A huge part of the advertisement of Xenoblade Chronicles X revolved around the skells – one is even on the box art of the game. It’s a key element of the game and truth to be told, a huge customizable mech is always cool.
In some reviews by experts and fans alike, you will hear people complain about the skells, though. Not the mech itself, that thing is incredibly cool, it’s usually about when and how you get the skell.
Here’s the deal: After you’ve completed story mission 6, you are free to take on the skell-licence-mission. Only after you’ve completed this mission, you are allowed to pilot your first own skell. On the average, you can expect to reach this point in the game around the 30 hour mark, personally it took me 37 hours to get my hands on my first first skell (and 5 hours to get it destroyed) and that is only because I was able to complete the licence-mission very fast. I’m pretty slow otherwise, though.
The licence-mission asks you to clear a mission from every division, so it’s 8 small missions to complete the entire thing. I was lucky ernough to have already completed 2 missions beforehand and thanks to an affinity mission I did just before, I also knew where the rare item was I was required to find in one of the 8 division mini-missions.
So, in other words, to get your hands on one of the key features of the game, you have to play half the game and then do a long and arguably very annoying mission before. And a lot of people don’t like this.
However, here’s my take on this: the skells are awesome, but they change your entire look on Mira. Walking on foot, you’re constantly in awe looking at this huge beautiful world. In a skell it’s suddenly a lot faster and easier to travel around on Mira, essentially making the world smaller. It also takes away the threat out of big monsters. You’re not overpowered, but a skell still helps a lot with bigger enemies and increases your power by a few leaps. You’re able to take on higher leveled monsters you were sneaking around just a second ago.
By having you play so many hours before even giving you the chance to get your skell-licence and then make you work through a long mission until you finally get your hands on one, makes the skell in itself a huge reward. You have to work really hard for this thing and it feels incredible when you finally have it.
Now, imagine you had access to your skell since the first mission. The world you’ve been exploring with big admiring eyes, would’ve never been as breathtaking as without the skell and you would have probably just walked past a lot of details that otherwise strike the eye. Also, the skell is too strong for the early part of the game, it would make you progress too fast. This is a very long game, it’s meant to be explored just the way you want to and by rushing through everything in a big badass skell, you’re going to miss out on a lot.
Personally, I think it was a very good decision to lock the skell away in the early game, because it makes the game too easy and after having to wait and work hard, the skell is a great reward for the player. After he experienced the game for about 30 hours on foot, the skell suddenly opens up an entirely new side to the planet. How is this not awesome?