Looking back at the previous generation of consoles and all the big open world games, you’d be surprised to find out that one of the biggest games for its time was actually on the humble little Wii. Xenoblade Chronicles wowed gamers with its incredibly huge and detailed world filled to the brim with interesting locations to explore and iconic characters to meet. It was an incredible feat for its time, it still is, and now we’re here in 2015, with Xenoblade Chronicles X proving once again that it can deliver what is arguably one of the biggest games of this generation.
The story this time is grim from the get go. Mankind is in a desperate struggle for survival against a mysterious alien race that seems hell-bent on wiping out every single human being. A war rages on between these two species and luckily one ship housing a colony of humans manages to escape just before planet earth is completely destroyed. Sometime later however the aliens manages to catch up with the colony and forces it to crash land on an unknown planet called Mira. With no way to actually get off the planet, the last remaining humans have to make this place their new home and try to rescue as much survivors as they possibly can.
You create and take on the role of a silent amnesiac (yes, it’s that JRPG trope again) survivor who joins an organization known as BLADE. You, along with the rest of the cast are responsible for mankind’s survival by seeing to their new home, New Los Angeles’ upkeep, fending off against any threats and most importantly, finding survivors. The story revolves around a few key individuals with your main character acting more as an outside view rather than a focal point.
As is the case with silent protagonists, it can become quite awkward in a serious cutscene when the camera cuts to you and all your character can do is nod or make appropriate gestures. Thankfully the cast has some decent characters that are actually pretty well voiced. New to Xenoblade Chronicles X are Affinity missions which further help in fleshing out all of the characters. The story itself starts off extremely slow and doesn’t get interesting till about a half-dozen chapters in. Even then, due to each chapter having strict requirements before you can start it, you’ll be doing a lot of side activities in order to meet them which leave the story feeling really disjointed at times. Overall though, the tale is an intriguing one with a few twists that is bound to keep you hooked.
As expected, the world of the game is incredibly massive. As a member of BLADE you’re tasked with installing probes all over Mira in order to survey the land and mine for resources called Miranium. Installing probes reveals sectors on your mini-map which is housed on the gamepad and each sector contains a treasure, rare enemy or mission which acts as incentives for exploring. Each sector is huge though, so finding any one of the above actually requires you to run around town in the hope that some NPC might have info pertaining to their general location. This is where the game gets really frustrating.
A lot of the time you’re tasked with finding certain missions or items but you’re only told on which of the 4 continents it’s on. That’s a major problem as each continent is huge and even if you’ve managed to pick the item up along the way, there is no index which could at least tell you which area you found it in. I ended up randomly fast travelling to different locations in the hope of finding the thing I’m looking for. Frustrating as it may be, combat and exploration was fun enough to make the slog feel worthwhile.
The battle system maintains a similar feel to the original game. Characters will auto attack with either a melee or ranged weapon now and you’ll have the choice of using various abilities that cools down after usage. Some abilities have different effects depending on if you attack the enemy from the side or back and the stagger, topple and break system makes a return as well. You’re now able to break off certain parts of enemies as well which leads to various advantages. The core of the combat remains more or less the same but the new classes and Soul Voice systems are what keep things engaging.
Soul Voices are commands that you and your party shout out to each when certain conditions are triggered. Each Soul Voice requires you to use a specific ability when shouted out and if activated, heals your party and grants certain effects. As a result, battles are much more hands-on and require you to really take note of what your teammates are saying. Your character has about 16 different conditions each with 3 different effects that you can choose from making for some really flexible setups.
I loved the types of combos you could create. One Soul Voice activates when you start the battle with a melee weapon. If a party member responds to it, the enemy will be staggered immediately, opening them up to a topple attack which I usually follow with a defence debuff, an offense buff and an ability that deals extra damage against toppled enemies. The fact that you can fully customize your character’s Soul Voices is fantastic, but the game goes even further by giving you numerous classes to choose from with a wide variety of abilities, passive skills to set, a huge selection of equipment, an augmentation system and a brilliant new feature called Fashion Gear which allows you to equip gear for their stats while using other gear for your outward appearance so that you never have to choose stats over fashion. Most games would stop at that point, but not Xenoblade, the gaming gift that keeps on giving.
Much later in the game you’ll be given access to mechs called Skells. These mechs, which will be given the ability to fly at a later stage, completely change the way you explore the world, granting you access to new locations and areas previously unreachable by foot. Skells changes up combat as well by giving you equipment specific abilities and introduces a few new mechanics. You’re even able to customize you’re Skell’s gear, change its name and colour. The fact that I can name my Skell Weltall puts the biggest, dumbest smile on my face. It’s been a while since a game has given me this much customization options, and I love it for that.
The game features a Multiplayer mode too which has you teaming up with friends online to take on specific missions or you can let the online mode take a non-intrusive, passive approach by playing in a shared world with players from all over. You won’t see anyone in real-time though but you can recruit NPC versions of them for a short period. It’s an interesting approach to online and it offers something for both online and single player focused people.
Graphically, this game is stunning. Mira can be both beautiful and menacing at the same time with gorgeous vistas and creatures the size of mountains. The game does suffer from some pretty bad pop-in and low quality textures here and there, but if that is the price to pay for the smooth framerate, then I’ll gladly pay it as the game runs like a dream. The soundtrack however is a mixed bag with composer Hiroyuki Sawano bringing some of his unique flavour to the game. Don’t get me wrong, some tracks are complete masterpieces, but others, especially the ones with vocals, takes some time getting used to. As a complete package though, this game is truly awe-inspiring.
Last Updated: December 17, 2015