and addressed, with everything now feeling a much more intuitive and pleasant experience.
From the off customisations are more immediately available, avoiding some of the longer grinds from the previous game. This is particularly true for abilities, where you can now train with all masters simultaneously to unlock more abilities to discover and hone your character to your desired play style faster. All these changes are very much welcome, and it really helps to make more of the game accessible earlier.
Coupled with the improvements, new game modes have been slipped in alongside old favourites. Parallel Quests and Online Battle modes make a return but this time they are joined by a new ‘Expert’ variant. This new mode introduces 6 player support and some more complex mechanics, where team work becomes the important element. As an example, one type of mission will see players needing to work together to deflect a giant Energy Ball before it hits the ground, fail to repel the energy ball and you will need to start over from the very beginning again. There are also weekly events, and Raid style challenges that increase the difficulty but offer greater rewards.
“I dare say you’ve been toying with me all along…”
The fighting element of the game has seen more subtle changes, with all the core mechanics from the first game remaining almost untouched. Instead, these foundations have been built upon to include some more advanced mechanics, and whilst they are very much optional they will allow those willing to commit the effort to perfect them an advantage in combat.
As before, loadout is as simple as assigning abilities to function keys. To use a move during combat is as simple as holding a trigger and pressing the relevant button on the controller. For me this accessibility is a key feature and should be showered with praise. It removes the need to memorise button sequences for moves and instead allows you to focus on their mastery. Despite its simplicity, its mastery comes in the form of timing and delivery rather than the ability to press a button sequence as fast as possible.
Other refinements to the system are subtle but welcome, movement feels easier in particular to track and move to an opponent whilst flying. You can also now damage an opponent after knocking them to ground (Something of a major frustration from the first game!) which opens up a lot more option for chaining together various moves and energy blasts. All in all, the combat although familiar is more polished, and for those interested in exploring the vast range on offer there is a lot of variation possible which should keep you busy for a while.
Multiplayer makes a return, and offers up access to a large portion of the content in the game for you and others to tackle together. Strolling around the multiplayer lobby is no longer the stutter filled, lag riddled experience from the first game. Team creation and management now actually works and partnering up with others is now a much simpler and pleasant experience.
“Urrghh, my old body!”
Despite the positive improvements, some of the old familiar issues remain. In some cases they are more subtle than their predecessor, but there are still some improvements that I am surprised to see haven’t been tackled. The need to constantly create and leave a lobby for a single online battle or mission is still notably present, and it’s hard to fathom why they don’t allow you to change the mission from within the lobby. It sounds minor, but it quickly becomes annoying the more you play online, in particular when playing continuously.
Combat still suffers from being repetitive, and there is little to incentivise you to leave your comfort zone and try out different moves or play styles. The camera and movement still cause issue at times, although it must be said these have improved since the first game. There are also some balance issues, with the difficulty of missions swinging, sometimes quite wildly, between being far to easy or far to hard.
For big fans of the Amine, a large portion of the original voice actors return. But it’s noticeable which characters haven’t been voiced by the original actor which can somewhat detract from enjoying the experience of meeting the characters for the first time. This is compounded by the poor lip-sync during scripted sequences, which seems to be an intentional attempt to replicating the ‘dubbing’ effect of the Anime but instead is distracting to the eye. Also for me personally the absence of any of Bruce Falconers original score from the American Dub also seems a sad oversight, instead replaced with a score that reflects the series Japanese roots.
“I’ve got the body of Buu, the power of Gotenks and all the cunning of a Namek ready to drive the nails into your coffin”
If Dragon Ball isn’t really your thing then this isn’t the game for you, in fact I would be surprised if you’ve actually read this far! But if like me you are a fan, this is currently the nearest you can get to the game that you have hoped for. There is no escaping the fact that this game is very much a re-imagining of its predecessor and whilst still not perfect, it shows improvement in all areas. To me, this is more the fulfilling of the vision that the developers had for the first game. It was never intended to be, nor going to be, a true standalone sequel but I feel it is better for it. By focusing on improving the recipe rather than completely redefining it the result is more ‘Empire Strikes Back’ rather than ‘The Matrix Reloaded’. It’s not without its faults, but the feeling inside when you hastily dispatch an opponent with a perfectly executed sequence of moves feels truly Dragon Ball, and instilling that experience in the player is all this game ever needed to deliver.
Dragon Ball: Xenoverse 2 was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.