It’s a tale as old as sci-fi; Humans create artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence put in charge of weapons, artificial intelligence deems humanity is the biggest threat to peace, artificial intelligence wipes out almost all of humanity. That’s the set up of Metal Max Xeno where the last handful of survivors look to push back against the machines of NOA, the now-defunct AI, who roam the desolate wasteland that is now Earth.
As a JRPG, it comes across as rather basic. In an age of huge spectacles, this game is pared right back, with a rather small and linear open world and dungeons that hardly differentiate in designs from each other.
Players mainly take control of Talis, who joins up with other survivors who wish to fight back against the machines of NOA. To do this they each can pilot tanks. The tanks can range in design and scope, but the majority are fully customisable allowing you to swap out engines and customise the weaponry, switching from all cannons to a mixture of guns, cannons and special equipment. It allows you to switch up your tactics against tougher enemies, but these modifications will cost G, the in-game currency, so you can’t just modify on the fly.
The battles do become quite repetitive despite changing things up, with your party of three facing anything from monster to at least ten. In fact, it comes across as a rather basic JRPG. In an age of huge spectacles, this game is pared right back, with a rather small and linear open world and dungeons that hardly differentiate in designs from each other.
In the open world areas you can avoid fights by driving a distance away from enemies, or you can engage by sending some long range cannon fire to get some early damage in. However in the dungeons this changes to random encounters that can pop up at any time, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of reason when they turn up. For example, in one part of a dungeon I went quite a way before the first encounter, while another time I finished one battle, took a step, and was then instantly put into another battle. It’s an unnecessary chore in this instance, especially when many JRPGs are stepping away from this design.
You will also have to grind at times to make progress, as some enemies you encounter are far above your own party’s level, and this process becomes quite tedious too. It doesn’t help that much of the world is a desert with a few ruins dotted around, doing hardly anything to break up the monotony. There are some challenges to beat that can add a bit of variety, with completion giving points to upgrade character abilities, but the majority of these challenges will be completed in the run of play anyway.
The characters themselves are your standard fare from the brooding protagonist to the more upbeat sidekick. There’s a little bit of depth to some of the cast, though as they contend with being the last humans and talk frankly about having to carry on the species. Of course that ends up with one of the female in a quandary about her place in the world, going from shying away from that inner conflict to having her just throwing herself at the hero. Overall however many of the cast do come across as two dimensional.
Metal Max Xeno is just so thoroughly average when it comes to JRPGs. The basic world, familiar storyline, and characters serve an okay experience which embraces the grind a bit too much for a world that is generally void of much interest. The game feels like a throwback to older JRPGs which is great if that is what you’re into, but there has been so much advancement in the genre that overall Metal Max Xeno feels a bit out of place.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available on PS Vita