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Xenoblade Chronicles X Review

by Dean James

Monolith Soft was initially formed under the umbrella of Namco before being bought completely by Nintendo later. Serving as a first party developer, they released the critically acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, which served as a spiritual successor to their Xenosaga series. Close to three years after being first announced, their next masterpiece is here with Xenoblade Chronicles X.

While one might assume that Xenoblade Chronicles X could be a sequel to the similarly named Xenoblade Chronicles, it is instead also a spiritual successor, which allows it to offer a very different experience entirely. Taking place following a conflict between alien species near the Earth, the planet is damaged beyond repair, which leads to expeditions to find a new home. One of the escaping ships gets away, but eventually crash lands on the planet of Mira, which provides an expansive new home to explore.

Built around the city of New Los Angeles, the story found in Xenoblade Chronicles X is rather captivating, though not without occasional pacing issues. There are a number of twists found in the game, which are spread out pretty well and really do shake up what you know to that point of the game. It is not the type of story that will rank up there among the best in the genre, but it fits very well with this style of game and will keep you coming back for more.

The planet of Mira is a gorgeous planet full of life around every corner, with differing environments throughout. Many games like this would be limited in just what you can explore, but Xenoblade Chronicles X never holds back. The map itself is one of the largest in gaming history, which is made even more impressive by how beautiful it looks. While the visuals and uniqueness in design could have been spread thin to make up for this size, the game never feels this way at all.

The Wii U may be nowhere as strong as its rivals, but Xenoblade Chronicles X really does push the system to new heights. This game is just one of those where you can spend hours exploring the environments just to sightsee than anything else. With a dynamic day and night time cycle, as well as changes in weather, the world of Mira always feels alive. The music also fits in very well with the different areas found in the game, with a very eclectic mix of tracks mixed in throughout.

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While some RPGs may struggle with filling an open world environment full of creatures, Xenoblade Chronicles X does this near perfectly. There will be some repetition with the enemies at times, but the variety of different types and levels is fantastic. Just watching these enemies from a distance is a treat, including absolutely giant enemies like Luciel The Eternal that walks around as a level 92 beast and will destroy you in mere seconds. Seeing these creatures of varying sizes and level for the first time is almost akin to exploring a Jurassic Park like setting.

Rather than having a main character like Shulk to traverse this massive landscape that is Mira, Xenoblade Chronicles goes the route of letting your create the protagonist from scratch, with the option to be male or female. The character creator is pretty decent, though far from amazing. It does have a lot of different features of the character to edit, but the overall selection within each subheading is pretty lackluster. One of the most welcome is the detail of which voice actor provides each voice selection, allowing you to pick your favorite of the group.

The protagonist joins the fight with Elma and Lin, who quickly become your teammates in battle, with the ability to enlist others throughout the game as well. The somewhat annoying part here is that most side quests and especially main story missions are limited in just who can be in your party. After removing one from active member status in the party, you must search the map once again to get them to rejoin, which is not the easiest thing to do.

Having specific characters in your party is far from the only requirement to access not just story missions, but also regular side quests. Many will require your main character to have reached a certain level or have surveyed a certain percentage or higher of one of the game’s multiple regions. This is one of the few times where the game can feel grindy, as you have to go fight enemies and plant probes just to advance. However, this somewhat adds to the world building that is so important in Xenoblade Chronicles X by having you venture to new areas and take on more enemies.

For anyone that played Xenoblade Chronicles, the battle system is actually quite similar in some ways, though not as reliant on certain aspects to win battles. The moves available in battle range from the basic attacks to more complicated arts. These include physical attacks, ranged attacks, and both buffing and debuffing abilities, which improve with not only the regular character level, but also the selected classes.

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Players will start with the basic Drifter class, but will then have the ability to move between one of three other styles, which then branch out to two other levels as well. Within each of these, new and more powerful arts and skills are available to unlock, which can be placed on your arts palette and skill slots respectively. These classes can be leveled up themselves, which adds many more layers to the gameplay.

Even with the growing number of arts and skills at your disposal, Xenoblade Chronicles X does feature some very steep difficulty curves at times. This comes largely as a result of the placement of lower level enemies around much higher enemies, often leading to you having to run or die quickly. For the main missions at least, the game will offer a reduction in the level of final enemies temporarily, which is a nice feature to help with the difficulty curve for those that are getting frustrated and just want to advance the story.

Can spend hours exploring the environments just to sightsee

While easily the most publicized part of Xenoblade Chronicles X may be the Skells, these actually do not come about until much later in the game, usually at least 30 hours or so to be exact. This may be disappointing on the surface, but it actually works very well in the grand scheme of the game. The opening chapters introduce you to this humongous world and the complicated at first combat, and then the Skells are brought forth just when the gameplay could grow at all tiresome.

Skells bring another dimension entirely to the game upon being introduced, not only in the combat, but also exploration. With the ability to transform, you can travel the map at a much faster pace, though the game’s useful fast travel system and auto-run ability already help with that anyways. Stronger Skells can be built as the game continues on and in the post-game, which add even more longevity to this lengthy game.

The real time combat found in Xenoblade Chronicles X runs very smoothly, regardless of the scale of the enemy or enemies being faced. This is pretty incredible considering that this is coming from a game on the Wii U, which many consistently look down upon. In fact, the loading times found in Xenoblade Chronicles are some of the most impressive for an open world RPG to date, at least when loading from the physical disc, with the downloadable data packs making it even better. Just about the only loading screens that occur are when entering the barracks in New Los Angeles, entering a cutscene, or fast traveling.

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There are some in-game loading issues with characters not showing up as they should, but rather appearing magically after a few seconds of looking at the same spot. This can be a problem when the character not showing up is someone story related and you pass by that area with them not showing up. This isn’t a major problem, but can be very confusing when you do not expect this in the early portions of the game.

The Verdict

Xenoblade Chronicles X embraces the gigantic world found within it and provides gamers with not only beautiful environments, but uniquely designed creatures that inhabit them. The combat feels familiar in some ways, while also providing many nuances that set it part from its spiritual predecessors. The Wii U may be nearing its life cycle, but it certainly still has a little gas in it with yet another gem in Xenoblade Chronicles X.

"loved"
loved

Xenoblade Chronicles X

  • Available On: Wii U
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Monolith Soft
  • Genre: RPG
  • US Release Date: December 3rd, 2015
  • Reviewed On: Wii U
  • Quote: "Xenoblade Chronicles X embraces the gigantic world found within it and provides gamers with not only beautiful environments, but uniquely designed creatures that inhabit them in yet another gem for the underrated Wii U."
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The Good

  • Lively, gigantic open world
  • Deep combat and leveling system
  • Intriguing story
  • Using Skells

The Bad

  • Steep difficulty curve at times
  • Character loading in New Los Angeles
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