I have to admit that my knowledge of the X-men world didn’t reach much further than what I got to know from the first movie. The idea of Raven Software and Activision to make an action-RPG with the Marvel Comics characters however immediately appealed to me and the friendly Fragland Santa therefore delivered a reviewcopy of X-Men Legends for Xbox. If you’re interested in knowing whether our mutated heroes kick ass in their latest virtual adventures, you should certainly read on!
This game is a full-blood action RPG in the line of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. Don’t expect loads of items, potions and hundreds of statistics. The gameplay focuses clearly more to the action part. Most of the time you’ll be occupied with defeating endless rows of enemies, searching your way through the varied environments and following the (for an RPG rather linear) story.
The story itself stats with the abduction of a teenage girl by Magneto’s Brotherhood. As Wolverine you can immediately head off and after you’ve rescued the young lade from the fat of Blob the girl appears to be a new X-men called Magma.
After that a classic (but entertaining) scenario unfolds in which you finally (surprise surprise) have to save the world. In between missions you see everything through the eyes of the unexperienced Magma so that also X-men noobs get the chance to follow everything well and can learn the setting.
During your whirling adventures you’ll be able to make a selection out of 15 characters amongst which there are Wolverine (my personal favorite thanks to his health regeneration), Cyclops, Iceman, Psylocke, Beast and Jean Gray to name just a few.
With those you form a party of 1 to 4 characters depending on how many the mission allows. During the action you can easily switch to take control of one of the characters, the remaining mutants will be taken over by the AI but you still have the possibility to give them simple commands and configure some settings like their aggressiveness during attacks, which attack to use, etc. Now and then you’ll also have to use the strategically correct character as each of them has specific moves and possibilities. Annoying the fact that you can only do this at save points. These are well-positioned but having to return to one is always bad in a game.
On to the RPG elements. Each character has 4 simple stats: attack, defense, energy (comparable with mana) and life. This can as usual be upgraded and next to that you can also equip them with certain items. Also each X-Men has at least two attacks to improve, a temporary increase of a stat, a cool Xtremepower and some extra specific skills. All this can be upgraded by earning experience points which you get by defeating enemies, accomplishing secret missions, pieces of trivia or doing training missions in the hideout or Danger Room. During the game all these things are very accessible and easy to configure and you can also have you upgrades assigned automatically if the RPG side wouldn’t interest you.
The fighting itself is very entertaining and thanks to the good mapping and reactions of the controls it has a nice feel. Before long you’ll know the necessary combo’s which make defeating opponents a lot nicer. Except for the bosses, the fighting does get a bit easy thanks to the auto-healing of Wolverine and the large amount of health-potions; you don’t have to fear Ninja Gaiden-like situations.
The switching between then X-men and the parts in the hideout give the necessary variation. On top of that the game also has co-op possibilities during missions where more than 1 character is in your party. Without a doubt a successful extra and you can be sure then that your teammates won’t be running in your way, something the sometimes failing AI dares to do. Sad is the fact that during solo-missions, your friend will be sitting next to you without anything to do.
Next to the good singleplayer campaign that will keep you occupied for some time, also multiplayer options are present. Going online through Xbox Live is not possible though. You can take on the AI or human opponents in the different skirmishes which no doubt increases the lifespan of the game, but despite the fact that you can work with the baddies you do miss the online challenge.
I found the graphics very pleasing, also the fact that you see everything through a diagonal top view is very nice after some getting used to. The cartoonlike character interact, move and fight very fluent with the opponents and surroundings. These latter don’t excel by their detail but through the far-going interaction. You can destroy a lot; chairs, benches, fences, walls, etc… Often this hooliganism is also necessary to proceed with the game or to get extra items or health potions. There are some clipping problems and sometimes a dead opponent disappears inside the stairs but it never gets too disturbing.
The music itself also is on a decent level, thanks to the nice tracks and the overall very good voice-acting of Patrick Stewart amongst others. A bit stupid is that your virtual friend sometimes gets a voice (during the missions where you play with an obligatory character) but when the computer can’t predict which character you’re working with, you remain numb.
The final verdict is more positive than I had expected. X-Men lend themselves perfectly to the action-RPG genre and thanks to the good implementation of both the RPG and action elements, the gripping story and the inspiring characters the single player campaign is more than worth the trouble. The sometimes lacking AI and less worked out multiplayer options do spoil the fun a bit though.
X-Men Legends is a decent and fun action game that should appeal to anyone who loves to kick ass with a sniff of RPG. Don’t take out your wallet if you’re looking for a pure role-playing game though.