Coming home from seeing X-Men: First Class, I can think of no better time to write up my preview of the Fall-slated Activision title, X-Men: Destiny. I got to see a very early preview of the third-person action adventure/RPG at a special event this month. With Mike Carry at the helm, a gangbusters opening for First Class, and a completely new twist on the series, could this be the shot in the arm that the superhero franchise needs? It was time to see.
X-Men Destiny is the origin story of three mutants, but don’t think this is another “Wolverine: The Movie – The Game” – you will be giving rise to one of three brand new mutants! The three characters, two male and one female, give you three different perspectives from which to play the game. Each has a unique background and origin story to play, offering some replayability. Aimi, an Asian female with mutant parents have sent her to America to escape persecution. Grant is an All-American boy from Georgia – not interested in the political side of the war in any way. Adrian on the other hand is the son of a Purifier. He has to flip his entire world upside down as he has become the very thing he hated most.
The game is played from a third-person perspective, with RPG elements that will allow you to shape your character however you see fit. You’ll be customizing your character from scratch, branching from three different archetypes – Energy Production, Shadow Matter, and Density Control. Density Control is used to make your up close and personal melee attacks more powerful, Energy Production is a ranged-based attack, and Shadow Matter acts as a hybrid of the two. We’ll come back to how these evolve in just a moment.
X-Men: Destiny is set in the modern canon – Professor X is dead, times have changed drastically, and the X-Men have been forced to battle against a group bent on the capture and destruction of mutants – the Purifiers. The game is heavy on the concept of choice – the player chooses from the start at which range they’ll engage enemies, they’ll chose what powers to integrate, and they’ll ultimately through a great many choices decide whether they align with the X-Men or The Brotherhood.
Mutant and Proud
Each power that you use in Destiny has a light and heavy attack, with combinations and finishers possible through the combination therein. The finishers are useful against specific types of enemies, but its when you start gathering upgrades that things really take off. Your core power set can be upgraded through the augmentation of ‘X-Genes’ into your body. These genes carry powers from other mutants, allowing you to add their powers to your own. For instance, if you add Surge’s power to your own energy ball attack it’ll become an electrically charged attack. There are offensive, defensive, and utility classes of powers, and the roster will include characters like Surge, Iceman, Gambit, Quicksilver, Pyro, Magneto, Juggernaut, Psyloche, Emma Frost, Toad, Colossus, and many more. Beyond just gathering their special powers, you can also upgrade them to further integrate them into your own repertoire. You’ll also get suits inspired by these characters, which has more than a cosmetic effect. If you utilize three powers, as well as donning the appropriate outfit, you’ll get an additional bonus. Using Quicksilver as an example, this yielded an incredible boost in running speed. These can also manifest as additional damage, elemental effects, or other augments.
Your mutant powers are fueled by a blue meter on the screen. You’ll have three primary attacks, assigned to X, Y, and B, and using them effectively allows this blue meter to charge. As each of the three lines are reached you can unleash a Level 1, Level 2, or room-clearing Level 3 attack on your unsuspecting enemies. In one level we were shown there was a courier that needed to be escorted (don’t they all?), giving us the opportunity to use a force field power that protects our character as well as our fragile friend. It keeps enemies out and saps the energy of anyone trying to penetrate it.
Fresh off the Boat
We got to see three levels during our brief demonstration of X-Men: Destiny. The first appears to be the first level in the game, with us literally stepping off a boat in Chinatown. Before we can hardly step two feet onto dry land we are already being bothered by the local Purifiers. We were playing as our female protagonist who had just learned she was a mutant. She was seeking Gambit for some guidance and answers. It’s here that we first saw the comic-styling of the game. When you take down enemies you get a “X-treme!” or “Xcellent!” or other varieties of encouraging pop-up text, but also things like “Energy Arc now available” when you reach the appropriate charge level to use it. It keeps the game moving while still encouraging folks to use their powers frequently.
The final level we saw was courtesy of Nightcrawler. BAMPF’ing us into the middle of a peace rally between the Mutant Response Division (peacekeepers who want to help the mutants) and the Purifiers, we are unsurprised to find that the Brotherhood has launched an attack to disrupt the peaceful proceedings…or so we thought. It turns out that the Purifiers have a different agenda, kidnapping mutants to perform experiments on them to figure out how they tick.
Another level we saw was much later in the game. The group kidnapping the mutants have designated themselves the U-Men, and we find that their plans are to rip the powers out of mutants to synthesize them into a compound that would grant those powers to normal humans. We have broken into their facility to rescue some captured mutants, but have instead stumbled upon the leader of the U-Men. Threatened, he jams the nearby Colossus variant X-Gene into himself, allowing himself to become a massive and fearsome freak. Quicksilver was assisting us, but he was dispatched quickly, being thrown through a plate glass window. The boss (his name is Sublime) is in a circular room with large mechanical devices of some sort dotting the edges surrounding a large cylinder. As you proceed to attack and defeat him, he grabs Quicksilver’s gene and injects it. With his new ability to run extremely quick, he rushes over to the equipment to draw energy from them to heal. Using a classic bull-charge dodge move, you force him to crash into the gear, destroying it. Being completely defeated he takes one last gene – that of Surge. Growing to colossal size, he can now manipulate electricity as well as using his massive fists to pound the ground with a resulting shockwave. Using our own skills we dodge his descending fist, allowing it to become stuck to the ground. Using the central tower we gain access to his head, we finally take the behemoth down.
With Sublime defeated, we enter into a cutscene. This moral choice or “Destiny Moment” asks us to define the type of character we will ultimately become – do we hand the X-Gene that we ripped out of Sublime over to the X-Men for them to destroy, or do we hand it over to The Brotherhood so they can grow and improve their army of mutants? The choice is yours, but know that each decision will gain or lose faction with either side as appropriate. Eventually, and with enough choices, you will permanently align yourself to one side or the other – choose wisely.
The game is set to ship this September on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Nintendo DS. Look for more as we get hands-on time with the game.