This article is sponsored by PQube and Metal Max Xeno Reborn.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn is an open-world JRPG remake of Metal Max Xeno, a game initially released in 2018 exclusively in Japan. For the new Western release, Kadokawa Games has made some rather big changes to many aspects of the original, and it ends up feeling like quite the lo-fi apocalypse.
There’s a new overall art style and redone character designs, but the biggest changes include a shift to a free-roaming open world instead of a linear path, and pseudo real-time combat rather than a more traditional turn-based system. The action will pause and allow you to pick attacks, but on the enemy’s turn you’re free to drive around or attempt to flee. It’s interesting to see locations from the original game that are now traversable instead of just set dressing, but the setting and premise remain the same.
You play as spiky-haired anime boy Talis, who is trying to survive an AI-created apocalypse along with a ragtag group of survivors. You and your team pilot an assortment of tanks and tank-like vehicles, going up against hostile mechs and giant bioengineered insects. You also have a metal left arm that fires projectiles and a pet Shiba Inu with a machine gun strapped to its back. For all of Metal Max Xeno’s overt anime stylings and heavy weapons aesthetic, it’s actually surprisingly laid back when it comes to its progression and character interactions.
Whereas the original game shuffles you through several dialog scenes with many characters providing exposition and plot at every opportunity, Metal Max Xeno Reborn strips a lot of that context out and somewhat abandons you in its desert wasteland to find your own way. I found myself running into easy-to-handle giant bugs and collecting random tank parts as rewards, then getting stopped in my tracks by massive half-buried mechs who’d blow me to hell right away.
Progression feels slow, but it’s also free of any dramatic pressure. I never got the sense that I needed to get anywhere fast or that the world was suffering because of my slow pace. Heading back to base camp in order to resupply on ammo and upgrade tank components is accompanied by soothing lo-fi tunes; your dog companion hangs around waiting to be petted or fed giant ant legs. There’s even a working jukebox in an upstairs bar area where the bartender will tell you how the apocalypse came about, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Eventually you’ll need to search out and recruit new team members who will help you in the wasteland — and who will undoubtedly get you mixed up in trying to save humanity from this rogue AI. But none of the story progression is forced on you, and deep down we all know that AI’s probably onto something. Instead, you can elect to hang out in your bunker and play with your dog. It’s refreshing in a JRPG to not have the fate of the world thrust upon you — at least not right away. I was more than content to bum around the apocalypse with a few oddball friends and chill vibes. That’s not something you have an opportunity to do very often in a game.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam.