Xenoblade Chronicles X Review (Wii U)
I set out on another mission into the wilds of Mira, a gigantic world of untraveled terrain and unseen creatures where safety is never guaranteed no matter how prepared I think I am. The path to my next mission is clear, but there’s a lot of ground to cover between the peace of New Los Angeles and the unknown. I have a few teammates at my side and some new abilities to test, so there’s nothing else to do but set out.
I must have had this conversation during my Xenoblade Chronicles X playthrough hundreds of times, as each return to the untamed world of Mira required such preparation. Xenoblade X is simply massive, the kind of game that a player like me who wants to explore every nook and cranny can get lost in for hours on end. Creatures of all shapes and sizes inhabit this world, making for plenty of opportunity to grow stronger with each battle and even more time spent in the wilderness. Xenoblade X thrives on its open-ended nature, to the point where the idea of reigning the player in is simply nonexistent.
This is not the game for fans of linear stories or direct paths to success. It is long-winded in its cutscenes and completely indirect in its quest structure. Sure there’s an overarching story -- and a really good one at that -- but it could take a significant amount of time to enjoy considering how vast the experience can be. A perfect example of this lies in the Skells, the massive mechs splattered over every inch of the game since its initial announcement. I didn’t lay a finger on a Skell of my own until I was 30 hours in. Some gamers may not have the patience to wait that long for what was advertised as a key element in the game, but that minor complaint is quickly rectified once I started using the Skell; man are those mechs fun to play around with.
The open world of Mira is awesome to behold, even if it’s incredibly vast. Majestic creatures of every shape and size roam the planet, most leaving me alone unless I approach them and start attacking. The ones that did attack me on sight were usually the ones that would wipe the floor with my party, so I had to make sure I planned ahead. There are collectibles all over the place, most admittedly of little circumstance, but the fact that they exist made me want to pick them up just in case one of them turned out to be important. I hear the term ‘sandbox’ used for this open-world approach in other games, but in terms of sheer size if those games are sandboxes then Xenoblade X’s Mira is the damn Sahara.
Battling enemies in the field is simple: approach an enemy, launch an attack, watch the battle unfold while monitoring my character’s health. I can also choose from a list of abilities or stronger attacks, each one requiring a cool down phase before becoming available again. It’s a classic style of RPG combat that’s always irked me for various reasons, but here it’s somehow not as annoying. Maybe it’s because of what I’m looking at during the battle, these crazy beasts of varying size and shapes, but I actually enjoy picking fights and grinding while traveling in Mira.
Some of those enemies are Tyrants, souped-up versions of normal enemies with really awesome names. I knew I’d run into a Tyrant when the creature’s nameplate would be purple and its statistics would be far higher than surrounding enemies, which also gave me ample chance to avoid fighting it early on. The game is better for it too, since being surprised by an enemy far outclassing my party and continually being killed by it might be one of the worst things that could happen to me in a RPG and I appreciate that Xenoblade X gives me an opportunity to try and avoid it.
If there’s one major issue I have with Xenoblade Chronicles X, it’s the considerable amount of what I’ve been calling “dead air”: breaks in dialogue resulting in characters just staring at each other, weird loading breaks when I reach an objective, and even the loading times themselves. Each one of these breaks my immersion into Mira every time they happen, and they happen far too much for my liking. Nothing is worse than watching a cutscene and having to wait a good two seconds between every line, like the game loads the dialogue one sentence at a time. I don’t mind the screen fading to black when I reach a quest waypoint, I’m used to that in my RPGs, but let me get to the dot on my minimap before taking control away from me.
Worst of all are the words “now loading” and how often they appear, especially since I downloaded all four of those patches Nintendo touted during the Nintendo Direct in November. I thought those downloads would make the game run with little load times, but instead it changed mountains into speed bumps. I don’t even want to think of the loading times for people who didn’t download the patches. These breaks in the action wouldn’t be a big issue normally, but they exacerbate the long-winded nature of the game I mentioned earlier. An open world like this is going to take a lot of time to traverse as it is, I don’t want to be slowed down by unnecessary technical issues while I’m out there.
Think of two people having a conversation where one asks the other “how is your day?” Most people would answer “Fine, how’s yours?” and a dialogue would ensue, but there’s always that one person that uses a simple question like that as a launching pad to pontificate about everything that’s wrong with the world and twenty minutes later the person who asked the question is bored and frustrated. If I as the player am the one asking “how’s your day?”, Xenoblade Chronicles X is the pontificator, answering me in 100 words what only needed three. Is that a bad thing? Not always, but it puts a dent into trying to explore the giant world at a good clip without constant interruption. Luckily for the game combat is awesome, the story is worth sticking around the lengthy conversations for, and the world is interesting enough that sticking around for a while wouldn’t be the worst use of my time. It’s an odd approach, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun with this game.
This review was completed using a physical retail copy of Xenoblade Chronicles X provided by the publisher for Wii U.