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Dragon Ball XenoVerse

By KenpoJuJitsu319-03-2015
Dragon Ball  XenoVerse

The Defence

Bandai Namco
Action, Fighting, MMO
Release Date:
US 24-02-2015
EU 27-02-2015

The Prosecution

Intel Core i3 2.93 GHz
AMD Phenom II X4 3.0GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 550Ti
AMD Radeon HD 6790
4 GB
10 GB

The Case

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a hybrid between a fighting game and an MMO developed by DIMPS and published by BANDAI NAMCO Games. While Dragon Ball is a well-known and established anime brand, its games have been pretty exclusive to consoles and handhelds until now. But is it any good?

The Trial

Yo jurors! Full disclosure, I am a huge Dragon Ball fan. It ranks in my top 3 favorite anime of all time. I’m letting you know this as, in theory, it could either make me extremely forgiving on this title or overly critical. I assure you, I’m neither but I like to be open with my readers. So let’s get started.

6 hours of grinding for this single skill. Yaaaaaaayyyy...

6 hours of grinding for this single skill. Yaaaaaaayyyy...

Developed by DIMPS, co-developers of Street Fighter IV and developers of the Dragon Ball Budokai series, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a game that was advertised as the next title in a long line of Dragon Ball fighting games but it’s really more of an MMO experience when you really get down to it.

The story for this game is different from other DB games. While other games have tried various ways to rehash and have the player go through the official Dragon Ball story, this game has the premise that new villains Towa, Mira and Demon God Demigra are going into the past and changing history for various reasons. This idea allowed the developers to craft some new scenarios for players to enjoy while still sticking to the core experience, locales and characters.

Outside of the usual plotholes that show up whenever time travel and multi-dimensional theory are presented the story works. I’m not going to spoil any of it beyond saying it was entertaining enough to be relevant for both diehard Dragon Ball fans and people who have no idea what the franchise is.

Going Super Saiyan, one of the game's thrills.

Going Super Saiyan, one of the game's thrills.

At the start of the game, players will have to create their own character from a selection of 5 races. Three of the races also have the choice of male or female while the remaining 2 are male only. Each selection isn’t merely cosmetic. The different races have different starting stats, different innate abilities, different clothing pieces they can equip and different moves they can learn.

After their character is created the player has to complete a few tutorial missions before they are let into the online world to mingle with other players, find NPC mentors to train them in a handful of moves and to complete missions to get XP, currency, clothing drops and move drops. In addition to these facets, there are online and offline lobbies where players can just pick fighters and stages and have 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 fights with other players or the computer like a standard fighting game.

The standard Dragon Ball experience in the fighting is mostly intact. There are high speed melee fights, long distance energy beams and balls flying around, characters disappearing and reappearing along with varying levels of environmental destruction. This is one of the better playing Dragon Ball games to date. However, as a fan who holds Budokai Tenkaichi 3 and Budokai 3 as the number one and two Dragon Ball games of all time respectively, Xenoverse makes a few missteps.

Where the hell is the wish for a better drop rate?

Where the hell is the wish for a better drop rate?

Firstly, Tenkaichi 3 set the high bar for having nearly every major character and transformation from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z’s movies and Dragon Ball GT in the game. It’s disappointing that all games after that have omitted various characters and Xenoverse is no exception. Chaiotzu? Nope. Zarbon and Dodoria? Nope. Android 19 and Android 20? Nope. Dabura? Nope. But hey, at least there’s Appule right? Riiiiiiiight?

Secondly, transformations are handled awfully. Iconic characters like Frieza and Cell and missing multiple transformations each. Also, player created characters can only transform if they create a Saiyan. Majin characters could have had an animation playout where they absorbed someone and powered up, but no. Frieza race characters could have had a transformation, but no. Namekian’s could have had a fuse animation playout as a transformation, but no. Humans could have had a max power mode like Master Roshi, but no. It’s a missed opportunity to say the least. Also, in Tenkaichi 3 a character capable of transforming could go through each stage of their transformation on the fly and saiyans could drop down to lower transformations at will. Xenoverse doesn’t have this. Want Goku to go Super Saiyan? There’s a Goku for that. Want him to go Super Saiyan 2? That’s a different character, he can’t go from base to SS1 to SS2. Want him to go Super Saiyan 3? That’s also a separate character. Want Frieza to transform at all? Too bad, each of the available forms is a separate character and all of his forms aren’t even available in the game. Another missing thing is beam clashing but I won’t spend time on that point beyond saying it’s unfortunate that it was omitted.

Now, some of this has been supposedly in the name of balance...which is hilarious because the game is anything but balanced. Ranged has a clear advantage over melee. Several characters are clearly superior to others. There are items which are so powerful that they might as well be essential for PvP. Base damage for ultimate attacks is wildly varied rather than normalized. On the positive side, many of these outliers have thus far been swiftly patched but there still may present in the game. Speaking of moves...

The visual style is true to the TV show.

The visual style is true to the TV show.

...here comes one of two major issues with the game at present. The game is heavily dictated by a random number generator and said RNG is the worst one I have ever seen in any MMO or RPG game in my 30 years of gaming. The. Absolute. Worst. Let me explain. There are missions which can be completed and these missions have hidden special objectives that when completed should carry the mission to an advanced stage allowing for a better score called an Ultimate Finish. The problem is that even when ALL of the conditions are met the mission advancing to the next step or not is STILL subject to random chance. WTH? This is ridiculous. Also, the majority of cosmetic items and powerful moves in the game are random drops from defeated enemies and completed objectives and the drop rates for these are hilariously low. Many players can expect to spend hours grinding for a single costume piece or a single move and then expect to repeat the process if they want to collect the other hundreds of costume pieces and special moves. But wait, here’s another wrench. In any MMO worth the entry fee, when a player completes a mission in a satisfactory manner they are granted a drop or reward. It might not be what they want, but it will at least be something for the time spent. DIMPS apparently thinks that’s horrible game design and instead uses a system where a player can spend 15 minutes on a mission, get an ultimate finish (all objectives completed) AND a Z-rank (the highest score rank) and then be presented with NO loot at all. Meanwhile another player can complete the mission with a regular finish and a C rank and get 3 drops. This is inexcusable. There should never be an absence of any drop, especially not when a player has completed all tasks with the highest score. But it happens frequently.

The other major issue at present is that the servers are horrible. If players desire to play online with other players it’s a coin flip as to whether or not they will get into the game. Now, this has gotten better with time after a few patches and fortunately the game can go to an offline mode where all the content is still available. However, the ability to play online in an online focused game should be a given and in Xenoverse it’s anything but that right now. The online is spotty. Finding your friends is a chore. Staying connected with them once you’ve found them can be an exercise in frustration.

Presentation wise, the game is faithful to Dragon Ball and looks the part. The art is on point, the kinetic combat has satisfying impact and the expected sounds and battle cries are present. The game has a frame cap of 150 fps and stays nearly locked to this when solo though it locks to 60 when actively playing with others. This is accomplished because the levels and characters are using very low-poly models. It looks like a last gen console game in many respects but the art direction keeps it true to the source material.

An example of the spotty lip syncing. He never opened his mouth.

An example of the spotty lip syncing. He never opened his mouth.

The AI is a mixed bag. Some fights against the com are fun, competitive exchanges. Then there are battles against the super saiyan characters which all seem to be granted unlimited energy for their moves (players have limited energy) along with programming that has them do next to nothing other than repeat their most powerful range attack over and over and over and over again. These fights range from boring to frustrating as the player is caught in an endless loop of energy beams...especially when the mission calls for the player to be solo against two to three super saiyans all of whom are spamming beams that can combo into each other. On the flip side of this, the AI teammates that assist the player are programmed to be hilariously passive. Opposing AI will transform, use high level chain combos, use its most powerful attacks and be hyper aggressive in pursuing the player. Friendly AI NEVER transforms, rarely uses any of their special attacks, NEVER uses their ultimate attacks and will timidly fly around doing nothing along with occasionally using the weak attack button and some short combos. It’s ridiculous and not fun when you’re in some of the later missions against the strongest characters in the game and could use a team that actually helps. Of course, one could argue this is motivation to play with other live people, but to me it’s poor form to have the enemy AI fight like gods and the friendly AI be glorified distractions and meatshields.

The Verdict

This is a good game and a decent PC entry into Dragon Ball games. It’s still not the best Dragon Ball game ever but it’s a solid framework to build something truly special. What’s on offer here is entertaining but unfortunately extremely repetitious with grinding alongside the most player unfriendly RNG ever even for common items. The servers are mess and the online infrastructure for communicating with other players is painfully limited. It’s 2015 and someone decided that the best way for players to communicate in an MMO type game is for chat to be limited to preset text selections when the platform comes standard with a frickin’ keyboard...

Case Review

  • Combat: The high speed combat is almost always impactful and entertaining.
  • Sound: The sound and voices are true to the show.
  • Art Direction: We’ve had Dragon Ball games in the past that strayed a bit from Akira Toriyama’s art style for the series. This game is among the ones that are the most faithful to the source and it can look spectacular as a result.
  • It’s Dragon Ball: If you’re a fan of DB, DBZ, DBGT then Xenoverse mostly lives up to what you would expect. If you’re not a fan of this series then to you this may just be another anime fighting game.
  • Balance: What balance? There’s almost none here. Damage for moves in the same class aren’t normalized and several characters are clearly many steps ahead of others. This is true to the source material but not balanced in a game that’s billed as a fighting game.
  • Online: They could have named this game “attempting to connect to Xenoverse servers” and gotten away with it. Getting online to play is a toss-up.
Score: 3.5/5
An OK anime fighter blended with an MMO that does equally right and wrong with the online and role-playing aspects. The DBZ license is the saving grace.
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