Silicon Knights doesn’t exactly have the best track record on the current hardware generation. They’ve had their success in the past, but Too Human for Xbox 360 — designed to be a trilogy — hasn’t even had a sequel announced, and there’s a large contingent who will greet such news with a yawn. They could’ve made up some ground with X-Men Destiny, an action RPG that isn’t tied to a movie and instead lets players build up their own X-Man. But rather than make up any ground, X-Men Destiny falls flat upon it.
The premise is good for an X-Men RPG: Professor X is dead after being killed by Bastion, a robot from the future who wants to kill mutants. The X-Men school is closed, the heroes have dispersed around the world, Magneto’s on hiatus and presumably up to no good, and humans and mutants are struggling to co-exist. That’s where you enter in. Gamers can choose to play as either the son of a vengeful Purifier who despises mutants or as a college freshman who’s ignorant about the human/mutant conflict and perfectly fits the “stupid jock” mold.
As you advance in the game and earn XP, you can spend that XP to upgrade your offensive and defensive X-Genes (a fancy name for combat and defensive modifiers). But even with those upgrades, the combat still amounts to little more than button mashing, because everything is based on sequential mashing similar to the early Spider-Man games. It feels like the entire game is just Horde mode after Horde mode. It’s just about clearing waves of enemies, occasionally with increasingly challenging foes. It even has a countdown every time to tell you how many enemies you have to kill before moving on.
It really tries to be an action RPG with dialogue trees and quests, but the conversations are almost universally inconsequential, and the “quests” are infrequent at best. Another issue is that little vignettes popup so frequently it feels like you’re watching a movie at least as much as you’re playing a game.
Between those passive tendencies, the lack of strategic combat, a smattering of trite escort missions and the lack of much R in the RPG equation, the total X-Men Destiny package ends up kind of boring. It would’ve been nice to see Silicon Knights right its up-ended ship, but this game makes me seriously wonder if the studio’s ship has already sailed.
Platform reviewed: Xbox 360