3am: Men (and women) in tights
TomChick - News - 09/10/04 - Link

I'm not into comics and I'm not a big X-Men fan. In fact, when the X-Men movie came out, I thought it was about those four guys. You know The Four Guys: the rubber stretchy guy, the flaming guy, the big rock Hulk guy, and whoever the fourth person was. Green Lantern or Captain America, someone like that. So I wasn't terribly excited about the prospect of previewing X-Men Legends, which isn't even a movie tie-in, so there wasn't even that hook for me. But then I spent about four hours playing it.

I'm a sucker for leveling for leveling's sake, which means I'm prone to fits of Diablo, long spells of MMORPGing, and acute Disgaea/Phantom Brave syndrome. It started with my first bout of Nethack and has recently manifested itself in a brief violent outbreak of Crimson Tears. So imagine my horror to discover that X-Men Legends is really a Diablo style game, but tuned for console action and built to be played with licensed characters, each with his or her own climbable tree of unique powers.
The twist is that unlike horrible team-Diablo games like Throne of Darkness, it actually seems to work with four characters on screen at once, only one of whom you're directly controlling (although X-Men Legends looks like it's going to be great as a co-op game -- it's like Gauntlet: the Superhero Edition for up to four players: "Wolverine needs food!"). Depending on who you choose, there's a great zen-like action flow of either muscling up to the front lines and bashing guys, or hanging back and playing a support role. Things break, people die, doors get bashed in, more things break, and more people die.

And all the while, there are intermittent moments of choosing which power to pick next when someone levels up, which attributes to improve, whether to swap out for different characters at an extraction point, and who's going to use that "magic item" you just found. It goes like this: zenned out action, zenned out action, zenned out action, Choices, zenned out action, zenned out action, Choices, zenned out action, zenned out action, and so on.

Then there's Mr. Xavier's Mutant Institute Mansion Facility, or whatever it's called (did I mention I don't know much about the X-Men?), which is your hub, like the town in Diablo. You can bop around all day in there, looking for secrets, finding inside references for fans, or playing in the Danger Room to level up, win challenges, and earn more experience, magic items, and whatever X-Men spend as gold (I think they're called tech bits, or X-dollars, or mutant gold, but I'm sure someone who knows the X-Men from the Fantastic Four can give me the correct term).

As such, this looks like a classic band-of-adventurers style game poured into an action RPG that's right up my alley. So what if they're wearing tights?



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