Metal Max Xeno Review – Why Though?
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 25th September 2018
After many quite excellent games I reviewed here, there had to be this one title without anything unique to it or entertaining. In this case: Metal Max Xeno. A game I was initially only interested in because of the fact you can customize tanks in a JRPG environment while being a 25 years old series with its second ever English release. Unfortunately, the price and graphics showed what would truly await me.
First of all, don´t expect any kind of engaging storyline, there isn´t one. We follow the adventures of Thalys who tries to survive in a devastated future vision of Japan, full of powerful machines and death. However, instead of focusing on its world, Metal Max Xeno shifts its focus towards the love story between him and our heroine, who´s incidentally one of the last few women on earth. Naturally, there can be some quite uncomfortable dialogue since pretty much everyone is somewhat horny for her.
Speaking of other characters, similar to our robot slaying hero Thalys, no one really has much of a unique personality going for him. Surely every stereotype is present and the cast is diverse but I never felt connected to any of them, due to the fact no one undergoes any real characterization, simply existing to throw out their catchlines. Especially when the main story is basically “kill them” without twists, tension or anything else, the poor characters are even worse. It´s not particularly bad compared to other JRPGs made on a tight budget but is just so bland overall.
On the other hand, gameplay-wise Metal Max Xeno is actually quite okay. It features your typical round-based JRPG combat system, used in practically every encounter, be it ruins or the vast wasteland. During the dungeons, the tank pilots will be on foot and nothing really differentiates from other titles: Everyone has their class, their abilities, magic, attacks and so on. Given, the tactical depth isn´t overwhelming since enemies will neither have a challenging AI nor hard traits, only occasionally brick-wall you with their insane stats.
Where it gets interesting are the wasteland or tank sections, practically the open world. This time, they´re in tanks though! It´s sadly still the same, except tanks are awkwardly shooting at enemies. Only the encounters start a little bit different: When you see an enemy popping up on the map, you can shoot him and depend on your stats, they can die instantly and not start a one-sided boring battle. That´s actually really neat and saves a ton of time when revisiting older areas or after some grinding.
If only the world would be more than just a brown mess with some ruins and dungeons scattered here and there. Due to the boring, heavily-guided progression, there´s not even time to naturally explore the world, as bland as it is. Driving in your tanks is somewhat fun, if not for the absurd fact you´re driving a tank in a JRPG. Yet, everything remotely natural concerning the pacing is destroyed by the fact, there´s nothing to find. Instead, Metal Max Xeno puts the dots for every single item right on the map, making exploration all the more useless … in an open world.
So let´s talk about the customization, by far the most interesting part. On the one hand, characters still level-up in a rather classic way, with classes assigned to them and skills they can learn over time. However, you can actually change those classes on the fly, learn new talents and even carry over some of another class, making the whole progression system surprisingly flexible and open for whatever you´d wanna create. Pretty neat honestly.
On the other hand, tanks feature a more inventory based progression, after all, they don´t level-up. Instead, weapons or armours can be found in the world or gained after battles, to grade each tank up. Say, you want one with many fast cannons, have the right amount? Then it´s probably possible. Or take a giant cannon instead and build something completely different. Naturally, the whole system is still restricted by the individual tank models and slots but you can completely customize pretty much everything here. Similar to the characters, it´s neat and flexible to serve your needs … also, tanks. Who doesn´t love tank building?
Otherwise, you can see at every corner that Metal Max Xeno was originally developed for the Vita on a tight budget. The open world, characters, enemies or objects, everything is in a mediocre state, barely able to justify its 40 dollar price tag since the textures aren´t terrible at least. Sadly, nothing can shine here, mainly because nothing is impressive. The designs are bland anime cutouts, while enemies are either disappointingly bad or surprisingly mediocre. Only the soundtrack is okay, I somewhat like it actually.
Despite all this, Metal Max Xeno isn´t a horrible game. In every regard, it´s an acceptable JRPG at this price point. If you´re in the mood for some super classic, bland turn-based combat with tank customization you may actually have some fun for a few hours before the repetition sets in. Just lower your expectations.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]