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Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review—We May Need Those Dragon Balls

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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
Chris Gregoria

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