On 04. december 2015 Nintendo launched the second game I primarily bought my Wii U for: Xenoblade Chronicles X. The other two games are Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Zelda U.
And what can I say? I know which games to buy my consoles for. I loved every second of DKC and I’m loving every second I’m spending with Xenoblade X.
As the successor fo the highly acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles, obviously the expectations for X were sky high. I’m currently 37 hours into this game and just got my Skell. So far, I’d say they they nailed it. However, you have to keep in mind X is very different from Xenoblade Chronicles, a very story driven game, while the priorities in X are in the huge Open World setting.
And what a world this is. The planet you’re stranded on, Mira, is gigantic and it makes you feel very small in comparison. The second this world opens up to you is a breathtaking experience, basically about 20 Minutes into the game or something. And even after 37 hours, I haven’t stepped my foot onto the fifth continent at all and are far from having fully explored the others continents.
As huge as this world is, it’s nearly entirely open to you from the very start. There’s only few areas you can’t get to right away, because they might be locked away behind powerful enemies. And yes, you see level 50 enemies roam the area right next to your city NLA. You’re truly free to explore the world of Mira to your liking when and as much you want and every terrain has different layers, too. Just because you’re following the arrow to your destination and you’re standing on the right spot, doesn’t mean you’re standing on the right layer – you may need to climb into a cave that’s right under your feet, or a tree above your head. Some areas are more straightforward than others, though.
What all areas have in common, though, is their beauty. As this game is a Wii U exclusive, hardware limitations restrict this game from high resolution textures, but they still managed to create a huge open world without loading between areas, it’s all one big world, and still managed to make this game to look nothing but impressive with an astonishing love to details. Even after so many hours into this game, I still find myself adoring this beautifully crafted world. “Of, look, there’s a tree I can climb, that I didn’t notice before, let’s take a look. WOW! What a view!” It’s always like that. Of course it doesn’t compare to the graphics of games like The Witcher 3, but Xenoblade X is nothing but impressive. As huge as it is, it’s just as beautiful.
What I love about this game, is the lack of handholding. I’ve heared many people complain the game actually needs to explain more, but I don’t even think that’s true, we’re just too used to games telling us every step we have to take. Pay attention to what the game tells you, read the manual, if there are any questions left and use your brain. Problem solved. I was stuck in a quest for 5 hours, becasue I was too stupid to solve it the easy way, so I did it the hard way and explored a good chunk of the first continent. The bad part: I kind of wasted 5 hours. The good part: I need this exploration done anyway at some point, so these 5 hours weren’t really wasted after all.
There’s so much to do and you can choose entirely on your own when you want to continoue with the story. I highly suggest doing affinity missions in between the story missions, but sidequests and ?-missions never really hurt as well, especially becasue you can rack up some levels, items and money that way. Fetch quests can be annoying, but you can avoid many of them and besides, I found myself doing some valuable exploring while on fetch quests and even the supposely long and annoying series of quests, before you get your Skell-licence, wasn’t even that bad in my bood – I had 2 from the 8 missions alrealy completed beforehand and knew where to find the missing item for the fetch quest thanks to an affinity mission I did before.
I get distracted all the time, sometimes even within a mission and I love that I can do this. I’m thankful, I can just run off and follow the items, or choose to decide to the the affinity mission that is popping up before me in the city right now, even though I was on my way to do a story mission. The only regulation, however is, while you’re in a story or affinity mission, you can’t do another story or affinity mission. Affinity missions are basically background informations to back up the main story, they’re optinal, but I recommend doing them, because you get a much better understanding of the entire situation and the characters.
The combat system is great. It builds upon what Xenoblade Chronicles created and perfected it. It’s like Xenoblade Chronicles, only better. You basically run up to a monster and to fight it you focus on it, or it has visual/aural sensoring and notices you first. You fight on the spot where you are, there are no fighting rooms that are opening up or something and if you’re on a small bridge, you better keep on eye on staying on said bridge. Sure, if you fall down into the sea, you won’t die, but have fun climbing up all the way to your previous spot again.
Based on your class, you can learn different types of techniques correlating with your weapons. I choose to specialize on physical close range sword combat. I have 4 attacks to choose from and 4 different boosts to get the best out of it. It’s a combination that works very good for me, but you can do somethign entirely different, if you want to.
For all the good parts, obviosuly this game is not perfect and has it’s issues as well. However, I think most issues come from genre specific problems and it really depends on what gets on your nerves the most. The music is a hit or miss kind of deal, I usually don’t care too much about it, but some tracks are really not that good, while others are great. Sometimes during cutszenes, the music is way too loud and you have trouble understanding the characters. And you better sit close to the screen, because the front size is dangerously small.
The game comes with english voice acting and I think it’s pretty good. I don’t have that high expectations when it comes to VA anyway, but I would’ve liked to have the option to choose the japanese voices with subtitles. Instead I got the english voices plus german subtitles by default – something that is driving me crazy. I understand the english dialouge, but start reading the subtitles out of habit and end up utterly confused, because the speed of the spoken dialouge and my reading don’t match up. Thank god, you can just disable the subtitles. Their front size is just fine, btw.
The story is not really the strongest either, but depending on how many affinity missions you’re doing, you can get more out of it. Still, the priotity is the exploration and the Open World concept, while story only plays a secondary role. If you’re looking for a story driven JRPG, you’re looking for the wrong game here. Maybe this is why a good portion of people are disappointed in X, because Xenoblade Chronicles was much more story driven and had overall better fleshed out characters. X may share the name with Xenoblade Chronicles and some key features, such as the combar system, but is overall a stand alone game with very different priorities. I personally love what they did with this game, but not everyone does.
A quick word about the gamepad, because this game is nearly impossible to play without it. The map is on the gamepad and makes your life so much easier compared to entering a menu every time you want to fast travel and in a game as big as this one, you will be fast travelling a lot. The map and everything you can do with is entirely on the gamepad and it shows just how much open world games can benefit from the second screen between your hands. This is where the gamepad can truly shine.
To sum it up, this is a great game, but don’t expect to get the same experience you got from Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s a different kind of experience and depending on your preferences, it might be better or worse than it’s predecessor. Nevertheless, it’s a marvelous JRPG, the best I played this year. This is actually my personal GOTY so far. It’s been a while since I’ve put this many hours in a game that fast. I stopped playing what i was playing before I got this game and haven’t watched a single anime episode, because I’m playing this game every chance I get. And whenever I feel like I just want to finish my current mission real quick, I end up playing for hours straight.
On a scale from 1 to 100, this game is in the 90s for me, maybe 96 or something. I don’t care that much about many of the biggest issues other people have with this game. This game is made for me, I can’t deny that. It really hits my nerve. So excuse me, because I really need to get out there and start the affinity mission I have my eyes on.