It's that time again. The game I managed to finish this week surprised even me: X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse.
This is technically a replay. Mostly. Well, back in high school, perhaps eight years ago, I played this game with my best bud David, but off and on. I glimpsed maybe three of the game's five Acts and sporadically used characters that David told me to use or not to use. Years later I bought the game for myself and intended to experience it beginning to end, but it didn't really happen. I started a fresh playthrough a few years ago, got to the game's halfway point when I was house-sitting for a week last December, and FINALLY finished the last 30-40% earlier today.
This game and its predecessor, X-Men Legends, are giant amalgams of characters and concepts from X-Men comics of the 1990s, when the Jim Lee version of the X-Men dominated Marvel's franchises. When the first game was focused around the team defeating Magneto and an army of Sentinels, XML2 focuses on another staple of the 90s X-Men: Apocalypse. The real sell of XML2, however, is that the X-Men and Brotherhood are teaming up. Because of a mutual enemy, Magneto, Juggernaut, and several other Brotherhood mutants are available from the get-go. So, from the beginning, I tried to make this playthrough Brotherhood-only.
At its core, this game is a mix between a team beat-em-up and a dungeon-crawling action RPG. That's right, Final Fight: Diablo Edition with superheroes. You take a team of four and run around pounding on enemies with melee strikes and super powers, collecting loot, leveling up, learning new moves, and then rinsing and doing it all again. Although this playthrough of mine was single player, the entire series (which includes the two X-Men Legends games and the two Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games) thrives in local MP. Trust me on this one.
The game's action is pretty solid, but the real strength of the game is team diversity. You have a team of over twenty mutants to choose from, and each has a unique moveset and his or her own contributions to the team. The game lacks balance a little bit, but this is forgivable as there are very few true duds in the mix - poor Colossus, who gets my vote as the most powerful character in the first X-Men Legends, really blows this time around. My team of Juggernaut, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, and Toad ended up being a near-perfect balance: Juggs is a solid tank who can lift any heavy object, Magneto is a good crowd-control character with flight and the ability to build bridges for teammates, Scarlet Witch is a serviceable nuking character with good energy-based offense, and Toad, somehow, is a very powerful melee character with an excellent team buff. Seriously, I'm actually a little embarrassed about how much I liked using Toad; he was probably my MVP.
On this framework, the game is loaded with goodies for 90s Marvel fans. The game is a tour of classic Marvel locales: Genosha, The Savage Land, the Weapon X facility, the X-Mansion, and Apocalypse's tomb are the five hubs for each of the game's Acts. You'll encounter both A-list and C-list X-Men rivals along the way, from the fan-favorites Deadpool and Archangel to obscure characters like Abyss, Sauron, and Living Monolith. Taking certain characters along when you face certain enemies also results in special dialogue between the two, which is just a layer of fan-frosting for the cake.
If the game has any fundamental flaws in its gameplay or design, it's the repetitiveness. Sure, the locations and objectives change, but it ends up being your typical Find Item A, Insert Into Slot B, Defeat Enemy C several times over. Most of the act boss battles devolve into the following: fight boss until its health reaches a set amount / destroy macguffins and minions littered around the room while boss is temporarily invincible or absent / lower boss's health some more / perform similar action on new macguffins / finish the boss off. It's obvious that they created those setups to make the boss fights a little more complex than "mash the attack and heal buttons," but it ends up just feeling samey in a different way as a result.
Really though, overall there's not a lot to complain about. This is a solid RPG with great multiplayer that is easy to get into. Much more fun if you're already a Marvel fan, but that's less of a complaint and more of an advertisement. Glad I finally crossed it off my list.
Games Beaten: 2011 Edition
1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
Next is Jeanne d'Arc, beyond a shadow of a doubt. I only have a few stages left to go; I might even finish it later tonight.