Choices, choices...


We haven’t seen much of the X-Men in videogames lately. Wolverine got his own game a few years ago and individual members have shown up in other Marvel-related games, though we haven’t seen the full-on team dynamic since X-Men: Legends 2. This is a shame since, of all the comic book franchises available for games, the X-Men offer the most potential for interesting storytelling, especially when it involves player choice.

For me, the coolest aspect of the X-Men is the idea of outcasts banding together to stand up for everyone – even their persecutors. It was something Bryan Singer’s two X-Men movies nailed and, unfortunately, one of the reasons Brett Ratner’s film fell flat on its face. There’s just something cool, and relatable, to the series’ core idea.

X-Men Destiny, Silicon Knight’s upcoming take on the X-Men mythos, is built around a core question: What would you do if you were a mutant? Would you side with Professor X and work for mutant acceptance, or take up Magneto’s banner and battle for mutant domination?

X-Men Destiny places players in a much different San Francisco than comic book readers are used to. Anti-mutant sentiment is at an all-time high and the one peaceful voice in the argument, Professor X, is dead. The already volatile situation breaks into all-out war during a peace rally held in Professor X’s honor.

Players take control of one of three “recently evolved” mutants, each with their own mutant abilities and backstory, who are tossed into the fray. One of the new mutants is Aimi Yoshida, a Japanese teenager who arrives in San Francisco at the height of anti-mutant hysteria. Aimi’s powers have recently developed, forcing her parents to smuggle her out of Japan to avoid incarceration in a mutant camp.

Another of the trio is Grant Alexander; a college student who, like Aimi, has also just discovered his powers. While Grant doesn’t have to worry about escaping incarceration, he has his own problems. Grant’s father is head of the Purifiers, a militant anti-mutant group. The last is Adrian, who was part of an anti-mutant group before his powers emerged.

These issues form up the core of X-Men Destiny’s player experience. Each has their own baggage and, as new characters in the Marvel Universe, their destinies are unwritten. It’s up to the player to decide just how the characters will respond to the world around them.

The demo found Aimi fighting her way through a base occupied by the U-Men, a group that believes in using mutant body parts to gain super powers. The group is stealing mutant powers – stored in the X-Gene – to augment their own abilities. After fighting through groups of U-Men, Aimi eventually faces off against their leader, who decides to inject himself with a few X-Genes to gain an edge in combat.

Aimi, as well as the two other mutants, can use recovered X-Genes to augment thier powers. X-Genes are based on popular characters from the series. You can switch out powers at any time, offering a chance to experiment with combinations or counter certain enemy tactics. During the demo Aimi equipped Quicksilver’s X-Genes, adding a boost of speed to her power set. I also noticed names like Surge and Emma Frost (White Queen) in the list, though you can also expect to see Colossus, Cyclops and even Wolverine’s powers. Each mutant has three X-Genes, offering both offensive and defensive power boosts.

You can also equip “Tribute Costumes” based on the look of each character. X-Men Destiny is going for its own look, which mixes some of the best styles scattered throughout the series' long history. Cyclops is dressed in his Astonishing X-Men garb, while Gambit looks more like the 90’s version of the character. Equipping all three of a character’s X-Genes and their tribute costume will offer a massive stat and power boost.

Getting back to the concept of narrative choice, players will encounter “Destiny Moments” throughout the game. These are story decisions that influence how the story will play out. After her multi-stage fight with the U-Men, Aimi was presented with a container of X-Genes and a choice. On one side was Colossus and Surge, who urged Aimi to destroy the X-Gene. On the other side was Gambit, who advised Aimi to hand over the X-Genes and help the Brotherhood raise an army of mutants.

The choices aren't gauged as "moral" choices. Both sides make an effective argument. Instead, the idea is for you to sort out the situation and decide where your loyalties fall.

X-Men Destiny launches this Fall for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and DS.