Dragon Ball has a rich history in the video games medium that is almost as old as the medium itself at this point — and the last few years in particular have been a veritable renaissance for the IP as far as games are concerned, with Dragon Ball Xenoverse and especially Xenoverse 2’s enduring, long term success, the incredible Dragon Ball FighterZ, and even the less impressive but still great Dragon Ball Kakarot. They’ve all hit a lot of different play styles too — while, obviously, owing to what the property is, you can see certain types of games being favoured more over the others when adapting it (for example, a Dragon Ball Match-3 game probably isn’t as exciting for fans of the IP as a fighting game, a brawler, or an RPG), Namco’s excellent management of the game output of the series keeps things mixed and varied.
However, I don’t think even given that variety, and the series’ typical penchant for trying out a wide array of different styles of games, anyone would have expected Dragon Ball: The Breakers. Seriously, at what point did anyone sit down and say, “you know what I really want, I want a Dead by Daylight game, but Dragon Ball”? Because that’s what The Breakers is — taking the by now extremely well trod and popular style of asymmetric multiplayer gameplay popularized by that game (and others like it), and pretty much just applying a Dragon Ball skin to it.
The funny thing is, it works. The Breakers doesn’t really try to upend genre conventions much — the few things it brings to the table (most of them tied into the imagery and lore of the franchise it is based on) are additive and do add some wrinkles, but aren’t massive game changers that will cascade on to the rest of the genre from here on out or anything. It’s a pretty straightforward take on the “Dead by Daylight but Dragon Ball” elevator pitch (which, admittedly, isn’t a straightforward pitch in and of itself, but that’s water under the bridge at this point).
"I really do think that prologue sucks, by the way. It’s not just bad as a tutorial (which it is very bad at being), but the attempt to tell a story explaining how or why you ended up with “Dead by Daylight but Dragon Ball” doesn’t really work."
After a short prologue – which does a positively ghastly job of onboarding you and getting you to grips with the mechanics of the game to the extent that you’d probably be better pressed just skipping it and figuring stuff out on the fly for yourself as you go along — you’re basically free to dig in. I really do think that prologue sucks, by the way. It’s not just bad as a tutorial (which it is very bad at being), but the attempt to tell a story explaining how or why you ended up with “Dead by Daylight but Dragon Ball” doesn’t really work.
That failure isn’t actually to do with the story, where the game does a surprisingly decent job of tying the game’s premise to the series and the lore and history associated with it. It’s more to do with how badly it is told. The Breakers is not a full price game (we’ll get back to this shortly), and the very clearly tight budget it was made on is at full display in this prologue, which is the heaviest on storytelling and presentation this game ever gets. The cutscene direction is limp and flaccid, the voice acting is terrible, and there is almost no weight to anything that happens, no sense of properly framing the action or pacing the cinematography. It is legitimately horrible, almost as if they accidentally shipped the game with placeholder cutscenes they put in in the pre-alpha stage and had meant to replace with something, not even better, but actually complete. Right now, the storytelling is so bad it doesn’t even feel complete in how it is put together.
The actual premise (one that sees you play as not one of the series’ many iconic heroes or villains, but as plain old regular folk who live in the Dragon Ball universe and get sucked in — literally — into the mess that the aforementioned heroes and villains keep creating) is a pretty promising one, so it’s actually a little disappointing to see it squandered here. I certainly hope this isn’t the last time a Dragon Ball game attempts to go down this road, I’d love to see something more focused on the narrative and story side of things set in the universe and following this conceit in the future — hopefully with a higher budget too.
Honestly though, as bad as the storytelling in this game is, and as bad go a first impression as it does make, it really doesn’t matter for much (or at all) when it comes to The Breakers. As I said, the prologue is probably the heaviest on story the game ever gets, so once you are done with it, or skip it, you really don’t have to deal with that part of the game and all of its myriad of shortcomings, any more. For almost the entire time you spend with Breakers, you will be playing asymmetric multiplayer games, and whether or not you like The Breakers will come down to a) how much you like that concept and b) how much you like how this game specifically goes about it.
"If you are a fan of the IP, the concept, and/or both, then very honestly, in spite of my griping, there’s enough to like here. It is legitimately fun, and just kicking back and playing a couple matches daily can more than cover for the cost of entry."
As far as the concept itself goes, it is obviously a fun one, and there is a reason it is so enduring and popular. You either play as one of the series’ iconic villains (called a “Raider” in this game), or as one of seven civilians; as a civilian, your goal is to activate several objectives around the map (power points for the super time machine you can use to escape the map, charged with various keys strewn around the map that you can collect) to activate an escape point within the time limit. If you’re playing as a Raider, you’re super powerful, and your goal is to do whatever you can to stop the civilians from escaping.
There are, obviously, other considerations — you find pickups across the map that can help you traverse and fight, there are secondary and tertiary objectives, the map itself keeps you on your toes, you can collect Dragon Balls to grant yourself a wish that can have some pretty major impacts on the flow of a game, and you can even charge up a super meter that lets you temporarily channel a Dragon Ball hero (such as Goku) and use their power to take on the Raider directly and hopefully hold them at bay while the other Raiders do what is needed to win.
This is the part of the game where it — well, not shines, that’s too strong a word, but this is where it’s at its strongest. A lot of that probably has to do with the central concept being fun, and The Breakers being at the very least a competent take on it. It still has several shortcomings here — the controls are way too floaty, the HUD and UI isn’t the best at communicating what needs to be done, the UX is far too obtuse for some very basic functionality, and the camera is just baffling —but in spite of these issues, the core concept is fun, and whether you are trying to slowly sneak your way around the map building up your arsenal, powering up the super time machine, and only getting noticed by the time it’s too late for anything to be done about it, or you are playing as a raider and showing those pesky civilians who is boss, you’re going to enjoy yourself sufficiently. It’s almost worth the cost of admission, in a vacuum — until you remember it’s also about the same price as other games in the genre, which do what this does, but better. It’s still enjoyable, and the Dragon Ball flavouring may be enough to beef the game up in the eyes of fans of that series, and certainly enough to make up for its shortcomings elsewhere. But that is a question you need to ask yourself, are you a big enough Dragon Ball fan that you a) want a Dragon Ball skinned Dead by Daylight style game, and b) want that enough to put up with some stumbles.
If you are a fan of the IP, the concept, and/or both, then very honestly, in spite of my griping, there’s enough to like here. It is legitimately fun, and just kicking back and playing a couple matches daily can more than cover for the cost of entry. The monetization in the game feels mostly fair (there is a “dacha” loot box style RNG driven system, and there is a Battle Pass, though the latter is explicitly free, albeit allowing you to “buy” ranks). In my opinion, the compact format of the game, and the inherent funness of the concept, make playing a few matches a day daily engaging enough that you automatically end up engaging in a lot of “the grind” that locks away a lot of some of the more cool stuff — but, again, this will come down more to your personal tolerance for grinding than anything.
If you do manage to sit through all of the game’s many, many, many failings, you will at the very least enjoy the core here on a fundamental level, and definitely something that’s enjoyable thanks to how it reconciles its bizarre elevator pitch with the trappings of a beloved IP. I have a lot of complaints about The Breakers, but I still like it enough that I plan to keep playing a game or two daily for at the very least the foreseeable future. It obviously does enough right at a base level to remain engaging, if nothing else.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 5.
It's an intriguing elevator pitch that the game mostly does right by; core concept is fun, and the game does it well enough; monetization is surprisingly fair; the attempts at a story, while falling flat, do touch upon some interesting ideas.
The production values are terrible; the storytelling is awful; the tutorialization is really bad; the UX and UI are obtuse; the camera and controls can fight the player a lot.