It has been quite a while since the first Xenoblade game was released back in the Wii era. While many people weren’t even aware of its existence (despite it being a wonderful game that you can also play on the Wii U thanks to the Wii Virtual Console), Monolith Soft decided to try their luck again with Xenoblade’s spiritual successor, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and this time, Nintendo won’t let the game suffer the same fate as the first Xenoblade game. But, is Xenoblade Chronicles X still worth its price tag?
In this game, you’ll play as one of the only humans who managed to escape the Earth before it blew up… because of two alien factions fighting straight over our heads. After two years spent drifting in space, one of the alien factions back then managed to find you and the rest of the humanity, and decided to eradicate you. In the fight, the spaceship you were in got damaged, causing you and the others to crash on the nearest planet known as Mira, and then your story begins.
After a bunch of cutscenes that may last quite a while (personal advice: grab some popcorn if you want), you’ll be prompted to create your character. Here, the choices are almost infinite. You can customize everything about your character – the hair, the eyes, the voice, the face, the size… There’s a lot of choices, which is pretty nice since you’re not locked to a few 2-3 choices, but instead to around 7-8 choices per customization (hair, eyes), not to mention the colour! Also, it’s still nice to be able to change the background in the editor via the ZL/ZR triggers (on the GamePad, didn’t test on the Pro Controller), so you can test how the lighting works on your character (yes, they even thought about that!). Once you’re done, you’ll just confirm, and be ready to start your adventure.
Who says adventure says exploration! Indeed, after having spent a few hours in, you may want to start covering the various zones of the various continents you can explore in Mira. Let me tell you right now: Mira is really huge, and thankfully, they carried over Xenoblade’s Skip Travel system. For those who don’t know, it allows you to warp to a point you’ve already explored, which allows you to gain some time.
However, Skip Travel isn’t usable on every single segment of the map. Most of the zones you can Skip Travel to are generally key zones, like Miranium Spots, or landmarks. So, I suggest you to find many Miranium Spots if you do care about that feature. Also, to finish with the Skip Travel feature: it is one of the only things in the game that will cause a loading screen. Yes, you read right. The game is so optimized it loads the map without even showing you a loading screen unless if you Skip Travel. Which is amazing, considering everything the console has to load (enemies and their textures, the map, the mini-map, and the Segment Map data on the GamePad…).
But of course, taking over Mira’s Miranium Spots won’t be easy. Some will be accessible only after a
“certain amount of time” (to avoid spoiling the game), while you’ll need to clear the zone before being able to install a data probe for some. Let’s cover the battle system while I’m at it. It’s the same as the one you had in Xenoblade (3D), but even better. This time, you’ll have to deal with another feature that’ll make you have to think twice before casting an Art (= consider Arts as special attacks): Tension Points. Tension Points are obtained when you’re performing an auto-attack (whatever the weapon), or under the effect of some Arts or Soul Voice. This is where things get harder: some Arts will require those Tension Points to be used, but that’s not all! If one of your allies gets knocked out during the battle, in order to revive him/her, you’ll need 3000 Tension Points. And later in the game, when you’ll unlock some “neat gear” (No spoiler here), you’ll also need 3000 TPs to use it. So, Tension Points are definitely something you’ll have to care about during the battles; just like the Soul Voice. The Soul Voice, is a different mechanic, however.
Sometimes, when attacking, you’ll prompted to a QTE (=Quick Time Event) where you’ll be prompted to press B at the right time. If you succeed, your character will use his Soul Voice, and when doing so, if one of your allies use an Art that’s the same colour as your Soul Voice, they might get additional bonus/effects, not to mention the fact that, when using the Soul Voice feature, you and your allies regenerate some health. That’s not all, though: you can also customize your character’s Soul Voice (they do really care about customization!), so you can select the effects you want to trigger when your allies will use the appropriate art. Now, building an useful Soul Voice set is up to you.
After having spent some more hours in Xenoblade X, having cleared a pack of quests, you’ll finally be able to use those robots you saw on the cover’s art, or online: the Skells. And believe or not, when you’ll get them, you won’t just be able to go back that easily. Skells just makes the game way better. They allow you to travel faster (Press the L-Stick to turn them into a motorcycle-like form), but they also boost your allies’ (when they’re not in their Skells) defense (up to 60%) !
Not to mention that, even later in the game, you’ll be able to take that to the next level by using them to fly ! Hence why you’ll be likely to use them when you need to beat tough monsters you just can’t beat by yourself, or just want to make the exploration even more easier. Or when you want to clear that Story/Simple/Normal/Affinity quest really fast/easily.
Speaking about it, as you just read, there are four types of quests in Xenoblade X. There’s the Story quests, which, obviously, allows you to go further in the game, the Simple quests, which are (most of the time) quests you’ll beat fast and easily, and are pretty nice if you can use them in a decent way to farm small amounts of experience or money, the Normal quests, which are… normal, and reward more money, and more experience, and then comes Affinity Quests. And those ones, they expand the game’s story and the characters’ stories further. Indeed, in those quests, you’ll get to know the characters a bit better by hearing their backstory, and some of them will even tell you what they were doing back when the Earth existed again. Apart from that, they’ll play just like regular quests. Another thing I’ll have to tell you: some Affinity/Story quests have conditions that need to be completed first in order for them to be taken on, or just to appear on the Segment Map. And then comes the “you have to be level X”, “you may only have X characters”, “you can’t bring X with you”… You know, that kind of stuff you usually see in quests in JRPGs.
There’s something I need to cover as well: the OST, and the graphics. The OST, composed by Hiroyuki Sawano (yes, you read right) is totally different from the first Xenoblade. Forget the orchestra and all, as Xenoblade X’s OST is… mixed. Not in a bad way. The music playing in the fields are quite nice, and so are the musics playing during the dialogues, but, to be honest, I’m not really a fan of the song that plays when you fight with a Skell. Plus, there’s still a few tunes that are something you love or hate, so, on that point, it’s up to you to decide if you like it or hate it.
As for the graphics, they really show how far the guys at Monolith Soft pushed the Wii U’s capacities: the graphics are pretty good (way less when they’re not done being loaded on enemies/entities… hence why the data packs exist), and, honestly, the best of all, is how far you can see in the game. It might not seem important to a majority of players, but, believe it or not, it can make for the best screenshots or the best panoramas you’ll see in the game, when you find those panoramas. It’s really crazy to see or even think about how the guys at Monolith Soft even achieved this without even make the console lag a single bit (I’ve never had any lag/frame drop during my 38 hours of playthrough!).
Now that we’ve covered the good, let’s cover the bad and the ugly. Yes, sadly enough, no game is flawless, and Xenoblade X isn’t an exception. See, I was talking about the quests earlier? Well, some quests will make you hate the game. Literally. Sometimes, you’ll have to get some items on a monster, or when exploring a certain place, and guess what ? Our old friend, the RNG is back to annoy you some more. Which can be frustrating when you go 0/12 drops of a needed quest item on a monster.
Then comes some Story Bosses. Occasionally, the conditions for the Story Quests will be “You need to be Level X or higher”. But, let’s say you only are the minimal required level, or just a few over. Well, that won’t be enough in some case. Some bosses do have some unfair fights where they’ll still end up having a higher level than you, or tearing you to shreds while you have a higher level than them. Or worse, they’ll end up ganging up on you when they have some “friends” to help them… (Does being beaten by 6 enemies, including the boss, sounds fun to you ? Definitely not to me.)
Of course, the game will end up helping you if you fail over and over. You’ll be able to lower the boss and their friends’ levels. But, it doesn’t solve the problem, it delays it. And sooner or later, you’ll face the problem I have with some RPGs: grinding/farming. Yes, sometimes, you’ll have to deal with the tedious task of farming Simple Quests, search for Normal Quests you can do, or kill the same monsters all and over again in order to progress or at least have a chance at killing the boss to progress. Of course, as I just said, the quests packing some experience with them, it’s not that painful, not to mention that Simple Quests are regenerated on a regular basis. But it can still be annoying. Plus, you may want to look out not to get off-balanced/stunned while performing an Art, as if it happens (hint: it WILL happen to you sooner or later), the Art is cancelled, and the cooldown isn’t even reduced or reloaded. Which is a problem when fighting in a Skell and using an Art that consumes quite some fuel.
Finally comes two more evil parts of the game: Breaking your Skell, and enemies that can sight you. When your Skell’s HP drops to 0, it breaks. And, you’ll get a QTE that’s pretty much a “live or die” thing. If you do a “Perfect”, repairs on your Skell will be done for free (plus your insurance won’t drop, and your allies will always have a “Perfect” by the way, so, no worries about them breaking their Skells), and you’ll revert to normal battle mode, same goes if you have a “Good” (except your insurance will cover the fees… until you have no more insurance that is!). But what if you fail ? You’re “dead”. Not only your insurance will cover the fees, but you’ll escape… with only 1HP left. And in case you’re wondering: falling off the map (such as jumping in the canyon in Oblivia) will insta-break your Skell, and your insurance will cover the fees. So, be careful when using your Skell ! And, now, the enemies. Just like in the first Xenoblade, some enemies will attack you if you get near them, if they see you of if they “hear” you. Thing is, this can ruin a fully-prepared team you’re using for a quest if said monster attacks you during the battle, or if you or one of your allies have a stray attack going in that enemy’s direction. Especially when we’re speaking about an Overred, or an high-levelled enemy. Not to mention that you can stand in front of an enemy that attacks on sight, and he won’t “see” you, just like you can stay immobile, and get attack by an enemy that attacks on hear. Which is pretty stupid.
In conclusion (or too long, didn’t read):
Xenoblade Chronicles X is definitely one game you shouldn’t miss out if you’re looking for a RPG, or a sci-fi game on Wii U. While the OST is a “you like or not” thing, it definitely has exceptional graphics for a Wii U game, and it only gets even better when you find some pretty nice panoramas on Mira while trying to complete quests. The game also has quite some back-story for its characters, in case you were thinking that this game’s story isn’t deep enough, so I actually recommend doing the Affinity Quests if you can or if you want, whether it’s for the free experience and money (and arts you may get after them) or if it’s to get to know the characters a bit better. And in case you’re wondering about the battle system, it’s almost the same as the one in Xenoblade, except they took it to the next level by enhancing it, and they made it more strategical, with you having to manage your TPs. However, there’s a still a few things here and there that could have been improved or that could have been way better for the player. So, to conclude: play the game if you can. You won’t regret it.
The Skells, which gives the game a complete twist.
-Mira. It’s huge !
-Tons of choices when it comes to personalization. Just see for yourself.
-You can reduce the difficulty of the bosses if you fail too many times, allowing you to continue without spending hours just running and beating the same enemies all and over again…
-The characters have their own back-story. You generally get to see them in Affinity Quests
-Quite a few references, can you find them ?
-Having high-levelled enemies beat you up while you try to clear a quest might be frustrating. Even more when you get your Skell demolished.
-Some Story Quests require farming and/or grinding, which isn’t exactly fun.
-The Sight/Hearing system on enemies is kinda glitch-y. You may not move and be caught, just like you can run or pass by with a Skell without being even noticed by the game.
-…but you may end up being a few levels late if you decide to perform this in Story Quests, so, it’s kinda a “delay grind” option.
-Being stunned or off-balanced doesn’t “delay” an Art, it totally cancels it. Which can be a problem, considering that quite a few enemies and bosses have attacks dealing those ailments.
Final Score: 90/100
Play time by the time of this review: Around 38 hours.
PS: Please note that I haven’t even covered everything in the game. There’s still classes, skills, and more. But, it would have made the review even longer, and it would have been tough to all the things in this game, so, I only covered the essential stuff.