Metal Max Xeno Reborn Review
Metal Max Xeno Reborn is a remake of the 2018 game Metal Max Xeno published by PQube and developed by Kadokawa Games. It is the sixth installment in the Metal Max series of open-world tank games originating from the PS2 and while it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, its previous games have been a lighthearted affair. This iteration takes a bit of a serious tone, though it still falls into JRPG humor and tropes.
You follow the story of Talis, a lone wanderer, who explores Dystokyo – a land ravaged by a machine takeover. As one of the last humans, he comes across the Iron Base, a final bastion for the species who recruits him as The Final Monster Hunter to collect resources, recruit survivors, and ultimately destroy the machine that threatens the survival of humanity.
If you’re a fan of Shin Megami Tensei and Front Mission titles, Metal Max Xeno Reborn will definitely be up your alley as it involves post-apocalyptic themes, monster data, and ways to customize the tanks that you find.
A Grim Look At The Future
At first glance, Metal Max Xeno Reborn feels like a no-frills JRPG. It throws you into a grim future with no guidance, and you’ll intermittently receive tutorial screens as you progress. Not having played any of the Metal Max series, I’m not familiar with the tropes of the game until I read about it, and Metal Max Xeno Reborn takes a more serious turn from the previous lighthearted fare.
What’s interesting is seeing the extinction bar, which can get quite confusing until it is explained. Basically, in Metal Max Xeno Reborn, the lower it is, the better chances of humanity’s survival. Without explanation, I seriously thought that it would have the same mechanic as Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter where when you hit zero, it is game over. However, that is not the case, and the game is a lot more straightforward as you go along.
As you pick up resources and your first tank, the story of Metal Max Xeno Reborn doesn’t actually start until you reach The Iron Base, which will serve as your HQ for the remainder of the game. There, you meet other survivors, as well as be tasked to become a Monster Hunter of sorts to find resources and recruit other survivors to the cause. Here, you can develop weapons from the scrap you pick up in the wasteland, improve relationships, and even take booze to the bar where the bartender will talk about the history of the world.
The first few hours of Metal Max Xeno Reborn build up some interest for the game, as the world seems interesting and the fully voiced dialogue gives it some personality. What drew me more into the world of Metal Max Xeno Reborn is how it reminds me of Xenogears and Front Mission set in a world akin to Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise. It has a unique charm that draws you in despite its lack of visual fidelity even if it has been remastered. The visuals really feel like it’s a PS3 game or at best, early 3DS graphics.
Tactical Tank Action
Metal Max Xeno Reborn has two combat modes. One is fighting on foot with your units, which makes up of Talis, your new recruits, and your Shiba Inu puppy (you laugh now, but this dog can take a hit). The majority of this battle mode usually occurs when exploring dungeons. While exploring the Dystokyo wasteland, utilizing the tank is a must, as you will encounter larger-than-life kaiju and mechanized monstrosities.
As we move along the early missions, Metal Max Xeno Reborn quickly shows its issues. The turn-based combat, while straightforward, suddenly hits a sharp difficulty spike. It is a combination of bombarding you with an overwhelming amount of enemy attacks and some glitches that slow down or get you stuck in the process of combat.
While there is no actual consequence with dying, repeatedly dying because of a game glitch or being pinned by consistent enemy attacks can be quite frustrating. It gets even more frustrating as you progress through the main story mission because Metal Max Xeno Reborn forces you down areas that are way above your base level. So either you rethink your strategy or you grind to progress.
This gameplay loop keeps going on throughout the early to mid-game sections and kills momentum for the really interesting concept built up in the first few hours of the game. There really is no other option but to either grind or put up with it. One way to deal with the tedious gameplay loop is that you’re allowed to fast travel back to base to regenerate and return to the waypoint. By doing so, you’ll fight considerably fewer enemies on your return (assuming you vanquished them), but it gets better.
Just like any JRPG, you will get stronger and the balance will tilt in your favor. You will recover better equipment and your units will get stronger. Combine that with exploiting your enemies’ elemental weaknesses and improvement of your tank’s durability, attack power, and weapon balance will make the trip easier and ultimately lead you to a satisfying endgame.
Take A Load Off
As you progress through Metal Max Xeno Reborn’s gameplay and explore its open world to its fullest extent, the mission remains the same – Survive, destroy your mechanical overlords, recruit new survivors, and keep improving your Iron Base. As you would expect, this JRPG follows the conventions of the genre down to a T, so if you’re expecting something new, you won’t find it here.
Many JRPG quirks will remain the same, such as the humor and its many tropes. You’ll get the super manly best friend, the voluptuous flirt, and the girl-next-door main girl archetypes you’ve seen before in every other JRPG. What makes Metal Max Xeno Reborn a little more unique is how it changes its setting from a swords-and-sorcery Isekai to a post-apocalyptic world, getting a tank instead of the typical mecha. For me, that’s enough of a change to make it feel different.
As with many JRPGs and to an extent, the Yakuza sub-genre, the social aspects of Metal Max Xeno Reborn are the most interesting part of the game. It allows for a break from the tedious grinding and combat while it builds the relationship of your character with the rest of the crew. It adds to the addicting character progression and tank crafting mechanics that keep me coming back for more.
Progressing to the endgame when you’ve built enough strength to take on most of the bounties, the Monster Hunting aspect of the game really ramps up and becomes quite enjoyable. It just requires a huge grind getting through the brutal early to mid-game where you’re thrown into a harsh environment with inadequate guidance.
If you’re a real masochist and want to return for more, once you’ve completed the game, there’s the Survivor mode, which increases the difficulty and also doesn’t allow you to use items during the combat phase.
What we liked:
- Addictive character progression and tank customization options.
- The friends side quest is actually a fun way of taking a break from the endless dungeon crawling.
- Late to end game is fun especially when you’ve maxed out your roster and equipment.
What we didn’t like:
- While there are tutorials, starting out is a slow and tedious grind.
- Difficulty spikes are uneven, especially when you’re following the main missions.
- Turn-based battles start to lag especially when dealing with armies of enemies causing overwhelm.
- Even as a remake, the visuals feel like an early game for the 3DS or PS3 era.
Verdict: Wait For It.
There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had with Metal Max Xeno Reborn in the long run, but it’ll take a long while before you get there. The moment you’ve established your base of operations, recruited all your survivors, and maxed out your tanks, there’s a real cathartic way that the post-apocalyptic world of Dystokyo comes to life with its intense bounty hunting and fetch quests. However, the game terribly suffers in its early to mid-game, which can be a bit of a disappointment due to its rushed tutorials and unforgiving difficulty spikes.
I suggest trying this game out before buying to see if it appeals to you. As a longtime JRPG fan, it really reminds me of old-school JRPGs that had a bit of jank but had their unique charm. As with classic JRPGs, it also comes with its quirks that make the game frustrating, especially when starting out and getting lost in the process. It gets better in the endgame if you last that long.
*Metal Max Xeno Reborn was reviewed on PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.