When you think of the X-Men, Marvel's team of mutant misfits, you think of power. Power is the focus of Activision's newest game featuring the superheroes that fight for those who hate and fear them, X-Men: Destiny, but in a unique way. Rather than playing as any of the existing characters, you choose from 3 all-new characters created by scribe (and writer of this game) Mike Carey.
But there's a twist.
Through individual gene samples you collect throughout the game, you can alter your character's power set, augmenting it with those of several of your favorite X-Men. In just an early sneak peek, we saw Havok, Northstar, Quicksilver, Psylocke, and more listed as characters whose powers you can change yours with. So if you start out with energy blasts and equip Surge's electrical attack power, your blasts will now have a burst of electricity, shocking your foes. These power alterations come in three flavors and have a fourth bonus.
For that and more information, we turn to Doug Heder, Producer at Activision for all the details about this fall's mutant madness.
Newsarama: So Doug, this is a big departure from the other X-Men games Activision has done. What was behind the decision to make this a single-player game focused more on the individual?
Doug Heder: Well, there are three different characters you can play as, but at a time. You're right, we've done some X-Men games in the past, and in those you play as X-Men, you know the powers you're going to have, the faction you're a part of, either Brotherhood or X-men; it's not much of a choice.
The idea came about early on with "what would it be like to choose your own powers?" How would you do that? So we started to think backwards from there, and started a wishlist of what powers would work that way. A wish-fulfillment superhero game. X-Men Destiny came from that concept of giving the player the choice rather than having those choices made for you ahead of time.
If you play a Wolverine game, you know what the character is, what powers you'll have, and that you'll be cutting some people in half. If you play as Jean Grey or as Storm or any of the other X-Men characters you know about what you're going to get when you go in. In this case you get a lot more control over what kind of mutant you'll be and what kind of powers you'll have.
Nrama: But for people who like those existing characters and want to experience their stories, you have something for them, too, right?
Heder: Absolutely! It wouldn't be an X-Men game without all those great characters. We create many opportunities for you to interact with them in many ways. The most basic level is of course that you'll fight alongside them. When you meet Wolverine in the game, you're going to fight next to him and he'll show you some tricks.
You have a lot to learn, and these X-Men and Brotherhood characters are going to teach you. They'll also try to persuade you why you should go to one side or the other. Throughout the game you'll hear arguments about why things should go a certain way. Then it's up to you to decide and take a stand one way or the other. There's no wrong choices, it's just up to you to do what you think is best. Those choices will change some of the people you encounter and places you see, and other upgrade opportunities as well as the narrative events.
Nrama: With these characters though, you're not going strictly off the comic book, right? We might see some shifted allegiances?
Heder: We are very much in the current X-Men timeline and where those characters are at right now. We do have to adapt here and there to make the story work for a videogame. There are X-Men who traditionally have been sort of "in-between." They flop back and forth and aren't exactly sure where they stand. One character like that is Gambit. When you meet Gambit in the game he's sort of in a neutral group, he hasn't chosen a side yet. To give a little background, we're slightly back from the current comics; Xavier is dead, Magneto is missing, and it's Cyclops at the head of the X-Men and Mystique at the head of the Brotherhood.
So there's uncertainty on both sides, which causes shifts in allegiances. So as you step in, you'll learn things about these characters that you thought you knew before but have a new perspective on.
Nrama: Can you give us an example of a character that people who've only seen the X-Men in other mediums might not know, and why you chose that character?
Heder: Well in our roster we try to represent the characters that everyone knows and loves, and wouldn't be an X-Men game without them, like Wolverine, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Colossus. But we do have some characters in the game that to my knowledge are making their video game debut. Characters like Surge and Northstar, for example haven't gotten a lot of screentime in the past and we're excited to bring them to a game for the first time.
Nrama: So what was it about a character like Northstar for example that made him essential for this game?
Heder: Northstar is interesting, as he represents another evolution of where the series has gone in terms of diversity.  So we wanted to make sure we had him.
One of the things we look at of course is who has the coolest powers!
Part of how you customize your power is in the collection of X-Genes. X-Genes are what make people a mutant and determine the type of power that they have. Throughout the world of X-Men Destiny you can collect these X-Genes from other mutants that you meet and add these to your own DNA.
Nrama: But there are different aspects to each power, right? So a speedster has different ways to use his speed?
Heder: Right, each character that has an X-Gene has three different ones you can collect. They come in Offensive, Defensive, and Utility. So a utility X-Gene may do something like increase your speed. Defensive might make you dodge more or have an enhancement against fire attacks. Offensive is something that increases your power. So Surge adds electrical damage to your power.
So the core power you choose at the beginning of the game is a template for creating your powers; the X-Genes are the palette that changes your power, both the look and the fundamental way it works.
Nrama: So with these X-Genes, will players be guided throughout the game and encouraged to change them up? Or is it something where somebody can find a combination they like and stick with it for the rest of the game?
Heder: It's all about the way you like to play. Use X-Genes and use them to your own flavor and style. There's no penalty to changing them around throughout.
In addition to the three X-Genes, there's a bonus Costume you can find for each character. So Surge would have the three X-Genes and a fan suit. The combination of all four unlocks X-Mode, which gives you an additional boost for having them all together.
That said, it doesn't mean it's not worth exploring other combinations, as every X-Gene can be upgraded by spending XP you collect throughout the game. Certain combinations of powers can still maybe outpour the full complement of another.
Nrama: To wrap up, what's the one big thing that should make longtime X-Men fans want to play this game?
Heder: The reason to play X-Men Destiny is for the first time you can create a mutant and choose the way their powers evolve and who they align with. That's exciting for guys that have been reading for 30 or 40 years and are looking for a fresh perspective, and for new fans looking for an entry point into the series. Old fans and new have a new customized experience here. Now you get to put your money where your mouth is and say what would do as a mutant, and which side you'd choose.