Want to explore lush landscapes, climb vast mountains, fight intimidating creatures, and relax at a futuristic Los Angeles on a different planet? Then Xenoblade Chronicles X is the game for you. The ‘almost’ sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles is finally here and aims to be the most ambitious JRPG you can play on any Nintendo console to date.
Will Xenoblade Chronicles X exceed expectations, or does it fall into the bottomless gorge of Oblivia? Find out in our review, after the break!
Xenoblade Chronicles X is set around two years after the destruction of Earth in 2054 (not that I am predicting the future or anything). Earth was caught in the crossfire between two mysterious alien civilisations, going to war with each other. Earth’s destruction was predicted so a project was planned, called Project Exodus, where many interstellar arcs left Earth from every major city in hopes to colonise another planet. However, only a few arcs survived exiting the atmosphere, the rest were destroyed by alien forces. One arc in particular, the White Whale, was bombarded by more alien forces, causing the ship to be pulled by the gravitation field of a nearby planet, which is later named Mira.
Two months later, you are awoken from your stasis pod by Elma, a BLADE captain, and leader of the Reclaimers division ((I’ll explain divisions in a bit). Before the gameplay starts, you are able to customise your character, to try and make him or her more personal to you. It’s a bit more advanced than that of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, but not as in-depth as that of Fallout 4. You won’t spend hours configuring your character, but it is still easy to have a bit of fun doing so. You are almost instantly introduced to Mira, the planet where those on-board the White Whale are now starting to colonise. While guiding you to safety, you are approached by an Origin Blatta, a nasty insect-like creature who obviously has some grudge against you, so you have no choice but to fight the creature.
The combat system is quite similar to its predecessor, it uses a real time based system where you automatically attack at regular intervals, depending on the weapon you have equipped. You also have several arts, which are super powerful attacks with special abilities, for example, some arts may temporarily stun an enemy. You’ll eventually learn more arts as your progress through the game. Some Arts will require you have a certain amount of Tension Points (TP), to perform them. You gain tension points through your automatic attacks, so they are pretty easy to rack up. A while into the game, you will unlock the ability to go into Overdrive for 3,000 TP. Overdrive increases your attacking power and significantly shorten Art cooldown for a short amount of time, perfect to unleash if you are in a sticky situation. Though those who have played the previous title may find it easy to pick up on battling, new gamers to the series, like myself, may find it very difficult as the system isn’t really explained that thoroughly, there’s literally just a pop-up that tells you how to draw your weapon and a overlay to the side with a list of controls. This problem is a recurring one however, there are a lot of game mechanics which you are not taught about in that much detail, if at all. Luckily most of what you need to know is explained in-depth in the electronic manual.
One new mechanic which is barely mentioned, but is actually incredibly useful, is Soul Voices. From time to time during combat, one of your party will shout something out, and performing a corresponding art will cause an effect; such as increasing the party member’s health, or giving them a buff (essentially a special effect like increasing accuracy or beam damage for a limited time). There will also be chances for you to perform a soul voice, this moment is called Soul Chance. A large circle will appear and a ring will quickly shrink. If you press B while the ring is in the blue or yellow sections, you will get a Good or Perfect rating, causing you to perform a Soul Voice. Depending on the rating will depend on the strength of the effect. You can also choose up to sixteen voices for your disposal. All these battle mechanics may seem intimidating, especially with a lack of explanation, but they are really quite simple once you get the hang of things, and they are also good for creating good strategies.
Elma eventually leads you to New LA (or NLA), the home of the survivors from the White Whale. This large recreation of Los Angeles is the host to four main districts, Commercial, Residential, Industrial, and Administrative, all of which you will be constantly revising through your adventures, more so for the Administrative district. At NLA, you are introduced to Lin Lee Koo, a genius engineer and BLADE member who is only 13 years old. After a short tour around NLA, you are brought to your new home, the BLADE Barracks, where you meet Commander Vandham, the commanding officer of BLADE, where he signs you up to the organisation. What is BLADE, though? BLADE stands for ‘Builders of the Legacy After the Destruction of Earth’, an organisation that was formed to support the government with recreating human civilisation on Mira. When signing up for BLADE, you have to join one of eight divisions of BLADE. Though you will not get division specific missions, there are certain actions and missions that will give you more division points based on what division you are in.
Much like this review, the beginning of the game is actually very drawn out, it takes about an hour before you get into any real action. After the long intro however, you are pretty much free to do what you want. There are three types of single player missions, Normal Missions, Affinity Missions, and Story Missions. Normal Missions can be accepted from the BLADE Concourse, basically a bulletin board where missions are posted by members of NLA. These missions can be anywhere from gathering certain items or defeating a tyrant. Gather missions are probably the most annoying, not only is there no unique visual representation for each item other than a blue diamond, what items you pick up are pretty much random, so you can spend as little as a few minutes to as long as several hours to complete a simple gather mission.
Affinity missions exist mainly to meet new members to accompany you in your party (you can have up to four), strengthen relationships, learn signature arts, or to unlock story missions. These missions are started in different parts of New LA. Affinity missions really help to build upon each of the characters around Mira and some even act like smaller versions of story missions, which is pretty neat.
Finally, story missions pretty much, well, expand on the story. Every story mission has certain prerequisites to complete before you can attempt the mission. You usually have to complete a certain affinity mission as well as surveying a certain percentage of Mira (more about that later). I understand that some people may get annoyed by this situation as they would rather just be able to go from mission to mission without any break from the main story. However, this can also be beneficial as it encourages you to explore the world further and to get used to the different regions. It is so useful being able to know where you are going, the landmarks, and unlocking fast travel locations.
The most important mission on Mira is to find the Lifehold Core from the White Whale. The Lifehold is where everything from human history is conserved as well as containing many humans who escaped on the White Whale… in some form. Unfortunately, it is a race against time for two big reasons. Firstly, the backup power is running out quickly, if the Lifehold shuts down, it will mark the end of the human race. The second reason is because there is another force trying to find it, the Ganglion (the name makes sense when you meet the leader). The Ganglion is a coalition of different alien races which feel that they need to completely destroy the human race from existence. They were the ones who destroyed Earth in the war, and they followed the White Whale to finish the job. Each mission usually sets you out to analyse a piece of the L in hopes to find the core. The mission won’t be very easy however, there are many, many twists scattered throughout the twelve chapters, some of them are predictable, whereas some you would’ve never seen coming.
Though the story of Xenoblade Chronicles X has some very serious and dark themes, there are moments where it can get very lighthearted. This is usually achieved by the childlike relationship between Lin and the Nopon companion you find near the beginning of the game, Tatsu. Though the whole joke of Lin ‘mistaking’ Tatsu is a bit overplayed, it still never really tires in my eye, I still give that little giggle when Lin tries to give Tatsu a bath in boiling wine for dinner. There are also several comedic events that occur throughout the script, it’s set up a bit like some manga or anime in my opinion. Overall, the story feels pretty solid.
One of the biggest positive points about Xenoblade Chronicles X is just simply how big and beautiful Mira is. It is obvious that the Wii U is pushed to its limits with the vastness of the world and how good it looks. One think I love is how diverse the world is two. Mira is split into five different regions, Primordia, Noctilum, Oblivia, Sylvalum, and Cauldros. The graphics may not be of the quality of something released on the PS4 or Xbox One, they still look absolutely amazing, I especially love the illuminated forests of Noctilum, I never knew that a huge cluster of pixels could be so breathtaking!
If you are wanting to take a break from the story and missions of NLA and Mira, then there is still plenty to do around the world. Placing probes is a good place to start, this expands the FrontierNav network, allowing you to see more of the map, fast travel to more locations, mining precious minerals, and more. There are also many mechanical and biological artefacts which you can excavate around Mira, doing so will increase your money, give you special items, and increase your player and BLADE levels. There are also various tyrants you can attempt to defeat in the different regions. Tyrants are essentially more powerful versions of certain creatures. Some of them are low level, but don’t take it so lightly, some tyrants have some various nasty effects that the regular version of the creature does not, and it could easily turn the most docile beast into a formidable foe.
You can also contribute to the manufacturing of both weapons and apparel. If you visit the Arms Manufacturer terminal in the Armoury, you can donate Miranium, a mineral that is automatically gathered by the proper you place, to the companies that create the weapons and armour. The more Miranium you donate, the more weapon and armour series that get released. You can also donate Miranium along with other materials you gather to create new weapons, armour, and weapon/armour effects. Basically, if you have the materials, you will get a lot to choose from.
Levelling up has quite a bit of depth to it. There are three different categories to level up in, your player level, your class level, and your BLADE level. The player level determines your maximum health, how much damage you deal, what weapons you can equip, and what missions you can accept. You gain experience through everything from discovering new locations to defeating massive tyrants. Class level determines what class you can assign yourself, what types of weapon you can use, and what Arts you can perform. You gain Class Points by using the class specific weapons and Arts. Finally, your BLADE level allows you to upgrade your field skills to excavate certain artefacts or to place probes in certain locations, and they also add neat bonuses to customise the BLADE Barracks. You gain division points by completing various tasks, and more are awarded for tasks which are specific to your division.
Most enemies you come across which are more than a couple levels above you may prove to be difficult to subdue, I really wouldn’t recommend taking down a level 48 Mortal Simius when you are only at level 25, the bugger will knock you out in one punch. About halfway through the game, however, you will have the chance to earn something truly incredible, your Skell licence. Skells are metallic exoskeletons which allow you wield super powerful weapons, protective armour, explore Mira at incredible speeds and, my favourite, to fly. Once you gain a Skell, it is like you are appreciating the world of Mira from a completely different perspective. You can access new areas and you can take down larger monsters more easily, even if they are ten or twenty levels above you. They also add new abilities to combat, such as binding. Binding lets you grab a hold of massive creatures for a short period, during this time, the enemy is unable to attack and it takes far more damage from your friends.
If you destroy your Skell, either by accident or pure foolishness, your insurance will replace it for a small charge just like new. You can also purchase more Skell frames (for a hefty price) in case you want a choice before you set out or you could let your party members take it out for a ride. You can even customise the colours of your Skell!
When booting up the game, you have a choice of playing offline or joining a squad. Joining a squad will put you into a group of up to 31 other players. Though these players won’t actually appear while playing, there will be Squad Events that occur frequently for about an hour. These events have five different squad tasks to complete, these are usually defeating specific creatures or type of creatures, or gathering certain items or types of items. These tasks are all linked within a squad, so if, for example, a task asks you to defeat 18 Suids and someone in the squad takes down 3, there will only be 15 left for the squad to defeat, think of it like a spiritual co-op sort of thing. The great thing about Squad Events is that they are completely non-intrusive, meaning you could complete a task whenever you want if you want, so you don’t have to stop everything your doing to gather some Cranjam.
Completing Squad tasks won’t only reward you with experience points and reward tickets to redeem for exclusive items, but they will also unlock special squad missions. These allow you to recruit up to three members of your squad to take down certain enemies online, you can also compete these missions with your offline party. This can be quite fun to do and I’ve never had problems with the connection, though it would be nice to be able to communicate to your team mates through other means than a handful of gestures, which you can’t even perform mid battle.
You can also recruit members online to take down a global nemesis. These are immensely powerful beasts who put tyrants to shame. These guys will appear for a few days online and it is your job to defeat them. You have to work as a team with your squad to get rid of it for good however, if you want to reap greater rewards. Every time a nemesis is defeated, its revival points will decrease. Once this value has reached zero, the beast will be gone for good, if not, it will eventually flee… the coward.
Another network feature are BLADE Reports. You can post a BLADE Report on Miiverse at certain locations under different categories, and these will appear in game around the world. Finally, you can also recruit other players to your party. These scouts aren’t controlled by the player it belongs to, rather the AI, it is still a very neat feature however, and it is also useful to hire a high level scout for a particularly difficult monster.
Performance wise, Xenoblade Chronicles X performs very well, the frame rate stays pretty constant throughout (30fps), only a few times have I had some drops, but even then it didn’t distract me too much. The loading screens are almost non-existent. The only times you will come across these are when you load your game, when you fast travel and when a cut-scene loads. Even when you receive a loading screen, it is only for a few seconds, the longest I have ever waited for my digital copy was about 20 seconds. If you do have the physical version, then loading times may be longer, though these can be greatly reduced by downloading the extra data packs from the eShop. The only issue I have is the fact that most of the text is very small, it can be difficult to read your objectives and the name of your Art to perform.
Seeing how huge Xenoblade Chronicles X is, it feels like the game almost deserves a long review like this, but I completely understand if you skipped straight to the summary. Overall, Xenoblade X is definitely an incredible experience with very few flaws. The world is vast and beautiful, the combat is unique and interesting, the story is solid, and the online features are great fun. Other than the game not explaining tutorials very well and the fact that it can take around an hour to properly start the game, the only other complains I would seem more like I am nitpicking.
If you are looking for a game to keep you going for a long time with loads to do or if you are a fan of JRPGS, this would definitely be the game for you. The only people I wouldn’t really recommend this to is to are those who don’t really enjoy RPGs and who are looking for a different type of game. 9.5/10