X-Men Legends II:
Rise of Apocalypse
|Review by Ugur Sener
It never really ends. There is never time to relax. Just when they have dealt with one major threat, the X-Men have to respond to another. The members of the mutant team possess truly impressive powers. But the dangers they face are equally great. Facing nearly insurmountable challenges, the X-Men risk their lives to protect the innocent. Perhaps it is the desire to serve the greater good, perhaps it is the pursuit of Charles Xavier’s dream of a world where mutants and humans live in harmony, or perhaps it is simply the thrill of the danger and the rush of the fight. Whatever their individual motives might be, when they are united as a team, the X-Men are a force that cannot be taken lightly.
The team of mutants have just stopped Magneto’s insidious plot that put the entire planet in grave danger. But far from the X-Men’s home in New York, a new threat is about to be unleashed. It begins when the X-Men’s leader Professor Charles Xavier and the powerful mutant Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris travel to the International Convention for Mutant Awareness. Both mutants are abducted.
In the meantime, Magneto is back at the mutant nation of Genosha. A terrifying assault shakes the country. Lead by Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister, two of the most dangerous people alive, Genosha is struck with deadly force. Magneto responds to the attack and a terrible battle ensues over the skies of the Dead Zone.
The situation is getting desperate. This is one of the boldest attacks Apocalypse has ever launched. It seems the five-thousand year old being is also responsible for Xavier and Polaris’s abductions. Neither Magneto and his brotherhood of mutants nor the X-Men can fight this against this threat alone. The enemy is too dangerous. And thus, a shaky alliance is born.
The guard outside the compound where Charles Xavier is being kept can not have anticipated the attack. As he silently watches over the complex, he sees in terror that the bolts holding the door behind him are being ripped apart by an invisible force. It is only a matter of seconds before Magneto completely opens the gate. The guards are no match against Magneto, Mystique, and Sabretooth. The three mutants march through the complex heading for the chambers where Xavier is being kept. Three members of the X-Men team, Cyclops, Storm, and Wolverine, are coming from the opposite side. The six mutants join forces to take out the remaining guards. Professor Xavier has been rescued.
But this is only the first step. Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister have a terrible plan. They are going to descend upon mankind in full force. People will bow before Apocalypse, honoring him as their rightful leader. Only the strong will be allowed to live. And open conflict is only one of the X-Men’s concerns. Apocalypse’s secret plan can bring about the destruction or subjugation of the entire world.
Brought to us by Raven Software and Activision, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse refines the formula of the original game and delivers a highly entertaining experience. Following Apocalypse’s attack on Genosha and the capture of Professor Xavier, the X-Men and the Brotherhood decide to join forces against the common threat. Shortly after saving the Professor in the opening sequence of the game, the mutants realize Apocalypse is plotting something huge. The exact details are unclear, but Apocalypse’s plot seems to involve a number of different mutants. The X-Men and the Brotherhood have to find out what is going on and somehow stop Apocalypse before it is too late.
While X-Men Legends II does have an original storyline, it is most certainly heavily influenced by the X-Men comic books. And at least a certain amount of familiarity with the X-Men universe is just about required to truly enjoy the game. Knowing the nature of the conflict between the X-Men and Magneto makes it that much easier to appreciate the nature of the alliance. More importantly, many key events in Rise of Apocalypse are rooted in the comic books. Long-time X-Men readers will most likely appreciate how a number of key events that took place in the Marvel universe several years ago were reinterpreted for X-Men Legends II.
The game begins in Genosha. The X-Men and the Brotherhood have established a temporary base for their operations. A remarkable ensemble of mutants have come together to fight against Apocalypse. Long-time members of the X-Men such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler are here. But this time they are also joined by Magneto, Juggernaut, Toad, and Scarlet Witch. It is a difficult alliance at best. The past conflicts between the two teams cannot be easily put aside. The X-Men cannot fully trust the members of the Brotherhood. The hatred goes too deep. Yet against an opponent as powerful as Apocalypse, it is imperative that the two teams learn to work together.
The first quest is to enter the Dead Zone and locate the mutant known as Blink. The young mutant has the ability to teleport across great distances. Unfortunately, she is lost somewhere in the Dead Zone and a team must be assembled to save her. Even as you start working on the first quest, the game slowly starts introducing the underlying greater plot. The basic facts will not change throughout the game. X-Men Legends II is all about the X-Men and the Brotherhood’s alliance against Apocalypse. But there are quite a few twists and turns to keep things interesting.
The game is divided into five acts that essentially employ two different structures. Sometimes, players start the act with a single and at least theoretically straightforward quest. Going through the initial areas however, you either trigger events or stumble upon new areas that open up additional quests. As such, the entire act unfolds as a coherent unit. On occasion however, players are asked to embark on individual missions that are reminiscent of the original game’s style. These missions take place in remote locations, dividing the act into clearer segments.
At the end of each act, the X-Men and the Brotherhood change their base of operations. Far from being arbitrary, these moves are necessitated by the storyline. Just like the original game, X-Men Legends II offers players a chance to explore a wide variety of locations across the Marvel universe. From the wreckage of Genosha, players will eventually move onto the depths of the Savage Land and New York City. X-Men Legends II offers improved level designs and more interesting environments to explore than the previous game. The developers seem to have taken care to incorporate several many different styles into the design of the game’s levels to keep things interesting.
In addition, players have access to more secrets that can be found by carefully exploring each level. Each act contains four hidden “homing beacons” and “data discs”. Finding all four “data discs” increases the maximum number of healing items you can carry. The “homing beacons” on the other hand allow you to access bonus areas. There is a pretty obvious but nevertheless pleasant surprise if you manage to unlock and complete all the bonus areas. In addition, by carefully going through the levels you will run into plenty of extra equipment, experience bonuses, and healing items. X-Men Legends II greatly rewards players who are willing to take the time to thoroughly explore its levels.
Combat will without a doubt take up the bulk of your time as you go through X-Men Legends II. Most fortunately, this is among the strongest components of the game. The controls are identical to what was featured in the first game. At any given time, you can only have four characters deployed on the field. Three of these characters are controlled by the AI, leaving the player to directly play as a single mutant. On the console version of the game, the active character can be changed at any time with a tap on the directional pad.
Some basic actions are available for each character. You can make the active mutant jump over obstacles or throw objects at their opponents. Each character also has two simple attacks. These punch and kick attacks can be used in a number of combinations, allowing players to inflict greater damage, knock back, or pop up their enemies.
What makes combat truly entertaining is the implementation of a diverse set of mutant powers in X-Men Legends II. The original game essentially offered players four different powers for each character that could be activated as long as the mutant had enough energy. There were also passive powers that provided significant bonuses for melee combat or defense.
Rise of Apocalypse improves on the original game’s formula by offering players many new super powers they can utilize. Mutant powers are acquired by spending skill points. At each level, your characters will earn new skill points that can be used to improve existing powers or acquire new ones.
There are certain restrictions in terms of which powers players can improve. In order to purchase new skills or enhance existing powers, players first have to meet level requirements with the corresponding character. In addition, some powers cannot be unlocked unless you have already purchased a different one.
X-Men Legends classifies mutant powers in various categories. All characters have access to simple offensive powers. For instance, Rogue’s most basic ability is super-powered melee strike called “smash.” Similarly, Cyclops has a simple ranged attack that dispenses a small amount of energy called “optic beam.” There are also offensive powers that target multiple enemies at the same time. For instance, Gambit has a radial attack called “staff slam” that can hurt several enemies that are nearby. On the other hand, Rogue has an extremely useful power called “torpedo strike.” Using this power sends wrong flying at great speed at the direction she is facing. She hits all enemies on her path, dealing massive amounts of damage.
X-Men Legends II also features powers categorized as traps. Jean Grey’s “mental guardian” skill summons a psychic entity that deals damage to enemies that pass by the area. Similarly, Magneto can use his “magnetic shell” ability to create metal shards that will damage any enemy that comes near. Other categories of abilities include buffs and debuffs. As the name suggests, buffs give the active party some king of bonus for a limited amount of time. Magneto’s “supremacy” skill is among the prime examples of the buffs featured in Rise of Apocalypse. “Supremacy” increases the entire party’s skill levels for a limited amount of time, making their super powers more effective. Debuffs on the other hand are used to make enemies weaker. Wolverine has a particularly entertaining debuff called “scream.” Not so much a super power, “scream” is more of an expression of Wolverine’s animalistic nature. Having a ferocious looking man with adamantium claws roar has the quite expected effect of making enemies run in fear while reducing their defense ratings.
Some of the skills featured in the game have uses outside of combat. For instance, Jean Grey’s basic telekinetic ability can be used to build bridges. Iceman can also accomplish the same thing with his powers. In addition, he can put out fires. Storm’s lightning bolts can be used to charge certain objects whereas Rogut’s “might” skill can help get some obstacles out of the way. In addition to his teleportation-based attacks, Nightcrawler can use his mutant power to pass through walls and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. During several quests, having access to certain characters’ super powers even offers alternate solutions to the game’s challenges.
Using many of the skills featured in the game the mutants to spend energy. However, there are also plenty of passive skills that give various bonuses in combat. While “mutant mastery” can improve a character’s energy generation rate, “leadership” will increase the party’s critical attack chance and the amount of bonus experience earned when two characters use their super powers at the same time. Other passive skills are available to give characters significant bonuses to their melee attacks. Iceman’s “cold mastery”, Storm’s “lightning mastery”, and Gambit’s “energy combat” skills all serve this purpose.
While combat is certainly the focus of X-Men Legends II, the development of your characters and the creation of a balanced party are also important. Each character has four primary stats. The “body” stat determines the number of health points a given character will have. This stat also dictates the chance of the character receiving double HP from a health potion. Similarly, the focus stat determines the amount of energy available and the chance of gaining double the amount of energy from using a potion. The “strike” stat increases the damage dealt through melee attacks. Finally, the “speed” stat dictates a character’s attack and defense ratings.
As you proceed through the game, your characters will quite rapidly gain levels. At each level, you will be able to spend a number of points towards improving your characters’ stats. Depending on the nature of the character’s mutant powers, improving certain stats will most likely make more sense. For instance, since Wolverine is a melee combat character, it is natural to improve his strike ranking. On the other hand, Cyclops, Storm, and Magneto heavily rely upon ranged attacks. Since all the ranged attacks require energy, there is value in making sure these characters have good focus ratings. On a number of characters, how you develop their stats might also depend on how you want to spend their skill point s. It is possible to improve Jean Grey’s “psionic combat” skill, giving her a significant mental damage bonus in melee combat. As such, if you want to make full use of the “psionic combat’ bonuses, it might make sense to improve Jean Grey’s “strike” stat, making her an overall better close-combat character. Alternatively, you can also focus on Jean’s super-powered attack skills, giving her more of a need for a high focus rating.
The configuration of your team might also be important in many situations. In general, it is always a good idea to have at least one character with a special power that can give you access to various areas. This will prevent unnecessary trips to “xtraction points” where you can modify the team’s configuration. Furthermore, having characters that specialize in different types of attacks can prove to be extremely useful. While Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus, or Juggernaut might be remarkably effective in melee combat, when you are against a tough opponent with a resistance against physical damage, it will be useful to have somebody that can unleash ranged energy, mental, or elemental attacks.
In addition to rewarding balanced teams, X-Men Legends II also gives players bonuses for special combinations of characters. One amusing example is combining Jean Grey, Cyclops, Gambit, and Rogue on the same team. This provides a “double date” bonus which gives back twenty health points per knockout.
The AI in X-Men Legends II generally does a great job of keeping the three characters you are not actively controlling alive. Rise of Apocalypse also gives players the ability to take further advantage of the game’s AI. It is possible to let the game automatically level up your characters or distribute the equipment you find among the active party members. In addition, players can dictate when party members should automatically use health potions.
One particularly handy feature is the mechanism for extra health potions. If your potion inventory is full and you happen to walk over a healing item, the game can automatically check to see if anyone in the party needs help. If some characters are not at max HP, the game will automatically use a potion from the inventory and pick up the one from the ground. This prevents you from having to worry about the health condition when you find extra potions.
While X-Men Legends II has many positive elements, the game does have a couple of minor problems that are worth mentioning. First of all, if you get into the habit of using the same four characters across multiple quests, the remaining mutants can be left too many levels behind. Rise of Apocalypse allows players to return to previously visited areas to fight additional opponents for extra experience. As such, it is entirely possible to make the underused characters catch up without spending too much time. Being a few levels behind also does not necessarily mean the mutant will be completely ineffective against the enemies you are currently fighting. Nevertheless, it would have been by far preferable for inactive characters to gain levels at a more rapid pace and remain closer to the team you use frequently. This would make it much easier to reconfigure the team without any need for backtracking.
It is also worth noting that mission briefings can be skipped in X-Men Legends II. Essentially, as you work on a quest or talk to other characters at the base, additional tasks will become available. You will not need a briefing to know what you need to be doing next. As such, the developers have made full-blown mission briefings optional. The downside is that it is far too easy to forget about the briefings even if you do care about them. It always seems to be a hassle to return to the base when you have been informed of what you should do next. Unfortunately, when you skip the briefings, you will also miss out on the interaction among the team members, which is among the entertaining aspects of the game. The game might have benefited from finding more of a middle ground and offering the briefings as soon as you hear about the quest without the need to take a trip back to the base.
One last qualm about the game is with the distribution of a few quest items. Sometimes, these items are dropped by your opponents and it is quite easy to overlook them. On very rare occasions, this might even lead to backtracking through several areas as you try to figure out what you are missing. Fortunately, all the problems pointed out about X-Men Legends II are minor issues. None of them truly hurt the overall experience.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is quite a remarkable game. Almost from the get go, players have access to fifteen different characters. Having the ability to use members of the X-Men and the Brotherhood in the same party is highly entertaining. There are also three hidden characters along with two extra characters exclusive to the PC version. The game has an interesting storyline that will nicely remind players of some important events in the Marvel Universe. A myriad of super powers are available, making for some truly engaging game play mechanics. The combat is fluid and creating an effective team to fight against the constant barrage of enemies can be quite fun. The levels are for the most part entertaining to explore and do not become tedious. At the same time, the game offers a fairly lengthy campaign with plenty of bonus content waiting to be uncovered. Rise of Apocalypse does have a few minor problems, but they do not significantly hurt the experience. X-Men Legends II is a must-have for all fans of the comic books. But action-RPG gamers with only a casual interest in the setting should also find quite a few things to enjoy in Rise of Apocalypse.
The final grade is 90/100.
|PC System Requirements:|
|Pentium® 1.2 Ghz processor|
|256 MB RAM|
|64 MB DirectX® 9 Compatible Video Card|
|DirectX® 9 Compatible Sound Card|
|2.5 GB Hard Disk Space|
|Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers|