Defining One’s Destiny
“Some destinies are chosen.” So runs the tag-line for Silicon Knights’ new Marvel-licensed project. X-Men: Destiny is an action-RPG, though less in the vein of the previous X-Men Legends titles and their Diablo-esque forebears and more a la Jade Empire. That title is, in fact, a particularly apt comparison, as it limited players to a selection of pre-generated characters and was the first BioWare title to combine their trademark morality scale and conversation trees with fast-paced action combat. X-Men: Destiny has fast-paced action combat. Watching the E3 trailer, one can see that it possesses such in spades.
Conflict resolution in X-Men: Destiny will largely take the form of fisticuffs, though this brawling will be enhanced by one’s mutant abilities (abilities that can be expanded upon later, but we’ll get into that below). One button peppers the enemy with light attacks while another deals heavy blows, allowing players to string together combinations that mix the two in similar fashion to many a 3D brawler. Attacks can be enhanced by a player’s powers, but power attacks will drain an endurance meter. If the meter runs dry, players will be limited to significantly weaker melee attacks until it regenerates. Careful management of the “m-meter” will be the key to making it through combat.
To frame the action, though, we must look at the story thus far. Penned by X-Men: Legacy scribe Mike Carey, X-Men: Destiny opens at a peace rally in honor of the late (in this continuity) Professor Charles Xavier. As with most mutant demonstrations in the Marvel multi-verse, things do not go smoothly, and the two extremes of the mutant political landscape—the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants—butt heads with your chosen character in the middle. The events at the rally will be the first link in a game-spanning chain of events that will inevitably shape your character’s destiny. Bringing things back around the tag-line, that destiny will be heavily influenced by your choices.
The first choice you will make is that of character. Players are not stepping into the shoes of familiar characters this time out, but one of three entirely new, and assuredly canon, emerging mutants: Aimi Yoshida, a Japanese fifteen year old whose parents sent her away to San Francisco to keep her out of a mutant incarceration camp, upset at what she sees as her parents’ abandonment of her; Grant Alexander, a student and aspiring professional football player from Georgia; and Adrian, whom we mentioned in our last preview—the former member of an anti-mutant organization whose own powers have now emerged, throwing his life into chaos.
From that initial choice, and the initial mutant abilities that come with each character, players’ options expand dramatically. Missions are designed to put the characters in a position in which they are caught in the middle, between the Brotherhood and the X-Men. In some cases, such as that demoed at E3, players will obtain a special serum that causes a mutant genesis in otherwise normal humans. Both the Brotherhood and the X-Men want control of it, each for their own reasons, and the choice players make at this juncture may decide, down the line, whether or not they have to face down an army of newly-empowered, former non-mutants. More pressingly, a player’s decision will affect his or her relationships with the two factions, which will impact who, if anyone, comes to their aid in future missions and which X-Genes they may access.
And X-Genes are very important. They are the crux of gameplay development in X-Men: Destiny and a primary method of grounding players in the X-Universe. X-Genes are equip-able abilities divided into offense, defense and utility genes. They allow one to take on powers that have traditionally belonged to fan-favorite mutants. In the E3 demonstration, Aimi was outfitted with a full set of Quicksilver X-Genes, granting her Pietro Maximoff’s infamous speed and allowing her to better evade a Colossus-infused boss’ lumbering assault. As an additional nod to the universe from which Destiny springs, alternate costumes will be available for each character. They will be inspired by the iconic outfits of recognizable mutants and grant their own bonuses to the player.
Many of these mutants will make their own appearances, as well. Big names like Wolverine, Magneto, Cyclops, Emma Frost and the meme-inspiring Juggernaut will be dropping by and some, such as Gambit, might fall on a side of the Brotherhood/X-Men divide that you wouldn’t expect. As noted above, players might receive help from these prolific characters if they have cultivated a positive relationship with them over the course of the game. If not, they might instead find themselves on the receiving end of Wolverine’s adamantium claws or Gambit’s kinetic playing cards.
X-Men: Destiny wears its RPG roots proudly, drawing comparisons to Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol with its malleable story-line and a world impacted by player choice. Perhaps its most intriguing analog, however, is The Witcher, the shades-of-grey morality of which echoes that of the Brotherhood/X-Men conflict in X-Men: Destiny.
The lines will be blurred this September on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo 3DS.