Lightning fast punches and power levels over 9000 are back in full force with Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, the sequel to last years title of the same name. You are once again back to stop Mira and Towa from meddling their way through time as a member of the Time Patrol. If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “wait.. I did that last game”, well.. you’re not wrong. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is an almost identical copy of the prior game bringing with it the same highs and lows as last time.
Once again you will create your time patrol character from a variety of races within the Dragon Ball canon. I really enjoyed playing as my Majin character the last time around, so I opted for the same fighter this time around as well. Each race will have access to certain items, quests and moves that are usually privy to that race. The character creation system is pretty much exactly what was given to us last time with not much added, which is unfortunate. You can pick skin colors, hair styles and other basic features. You can name your character, but sadly this name is just to float around you and let other online players know what you’ve named yourself. What is odd about creating a female character is that any dialogue referring to your creation is always as a “he” and never as a “her” or “she”.
Just like last game you’ll be teaming up with Trunks and be sent out on missions from the Supreme Kai of time, once again. What is interesting about Xenoverse 2 is that you’ll be able to bring in your prior games’ hero as a side companion for Trunks as they’ll often go out on adventures and leave you to your own tasks. There is some pretty awesome stuff regarding what happens to your prior hero and it’s one of the more enjoyable story moments through the 25+ hour campaign. Much like the last game, in fact exactly like the last game, you’ll be alerted to distortions in time and you’ll be sent out to repair these by combating various baddies whom look to disrupt the time-stream. These are usually events from the anime or movies and it seems that nearly every Dragon Ball game out there has you reliving these same historical moments again and again. I’m pretty sure that some of these levels are simply lifted from the prior game and have an extra character or variation to what happened before.
While the story missions can be enjoyable, you are often fighting the same dozen battles again and again. I lost track of how many times I fought Frieza, or how many back to back battles I had with Beerus, the god of destruction. It seems like I was playing the same levels over and over again with tiny alterations made to the fight or to each characters motivations for having one. While the plot to the game is shown to you here and there, it seems to be simply hanging on by a thread as they deliver fan service moment after fan service moment. The last couple missions, where the threat becomes dire, is extremely fun and rewarding, I just wish there were more moments like this.
You’ll have a new city hub to explore between missions and other activities. Conton City is seven times bigger than the prior city from the first Xenoverse and has a bigger capacity of online players floating around, should you join the online lobby. I had to stop playing online as the game just ran poorly in town, often having stuttering frame-rate issues or just locking up entirely. Both of these issues were never present while playing offline. Conton City has a huge variety of locations and characters to interact with. While there isn’t a vast amount of secrets to uncover here, you’ll find various items on the ground and eventually be able to enter large rifts that pop up over the map. There are also a small handful of locations to warp to via small city in a bottle-like stations. Each of these locations have missions to partake and live out other Dragon Ball storylines.
The problem with Conton City as well as any of the environments in Xenoverse 2 is that they are just not visually as good as the character models you’ll be flying around as. Each location is packed full of blurry textures and uninspired level design. I can honestly say that not a single location in the game wowed me in any sense and I found that no matter how big any level was, you’d often be either fighting in the same spot or too busy during battles to even notice any part of the level what-so-ever. You can activate your fight sensor (even when you don’t have one equipped) to highlight hidden items to collect.
Some various activities you can encounter in Conton City are challenge maps and instructor courses. The challenge maps are alright but don’t offer much variety after a while. The instructor courses are enjoyable as they unlock character specific moves for you to learn. Once you find an instructor that you enjoy sparring with, you can set them as your teacher. There are quite a few of these and each character has four courses for you to pass. Later on in the game you’ll unlock large rifts that are six player boss fights that usually have some sort of mechanic to them. These are enjoyable and can be played online or offline with CPU helpers. You’ll also have random missions that pop up as you progress throughout the game as well as fighters that will fly up to you and challenge you to a match. Mix that with various online battles and you have quite a bit to take in.
You are able to fly around Conton City this time unlike your trip to Toki Toki City in the prior game. You’ll eventually earn your flying license a few missions in. You also have a flying vehicle to use as well, but I felt the controls on it were just too awful and once I unlocked flying, I forgot I even had the vehicle after a while.
Aside from the various activities you can tackle between story missions, you also have access to Patrol Quests. These are quick missions that can be completed with offline CPU helpers or online with other players. There are a huge amount of these quests and it is easy enough to find a few players should the CPU helpers just not cut it. Each of the patrol quests have bonus objectives that will reward you should you unlock and complete them.
You’ll earn experience in each of the battles and activities that you complete in and apply those points in a variety of upgrades. Do you upgrade your health? Stamina? Or do you want your character to just hit harder? The choices are pretty much yours and can truly affect how capable your fighter is. You’ll also find gear and items that will add to those upgrades as they each have stats of their own. You’ll unlock more gear as you encounter new characters and as you level up and progress through the story. You can equip a selection of special movies to further enhance your character and after I found a few that worked well with how I play, I didn’t find a real need to swap them out with other attacks.
Combat is pretty hit and miss, pun intended. As fun as the combat can be when you land a multi-hit combo or a flashy power move, often you are just hitting the air in front of you as making contact with an opponent can be a bit tricky. There is a targeting system but most battles usually play out as some type of game of tag, often missing an enemy by a great distance as they fly away from you before your punch or kick can land. Power attacks have different timing and the stronger moves take a great deal longer to pull off, the problem is that nearly every foe you encounter is so lightning quick that some of those moves can take a miracle to pull off, let alone actually make contact with them. I would bet that nearly 70% of all my attacks during my almost 30 hours with the game were avoided by last minute dodges.
Most encounters, especially when you are being attacked by multiple fighters can come off extremely cheap and frustrating. I wouldn’t mind the cheapness if you could heal your character without making them incredibly vulnerable. You cannot use a healing item if you are in an active flying motion. I don’t know how many times I used a healing item only to be pummeled into the ground and have that added health depleted after the attack. I also had many moments where my character would lock up after executing some of the finisher attacks, leaving her vulnerable for retaliation.
The game boasts that it has upgraded visuals since the last game, but frankly, I don’t see it. Sure, character models look a tiny bit better, but unless you have both games side-by-side, the differences are incredibly minor. There are some great looking cutscenes that either look ripped from the new movies or some really well done CG cutscenes that make me wish I was playing that game, instead of the visual letdown version I am currently playing.
I also had to mute the music in the game after a few hours as it is really awful. The in-town music, which you can only change after you complete the game, is the typical stuff you find in most generic JRPG’s and while the battle music in missions isn’t as annoying, hearing the same music over and over again just gets on your nerves a bit, especially when it’s just not that great. I also had to mute the entire game during the Dragon ‘Ball’ quests as the tracker would be consistently beeping while you are tracking down the half-dozen or so Dragon ball’s in the area. Since you’ll tackle dozens and dozens of these quests, the beeping is really annoying. Eventually I would ignore the enemies and gather the ‘Balls’ as fast as I could, ending the quest.
The problem with a game like Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, or even the first game, for that matter, is it is created solely for fans. You are reliving and interacting with huge plot points through the various years of the Dragon Ball anime. The game assumes that you know who each character is, where they came from, and how each and every battle originally went down. While I understand that games like this are usually just created to satisfy their fan base, it does little to grow the brand into something more than just flashy fan service.
The biggest complaint I have with Xenoverse 2 is the fact that I played an almost identical game last year called Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Had this been some type of DLC expansion pack for $20 then sure, I could easily recommend it. But at full price, there just isn’t much different here than the last go-around. Sure, there can be moments of fun, and some great action during some encounters, but within the first few hours of the game, you’ll start to drown in completing the same tasks again and again, fighting the same villains again and again. At the end of the day, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 comes off as lazy and repetitive and makes me wonder if Dragon Ball Xenoverse 3 is in the works where you’ll once again be tasked with taking down Mira and Towa, defending time as a member of the Time Patrol.
Will developer Dimps repeat their game a third time? Will we get an original story instead of constant fan service? Will we finally get a truly next-gen quality experience? Tune in next Dragon Ball!