In a year full of open world games, including a number of which fans have been waiting years for, Xenoblade Chronicles X stands amongst the biggest. After being revealed two years ago, fans have been anxiously waiting for the title to land on the Wii U and show off what the console can do with an open world RPG. Now that the time has come, Xenoblade Chronicles X has proven itself to be an extremely immersive and massive experience.
Although some may see Xenoblade Chronicles X as a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles there is no reason to be concerned about missing out on any story details if you haven’t played the original game as the story told in this game does not tie into the original in any way. In Xenoblade Chronicles X the Earth was caught in the cross-fire between alien races that saw the planet eventually being destroyed by the alien’s overwhelming technological superiority. Before the annihilation of the planet, interstellar Ark ships containing most of the surviving humans attempted to evacuate.
By all appearances, only the White Whale ark ship managed to escape before being destroyed. A few short years later the White Whale is shot down by a pursuing enemy and crash lands on the alien planet Mira. Luckily, Mira happens to be a planet capable of supporting human life and in a few short months the survivors managed to establish the home base of “New Los Angeles” where the BLADE task force serves as protectors, explorers, scavengers for the rest of humanity. It is thanks to one of these BLADE members, named Elma, that the player is found as the only survivor in a cluster of pods.
The player’s created male/female character suffers from amnesia and serves as the title’s mostly silent protagonist as they are ushered into the BLADE unit and told that one of the key goals of the organization is to find the missing Lifehold, where the majority of the humans aboard the White Whale were kept safe. This places players on a fairly straightforward sounding path that unfortunately leaves quite a bit to be desired, since not only are the majority of the player’s party members given very little development but the way that story progress is designed forces players to often ignore it for periods of time, giving the already generic space opera storyline far less impact than it may have had if handled better.
You see, in Xenoblade Chronicles X the majority of the time you’ll find yourself in the field battling against a wide range of foes and exploring the massive open world and this is certainly a big plus, but because of the game’s focus on creating an enjoyable open world there are also certain requirements that must be met to actually continue on with the story. This means that grinding between plot points becomes a familiar task that often kills the story’s momentum despite how fantastic certain sequences play out and the handful of twists that try to spice things up, leaving players with a lackluster story set in a fantastic world.
As mentioned a bit earlier, the majority of the time player’s will be spending in Xenoblade Chronicles X will be out in the field and that is exactly where this game shines. Now before going further, it is highly recommended that you spend the time to read the in-game manual as much as possible because this is a game that introduces a large number of mechanics at once and gives only the bare-minimum of explanations about the various systems, meaning that a little bit of reading up will do wonders for the initial rocky hours.
When first introduced to the world, it is a bit easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of activities that players can undertake as practically entire world is opened up allowing players to explore five vastly different areas as long as they feel like taking a walk and risking encountering some massive and dangerous enemies along the way since as the world is opened from the start for those who simply wish to explore. The main hub for everything is New Los Angeles, where players will be introduced to the various mechanics and it is here that players will take on side-quests and main quests, obtain/upgrade/research equipment, outfit the eventually unlocked Skells (mechs), and much more.
Outside of the main hub players will encounter an absolutely massive world filled with creatures of all different kinds and sizes. In fact, each of the five unique areas players will be exploring will have its own unique set of monsters to encounter and although these indigenous creatures don’t interact with one another, the way they act does slightly mimic a thriving ecosystem, especially since various leveled creatures will be populating a location as well as the fact that most enemies aren’t openly hostile to the player and their party. While certain enemies will attack on sight (signified by a certain icon by the name) players will often be able to get the first strike on enemies.
Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles X does take a bit of getting used to initially as players will find the fighting system something of a free-flow system. In combat players are only able to directly control their character and standard attacks are handled automatically with the character either using their melee weapon or ranged weapon with players being able to swap at the tap of the button. While fighting like this players will be able to select Arts (combat abilities) from their skill-bar using the d-pad to unleash stronger specialized skills, often ones that benefit from being positioned properly, such as attacking an enemy from the side, or provide buffs to themselves and their party.
Often throughout a fight players will be able to set up special situations where they can either target a specific limb for destruction or taking advantage of Quick Time Event prompts, that often heal or provide additional affects, which appear when characters utilize specific skills. This may sound like a complicated system, and it indeed is one, but it is one that players will be able to customize to fit their liking, though not enough that they will actually have true control of the battlefield since the lack of healing items will come as an initial shock.
Once everything is in place however the combat system will feel incredibly fluid as players swap between ranged and melee attacks to utilize their skills, target enemy weakpoints, properly timing the use of a skill alongside a party member to deal additional damage, and position themselves to deal extra damage. This does wonders for the game thanks to the fact that so much of what makes Xenoblade Chronicles X an enjoyable title comes from the exploration and combat system, so the fact that, once properly learned, the combat system remains highly enjoyable after sinking over fifty hours into the game is essential.
Part of this is thanks to the fact that players will earn base levels as well as class levels. Players will find that it is incredibly easy to swap between the many classes offered in the game, with only three main classes being offered initially but more branching off later and with each one offering a unique set of Arts and special skills to provide additional benefits it is easy to find something that will fit your playstyle while also allowing for a large variety to keep things feeling fresh.
A bit earlier I also mentioned Skells and after getting quite a ways into the title players will find themselves being able to undertake a quest line to obtain a Skell License. While a pain to deal with and something that despite being introduced early is held back for a surprising length of time, completing the quest line gives players the ability to pilot one of these giant flying mechs. Skells provide a massive boost to the player’s combat ability as well as their speed of traveling since they can now transform into a vehicle for faster movement and of course back into their standard form to quickly annihilate lower creatures while finally being able to challenge some of the gigantic enemies that they could never fathom facing off against while on foot. These mech suits add another layer of depth to the customization system as they can be outfitted a number of different ways and truly make the player feel powerful, though they do cost an immense amount of money to keep running properly so there is some balance in that regard.
While combat is the key part of the game, so is exploration and undertaking simple side-missions from the BLADE forces. These side-missions range from being incredibly simple to being rather difficult since certain item drops from field collection are entirely random, meaning it can occasionally take an hour to simply gather a basic item for a quest. Players will find themselves exploring large swathes of land quite often and thankfully the title does support a fast travel system, courtesy of mining probes that players need to place in certain locations that also provide special material used to upgrade and research equipment, and a very handy map that is always available via the GamePad.
Outside of the standard single player mode Xenoblade Chronicles X also offers a rather enjoyable multiplayer mode that allows players to play along with a few of their friends on some side-quests and if things in the single player are getting difficult, it is also possible to recruit someone else’s created character for a period of time to serve as a potential boost to push past a difficult foe.
Visuals & Audio
Xenoblade Chronicles X offers an amazingly massive world and perhaps one of the biggest you’ll actually find in an open world RPG. The five different lands players will be exploring are all varied nicely and with enemies changing depending on the location and many areas in these lands having wonderful looking landmarks, it is clear that a lot of care has been put into creating the world that players will be traveling through, though it is worth noting that the title does suffer from some pop-in when it comes to enemies appearing. That being said, the title doesn’t suffer from any drops in frame-rate regardless of how much action seemed to be going on at any given time, even while fighting in the flashy Skells.
The character models are rather varied in design in Xenoblade Chronicles X but unfortunately have an extremely plastic looking finish to them and have rather poor looking facial expressions. Another issue with regarding Xenoblade Chronicles X’s graphics come in the way that their menu systems are handled as the various item screens and other interfaces are far more cluttered than one would expect making it rather difficult at times to properly sort out the massive amount of gear that players will be acquiring on longer hunts.
As far as the English dub is concerned, players will find that the voice acting is rather fitting for the game as it supports a full English dub. Many of the main cast members are voiced perfectly for the cutscenes that they do speak in, though things do take a bit of a hit when it comes to the game’s soundtrack. While initially I found myself impressed with the amount of variation and vocal tracks found in Xenoblade Chronicles X’s soundtrack, the longer the game went on the more it felt like the title’s score was being randomly put together since many times a song would play that was completely out of place with the current situation or completely swap styles from one tune to the next.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is a rare type of game. While the storyline may be poorly paced and lackluster, it does place players in a fantastic world where exploration and combat are key and the game deliver’s highly in those regards. This is a massive RPG that offers a ridiculous amount of content to delve into. Players can easily lose almost an entire day if they immerse themselves into the fluid combat system explore and the masterfully designed world of Mira where there always seems to be something new to discover even when you’re already sixty hours in.
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