Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review—We May Need Those Dragon Balls

dragon ball xenoverse 2015-02-02

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the most recent Dragon Ball game to be released, and the first title not to be a strict fighting game in a long time. While Xenoverse’s gameplay is, of course, a third-person fighting game, similar to Tenkaichi, it also adopts RPG-style stats and equipment, giving the gameplay and your character a little more depth when it comes to development. And yes, your character—Xenoverse has the player make an avatar from scratch that will join the Dragon Ball universe for the course of the story.

Xenoverse‘s story has Trunks heading the Time Patrol, a force of warriors that try to maintain the balance of events in the timeline throughout Dragon Ball Z’s storyline. However, when he discovers that someone is messing with past events and trying to obstruct the way that the past unfolds (mostly by giving the canon bad guys more power), he finds himself in need of another top fighter. While his Time Patrol is strong, they are not quite strong enough to face this threat alone, and with that in mind, Trunks gathers the Dragon Balls and asks Shenron to summon a hero to help him sort things out.

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This hero is, of course, you. The custom character that the player creates at the beginning of the game is summoned to Toki Toki City, where the Time Patrol has their headquarters. The player is then given the mission from Trunks: help him beat back whatever enemy is the source of this new threat, and set the timeline straight.

After being introduced to the hub city, and shown the basics of how the game works, you’re left to your own devices to go about progressing however you wish, and there’s really quite a lot to do!

To begin, the player is given access to the time restoring missions that operate as the main story mode. These missions will encompass the entirety of the main storyline, and act as your main progression meter. Most things (loot from the item shop and equipment shop, Parallel Quests, etc.) are unlocked through the progress you make in the story, so keeping on top of your main missions is simultaneously the most important and least important part of the game.

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That is to say, you’ll likely spend most of your time in Parallel Quests. These quests allow you to take alternate tellings of an encounter, or fight for evil, or even just play a boss rush style mission. As you play through the main story missions, more and more Parallel Quests will unlock, with each giving you access to all kinds of equipment and new specials. In addition, each Parallel Quest has a bonus objective or two that, if completed during the mission, gives you better chances at snagging that new equipment or skill.

Unfortunately, this is also where the game makes or breaks itself for each player. Xenoverse is heavy in the grinding department. It’s far from the most egregious grinding, but you’ll find yourself repeating the same Parallel Quest several times in order to try to get that one special attack you want. It’s not uncommon to repeat the same one twenty times—or more—to get the coveted drop. And while it’s welcome that the bonuses for each mission add to the drop rates, the bonus objectives are hidden until you complete them in a given mission. Some of them are pretty simple to guess, like not letting a partner’s HP drop below a certain percentage, but others are not so easy to figure out, leaving those drop rates pitifully low until the player gets lucky and hits that bonus objective.

In addition to grinding for specials and equipment, you’ll also find yourself occasionally grinding for levels. While the game doesn’t have random difficulty jumps, the main quest does seem to assume that you’ll spend some time playing the Parallel Quests as they become available. You’ll often be running between the main quest and the Parallel Quests to keep yourself on top of everything, not counting the time spent grinding for skills and equipment (which is entirely optional, to be fair).

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Also of note is the ability to play Parallel Quests with friends online. This part is a great addition to the game, and certainly adds some extra game time. The online Parallel Quests appear to be somewhat scaled to the number of players you bring along, which is a huge plus. In the same vain, difficulty is not something you can set higher or lower, which somewhat detracts from the experience, too.

Difficulty is one of the major gripes with the game, in fact. In a game that does have stats, levels, equipment and such, difficulty throughout the game tends to be pretty solid, as it turns out to be mostly a numbers game. Rather than going the typical route, Xenoverse instills artificial difficulty in many of its battles. Instead of having an enemy that fights on equal footing, many a time, you’ll notice that an opponent has infinite Ki or stamina. Having an opponent who is constantly Instant Transmission-ing around the stage is infuriating, and it happens frequently at higher levels. And opponents with a seemingly infinite pool of Ki will often spam short range blasts that stop you in your tracks during a combo. The combination of these cheat-like effects and poor AI is an unenjoyable combination.

The AI in the game overall is just useless. It’s noticeable from the start, too. One of the first Parallel Quests you run into has you teaming up with Raditz in order to take down Goku and Piccolo. The fight is moderately difficult, as you only have Raditz’s help. When you replay the Quest with an additional two NPCs on your team, things get easier, right? Not at all. Not only are your partners virtually useless as they fly around in aimless circles nowhere near the opponents, but the enemy AI ignores your partners 9/10ths of the time in favor of attacking you and only you.

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The battle system itself is hard to grade fairly. The first impression is that it’s pretty fun. The system works, and things run smoothly; battles are fast-paced, and energy blasts are flying everywhere. As you first begin to grind, and you slowly figure out what works best for your fighting style, and then the gameplay starts to unravel. You’ll realize that the same combo works on every enemy, and there’s never any reason to change it. It’s impossible to coordinate strategy with NPCs because even using them as decoys doesn’t work, as the opponents are almost always focused on you.

There’s little to no progression, either. Yes, you’ll unlock new special moves throughout your playtime, but they end up amounting to very little. Your basic attacks have the same combos from the very beginning of the game to the very end, and there are less than 15 combos. After playing for a good amount of time, the combat begins to feel hollow and incredibly watered down. Despite the grand feel of the overall game, the battle system is still incredibly weak when compared to Tenkaiichi 3, which was released in 2007. It’s severely upsetting.

Xenoverse is far from a bad game; there are massive amounts of collectibles and stuff to do, plenty of things to unlock, and the online Parallel Quests make playing as a group fun. Unfortunately, the grind, relatively uninspired gameplay, and poor AI makes Xenoverse less fun to play than the old-school Dragon Ball Z games from the PS2 era.

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Dragon Ball Xenoverse was reviewed on Playstation 4 using a code provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

Overall: 7

The Good:

  • Create a Character is fun and different for a DBZ game
  • Lots to collect and unlock
  • Covers the entire storyline of DBZ and even a bit more
  • Online is fun to play with some friends

The Bad:

  • Grindy
  • Artificial difficulty is out in full force in many fights
  • Really, really bad AI
  • Gameplay is less deep than a 2007 DBZ game


I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.

  1. Everyday Legend
    Everyday Legend
    March 15, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Good review, but when’s Gundam?

  2. Viredae
    March 15, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    I agree for the most part, but I didn’t seem to have the troubles you had with the AI, on the contrary, for instance, that Raditz fight was much easier for me with two extra NPCs.

    Admittedly, I might have been lucky and had that one shining moment of clarity that struck the AI, but overall I find the NPCs useful.

  3. ironexe
    March 15, 2015 at 11:12 pm


  4. Landale
    March 15, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    The party AI seems to vary rather randomly. There have been some quests I’ve done repeatedly, with the same team for building up with the masters to get new moves, where one time through they’re aggressive as hell and barely let me do a thing but the next they just sit there maybe throwing out a punch or two.

  5. Viredae
    March 15, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    I guess derpy AI is better than intentionally uncooperative humans.

    But yeah, I’m now wondering what sort of process goes on in the AI to make it so erratic.

  6. Morningstar
    March 15, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    I’d feel that I should point out that there seem to be a connection with dragon ball Online

  7. Jack Ripper
    Jack Ripper
    March 15, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    The enemy AI having infinite Ki/Stamina pisses me off more than anything else in this game. They spam supers like it’s nothing and love using that explosion wave whenever they’re cornered.

    The friendly AI is a hit or miss. Sometimes, they will just stand there like an sandbag waiting to be wailed on, other times, they will actually do some decent beating on the enemy.

  8. InfectedAI
    March 15, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Really? What is it? It’s a shame that got canned. Story wise it looked really interesting. And I was looking forward to exploring the Dragon Ball world with friends.

  9. TheCynicalReaper
    March 16, 2015 at 12:12 am

    If you want a great DBZ game with a great story, great nostaliga and lots to offer, this is the game.

    If you want a great DBZ game with proper gameplay, fun battles that aren’t broken with energy blasts, stupid mechanic choices, and awful artificial difficulty bullshit…this is not your game.

  10. TheCynicalReaper
    March 16, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Very good review, mate. I absolutely adore this game despite its many flaws, ALL with regards to the combat, and I say this is a great, balanced article.

  11. ChazDragoon
    March 16, 2015 at 12:27 am

    This is my first DBZ game since playing translated roms of Hyperdimension. I’m actually enjoying it alot…though my main issue is that, for some reason, i can never seem to get into the same “lobby” as my friends on steam…making it rather impossible to form a team outside of constantly sending Steam invites every Parallel Quest.

    Though overall…i’m not sour spending the $50 admission fee to this game.

  12. ChazDragoon
    March 16, 2015 at 12:28 am

    if i remember…the enemies for XV (the NEW ones) are from DBO, the character customization is from DBO…annnd some other things i think.

  13. Morningstar
    March 16, 2015 at 12:36 am

    There’s also the Buus as a species (thanks to Hercule and Master Roshi’s book) And the idea of there being a Time Patrol and God(ess) of time.

    Now I wonder stuff from Dragon Ball Heroes (like the characters Beat and Note) and the upcoming movie will be implemented

  14. OverlordZetta
    March 16, 2015 at 1:12 am

    In many cases, a lot of your negatives do sound player specific. Combos, for example, can be worked into your play style as needed – I barely use them a lot of the time. I can’t image why anyone would only play with them, though – 15 is a lot on top of so many specials. Likewise, while the AI needs work, I never found it useless – and I could tell just from how I did alone in comparison.

    I can also say I never recall fighting anyone with unlimited Ki, save for Super Saiyans (who don’t abuse it nearly as much as other players do), since that’s what you get on transforming until it wears down. Likewise, the things you describe as happening “frequently” on higher levels are things I haven’t experienced at all, unless you’re just referring to teleporting behind someone with stamina with the IT comment, which you can do too.

  15. OverlordZetta
    March 16, 2015 at 1:14 am

    So far, I’d say it still could be. The controls are a bit clunky, but when you’re leveled and well equipped, the only real artificial difficulty is in the nasty Bardock escort mission. Even at 60-70 (at 80 now), the game didn’t give me the sense of unfairness described here at all.

  16. OverlordZetta
    March 16, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Explosion Wave uses Stamina, and I really think these infinite Ki remarks are overblown.

    The fact is, you can level up your own Ki meter quite a bit. One character I’m working on can throw two Ultimates out in a row and I’ve yet to see the AI pull that.

  17. Anonymous
    March 16, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Not sure if the reduced depth might be something bad or actually good, might have been intentional to streamline the combat.
    The amount of focus on the single player aspect and the story makes it a really amazing game for fans of the franchise first and foremost, not fighting game fans as the other versions, and character creation and customization would also benefit from a streamlined combat.
    Also one thing to note is that at least right now the online is having constant issues and that definitely takes away from the experience.

  18. Mr0303
    March 16, 2015 at 5:38 am

    The thing is there is only one play style that is semi varied on the different stats you put in your character. Since you can not fill your Ki in any other way you have to go to melee combat. Then depending on how you built your character you can transform and continue the assault or whip out a special move. That is pretty much it. Compared to Tenkaichi 3 or even the most recent Burst Limits that is pretty shallow. Even Ultimate Tenkaichi had the zoning option for characters and in that game every single character had the same combos.

  19. Mr0303
    March 16, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I completely agree with the review. This game is great for the fans of the franchise since it has multiple easter eggs and the story is mostly great (minus the Beerus part – F this guy).

    In terms of gameplay it is really limited. People who prefer to go into hand to hand battles have an advantage since it is the only way to build up Ki. Tenkaichi 3 was indeed the pinnacle of the series. You could zone, go into melee battle and even make use of the Dragon Rushes (not to mention the more advanced stuff like vanishes, pursuits and the insanely cool sonic sway). In T3 you could even play as the giant characters. Here it seems to be limited to playing against those in the story/Parallel Quests.

    I find the master system a bit grindy too. You have to use his special move 40+ times before you get another (this can be a problem with useless ones like all of Hercule’s). And when you change your master you lose the double damage on the Ultimate attack. This is why I stuck to one master until I completed the story.

    The servers in Europe seem really broken so I have no player interaction in Toki city. I really loved the game, but I’m not sure I’ll be putting the time to Platinum it.

  20. Jack Ripper
    Jack Ripper
    March 16, 2015 at 10:54 am

    “Since you can not fill your Ki in any other way you have to go to melee combat.”

    There is a charge skill that you can buy from the store. You don’t have to go melee to charge your Ki. It’s pretty useful when you have other allies and they are fodders to the enemy while you charge and just keep spamming super ki blasts.

  21. Mr0303
    March 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

    It is still strange for something that was a core part of the gameplay for all other DBZ games. It never appeared for me for the time that I was beating the story (I think I’m level 34). I’ve never seen any NPC charging ki so I naturally assumed this wasn’t in the game.

  22. British_Otaku
    March 16, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Yep, it sounds like I thought.
    More shallow combat relative to PS2 titles – A serious shame, but expected.

    Grindy with unnecessary random factors – Even Dimps’ Budokai 1 had this but balanced it out some more, perhaps it was designed to encourage players to hang on for when the DLC comes out.

    Dumb AI – I hear the local multiplayer options are limited and that there are balance + stablitity issues online, so I really wanted to see this be good at least.

    I’ll wait for the bargain bin like most DBZ games on consoles since 2007 or so.

  23. lucben999
    March 16, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I think you don’t actually have to use the moves they teach you, just grind PQs.

    I know they say you have to, but a couple of times I just played a bunch of quests without using the move much and the training still progressed.

  24. Taiga Gao
    Taiga Gao
    March 16, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    You don’t really need to use the skill they give you. You just need to do story or Parallel Quest with your master and against him or his enemies, though, is still really grindy. I finished the story with Krilin as Master, changed to N18 and I had to do around 30-40 times the PQ where you fight her to max her.

    Now, consider that there are 12 Masters+2 planned DLC and you’re in for one hell of a grind if you want to max all.

  25. Jack Ripper
    Jack Ripper
    March 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Yeah, I only just noticed it too. I’m around the 30s level as well and just bought it recently while browsing the store. Kind of stupid that we have to waste a skill spot to put something that’s always vital to the DBZ games.

    At least it’s there though. I hated charging Ki through only melee too.

  26. Mr0303
    March 16, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Kind of ironic considering the “DBZ characters are charging their power for half an episode” jokes.

  27. British_Otaku
    March 17, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I expected you to be talking about Gundam Extreme Vs (an actual great game from Bandai Namco), but didn’t think it was relevant since I didn’t know this writer’s history.

    Thanks for the link.

  28. ironexe
    March 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I know what Gundam is. I hadn’t heard of anything new Gundam-related coming out any time soon.

  29. Softclocks
    March 18, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I don’t think I’ll be getting this game then.

    Was actually hoping for a follow up to tenkaichi.

  30. Malcolm_Ecks
    March 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    To those still on the fence about this game, its not a DBZ fighting game. It’s an Action Rpg with Monster Hunter style structure in progressing (minus the crafting). I think if the publishers communicated that better people would see the game for what it is. Its not really comparable to any DBZ games from the last 10 or so years due to it not being a straight up fighting game, but the Reviewer still hits the mark on the bad AI and the Grindyness. This game is for the fans.

  31. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    March 18, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    You know, I’ve actually been toying with the idea of reviewing Breaker 2. I got it last month finally. Maybe I’ll knock out a review for it.

  32. John Smith
    John Smith
    March 18, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Just learn blue Hurricane from Burter and easymode the pve portion of the game.