Xenoblade Chronicles X Review
It has been a long while since Nintendo fans can boast that their system has a game that the majority of JRPG and western RPG fans will actually want. In fact, it is the first time in a long while – Mario Kart 8? – that Nintendo fans can boast about anything coming out on the Wii U. Xenoblade Chronicles X is not “the game” to save the Wii U, but it does have the potential to move a few units this holiday season.
Authors Note: We have assigned a score to Xenoblade Chronicles X but rest assured this is definitely a review in progress. When we have a substantial update to the review content we will repost and advertise that fact. Happy reading!
I’ve spent many hours with this game; actually, I have probably spent many DAYS with this game. As my game log creeps above and beyond 50 hours – moving onto 75 before the game even launches this week Friday – I feel like I’m playing a game with plenty of peaks interrupted by a few deep valleys. While longtime admirers of the Xenoblade franchise might disagree, Chronicles X is far from a perfect game.It’s not bad, mind you, but it’s also not getting Game of the Year credentials, at least not from myself.
Character Customization, Getting Started
Customizing your character isn’t likely to take you as long as the Fallout 4 creation, but there is still a lot to experiment with here. You can take as long as you want, or as little. The game gives you the freedom to express yourself, and in fact, begins the game on a really good note. Unfortunately, it is the first few – is 5-8 hours considered a few? – hours that really can suck the entertainment and fun out of this title. Without some real dedication, a lot of gamers might die on the doorstep of this one.
I have never been on to go on and on about a games story, mostly because I do not want Games Reviews to be responsible for any spoilers. I tend to limit my comments to whether or not the story is bad, good, or adequate. In Xenoblade Chronicles X, the story for the most part is adequate. If you have the patience to dive in, learn the lore involved, and communicate with NPC’s on a frequent basis, I would say the story, and the sub stories that surround it, are actually pretty good. However, like many large, open world games, the story is the catalyst for the exploration, looting, and killing you plan to do for hte next 100+ hours.
Be fair warned now: the beginning of Chronicles X is a slog. If the analogy can be made, the first 5 or so hours of Xenoblade is somewhat like a football game. A few minutes of action followed by double to triple the amount of cut scenes. It is really hard to get into the game, get a feel for your character and the good cast of supporting characters, and learn about your new world yourself, because of all the scenes you are forced to watch. On top of that, the game gives you the illusion that you get to make choices, when in fact, you will ultimately need to clear ALL the dialogue options to move on. So, if you are given the choice to do A, B, or C, the game will force you to do one specific action. So while you might get to explore the dialogue and answers behind doors B and C, you ultimately must choose A to progress the story. It might be a lame criticism, but it’s rather annoying.
The reality is, compared to other open world RPG titles with confusing game mechanics – of which I would argue Xenoblade is one of the easiest to understand – the game is far from streamlined early on. I will give one example.
At the beginning of the game you join the ranks of BLADE and are required to select a division to be a part off. While all quests in the game are open to all divisions, some may be altered based on your choice, and quests aimed at your division yield more XP. Unfortunately, the process of choosing your division is preceded by a fairly long cut scene explaining your choices. On one hand, the information is valuable for making an important decision, but on an other, I’d much prefer the ability to look a and read each myself right away, since that is what I ended up doing anyways after the scene ended.
Exploration Beyond Belief
After the first few hours, Xenoblade really takes off, and quickly. The world opens up and you begin exploring Mira with your cast of tag along companions. My favorite and least favorite tag along characters are given to you right away. While Elma has a lot of redeeming qualities that make her a great companion, Lin is just, well, super annoying.
I’ve spent hours upon hours playing Xenobalde chronicles. I have no clue how far into the story I am, because the majority of my time has been spent hunting down side quests and exploring this breath taking world. Nothing on Wii U has ever looked this good, period. As a suggestion: completionists might not need to apply for this title. You are just going to drive your self insane!
Xenoblade gives players so much to do, which is both a positive and a negative. When the main story line begins to wear on you a bit, you can easily get lost in side quests for hours. On the downside, you can get lost in side quests for hours! The reality is, however, that this holiday season, Xenobalde Chronicles X might represent your best dollar-for-dollar purchase when it comes to entertainment value. There is so much to do and after 50+ hours I’m pretty sure I have not seen everything yet.
I was expecting a deeper combat system from this game, and it definitly delivers; I would note, however, that this game is not as complex as I thought it would be. Everything is really straight forward when you get down to it. Quickly cycling between ranged and melee attacks, as well as using artes, becomes so natural very quickly. Unfortunately for myself, each and every fight became a predictable mish-mash of ranged attacks followed by melee attacks, followed by range attacks, etc. Running around, under, and over enemies while shooting is incredibly satisfying, and while the damage done by a lot of ranged weapons is pretty minimal at times, it feels far more rewarding than any melee combat ever did.
What is good about Xenoblade is that you are followed around by competent AI companions. For games such as this, I have to say it isn’t always the case; it is definitely a positive here, as you almost never venture alone. You can always be assured that your AI friends will pull their weight. The more you understand your companions and their strengths and weaknesses, the better off you will be. Certain quests and exploration moments will be far easier and more enjoyable with the right people at your side.
The combat in Xenoblade doesn’t really get a great shot in the arm until about 40-45 hours in, depending on how much you focus on story and how much you focus on exploration. Skells are amazing pieces of technology that get teased in the first hour of game play, and then don’t get used until many hours in. Only the most dedicated Xenoblade players will get to experience the Skells. Trust me, you don’t want to miss them as they make traversing the environment and fighting larger enemies not only possible, but more enjoyable. Be fair warned: there are a good number of enemies who you won’t defeat without a Skell.
Going online is an option for player in Xenoblade Chronicles X, although it is by no means required. Players can team up with 31 other individuals online and complete specific quests – kill a certain enemy type, collect items, etc. – and while participation is voluntary, the spoils are worth it. The game also has other online interactions that will allow you to sell and buy items, but I had very limited time with this as very few individuals were actually playing the game, at least at the same time as myself.
The biggest issue I have with Xenoblade, outside of the slow, s—-l——o——w start, is quests. You can have a lot of active quests at once and it can get overwhelming. On top of this, certain main quests won’t unlock if you haven’t completed side quests. The worst thing you can do is focus solely on completing quests – you will drive yourself insane! Fortunately, competent, easy to navigate menus – with small text by the way – are your savior in instances like this.
This review is not done, despite a score being affixed to the end. There is just so much to do, and to try and say I’ve finished the entire game would be a lie. I haven’t even seen the ending yet, although at this point, whether good or bad, it doesn’t change my score. After getting out of the first number of hours, I’ve had a blast with this title. There is so much to do, I doubt I’ll really need any other Nintendo title before Zelda launches next year! (this is NOT an exaggeration).
Be realistic: you won’t finish this game in a week ,or even a month. It will take time and dedication. Nothing is overly hard about Xenoblade – despite a deep battle system. Everything is accessible, everything is explain – and at times over explained – and ultimately the game wants you to have fun and wants to give you options. It succeeds on both fronts. Whether you play for the story, for the world, or the cast of side characters, there is something to love for almost anybody in Xenoblade Chronicles X. You can grab your copy this week on Wii U!