Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 on PS4
While it wasn’t the best game in the franchise, Dragon Ball Xenoverse managed to inject some much-needed freshness into a universe that was steeped in nostalgia. For years the Dragon Ball games seemed to be almost afraid to step out of the standard arena it built around itself, focusing on the same characters while just slightly tweaking gameplay and visuals. Finally, there was something that let fans become a part of the world that they have loved for so long, and it was actually pretty good even though it had some issues. For Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Dimps and Bandai Namco set out to address those issues which has lead to something better, yet still flawed.
If you played the first entry in this series, the story will not prove to be much of a surprise. You’re once again an agent of the Time Patrol, sworn to defend history by traveling back to pivotal points and making sure evil doesn’t rewrite major events. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 actually has you create an entirely new hero for this run, though. You can bring over one of your created fighters from the previous game if you’re playing on the same platform family, but they’ll serve as Trunks’ partner throughout the story.
I will admit that I was at first a bit miffed that I would have to start over from scratch after having put in so much effort with my first Hero of Time. It took hundreds of Time Patrol runs and several playthroughs of the story to get everything exactly how I wanted it. Plus, unlocking all of the secret items using countless Dragon Balls was an incredible task all on its own. Fortunately enough, though, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s adjusted gameplay quickly pushed this thought from my mind. The focus on a tighter, much smoother experience made the act of grinding out experience yet again an enjoyable diversion.
The previous game had a slow build before you felt like you were truly accomplishing anything of note. Combat started out incredibly slow as you slogged your way through missions in order to earn at least one move that was worth equipping to your hero. This latest entry forgoes all of that and makes every fight feel exciting from the get go, while still ramping up the challenge and intensity as you progress. Enemies are much faster, and there is much less of a pause between attacks allowing skilled players to string together seemingly endless combos as they fend off multiple opponents at once. There also appears to be a lot more balance in the game, which shows that the developers were definitely listening to criticisms of the first game.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 still features an incredible amount of customization options that include clothing, accessories, Z-Souls, and attacks. Those attacks were always a point of contention because there were a few that were virtually unbeatable, revealing cracks in the facade of choice. Sure you could choose whatever move you liked most, but if you wanted to actually win, you were cornered into only a handful of options last time. Thankfully, Dimps took everything into account so a single move won’t make anyone an unstoppable monstrosity. Strategy, stats, equipment, and an assortment of different abilities are what will make the greatest warriors, not a single equip. This is further bolstered by the fact that different races now fall into a more defined class system.
That’s actually a great addition to Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 as it makes the standout new activity more of a blast to play. There are now Expert Patrols which pit teams of up to eight players against huge, powerful bosses. These foes have different abilities than what you’ll see in the story or on a standard Parallel Quest, making strategy a far more important consideration, and, in the most difficult cases, team makeup proves to be a huge factor. Namekians are great at recovery even though they don’t do a lot of damage making them perfect for running interference, Majins are known for their defense allowing them to get up close and personal, and Saiyans (the greatest of all warrior races) are DPS aficionados.
It was great feeling how the developers put the players more in the center of the experience outside of the plot. However, the glitz and glam start to fade away once you realize that there isn’t much else that’s new and some previous annoyances make their way back. The story of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, as we said before, follows the same premise of its predecessor, which was to be expected. Just like the last time, there’s nothing like jumping in to save your favorite character from meeting their end at the hands of a cheating enemy… until you realize you’ve done this all before. No, we don’t mean that you’ve seen these same fighting games in one of the dozens of other DBZ games. We mean you’ve done them in the previous Xenoverse, or at least very close approximations of the same quests.
Frieza fighting Super Saiyan Goku for the first time? The Ginyu Force trying to steal Dragon Balls? Androids and Cell wreaking havoc across Earth? These and many more instances are back for a second round and in most cases remain largely the same. Even some of the Parallel Quests are exactly as they were the first time around, only with different names. After the first few hours of fun, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu heavily sprinkled in between the new content. I expected, like most other fans probably did, a more robust selection from the Dragon Ball timeline as a whole to play through. The first game dipped into Dragon Ball GT and some of the movies for DLC, and there are even some Dragon Ball Super additions that you can come across in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Yet none of these stand out in the main story or the vast majority of side quests.
Some of the same issues from the first entry’s hub world rear their ugly head as well. The biggest of which are long load times and no replay option. Quest rewards come in guaranteed and random tiers, and usually the best pieces are random, requiring at least two playthroughs of certain quests if not more. Most games allow players to instantly retry a quest after not achieving their desired results, especially games that present said objectives in a menu format, but not Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Once you complete a quest you’re sent into a long load time and spawned right back in front of the desk where you need to select it again. This may not sound like a big deal at first, but you’re actually on a time limit if playing online with friends. You can only be logged onto a server for three hours before the game gives you the boot, forcing you to go through the log-in process once more. The logging in again isn’t the worst thing in the world, but when you waste so much time in loading screens and menus, you’ll start wishing the time limit didn’t exist.
The only upside to this annoyance making a return is the fact that Conton City, the new hub world, is actually fun to explore, making the constant returning less of a bore than it was in the first game. Once you get past a certain point in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s story, you’re able to fly around the hub world, giving you access to every nook and cranny of the large island. There are even large time rifts floating around the city that you can enter to obtain quests and useful rewards. Hercule, Great Saiyaman, Nail, Guru, and even Frieza bide their time, waiting for you to complete an objective in their name or join them on some challenging mission. It was a clever way of turning what was essentially the first Xenoverse’s major annoyance into a critical and enjoyable element of this entry.
In the end, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 ends up in an odd way. The combat, mechanics, and visuals are definitely better than its predecessor, as is Conton City and its myriad of quests. However, the constant feeling of “I swear I’ve done this before” can weigh down on the player at times. Still, even with the issues that present themselves this time around, the sequel proves to be a better experience than its predecessor. The focus on player progress, more enjoyable multiplayer challenges, and a social space that you actually want to visit helps to really place players comfortably into the Dragon Ball Universe.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair