Dragonball Xenoverse 2: An Excellent Game for Fans and Those Who've Never Seen the Franchise Alike

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

If you haven't played the first Xenoverse, let me open by telling you that it was great, but had a few hiccups. The servers were constantly crashing or unavailable, you could level up faster than you could learn relevant techniques, your character who spends 99% of their time flying around at high speeds had to walk everywhere out of combat, etc. Dragonball Xenoverse 2 takes notes from those failures and addresses them all with varying degrees of success, but is universally an improvement. 

I was already hooked on this game when I got to demo it at PAX Prime 2016, and couldn't wait to get my hands on it when I learned that not only would it improve on the first game mechanically, but even built directly on the original story from the first Xenoverse, with people who played the first game able to import their previous character as a major NPC who will share their knowledge and skills with your new character! All the promise of the demo and the first entry in the series has been met and exceeded by this excellent game.

Let me back up a bit and tell you what this game actually is. Dragonball Xenoverse 2 allows you to create a full customizable warrior who gets to participate in various versions of classic Dragonball battles and completely new ones, with the primary premise of the game being that your character is a Time Patroller, pulled from one of many alternate histories to protect the established timeline(s). Your character's race, equipment, stats, moves, and combat style are all completely customizable, and you can even have multiple presets on a single character allowing you to quickly switch between different outfits and move sets. On top of the ready customization present in each individual character, you have around a dozen character slots you can use to build additional characters, all of whom have access to a shared pool of wealth, items, equipment, and moves, so deciding that you want to switch to playing a melee focused Namekian instead of your energy blasting Saiyan does little to slow or undermine your advancement (though each character does still need to level up and complete their various quests individually). The race you pick also affects certain cinematic sequences, how you advance with various factions throughout the city on Conton in which the game is set, and can influence how certain moves function.

This is also a cooperative and/or competitive fighting game. You can participate in various types of online or offline battles using not just your own custom fighter, but any of the fighters from a deep roster of characters drawn from the Dragonball universe. The fighting system is complex and vibrant, featuring high speed flight, rapid button combos, and menu activated special moves that are activated and triggered in real time using an intuitive button layout. Auto-targeting, scouting, exploration, target retrieval, and group combat all play into the game's dynamic options, making Xenoverse in many ways a dozen or more complimentary games wrapped into a single cohesive package.

I mentioned earlier that if you were a fan of the original Xenoverse, you should be happy about the improvements made in this one. Let me elaborate a bit on those.

First, anyone who picked up the first Xenoverse on release day is going to remember that the servers for the game were atrocious. Maybe they couldn't afford adequate server capacity, maybe they underestimated how popular the game was going to be, but either way getting into a multiplayer lobby was a virtually unwinnable struggle for literal months. I almost didn't purchase the DLC that dropped a months after the game's release because I was STILL struggling to get into the multiplayer lobbies! Now, Xenoverse 2 still appears to have inadequate server space for the number of players, but they've taken steps to address this by putting rotating time limits on how long an individual can occupy a multiplayer lobby (3 hours, currently). This isn't nearly as frustrating as it might seem; many of the multiplayer functions don't actually require you to be in the multiplayer lobby, so three hours should generally be more than sufficient time for you to meet new players and participate in the various available activities, and even after your allotted time expires you can invite your new friends to participate in online fights or parallel quests (mission oriented battles that may have a variety of challenges or objectives).

The first Xenoverse also featured the ability to pick a trainer from a cast comprised of many of the most iconic Dragonball characters, learning their signature moves and gaining unique items and equipment as you improve their relationship with them. Unfortunately, in the first Xenoverse the constraints of the game's leveling mechanic and the amount of time necessary to learn techniques from the trainers often meant that many techniques were learned after the point in time they'd be most useful. You now no longer need to establish a character as your mentor to learn their moves; training with a character to master their signature moves is now a separate function from the mentor/relationship building mechanics, and you can always learn level relevant moves from trainers regardless of whether or not you're still working on building your relationship with another character.

The final major improvement, after a certain point in the story your character can finally fly around and explore the (much expanded) main social area of the game Conton City (formerly TokiToki City if you played the first game).

There are also new types of large group battles that allow you to place on national leaderboards while battling unique challenges in groups of 6, numerous fine refinements to the gear and moves, the option to replace the stats your gear offers with a customized preset group of stats so you can wear your favorite outfit without compromising your effectiveness, and even minor clean-ups to the graphics and quest interfaces. One of the fun improvements to the game is that the various character transformation abilities no longer count against your other moves; instead transformations like Kaio Ken or Super Saiyan have their own ability slot, and transformations are available for every playable race. Some of the older transformations have even been streamlined; instead of needing to learn Super Saiyan 1, 2, and 3 separately, you instead learn a single Super Saiyan transformation and the exact level you transform to is determined by your Ki level at the time you trigger the transformation. 

Dragonball Xenoverse was a great game. All the best parts of the many previous Dragonball titles refined and put together in a single title, with the added benefit of getting to bring your own custom character to the story. Xenoverse 2 takes that to the next level, learning many important lessons from the first game without losing any of the magic, and improving on the experience at every turn. This game is a great addition to your gaming library regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the Dragonball franchise, but is an absolute must-have if you are