I’d love to give everyone a formal review of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but the sad realism is that this is just way too big of a game and the time I’m afforded in life to play is very limited. I did manage to sneak in about 10 hours this weekend playing though. Anything related to X is just going to be how I feel at that particular time of writing, so bare with me.
So, to start off, Xenoblade Chronicles X was the game that hooked me three years ago and had me convinced that I needed to buy a Wii U. The announcement trailer from E3 2013 left me in absolute awe, even before I knew what the game was actually titled; outside of “X.” A month later, I sold my Xbox 360 and bought the Wii U. Of course, I didn’t know that this was going to be such a long wait. [Luckily, I’ve head plenty of great games to hold me over] As anyone could imagine, my expectations were pretty high.
Have they been met? Well, I can’t really give a definitive answer yet. I’ve sunk about 15 hours into the game and I’m currently on Chapter 3 of the main story line; finding that I’m just too under-leveled to do what I need to. So, instead, I’m taking my time to explore and grind a little on the way. The sheer magnitude and size of X is insane. When you finally get out of the gate and are allowed to explore, it’s breathtaking. The world actually looks and feels like a real living, breathing organism; the environment and wildlife are almost surreal. One of the major complaints I read about X was how the encounters worked, with some pretty unfair areas with high leveled creatures. Personally, I think that’s the beauty of it all. Everything is just coexisting and they all know their place in this world; it’s me that doesn’t. It makes the plight of civilization seem more realistic, as it’s not trying to sugarcoat anything.
The basic plot is simple; Earth got destroyed after being in the cross-hairs of two warring alien civilizations. One ship managed to escape and floated around in space for two years until the war finally caught up with them again; which knocked them into an unknown planet, which has been deemed Mira. There, what’s left of humanity has been living in a biosphere city, New Los Angeles, for two months. Now, they’re scouring the lands, trying to find anyone that may be out there, while trying to map out and understand the planet. There’s definitely more, but this is all I know right now. Obviously, some major conflict needs to occur.
Your character is one of the people that was rescued out in the wilderness, and right from the go you’re thrown into this world. As you stagger your way back to NLA, you’ll soon find yourself facing down and trying to avoid enemies; one of which is the battle system itself. It’s one of those systems that’s actually well done, but by way of instructions on how to use it, there aren’t any… within the game, at least. My recommendation is to read the digital manual and learn the mechanics. I didn’t, because I’m stupid, and eventually a few things clicked on accident.
You decide to engage and enemy by facing them and hitting the R button. There, you choose your weapon and hit A to start attacking. All attacking is done automatically, but it works in real time. Therefore, you have to evade attacks and switch up weapon types based on how the battle is being fought. I usually hang back with the gun and then swoop in with my knife weapon when I need to. You also have a roster of special attacks that can be implemented, which all have recharge and cool down rates. They can be upgraded and switched based on leveling up, and your teammates all have theirs was well. When taking down an enemy, it’s best to pinpoint target appendages that can often immobilize them. For example, if you go after a tree dinosaur, target their legs and make them fall over, then rush in and knife them. There are plenty of skills to unlock and ways to play in combat. You always have a team following you around, so it’s possible to play this how you’d like. I like to play as a support character that heals and draws the attention of whatever I’m fighting while allowing my teammates to run in and do their attacks. Think of it as team-based Monster Hunter, only characters auto attack.
My only real complaint is just that the characters are a little bland, and sometimes the voice acting isn’t as on par as it could be. Cut scenes are sometimes a little shallow too and suffer from that janky PS2-era video game weirdness. You know, where the mouth movements don’t always line up and characters have these bizarre blank stares going on. It’s not horrible or anything, but it’s just noticeable enough to take you out of the game for a little bit.
Oh, and Skells, the super cool robot mech suits that were heavily shown in every trailer, aren’t unlocked until about 40 hours into the game. And even then, I understand that even after you gain the ability to pilot one, you still have to go through a process to obtain a license to pilot it. While I really hate that, it reinforces that nothing in this game is just given to you; you really have to earn every achievement you manage to obtain. Real life, I guess.
A lot of people have been complaining about the soundtrack too; specifically, Black Tar. They claim that the music doesn’t really sit the theme of the game and ruins what could have otherwise been something great. Personally, I disagree. It sounds like something out of Attack on Titan, which seems fitting considering you have to take down beasts so goddamn big that you need a robot to do it. Lyrically, it’s a ridiculous song… but, I think that’s kinda funny and awesome.
Normally, this isn’t the kind of game I play. I just don’t have the time to sit around and dump 100 hours into a game; which is why, typically, everything I play is limited to/best enjoyed in short burst sessions. Luckily, no major releases are scheduled for the Wii U until March, leaving plenty of time available for me to play through this. I look forward to going home after work and plugging in a few hours here and there too, so that should say something. Even when I’m not doing anything and just decide to walk around, it’s a fantastic experience that I can’t possibly get tired of because there’s so much to explore. If you have a Wii U and you’re looking for a good JRPG to play, this is it. Will it meet my expectations? I don’t know. But for now, I’m in awe of Mira.