Well, that was big!
Xenoblade Chronicles was an outstanding JRPG, despite its arrival on the unwaveringly casual Nintendo Wii console. It was, and still is, an essential part of any JRPG fans collection. While the 3D version of the game released on the 3DS didn’t quite live up to the majestic reality of the original, it still proved to be thoroughly enjoyable. The anticipation for a new Xenoblade Chronicles game was, understandably, high.
And Monolith Soft responded to that anticipation with Xenoblade Chronicles X, an unconnected new open-world JRPG, this time on the Wii U, that in many ways manages to improve on and exceed the original Xenoblade Chronicles. With a massive alien world to explore, you had better put aside a few hundred hours for Xenoblade Chronicles X.
There are a few ways in which X is similar to the previous title, but, thankfully for newcomers, the story is in no way connected, allowing new players to jump straight in without any prior knowledge. The Earth is destroyed during a conflict between two alien races, but an escape craft known as the White Whale manages to escape, later crashing on the unknown planet of Mira. Set up as an outpost for the surviving humans, New Los Angeles is created and becomes the central hub for your exploration of this alien planet, with its varied environments and alien lifeforms.
The majority of human survivors arrived on Mira in stasis, but many were separated from the main group, with the players’ character being one of them. To make matters worse, their character also happens to have amnesia. Players are given the opportunity to customize their character to a certain degree, giving them a more individual avatar on Mira.
Unlike the previous game, X has a much wider focus than the character driven Xenoblade Chronicles. While there are some interesting characters, not counting the main character who remains silent through the game, the story doesn’t compare to the original. The small number of story chapters come with gates that will have the player achieving certain things before they can proceed, which itself leads to the story being very disjointed and staggered. Despite this, the story is not bad, it just doesn’t seem to be the focus of Xenoblade Chronicles X.
What does appear to be the focus, is the glorious exploration. The sheer size and variety of Mira is what players will come to enjoy about X. There is so much to look at, and so much to discover, that the inevitable grinding and completing of menial tasks to proceed doesn’t feel like such a bad price to pay. Traversing these gigantic environments, finding resources, and dealing with whatever local alien lifeform happens to be posing a threat will provide hours upon hours of entertainment and, while the missions that the player takes on may not always seem especially interesting, there always seems to be something new and exciting to find.
Later in the game, players will be able to get their very own Skell, an exo-suit transformer which they can even customize. Aside from the obvious advantages in combat of using Skell, and the undeniable cool factor, the suit will allow players to explore even more of the world, allowing access to previously unreachable areas. And, did I mention, it looks cool?
When it comes to the combat, this is one area where the game has similarities to the previous title. X uses a real-time battle system which will be familiar to MMO players. Coming into range with an enemy, the player character and members of their team will auto-attack using either melee or ranged weapons, and players are able to special abilities known as Arts, which all have cool down timers, to help turn the tide of battle in their favour. Various buffs and debuffs can be employed, and the huge amount of equipment and weaponry that can be found and used give further ways to customize the combat experience to the players liking. The mechanics can be a little complex, and there is not a huge amount of explanation, but they don’t take long to get to grips with, especially in the context of such a massive game.
What is also complex is the leveling, although it is only as complex as the player wants it to be. New Arts and class skills are unlocked as the player levels, and how deep they go into the system is entirely up to them. Players do not need to wade through stats if they don’t wish to, although stat-loving veteran players are well catered for as well.
It has to be said, at this point, that Xenoblade Chronicles X looks absolutely gorgeous. While the lack of power in the Wii U console is often lamented, Monolith Soft really seem to have squeezed as much as they could out of the Nintendo console, resulting in the best looking game on Wii U. Things may not look quite so great close up, but the views from a distance are simply a joy to behold.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is a matter of taste. It can be repetitive and grating, but then fans of j-pop/rocky tunes may find something here to like. The voicework, while not as impressive as that in Xenoblade Chronicles, is solid and doesn’t cause any problems.
Catering to the online, connected world in which we live, Xenoblade Chronicles X even has some multiplayer and online options. These include special missions which can be taken on with friends, and the ability to hire other players avatars to join your team for a while. They are a nice addition that can be used to provide a little more variety to the game.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is by no means a perfect game. The soundtrack is questionable, the story is not hugely involving and the various missions are quite often dull. But it is easy to get past these faults once the player is confronted with the massive open-world, which is ripe for exploration. While not suited to all Wii U gamers, RPG fans will need Xenoblade Chronicles X in their collection.