Dragon Ball: The Breakers Review
One of the standout aspects of Dragon Ball is its lineup of fantastic villains who often destroy whole cities or planets in the blink of an eye, with little regard for their average citizens. So when Dragon Ball: The Breakers puts you in the shoes either of one of those villains or a terrified citizen trying to escape by working together with up to six other humans, it’s a novel idea – a great one, in fact. Unfortunately, the execution of that idea doesn’t live up to the concept: Dragon Ball: The Breakers feels every bit the budget game that it is, with loose controls, an unreliable camera, and live-service gacha mechanics that do nothing to improve the mediocre multiplayer experience.
Dead By Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball: The Breakers’ tutorial offers a quick explanation about Temporal Seams causing supervillains to show up where they’re not supposed to, but it’s not much more than a thin excuse for why these endless multiplayer battles are happening. When you play as a Survivor (either a customized avatar or one of the weaker characters from the show), you’ll scramble to achieve several goals in order to send the invading villain (called a Raider) back to where they came from. These tasks take the form of searching for power keys and planting them in the right spot, and protecting different machines from being destroyed by the Raider. Since the Raider is so overwhelmingly powerful when compared to the Survivors, it’s fun to be forced to survive mainly through hiding and various forms of subterfuge, such as skills that allow you to take the shape of a random object, or stun your enemy for a short time.
The heartstopping moments where you don’t really know whether or not the Raider has seen you, or you’re working as a team to complete a goal can be genuinely exciting, pushing you to improvise quickly. Because the penalty for being spotted without a plan is almost certainly death, this leads to some incredibly tense interactions where it truly feels like you can outsmart your enemy. It’s raw power versus creativity, and these moments were often the high I was chasing while playing as a Survivor.
Unfortunately, the controls and camera are frequently subpar. While moving around, your character is often placed at the edge of the frame as if the camera’s not really sure what to focus on, and it gives the feeling that you’re just sliding around from side to side on screen. This is doubly true when trying to aim long-range skills, such as grappling hooks or rocket launchers. Many of my skills were also frequently interrupted by the Raider or foiled by the camera clipping into a nearby wall during a scramble. It makes total sense that you should be at a disadvantage when facing a Raider, but not because your character is a chore to control.
Dragon Change Misfire
Other than their equippable skills, the true ace in the hole for Survivors is the Dragon Change, which is the chargeable ability to transform into super powered versions of your character based on various Dragon Ball heroes. These come in the form of Transpheres, items you receive from a gacha mechanic using tickets, a questionable system I’ll get into deeper later. You can also collect all seven Dragon Balls mid-match and summon Shenron to either make all Survivors’ Dragon Change Level increase by one, or power yourself up to a level above your maximum strength for a short time. After transforming into the hero of your choice, you can take the fight to the raider for a short amount of time in order to give your fellow survivors more time to escape, or even try and defeat the Raider outright.
While this is a cool concept, my complaints about the controls and camera are intensified while moving at high speed after a Dragon Change. I frequently had trouble targeting my enemy, as The Breakers features a soft lock-on that doesn’t really target your enemy if they’re moving, and every attack that actually hit felt like I got lucky more than anything. And when they did manage to connect, the lack of visual feedback made me confused as to what was even going on. It felt like a poor imitation of a Dragon Ball Budokai game, with flailing rather than fighting. This should be The Breakers’ most exciting mechanic, but instead these moments were often frustrating and ineffective, and other than a few times when several of us teamed up and vastly outclassed and stunlocked the Raider, I mostly used Dragon Change to simply get away.
There are three levels to Dragon Change that you charge using passive skills and item pickups, and they’re supposed to be more or less equal in power to a Raider’s current transformation level, but I had a hard time judging when I was outclassed in power by design, or just once again confounded by the poor controls. It’s a frustrating feeling to not even be able to nail down why you’re not enjoying yourself. I was only sure that the more time I spent in combat, the less fun I had.
Good To Be Bad
I generally had more fun playing as the Raider rather than a Survivor, hunting down helpless citizens and destroying their toys before they could be used to escape me. It’s satisfying to absorb survivors and NPC civilians and grow into a new form with new skills (especially since you get to destroy a huge portion of the map every time), but even in that power fantasy, attacks lack impact, the camera is a pain to deal with, and the lack of good visual feedback made it difficult to tell what was happening. The only difference was that I had the speed and power to compensate for these mechanical shortcomings, while my Survivor opponents did not.
I also had a hard time even getting the chance to play as a Raider. Less than a week after launch, I had to queue with my preferences set to playing as a Raider for six straight matches to even get one where I wasn’t a Survivor. This makes sense in a one-versus-seven game, as most people will be a Survivor by design, but that doesn’t make it more fun. Unless you’re playing with a big group of friends, don’t expect to play as a Raider very often at all.
The Breakers is at least marginally more fun when you can queue up with friends, as down-to-the-wire moments and frantic interactions had us yelping in fear or belly laughing on several occasions. But too often those moments came about from struggling with controls or throwing our hands up in bewilderment at a sudden death from off-screen.
Unless you’re playing with a big group of friends, don’t expect to play as a Raider very often at all.“
The graphics in The Breakers certainly aren’t any help in that regard. While the characters retain the iconic Dragon Ball style and the three maps are nicely varied with canyons, towns, and wide-open spaces, most of the textures are low-res and blurry up close. Characters don’t really seem to interact with the environment either, instead just skating along the top of it. A few of the skill animations could certainly also use another pass. The grappling hook doesn’t make a sound like it attaches to anything, only a strange buzzing noise. I’ve also been stuck in the ground or on the corners of terrain multiple times. It all just feels unfinished.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
In what has become the usual live-service tradition, The Breakers has three different currencies: TP Tokens, Super Warrior Spirits, and Zeni, the latter two of which you can earn by playing rather than paying. Super Warrior Spirits allow you to level up or purchase different skills, and Zeni lets you buy items from the in-game cosmetics shop. TP Tokens are the premium currency you can purchase with real money, and they can be used to buy cosmetics, like you do with Zeni. You can also use Zeni and TP Tokens at the Spirit Siphon, the gacha mechanic that allows you to receive a randomized draw for Transpheres.
When I first learned that you could spend money to potentially get a leg up competitively, I was concerned that The Breakers could easily become pay-to-win, as I assumed 5-star characters would have some useful skills not easily available to those stuck grinding Zeni. That would be bad enough for a free-to-play game, but absolutely egregious for one like this that also has an upfront cost. But as circumstances would have it, the Dragon Change mechanic was often so indecipherable that it was difficult for me to parse whether an ability was powerful or not anyway. I guess that’s one way to level the playing field, but know that some of your competitors will still be paying to acquire skills and characters that come much slower without spending money.
There’s also a standard battle pass system with no premium version, but you can buy tiers of the pass with TP. Included are various clothing options, emotes, and even more TP, just in case you really want to spend premium currency to buy a tier of the battle pass to get some premium currency. Unfortunately, if you want to play as the true heavyweight champion and memelord of the Dragon Ball universe, “Farmer With Shotgun,” you’ll need to get all the way to the max tier 50.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Ronny Barrier