- June 1, 2021
Should Square Enix Make an X-Men Game?
So Marvel’s Avengers has been out a while, and I think it’s pretty good. It could be worse, could be better, could still use an actual road map. Basically it’s just a four player co-op game about the Avengers. It has pretty fun combat, a pretty good story, and a terrible loot system. It’s better than the non-existent X-Men game we have.
Most people probably would say their biggest complaint with the game is the loot grind and the gear system. Yeah, that’s pretty terrible, but that can be improved on. We’ve seen a bunch of other games like Destiny and the Division fix things like that.
My main problem that keeps the game from being more than good, is its combat.
Yeah, fun doesn’t mean great, at best, its just good. A lot of it has to do with creating combat systems for six DIFFERENT characters in the same game. Not like just any character, but six characters with multiple standout abilities and powers. Save for maybe, and this is stretching, Captain America and Black Widow, each of the Avengers have a diverse enough array of powers on their own that they could each carry their own game.
For the sake of comparison, I want to bring up what works in Batman: Arkham Knight, and likely Gotham Knights. Let’s put story aside for a moment and realize that Rocksteady and WB Montreal can’t just drop characters like Wonder Woman, Superman, or the Flash into their games’ combat systems. Their powers and abilities are incredibly different from Batman’s.
All the characters in Arkham Knight and Gotham Knights so far, all have abilities that parallel Batman’s. Neither studio had to actually create five to six wholly distinct characters, each worthy of their own game.
Crystal Dynamics did.
Credit Where Credit is Due
They actually tried, and this is something to commend, make no mistake. To create these many different combat loops is impressive. Captain America and Black Widow are brawlers, Hulk is a lumbering tank, Thor is like a warrior mage, and Iron Man is blasting guys left in right. I don’t know how to describe Ms. Marvel other than that she’s awesome and weird to play as.
But as good a job as they did, to make all the heroes feel distinct they don’t feel great to play. They’re all good at best.
Your attacks clank off of enemies, making them look more fluid than they do feel fluid. This is especially true once you’re fighting more than one enemy. Hulk may play differently from Captain America, but that doesn’t make it fun when enemies just kind of clank off of your attacks like you’re an invisible wall, or when they all fly up in the air the same exact way from your ground pound.
These characters feel unique, but in that endeavor, Crystal Dynamics has made them all feel uniquely boring after a while. Its clear to me that Crystal would have made a better game that focused on one character rather than six. I’d rather them do what Arkham Knight does, make one amazing system, with basic tweaks for new characters. This is a hundred times more fun than the six different combat systems that are just good.
Here’s where the X-Men come in.
X-Men Game Saving the Day
Now, I’m sure I know what you’re thinking, “What do you mean the X-Men don’t feel distinctly unique?” but that’s not what I mean, not really.
The Avengers are characters who have many unique abilities and techniques that make them all different from each other. They are all each first and foremost characters who originally stand on their own and then come together. Their powers were designed or selected by writers and artists to solve separate problems. The Avengers team leader (and comic writer) has to figure out how they can work together or at least stay out of each other’s way.
The same is not true of the X-Men, and hence an X-Men game.
Think about the X-Men for a moment. Specifically think of the characters who made up the X-Men team in the Stan Lee and Claremont era.
There’s the Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, and Angel team, and then there’s the second Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus team. Notice something about all of them, they each only have ONE superpower that would make it into a video game, super moves aside. Those superpowers were designed to fill a role to compliment each other, unlike the Avengers roster.
You pick six members from those two teams together for a game, and you should have a simpler time creating great, dynamic, and fluid gameplay for them than you could for six distinct heroes like in Crystal’s Avengers game. Not saying its easy, game development is never easy, but conceptually it should be easier to do.
Think about it. Save for Angel, whose powers suck for a video game, a developer should only have to make three distinct gameplay styles, and add tweaks to them, rather than six completely different ones. That won’t lead to better gameplay than Arkham most likely, but better than Avengers, most likely. Again, these are uninformed assumptions that I would be happy to see corrected, particularly by a professional.
All of the X-Men characters in my mind, can fit into one of three categories: brawler, slasher, and mage to use simple terms. Now this isn’t mean to be one to one, but they serve as a good foundation.
JEAN GREY & STORM – Mages
Think about Jean Grey’s powers, she shouldn’t be throwing punches or kicks or anything like that. She should be sending off blasts and lifting things with telekinesis, maybe a telepathic blast for a special. That would be a lot of work to make work, more than Thor or Hulk did separately even .
But then, if a developer did that animation and physics mechanic for Jean Grey, it should be plausible to transfer a lot of it to Storm, or Magneto even if he’s playable. You must be thinking, ‘Storm controls the weather and Jean Grey is a telekinetic, they’re not the same!’
You are right, in the comic books or the movies they are totally different, but for a video game…
They should honestly play pretty similarly.
Jean Grey and Storm shouldn’t play that differently from each other, with slight twists. Storm would still levitate and throw objects like Jean, just with weather effects. Maybe she’s a bit slower for the sake of balance. Storm would have wind blasts like Jean has her telekinetic pushes, or maybe Storm has a lighting blast that’s more pinpoint and less crowd controlling than Jean’s. They both should fly the same way too, in terms of physics save for some speed differences.
And then their specials can be where their different powers matter more. Jean can use a telepathic blast which should be about the tamest super move you can make. Storm can make a crazy tornado or lightning storm.
I’m definitely oversimplifying things, I’m no professional. Video game development is far from being anything that can be described as easy. Its incredibly complicated and nuanced and something I could never do.
In my mind, this means that developers should be looking to make things easier on themselves rather than harder. Looking at a property with this kind of fluidity in its teams should conceptually be a smart move.
CYCLOPS & COLOSSUS – Brawlers
And its not just with Storm and Jean Grey. Look another pair of characters you probably would think of as all that similar in the comics, but would play pretty similarly in a video game.
Cyclops and Colossus.
Now I know a lot of you are probably shaking your heads and calling me crazy, because Cyclops shoots eye beams and Colossus has metal skin.
And you’re absolutely right, but again, thinking of a third person action game, how would that work? They would both be fighting with their fists, and neither is particularly known for doing anything other than brawling with their fists.
Sure, Cyclops could just play as a pure third person shooter with his eye beams, with a few different specials for his supers. That would lead to the easiest superhero character to make in the game, and possibly the most repetitive.
Crystal would likely want to add melee combat to Cyclops, and in that instance, unless you make Colossus incredibly large, is there any reason their melee systems can’t both use the same mechanics?
Could they not fight as similarly to each other as Batman and Batgirl do in Arkham Knight in terms of melee combat? Then they could just have wildly different supers and status effects?
Why does Cyclops really need to punch with a different animation than Colossus? Colossus isn’t slow and lumbering, neither is he a martial artist.
And there, you have two templates you can use to add many other X-Men down the line, your mages and brawlers.
WOLVERINE, BEAST, & NIGHTCRAWLER – Slashers
Now, with the slashers, and I use that term very loosely to describe melee fighters who use a lot more than their fists, they would need way more work. I’m not gonna lie.
You can somewhat match Wolverine, Beast, and Nightcrawler together, but nowhere near as much as you could Storm to Jean Grey or Cyclops to Colossus in a video game.
I would honestly start with Wolverine. Making his melee slashing and stabbing the best it can be. He’s made to shred people apart rather than smashing and blasting them to pieces like Cyclops or Colossus.
From him, you could lift a lot of Wolverine to Beast. Play up his claws to be like Sabretooth, and give him a more in-depth parkour system.
That parkour system, which only has to be a bit more than what Black Widow and Captain America do, could be moved over to Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler’s ability is to teleport, which honestly should just replace his dodge. His teleport in comics and adaptations has consistently been rather short distanced. He could do more with Beast’s parkour, and he could be matched to Wolverine a bit by giving him his swords. This altogether leaves Beast, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler as the slashers or warriors to keep in D&D fashion.
What Else Makes a Good X-Men Game?
This all would come together into a game that has three generic profiles with which to make playable characters. The characters that fall under those profiles can have few deviations from each other and allow a developer to add a bunch of X-Men in those three.
Like Magneto to Jean Grey and Storm, X-23 to Wolverine and Beast, or even Emma Frost to with her diamond form and psychic blasts to Cyclops and Colossus.
Again, unlike the Avengers, the X-Men have a bigger pool of heroes to come from. A pool, I might add, who each have only one or two combative powers with which Crystal would have to add. Based on my video about the leaked list of Avengers coming to the game, Crystal is clearly planning to spread out copycat characters among brand new original ones, who each have a set of abilities capable of carrying their own game.
If they make an X-Men game, the issues of adding more characters should be conceptually easier. Maybe later they could spend more time to make a fourth character type to fit someone like Rogue or Gambit. But trying to make a distinct new character each time they add one is going to lead to Marvel’s Avengers being full of boring copycats, and distinct characters who are less fun than they should be.
I mean, look at the next two characters who have been confirmed, two Hawkeyes. Then we still have the Winter Soldier and War Machine to come, copycats of characters already in Avengers.
Would You Play a Square Enix X-Men Game?
X-Men should not only make for a better game, but a better online service game. Maybe when Marvel’s Avengers’ playerbase has died, Marvel and Square Enix should think about giving the live-service superhero game another shot. This time they should let Crystal Dynamics work with the X-Men instead.
I mean, even if they treat an X-Men game like they do their Avengers game, the X-Men are a better team anyway, I’m not afraid to say it.
And if they made an X-Men game, which characters would you want in it? Which characters do you think would be easier to make? Tell me in the comments below.