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X-Men Destiny

Make the deep choices that superficially affect gameplay.

There are two types of games these days: Games that let the player choose how they want the game to go, and those where the game makes the choices for the players. One approach isn't necessarily more effective than another. For example, the first Mass Effect was so enamored with player choice that it forgot to include enjoyable gameplay (a flaw brilliantly corrected in its sequel), while God of War put you on a strictly linear path that was gripping, gory, and thoroughly exhilirating. In other words, the element of choice doesn't make or break a game. When done right, though, the ability to have player decisions affect the larger game can add a sense of immersion and interactivity that you can't get in any other medium. X-Men: Destiny pays lip service to a game where choice affects your experience, but it's a shallow promise, easily broken and the game is all the more disappointing for it.

As the game begins, you play one of three young people at a mutant/human solidarity rally. You can play as a young man who is staunchly anti-mutant, a woman recently arrived in the US from Japan, or a college student who has no opinion on mutant-human relations at all (making his presence at the rally rather odd). Quickly, things go terribly awry, and whichever you character you've chosen manifests surprise mutant powers. Not surprisingly, this new character ends up becoming the central figure as both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants try to unravel the origins and motivations for the attack.

X-men destiny

I will give X-Men: Destiny a little credit. The plot, while hardly original, is a little more interesting than the generic set ups you find in most games. Half the time the game simply gives you an excuse to run around blowing things up, but X-Men: Destiny bothers to give your character some depth, and the plot has a few twists and turns as it unravels. It's not a spectacular story, but it's more than the minimal amount of necessary effort and I appreciate that.

If only the rest of the game had aimed for even above average, X-Men: Destiny would have been a fun little B-grade title worthy of a discount purchase. Sadly, I can't offer even half-hearted praise for the gameplay. When your mutant powers emerge, you can choose from one of three types of powers. The first is basic strength, turning your character into a tank. The second is energy based, making your character a rip off of Cole MacGrath from Infamous, and the third harnesses dark matter. Of the three, the strength power is boring and tedious, the energy power is inaccurate and unoriginal, whereas the dark matter is fun and effective. The problem should be obvious: The game gives you two reasons to play through three times, one for each character, and each character with a different power. But if two of the three powers are not fun or frustrating to use, then that severely cuts back on the game's replayability.

X-men destiny gambit

Then there are the three characters. While the writers do their best to make one feel like they have a complete character arc, the motivations and background of the character you choose have no impact on the story. While each character does get their own unique cut scenes, that's only for backstory. When your chosen character interacts with X-Men or Brotherhood mutants, the dialogue is 99% identical each time. Again, this kills most of the replayability, since the game is almost entirely the same each time. Furthermore, the game doesn't address how the character's backstory affects their eventual decision to join one faction or the other. And as much fun as it might sound to join the Brotherhood of Mutants and cause some high-powered mayhem, they're mainly jerks, practically forcing you into the arms of the X-Men. Even worse, your choice of factions has no effect on the story.

Ultimately, all of these arguments can be boiled down to one larger complaint with the game: For all of the trumpeting of making your own choices, X-Men: Destiny doesn't allow for deep customization, giving you shallow options that don't affect the deeper game at all. It's disingenuous and disenchanting. Even the level design doesn't allow for choice. There are a few hidden items and one or two side challenges, but nothing that lets you shape the flow of the larger game. At its heart, X-Men: Destiny is a subpar beat 'em up. Perhaps had the developers spent more time fine tuning the mechanics instead of adding in half-hearted ones just to throw in some marketing buzzwords on the case, X-Men: Destiny could have been an enjoyable romp. As it stands, the game is a rental at best, and even then only one to bother with if there's literally nothing else for you to play.