Game: X-men: Destiny
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Activision

I can remember the exact moment I bought X-Men: Destiny. It was in January 2014 when shopping “up ‘anley duck” (a Stoke-on-Trent phrase for you there) that I found a PS3 copy of the game sitting in the bargain bin of CEX. I had read a report that morning that stated all unsold copies of the game were to be destroyed and how the game was going to be pulled from all digital stores because of a dispute between developers Silicon Knights and Unreal Engine 3 owners Epic. I thought to myself, “Hey, this game could be a collector’s item in a few years’ time” and paid £8.99 for the privilege of putting the game into my pile of shame. I’d never even open the box.

Until this week, that is – and I kind of wished I had left it shut.

The rocky road of development that X-Men: Destiny went down is well documented (Extra Reading: Kotaku – Building a Bad Game and a response to this article by then Silicon Knights head, Denis Dyack). The game was well into development before Marvel were bought by Disney and after the comic giant joined the House of Mouse, there were claims that the budget for the game was slashed. There are also reports from anonymous sources which claim to be ex-Silicon Knights employees that X-Men: Destiny was playing second fiddle to the development of the actually-better-than-the-original Eternal Darkness 2. There is plenty of hear ‘say about what went wrong with X-Men: Destiny but one thing is for sure – Something DID go wrong.

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I don’t agree with the 2/10 review scores the game received (I have played a lot of games far worse than X-men: Destiny). It’s linear, the combat quickly becomes repetitive and the visuals are as bland as David Cameron’s personality, but I don’t think the game is actually that bad. It’s the wasted potential that really lets this game down. For example, at the start of the game you get to choose a mutation – Shadow Matter, Density Control or Energy Projection. While this might seem like a huge choice to make, the only effect this has is on the combat, which is one of the weakest aspects of the game. Choosing to have a Shadow mutation doesn’t mean you will be ghosting in and out of shadows to get around obstacles. Having mastery over Matter Density doesn’t allow you to punch your way through walls. It just means there is a different visual effect on your attacks. What. A. Waste.
Then, there is the plot. The official press release for the game promises a “branching storyline that features a deep element of choice and gives players ultimate control of their destiny!”. To call this an outright lie would be wrong. The storyline, written by Mike Carey, the mind behind X-Men: Legacy, is an engaging plot for X-Men fans and there are some elements of choice. It’s just that these choices make so little difference to the game play and plot that you wonder why you bothered making them at all. During numerous junctiors of the game, you get to choose whether you side with Cyclops and the X-Men or Magneto and The Brotherhood of Mutants. Rather than a Telltale-esque decision that directs you down a branch of a story tree, these choices only effect who you will aligned with in the fights ahead. Pick the X-Men. Fight alongside Nightcrawler. Pick the Brotherhood. Fight alongside Pyro. You still head down the same enemy filled corridors, it’s just with somebody else. It’s like choosing between Strawberry and Chocolate Ice-cream and regardless of what you pick, getting Vanilla instead. More wasted potential.

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Even the top class voice acting (with a bunch of the cast of Wolverine and the X-Men reprising their roles, including Nolan North as Cyclops) and some impressive boss battles can’t save X-men: Destiny from mediocrity. Somewhere, along the winding road of development, X-men: Destiny fell off the wagon. What it could have been, and the potential of what it should have been, never materializes. After playing through the game twice, I can put it back on the shelf and can only hope that one day in the future, mediocre X-Men games become a niche and I can flog it on to a collector of rare games. Let’s just hope that the next 51 games are more interesting than this one.

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