X gon’ give it to ya
Back in 2010, if you had asked someone what Xenoblade Chronicles was, chances are that few people could give you an answer. Due to an exclusivity deal with Gamestop and its already niche appeal as a JRPG, the game was something of a cult classic. However, with Shulk, the game’s protagonist, being inducted into the roster of Super Smash Bros. for WiiU and 3DS, the series has been on the up and up as of late. Though not showing earth-shattering levels of improvement, sales and praises for the latest entry, Xenoblade Chronicles X, have been pouring in at a greater rate than the original title.
Now, before this becomes a sales report, let’s take a more in-depth look at Xenoblade Chronicles X.
Game Name: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Developer(s): Monolith Soft, Nintendo, Kusanagi
Release Date: 4/29/15 (JP) 12/4/2015 (NA, EU, AUS)
In the year 2054, two alien forces waged a war of fearsome power and indomitable technology, with Earth caught in the crossfire. Foreseeing the destruction of their home, the coalition government launched Project Exodus, a plan to evacuate Earth before it was too late. The great war caught many evacuating vessels in its crossfire, but one ship, the White Whale, made it out to find a new planet. That planet would be Mira, a lush, wild world full of beautiful and dangerous creatures. Now, the denizens of the White Whale must rebuild society on this new home while looking for missing parts of the ship that were lost in an emergency crash landing. You play a customization silent protagonist who must do his best to aid and protect the newly formed city of New Los Angeles.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is an MMORPG through and through – with the main combat gameplay consisting of special attacks called “arts” that run on timed cool down, and automatic attacks by all parties to fill the blank space in between them. Sounds simple enough on the surface, but like almost everything else the game has to offer, this is easy to learn, and hard to master. So much so that a new player is left in the dust if they don’t read the digital manual.
Truth be told, the manual is practically necessary to get by if you haven’t played the original Xenoblade Chronicles. There are so many systems and subsystems in the game that plenty gets lost in the mix, and tutorials throw so much at you that it becomes difficult to keep track of what’s what.
Personally, I played a good 15 hours before I knew that classes granted passive bonuses that you could select from. It took me 20 to realize that melee and ranged arts would cool down at much faster speeds if you have the corresponding weapon type equipped. Mind you, I did play through the original Xenoblade Chronicles; I can’t imagine the problems I would have had along the way if I were new to the series.
Though there is a lot of reading involved, the game pays all that effort back with depth. Some arts do more damage depending on what part of the enemy you’re facing, some arts do bonus damage if they are used after certain other arts, and some arts are so powerful that they use up a resource called “tension,” which is built through certain arts and auto attacks, because they would simply be overpowered if they could be used at the player’s beck and call. Skills (the aforementioned passive bonuses) can be of great use in fights, offering a wide spectrum of bonuses including damage, critical chance, and more. Conscious swapping between ranged and melee weapons becomes invaluable because it allows you to lower certain cool down and get powerful combos out faster. Simply put, the combat is deep and though it takes some getting used to, you’ll be glad you took the time to read up.
Unlike the original Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X fully embraces its identity as an MMORPG as opposed to just borrowing MMORPG gameplay. This, of course, comes with a host of pros and cons.
As someone who was in it mostly for a single player experience, the online features proved to be a bit of an annoyance. The in-game message system is not exclusive to the hub city, causing an over-sized message box to clutter my screen far too often, which wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t a maturity issue within the player base. For the entire duration of my time with the game, I saw maybe two messages inquiring about recruiting players. The rests were either praising the size of the world, people talking about how they miss the cast of Xenoblade Chronicles, or people telling people to press L+A (add message to favorites). Messages can be turned off, but it’s a real shame that the experience in an MMO improves once you’ve cut a line of communication to other players.
In addition to combat, the player must explore the world and place markers to update the game’s navigation system which must have data on specific amounts of the world before story missions can start. Though exploring the world is integral to any MMO, these tasks often feel forced and arbitrary, detracting from the already somewhat sluggish story. Unlike the other points, this is a loss on both sides. The more story-driven Xenoblade Chronicles didn’t need such forced completion in exploration, and even by MMO standards, the method by which the player is forced to explore is more of a forced roadblock than part of the journey; perhaps if there were more significant quests tied to this action than “survey 20% of the map.”
Where in Xenoblade Chronicles there were a set number of characters that all had a distinct role to play, including the player character, Xenoblade Chronicles X has a class system wherein the player can choose which role they fill. As an MMO, this is to be expected as players need to fill different roles to make balanced teams, but it comes at the cost of detracting from the story mode. To clarify: most characters besides the player in Xenoblade Chronicles X are not unique, rather, they are locked as a certain class. This causes certain characters to become redundant due to the fact that since there are only six classes that can be worked towards, and as a result it’s almost certain that the player character will fill the same role as an NPC.
On top of that, due to needing to maintain balance in classes, roles are much more strictly defined. In Xenoblade Chronicles, characters were versatile, usually offering high damage as well as utility; however, here the player has to sacrifice in most areas to excel in another. Granted, this is to be expected from an MMO, so whether this is a pro or a con is really up to you.
The world of Mira is vast and beautiful, but this comes at a price: the WiiU is the weakest of the three major consoles this generation, and as a result, the system has issues running the game. Load times are long just for the base world: textures, vehicles, and even NPCs and enemies often took a while to load in after the load screen finished. This has caused me to waste time waiting to turn in quests as well as run in place until a massive truck materializes in front of me, all while my WiiU makes a whirring sound akin to the rusty metal fan my college roommate was somehow comforted by. Allegedly this is made better through downloading some of the game’s assets that were made available on the eshop, but I didn’t notice much of a difference. Worse still, these data packs added up to 15 gigabytes. 15. Normally, this would be fine, but the WiiU’s biggest built-in hard drive is 32 gigs. These data packs are not really a realistic option for those who have any downloaded content on their WiiU and prefer not geting an external hard drive for the benefit of a single game. However, if you get everything up and running, the visuals are quite good, even if it takes a while to see them in their full glory.
As for the rest of the technical side of things, the music hits all the right notes: being mellow in relaxed environments, wondrous in beautiful expanses, and intense in battle; but the inclusion of vocals in certain tracks as well as the more urban feel of the hub city theme make the soundtrack wear itself out faster than it otherwise would. Sound effects can be pretty hit or miss; hit and attack sounds are quality and quite fitting to the situation at hand, but environmental noises such as walking on certain types of terrain or swimming have bizarrely dated sound effects.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 7.5/10
Sound - 8/10
Value - 9/10
A Rose By Any Other Name May Just Smell Sweeter
Xenoblade Chronicles X, for what it's worth, is a great game; however, it is by no means Xenoblade Chronicles 2. There's nothing wrong with this, but in all honesty, I found it hard to shake character-driven narrative and more engaging situations from the original title looming over my head while playing. However, this is purely a personal issue; Xenoblade Chronicles X stands strong on its own, providing a beautiful new world with a host of nuances and intricacies to keep players engaged throughout. Definitely worth the buy for someone looking for a less committed and unique MMO.
- Beautiful, open world
- Intense, developed MMO combat
- Mech suits.
- Stilted progression through errands
- Long load times (longer still for certain assets)
- Annoying message system