Dragon Ball XenoVerse: Our enjoyment levels are firmly under 9,000

In Many Respects, Dragon Ball XenoVerse is the perfect digital adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s original works: it features battles of huge visual intensity and bombast, undercut by tiresome filler that’ll have your attention span waning within hours.  That’s not a dig at the source material, though, with hindsight, we can all agree that 177 days spent running along Snake Way was a little excessive, right, Goku? However, it’s clear that Dimps hasn’t utilised the power of the PS4 appropriately, nor has it tried to adapt its aging core systems and mechanics to help the fighter transform in a new generation.

To be frank, none of this will really matter if you’re the sort of diehard fan that’ll happily spend a weekend debating the legitimacy of Dragon Ball Z Kai versus the original series. XenoVerse is a Dragon Ball Z fan’s wet dream, allowing you to create your own character, link up with Trunks, and join the Time Patrol Team in an effort to stop history from unravelling. Over the years, we’ve spent plenty of time embodying Earth’s mightiest heroes always to stop an ever-encroaching evil whose destiny has already been written, drawn and animated but this is the first time we truly feel like we’re having an impact on the mythos. Across a 15-hour campaign, you’ll be given the opportunity to venture to integral moments throughout the storied DBZ timeline in an effort to set history back on its intended course.

We say feel like you’re having an impact because, of course, you aren’t. While it’s fun to see what might have happened should Raditz have avoided Piccolo’s ridiculously-slow-to-charge Special Beam Cannon, failure to align with the canon history results in a game over screen as opposed to a zany ‘What If?’ scenario. That doesn’t dilute the entire experience, mind it just feels like Dimps could have gone further with XenoVerse to take advantage of the alternate-history opportunity. While many fans will walk away feeling satisfied at playing a part in DBZ’s biggest battles, some will wonder why Trunks didn’t just gather the bloody Dragon Balls himself and wish the timeline fixed in the first place.

Still, if the story does begin to drag, there’s plenty else to see and do to keep you occupied. The MMORPG-style hub world, Toki Toki City, is a confusing mess, though its surprisingly interesting to explore. It’s here where you’ll be able to access the 11 Sagas that make up XenoVerse’s story mode, a deluge of side-quests, training missions with iconic Dragon Ball legends, and interesting ways to experience split-screen and online multiplayer battles. It’s also here where you’ll be able to view other custom-created characters. Dimps has adapted the character design system from 2010’s Dragon Ball Online, giving you the opportunity to craft your own Earthling, Saiyan or Arcosian, with their own physical attributes and custom fighting style. Throughout the game, you’ll also be able to level up your character, adding new skills and moves to their repertoire. It is a basic, but functional, system though it lacks any solid depth.

That isn’t a surprise, because it’s the same problem that plagues the combat system. Once you’re done drowning in fan service, you’ll very quickly come to realise that XenoVerse is essentially a very simplistic fighting game that will struggle to hold attention past the initial visual splendour. Battles lack any real weight or impact, while those looking for technical depth will be left sorely disappointed. XenoVerse quickly descends into a button-mashing paradise, where no amount of Kamehamehas, Ki Blasts or Spirit Bombs can help drag the entertainment out of the ground. Fighters will also desperately struggle to overcome an invasive camera, not to mention shoddy AI that borderlines on murderously frustrating. XenoVerse has more in common with Dragon Ball Online than Dragon Ball Z: budokai 3 in this respect, it isn’t a straight up one-on-one brawler. Truth be told, anyone outside of the horrifically dedicated core fanbase will find very little to enjoy here.

At times, it feels like XenoVerse is on the cusp of dragging the series into the next generation. The MMORPG hub-style world is a gentle step towards it, but the exclusion of destructible environments is just tiring at this point. A shallow combat system and meandering filler between main missions left our attention spans feeling like Krillin in every battle ever: unwarranted, wasted and desperately awaiting a Dragon Ball revival.

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