Developed By: Dimps
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and STEAM
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Review Copy Provided By Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia
It never would have occurred to me that an Anime version of Dead By Daylight-style gameplay would be developed, but hey, we live in 2022 where strange or genuine ideas do crop up from time to time. I for one am not complaining as the genre can be made exhilarating and fun to be chased by the favorite villain of the series. This review examines whether Dragon Ball: The Breakers is as fun or even more fun as other similar genre games like Dead By Daylight. The answer is a simple resounding no and here is why.
Storytelling and Level Design – Truly Lacking
The only good thing about Dragon Ball: Breakers is that there is a prologue tutorial stage to start off and replayable that refreshes and talks about the predicament our main character is going through and that he/she is just a normal person aka survivor who got sucked into a black hole portal and has to survive a town being ransacked by a raider aka Dragon Balls prime villains such as Majin Buu, Cell or Frieza.
Like the trailer above, having woken up by Trunks who is a time patroller, our avatar survivor is taught to survive in a time stucked places called the temporary seams. Having been taught the basics by Trunks that the survivors need to hide, fight and outwit raiders, the survivors has to run around with the aim of activating all five-powered keys in five specific areas to trigger a Super Time Machine. Causing time to flow back into the course and the raider to disappear.
An interesting premise, I might add but like time itself presented in the game, the story is also unfortunately stuck in the prologue chapter without furthering itself as to why there is a black hole and who or what is causing the time to be stuck in the first place. As well as what is the end game for the survivor as in is it to find a way back home or to put a full stop to the temporal seam occurrence. In my opinion, places stuck in time should also be taken into account pinnacle moments as well such as a villain’s death/defeat and the raider’s task is doing his best to revert the results by not allowing time to flow as normal. Hence hunting the survivors in hopes to alter the villain inescapable course of fate seems to add up more sense to both gameplay, villains motivation, and storytelling.
The prologue tutorial, however, lacks a deeper explanation of combat and item usage and does not teach the player more about fighting alongside other players, as a raider, or how to use items for different purposes. That’s what Dead By Daylight delivered in comparison with more in-depth training including being a villain as well.
However, unlike Dead By Daylight is more grounded in the horror sense, Dragon Ball Breakers’ stages are vastly multilayered made with buildings, ridges, and underground caverns to explore yet the textures look outdated compared to the anime’s detailed model characters design. The difference between the level and the characters’ design is as obvious as night and day.
Despite the level designs being vast, multilayered, and colorful, they are less varied and felt barren due to the lack of residents and items scattered throughout far between. Ideally, I’d like to see a bit more residents panic and run around in fear or just chill walking around in ignorance like in the manga until the raider slides in. Instead, I see mostly a few hanging out indoors, shakingly kneeling down screaming, and waiting for someone to save them. Besides that, there are epic moments of villains destroying buildings and areas as the raider level up just to cause panic among the survivors. Personally, I think the level of destruction should include mountains, waterfalls, or ridges as well because survivors do tend to climb up or hide there more so often.
Gameplay – Almost There But Lacking In Foundation & Balance
Dragon Ball: The Breakers pits a team of seven survivors versus a raider player where the survivors need to hide, run and get as many power-ups and powered keys around to activate the Super Time Machine to win their side. The raider on the other hand must consume and destroy as many players as they can or kneeling NPCs to accelerate their growth that goes up to four stages from their former selves such as Cell’s Larvae form, with the goal of killing all survivors or destroying the Super Time Machine in the end.
But as the raider gains a level two form, be it consuming NPC/players or as time goes by – the balance is off the charts as the raider is basically super tanky and a force to be reckoned with as he is allowed to persistently chase, fly around, and kill anyone on sight. In my opinion, the path of power after level one raider should be slightly harder with multiple random goals to complete depending on the villain’s character rather than simply consuming anyone. Be it destroying certain key buildings, a certain number of items, certain key players, NPC’s, or ultimately getting all dragon balls to achieve the maximum level of growth results.
Survivors use whatever means to cause damage such as rockets, or temporarily turn themselves into the past warriors such as Goku or Vegeta called the dragon change by picking up an item called charge power cubes on the field. Charge power cubes enhances the level needed to perform a dragon change from level one to level three. Each with their own prime Dragon Ball characters such as Goku and Vegeta depending on players’ preset preferences in the main hub which is obtainable via gacha mechanics.
Unfortunately, most attacks from survivors are less effective as they lack landing a stun or pushing the raider further away, and the transformation timeframe is usually two to five minutes, which can be even shorter by getting hit. This forces players including myself to just fly away in desperation after being transformed as there aren’t many ways to stun the raider from the survivor’s perspective. This is even more obvious, particularly in the early stages and this will result in the raider attacking non-stop relentlessly until the player is out. In addition, survivor items such as mine trap devices have a small cross frame to stun the raider, which is really annoying since raiders fly through my laser traps by an inch.
Due to the foundation design of the game’s stages and survivors’ over-reliance on items, it falls under the impression that all five to seven players will have enough power-ups later to fend off the raider at the same time as the Super Time Machine charges to achieve victory. But in its actual gameplay, it’s pretty difficult for players to pull off if they are not able to find enough power-ups . Funny how, as the raider level up, they can gain new skills and destroy part of their chosen land with a brief cinematic that is tactically optional. This, in turn, limits the number of accessible items for all seven players, and remember that due to the vast level items scattered throughout the level design – making items even more limited. Hence I think Trunks should send in more power-up supply pods as the raider levels up occasionally in the unaffected areas to balance things out for the survivors and not solely near the end of the session.
From the perspective of the survivor, there will be a sound of your own heartbeat beating panically really fast as the raider approaches the premises like Dead By Daylight. This is advantageous to the player as it allows him/her to hide or run really far. But I think Raiders on the other hand should be able to use their own items/skills as means to lure, or skills such as Ginyu switching body with an NPC to catch survivors off guard. Having said that, Raiders do have some unique skills of mini-detection such as seeing the aura of other players in the area in a short period of time but everything else just falls under blasting away stuff in a straightforward manner. Other than Majin Buu putting everyone into his body-like stage maze, I believe raiders should have more tricks up their sleeve approach, such as laying their own blast land mines in an area or, dispersing their own mini henchmen to lie in wait, catching and holding on to survivors, or best yet, turning the floor of an area into lava to make survivors zipline or jump around more so often.
As far as the gameplay patterns go, it’s surprisingly linear since the survivors’ main objective is to activate the Super Time Machine, but if the Super Time Machine is destroyed by the raider or only one survivor is left – the survivor must separately escape by calling the escape time machine before the timer runs out as plan B. In general, the Super Time Machine is often located in the middle section of the map, but instead of blasting the machine from afar, the raider has to fly down and destroy it personally by touching it, making them in turn vulnerable to attack from any angle which makes little sense to me.
There are times rarely when players are able to turn the tables epically by taking turns in bashing the raider until his HP depletes to zero and that is another way to win the stage. Though highly unlikely as I mentioned above that the power-up items are placed really far in between as well as the raider HP is super tanky from the start of level two onwards.
Other options, such as collecting all seven dragon balls and summoning the dragon Shenron, and giving one-level power-ups only to both survivors and raiders, are incredibly underwhelming since the Dragon Balls alone should suffice as means to end the game early; for example, reviving all players back with full health and powered up ( if they are not withdrawn from the game), demoting raider back to a previous form. For raiders, on the other hand, Shenron should also be able to grant the raider ability to use his abilities without cooldown or summon a henchman AI to help.
Survivors motives as a whole should keep the raider guessing on where to go next to keep things fresh on both sides. There should be more options and not affixed to just one type of survivor flow for the raider to focus on as the raiders alone are seriously buffed up. Seriously though, the raiders alone should have limited stamina, flying/teleport options, and health in the early forms and not just in level one, therefore, forcing him to retreat and recoup.
UI, Connection, Loading Times, And Camera Work – Everything Is Everywhere
In spite of raiders being overpowered, the camera works feel extremely lightweight, janky and can cause quite a bit of stir in confusion, especially during combat. It feels like I am playing a first-person shooter game aka Call Of Duty without any aim assist and must strike the survivors down in a precise manner as they are moving.
Maybe that is the disadvantage of being a raider, that you should aim with precision in third-person camera mode, but unfortunately, this is the same if you are a survivor running away for your life or turning temporarily into a dragon change which can get really frustrating as survivors have a real short time window to dish out all the attacks they have. Both sides in combat should have an auto-aim camera that sticks to the opponent even if it’s temporary for raiders as survivors do have smoke bomb skills to tactically throw off the aim which makes the item potentially even more valuable.
I believe that raiders while seeking out survivors should be in first-person mode first instead of a third person to not allow the more full peripheral views to catch survivors off guard. And only, later on, allow more accessibility in 3rd person view mode as the form levels up, in midst of combat, teleporting to the top for area destruction or picking up an item called the scouter.
Besides gameplay, there is a hub where players can check their mail, shop, and choose from three game modes: practice mode (mostly run by AI), prologue episode training, and online mode. In the hub, there are shops to purchase skins, remake your avatar, and purchase skills and items.
However, the skills and items section is all separated under two different shops in multiple access points, making it less streamlined and efficient enough to level up your character in one go. Moreover, certain skill sets are locked behind the types of skin characters (Oolong/Bulma) you choose as well as the gacha dragon change warriors you applied which is not properly explained in the UI description, hence constant trial and error is needed. It feels that the whole gameplay and hub elements are not well thought out to be clear and more concise to players.
Added that the points needed to unlock high-level skills can get super expensive, with one level of play only granting you a hundred plus points, whereas a skill point needed takes about twenty thousand points – hinting at a long jarring grind. Due to the poor UI design choices, only much later I am able to find out where is the raider selection and level-up skill screen via the options menu > R1 (View all Raiders) which in itself vague in description, offering another poor user experience.
From the start, the time it takes for the online mode to load varies from medium to unnecessarily long waiting. The loading screens are layered with matchmaking, briefings, and introductions where survivors can show their avatar emoticons and raiders can show their voice lines, which can range from a minimum of five to a frustrating wait of twenty minutes. There are times that the host connections are disconnected with an infinite number of waiting times (bug perhaps), cut off midway after waiting for 20 minutes as well as mid-game.
Besides the waiting time, it’s much easier to be taking a role of a survivor rather than being a raider as it is only one role per player. Being specific to the role by choice via selecting it as a priority in matchmaking mode will still most likely land you as a survivor role which is a real bummer (once every ten attempts at the very least). I think this design choice by far will turn even being a raider selection into a gacha luck that may frustrate many.
Speaking of Gacha, there is a gacha system as well in the main hub that allows players to get higher tier dragon change warrior and their skill sets by luck via using the in-game currency or in-game tickets have gotten per run which also in turn pushes me to go for an extensive grind in the long run.
There is also a TP currency which I believed also can be gained using real-world money, but I am not been able to access it myself in-game to confirm further from my side.
Skins, Songs, and Sounds – Too Generic To Notice
Unlike the level design outdated textures, the skin design of the characters and raiders seems appealing with glistening 3D skin. Aside from that, feedback of hitting a target as a raider or survivor lacks in sounds and visual cues, as if two mimes fighting each other in the air.
However, the game’s songs, its mostly generic mild tunes with a soft ominous vibe throughout yet it just don’t fit well with the Dragon Ball’s exciting Universe. Things only pick up as the raider draws near with survivors’ heart beating sounds hitting hard, but everything else falls shortly distant and silent. Even the prologue cinematic’s voice acting does appear out of sync at times.
For the sounds department, other than the fact that there are different soft running steps sounds on different terrain, opening boxes, and a frantic scampering screaming as the raider draws near. Everything else felt dissonantly disconnected in between and sounds really bland. Like its level design, it feels like there is a serious lack of resources for sound files and song lists made for this game.
What I Liked About Dragon Ball: The Breakers
- Conceptually great – Some moments are just epic
- Character skin and dragon change – The design character details of both raider and survivor gels well with the dragon ball universe. While dragon changing, changing to Goku/Picollo with your avatar face is pretty interesting.
- Vast space to run or to chase with – Run, fly, zip all you want. Being a raider is even more fun.
- Some good anime cinematics – In-game key cinematic moments of consuming survivors/NPC’s, powered ki blast to destroy environments or survivors’ triumph on taking out a raider looks satisfyingly epic.
- Some level of destructible environments – Make raider playthrough feels awesome
What I Wished Was Better
- Simple yet poor combat flow – Executions and Janky camera work. Need Auto Aim to stick and actually hit moving targets.
- Feedback – No hitting feedback visual cues and sounds.
- UI: Complex UI designs and purchasing skins, items, and skills. Poor UI design flow, lack of being streamlined.
- Poor UI description – On both skills, raider selection screen, and items.
- Imbalance Stats – Raider is super buffed in the beginning with high HP throughout. Raiders are over-buffed in stats but underrated in traps and skill sets with most skills just solely based on shooting straight.
- Items and traps for survivors – Some Items and skills are useful but still less varied in general
- Lack of tutorials and storytelling – Just once and done surface-level tutorials and storytelling. Storytelling and gameplay just don’t gel genuinely well and lack direction with one another. Felt more like an excuse to keep me in the loop with no end goals in mind.
- The texture of the terrains – Unlike the main hub, the in-game textures appear outdated, much like Fortnite but worse for wear.
- Sounds and Songs – Felt somewhat disconnected and lack of sound variety. Raiders should have their voice lines said midgame to scare survivors too with lines such as ‘I know you are here’.
- Varied long loading times and bugs – Long, multiple-layered loading screens can be frustrating, more so if they disconnect you from the server or host in the middle of the loading or game. Inaccessible TP ( real money) purchasing option. Choosing Raider as the main priority in matchmaking doesn’t actually prioritize me to be a villain most of the time (once every ten attempts at the very least).
Verdict – The Real Deal-Breaker
It does depend on what sort of Dragon Ball Game you like as a player?. The thing is if you do like both asymmetrical horrors like Dead By Daylight and dragon ball at the same time and do not mind trying out a new incomplete game then by all means do give it a shot. Dragon Ball: Breakers is addictively fresh in concept and bravely made but felt can be so much more if given more time and resources. So much so, that I think this concept and genre fits even better in a One Punch Man Universe. But do bear in mind that this game will be frustrating to many and rewarding to only a few who truly appreciate its niche concept and what it’s trying to deliver. Things may get better with future patches or with DLC but no promises as the number of players may vary at a later time.
Yet, I for one am enjoying this game in a casual manner and not as a full extensive grind game. Because while it’s truly unique on its own for any Dragon Ball Fans, at the same time ironically, it’s not a full-complete game to suit gamers in general. Consider it like a fighting anime game trying out a horror-themed concept for the first time, with many things being barebones and stagnant that could go astray or improved later in executions and mechanics so it can come out with a bang. I hope it’s the latter, but we’ll see.