Monday, August 7, 2017

Review #446: X-Men Legends II - Rise of Apocalypse

 I'm cool with Iceman now.
 X-Men Legends married the dungeon-crawling action RPG antics of Diablo with the X-Men franchise with a mostly good execution, albeit a few too many time wasting design choices that took a toll on my enjoyment with the game. Legends 2 is a major improvement on almost every single area.

 Apocalypse has risen and he is kidnapping a few key people for his evil purposes. Now, X-Men and The Brotherhood must team up to take down this new villain that threatens to destroy the world. The narrative is a bit simpler than before, and it doesn't have as many interesting turns, but honestly, story is not really what you play this game for. The new draw for the game is that you can play as Brotherhood mutants, but... there's what, four of them? Magneto, Toad, Juggernaut and... Scarlet Witch? Did she count as a Brotherhood member when the game released? It's a bit of a missed opportunity. There's a bunch of characters missing from the previous game(Magma, Jubilee, Emma Frost, Beast, Psylocke...) so the character count is more or less the same as before. To add insult to injury, the console version gets the least amount of characters, PC gets Sabertooth and Pyro(More Brotherhood mutants! What this game needed.) while the PSP gets Cable(Yay), X-Man(OMGDOWANT), Cannonball(Meh) and Dark Phoenix(Why was she necessary?). It's a bit disappointing considering the PSP is a weaker platform and the PC gets what the console game could've used to bolster its diversity.
 Being a dungeon crawler RPG, two things are a must: XP an Loot. The leveling system has been tweaked a bit, so that Focus and Body are no longer the only go-to stats you want to increase as you level up. Strike enhances your melee attacks and Speed your chances to land an attack or dodge one.... but it's still a bit problematic. My 160+ strike character was still dealing poor damage with his fists, so his special attacks were still the best ways to go, which meant... focusing on Focus. I had him learn passive attack-buffing abilities, and it was still not enough. There're more than four special moves for each character, and while holding the R2 button only grants you quick access to four of them, it's pretty easy to swap them on the fly with the directional pad. Previous game only gave you 1 extreme move, two specials(which usually meant a Single Target and AoE for every character) and a buff, but now there's a wide variety of different buffs, team buffs and special moves for each character, which differentiates them even more and allows for more creativity when devising your four-man teams.

 Defeating enemies or destroying object on the environment will sometimes reward you with loot. Every character can equip three different pieces of equipment, and there's a wide slew of it. They come in different rarity and modifiers so that no two pieces of equipment are the same. And it really helps customization, there're armor pieces that grant you things like radiation damage over time on enemies or brand-equipment that buffs a particular characters special moves. It even extends to cosmetics, characters have a ton of different unlockable costumes, albeit not every character has the same amount of costumes. One tiny gripe I had with the inventory though was that it's too easy to accidentally sell an equipped piece of equipment, since the store menu haphazardly throws equipped and non-equipped items on a list, and failure to see the green frame over the item's symbol means accidentally selling that unique item.
 What ruined the previous game for me were the character-specific obstacles(Which turns out weren't so specific, but still, few alternatives) and they are back... but much better implemented. Y'see, this time around, these obstacles usually lead to optional stuff. The obstacles that do stand in the way of your progress, however, usually feature more than one way to deal with them, like pushing heavy object telepathically... an also be done with Magneto's magnetism or any character that has the Might passive ability. In my case, I just brought Jean Grey along and never had any issue, but I heard Magneto works just as well as your obstacle-slave. And even then, assuming you're missing the critical ability needed to progress, you can now call in 4-minute cooldown Blink portals, which let you go back to the HUB, change your team, and return exactly where you first called the portal, easily alleviating the need to go three maps back just to put friggin' Iceman on your team again.

 The game's structure has changed quite a bit too, mimicking Diablo even more. The game is divided into 5 acts, each with its own HUB, missions and submissions. Different areas have portals(Gates) that let you instantly teleport to any other previously discovered portal, even travelling through acts. Finishing the game unlocks new game plus, so you can take your beefed up characters into even higher difficulties for more loot and more experience points. And while 5 acts sounds like a lot, the game feels a bit shorter than the previous one.
 One thing I noticed in the previous game was that AI characters wouldn't use their buff special moves. I didn't care too much, since I only learned Magma's and didn't care much about it... but this game is an entirely different beast, allowing characters to be built exclusively as support, if you so will it, but not once did I notice Scarlet Witch casting her support spells, which kinda sucks since that means that support characters must be played by the player if you want to get the most of them. And a word of warning, apparently there's a nasty no-drop glitch that can happen if you forget to pick up a boss' dropped loot, and another one that causes your game to crash if you over-encumber your stash on the HUB. I didn't come across either, but still.

 While there's a bit more work left before the formula reaches its full potential, X-Men Legends II is a large step-up from the first game. It's a much more enjoyable game since, this time around, it respected the player's time.
 7.5 out of 10

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