X-Men Destiny came out this week to mediocre reviews. The choice system has no impact, the enemies are repetitive, the game is too short, the list goes on. However, one decision made it almost impossible for this game to really take off from the start. The playable characters.
Before I go any further I should probably mention that despite by love of comic books, I have not played, nor have I even considered playing, X-Men: Destiny. My critiques have nothing to do with the controls or graphics (I’m sure both are well covered by better writers than myself). I am simply detailing why I had no desire to play it before, and certainly don’t now.
If you are playing an X-Men game, the first thing you probably want to do is be your favorite characters. It was made pretty obvious early on that that is not the case here. Instead you play as a new mutant (no, not those new mutants), who recently discovers his or her powers and has to decide whether to join the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (should be a no brainer considering one group has the work “evil” right in the middle of it but whatever).
This isn’t a bad idea at a glance. Being an unknown character can give you the ability to put yourself in the role of the young mutant, gaining cool powers while fighting among and against your favorite heroes and villains. I was initially on board with this game, thinking it was Marvel’s answer to DC Universe Online, where you create a hero or villain from scratch and fight among all the characters in famous DC locations. Boy was I wrong.
Starting from the top, you have the choice to be 1 of 3 mutants. A regular guy, a beefed up guy, and a girl. You also have a choice between 3 powers, none of which I will name because they are all the same. It turns out it doesn’t really matter what character or power you choose because they are all basically skins for the same generic person and actions. For a game claiming to be all about choosing your destiny, there already isn’t a lot of choice here. As for choosing sides, it turns out that doesn’t really matter either. Both sides are going against a third party that is out to get all mutants. This makes for a pretty cheap way to make all you good/bad choices not mean a thing. Essentially the only thing your choices do is determine who “helps” you on all of your missions. Regardless of your chosen character you have two endings, which are solely determined by the final choice you make. 3 characters, 3 powers, 2 endings. Doesn’t really add up.
None of this is unprecedented, but it doesn’t really give anything back either. Ultimate Alliance 2 didn’t change too drastically based on your decisions, but you at least got different cut scenes and played as your favorite heroes. Force Unleashed left you has an guy you never heard of with no choices, but you go against famous Star Wars creatures and characters, and you get all the force powers you ever dreamed of having. You don’t get optic blasts or psychic powers in X-Men: Destiny. All you get are 3 random powers that seem to all be identical extensions of your fists, which you use against random people you never heard of, as a person you don’t care about. That game has been done much better twice before, Infamous and Prototype.
Considering Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends, I get not making another beat’em up where you play as Marvel characters. However the model for this game really should have been DC Universe Online. I would have loved the ability to create my own mutant, with an actual costume and powers of my choosing, while actually fighting against X-Men characters. With 3 different, although generic, characters the potential was there for 6 possible outcomes. Good and bad. Instead we got 2, with a short play through time to go with it. Would it really have been so much trouble to throw in flight?