Written by Twisted Ideas
Xenoblade Chronicles X was Nintendo’s highest profile third-party game for 2015. Visually stunning for the system and stood out from the crowd in the triple A gaming circles. It is technically a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles the same way that it was apart of the Xeno series but does not follow its story. It’s a sci-fi story of epic proportions but is Xenoblade Chronicles X a pillar for the Wii U’s limited library.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Developer: Monolith Soft
Platform: Wii U
What is it about?
Earth is on a losing battle against the Ganglion invasion. As a final gambit, Earth’s governments evacuates the planet on numerous space stations in hopes of survival. The only known survival are those on New Los Angeles who have crash landed on the planet Mira, after fending off a Ganglion assault. Humanity needs to integrate the planets locals, protect themselves against its hostilities and prepare themselves against another Ganglion attack.
How does it play?
Xenoblade Chronicles X is an open world JRPG with combat mechanics similar to MMORPGs.
Mira is a massive world, divided into several regions with a variety of wildlife and dangers. Enemies can either be passive until provoked or hostile on sight. High and low leveled enemies are scattered regions and strong enemies can disrupt fights if they’re too close. Powerful enemies occasionally used to gate off areas and make exploration difficult because you’re typically able to beat anything too high beyond your level.
The game has three main types of missions: Story missions, affinity missions and side missions. Story missions will progress the game, unlocking new missions every chapter. Affinity missions revolve around your companions, requiring your relationship to be high enough to undertake. Side missions vary from hunting/gathering or small stories regarding the locals of NLA.
You are tasked with installed probes throughout Mira for valuable intel. Probes reveal a portion of the map on your FrontierNav and minimap, as well as creating Fast Travel points. Probe sites are the primary source of credits (income) and miranium (upgrade resource). Basic probes are initially installed but they can be replaced with research and mining probes for focused returns and combat related probes that give bonuses throughout the region.
Characters can equip a firearm and melee weapon along with armor. Equipment with open slots can equip augments to add passive effects to them. Your class influences the arts (combat abilities) and skills (buffs) you learn. Arts are your main source of damage. Classes provide arts that work well together in combos for even great damage. All arts have a cooldown after use as well as a secondary cooldown after it’s ready to use for a powerful bonus. Characters will periodically attack with their equipped weapon and will earn TP. 1000 TP is used by certain arts and 3000 TP is used to revive characters and to trigger overdrive. Overdrive buffs your character, greatly reduces cooldown and unlocking tertiary cooldown bonuses for arts.
Soul Voice is a mechanic that provides buffs to your party and is the main source of healing during combat. Certain combat action will sometimes trigger a Soul Challenge QTE. A large orange ring will enclose on a icon. Successful Soul Challenges will provide a buff based on how you customized your Soul Voices. Soul Challenge get faster the more are seen in a battle.
Midway through the story, you can earn a skell license. Skells are powerful, personalized combat mechs. Skells have separate gear and aren’t affected by most augments equipped on the pilot. Skell weapons also have their own arts. Skells require fuel for combat and flight. If you run out of fuel then you can only use normal attacks. You can refuel by exiting the skell or by spending a refuel item or miranium. If a skell’s health reach zero then it’s destroyed. Skells have insurance points that can replace them but if you run out then you have to pay a high price if you want it back.
There is an online component. You can join players online and participate in short missions, offer equipment drops for sale to other players and complete squad missions for reward tickets. You also earn daily division reward items which are the only source of consumable items in the game.
How does it look?
The design of Mira and its creature is incredible. Much like the prior game, Xenoblade Chronicles X make a massive, varied world unlike most open world games. Mira is populated with wildlife so you can’t go far without seeing something. Each region is varied and has distinguishable terrain so you never get too lost when you’re not viewing the map.
The graphics aren’t the best even on hardware comparable to the Wii U. The game looks dated but the visual design makes up for the hardware limitations. The real sticking issue is the lack of options when customizing your main character. It’s really sad.
What’s great about the visuals are that every piece of gear is visible on your party. You can’t color gear anymore, other than skells but you can equip equipment as fashion gear. You get to keep the look you want and still equip the best gear for your character.
How does it sound?
The soundtrack is well composed and varied. There are a lot of genres that you wouldn’t expect from a sci-fi game. You have techno rock, orchestral themes but also stuff like hip-hop and very causal themes too. Some tracks have great vocals too.
The voice acting is typical but effective. There isn’t any bad voice acting but the speech patterns for some of the alien races will seem odd. It gives them characters though because of their speech patterns and distortion. It is odd when you do see some races that speak like normal humans though.
They developers didn’t even try to lip-sync the dialogue to the Japanese mouth movements. It would be very time-consuming and the written dialogue is good enough but the lack of effort is sometimes comical.
What do I think?
Xenoblade Chronicles X is fun and addicted but can be hard to crack and get into. There’s a lot of mechanics to learn and the game’s is anything but elegant at teaching you. You can get by, learning as you go and still enjoy the combat, exploration and completing missions. The biggest gripe with the game is how bad the tutorials are how vague some mission objects are.
The tutorials give you too much information too early. The in-game manual is a great reference tool but clunky to use. Most missions are straightforward but the fetch quests are not. The descriptions for gathering/hunting missions rarely narrows down the target beyond the massive region. The vagueness and the random nature of item collection can leave you stuck on missions for much longer than you would believe. It’s even harder when high level enemies detour you from somewhere you want to explore.
The story has better setup than plot. The revelations leave more questions than answers and their timing leaves little done with them. There’s no real reason that your party is kept in the dark about these revelations. The game doesn’t even build up to these moments well either, it’s mainly just shock value. The affinity and side missions contrast the seriousness of the plot, sometimes to a bizarre degree. The citizens of NLA are rather carefree. They are more concerned about their livelihoods than contributing to the immediate concerns for humanity. There’s also a lot of internal conflict among the humans as there is a lot of corruption and violence against other species and even humans.
The combat system is similar to some MMORPGs. Arts have cooldown time and there’s a plethora of stats, gear and classes to build your characters. The combat may seem dull at first glance but there’s a lot of depth once you figure it out. There’s little strategy during combat because most of it is handled outside of battle with your character build. Execution does come into play but without a good setup, fights can go long even with large level gaps against enemies because the health is so high.
Skells are my favorite aspect of the game. You’re basically a Gundam, wiping out monsters that seemed unbeatable on foot. The flight module lets you see the world in a new light. You’ll discover parts of Mira that you probably never noticed before. The upkeep is annoying but bearable if you choose your battles wisely.
Should you get it?
Xenoblade Chronicles X is a standout title for the Wii U. It has a larger scope than most games on console and manages it on inferior hardware. The game may feel outdated gameplay-wise and it doesn’t do a great job teaching you how to play but once you get comfortable then you will have a hard time putting it down. It looks stunning in its design and hopefully a sequel will bring the series to greater heights.