Decisions. The basis of your entire life can be broken down into a series of decisions, whether they be good or bad choices, for better or for worse. X-Men: Destiny preaches the same concept, yet it really boils down to one major decision: are you enough of a die-hard X-Men fan (like myself) to sit through an uninspired, wholly mediocre, and highly unoriginal action game?
Let’s talk about the positives first, however. While Silicon Knights does many, many things wrong, the general plot was crafted by Marvel writer Mike Carey (X-Men: Legacy), overflowing with all of the convolution and twists and turns that have filled the pages over the years during such crossovers like House of M and Second Coming. With Professor X dead, the X-Men attempt to continue his dream of peace, only to be faced with opposition from the Brotherhood of Mutants and Bastion (the creature that put Xavier down). It truly feels like a comic book story and is told rather well, with some great support from established voice actor Steven Blum. Yet, besides Mr. Blum and actors behind Cyclops and certain other characters, the voice work has a tendency to become shoddy, with characters like Emma Frost and Gambit inducing some serious cringing. Mike Carey does a fine job scripting the game and creating a “believable” X-Men plot, it’s just too bad Silicon Knights couldn’t properly voice the whole experience, and this sour taste is present through the game's entirety.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if they combined every action-adventure feature into a single entity, improving on no aspect whatsoever? Apparently, so did Silicon Knights. While not inherently terrible, X-Men: Destiny is simply boring. Basic attacks, which make up the vast majority of combat, are repetitive, mundane combinations of Xs and a Y, and look unimpressive. There are no air attacks, save for an unnecessary ground pound and, when combined with the rest of the run-of-the-mill combat, is a detriment to the feel of playing a superhero. The industry has never really been able to create an authentic superhero game, where one actually feels like they are in the role of a super-powered being, and Destiny is no different. Limited attacks and maneuverability just doesn’t cut it, particularly if it’s a repetitive menagerie already.
Though some of the powers are genuinely interesting and fun - becoming a mobile supernova is pretty awesome - they’re not terribly original. Starting a new game will have you selecting one of three new mutants (Aimi Yoshida, Grant Alexander, or Adrian Luca) and from a pool of three basic powers: energy, blades, or body manipulation, which are simply code for ranged, fast melee, and slow melee, respectively. Sure, I love shooting beams out of my hands, or creating blades out of dark matter, but if my blasts have limited distance and I can’t control the shape or weight of my weapon, then what’s the point of giving me powers? Where is the customization? And this is where the problems with the “Decision Tree” arise.
Instead of a typical skill tree, Destiny features a “Decision Tree.” Though it looks and feels very much like a skill tree, you’ll only have access to three skills out of a possible six per power pool. Choosing one eliminates the other, and each power can be upgraded three or four times. Yet, besides your basic button-mashing power, each level only has minor effects. Increasing my power or making it affect a larger area is cool, but what about more variance to the powers? Why can’t my beams be upgraded to go across the entire screen? A small and uncustomizable skill tree isn’t quite the equation for success, and unsurprisingly contributes to the game’s lack of fun and originality.
The decision “fun” doesn’t stop there. You’ll be required to choose between the X-Men and the Brotherhood as you progress and speak with other mutants. In the long run, though, it doesn’t matter who you choose, as there are no benefits or disadvantages for either, and in the end both paths come to the same conclusion. It’s a copy of the inFamous morality system, though very poorly executed.
It’s not just the gameplay that feels uninspired, either. X-Men: Destiny holds a very dated look, where early 360 games like King Kong, and even Prey, hold an edge over it in terms of visuals. Destructible environments are non-existent, as are any really impressive character models or backgrounds. And like most of the voice work, the music and other sound work is decidedly average, bringing nothing of substance to the table. But this all falls into Silicon Knights' modus operandi: let's make the most run-of-the-mill third person action game we can, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Now, did you decide? Are you enough of an X-Men fan to sit through mindless, button mashing action, where you don’t even get to play as Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, or any of your favorite X-Men? I know, it’s very tough, especially since it will only take about eight hours to complete, and much less if you could actually skip cutscenes. However, when you take into account that the entire game, from voice acting, to visuals, to combat, to powers is completely and utterly uninspired, I think the choice is clear: pass on this mediocre mess of rehashed gameplay features and read the comic itself if you want to experience the only good Destiny has to offer. X-Men: Destiny is not really an awful game, it’s just awfully freakin’ boring.