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Xenoblade Chronicles X (for Nintendo Wii U) Review

Xenoblade Chronicles X (for Nintendo Wii U) Review

The Bottom Line

Xenoblade Chronicles X is the biggest and best-looking exclusive to come to the Nintendo Wii U yet.

  • Huge, beautiful world to explore.
  • Feels very open.
  • Lots of activities.
  • Skells are fun.
  • So many systems and resources to manage.
  • Easy to get side-tracked.
  • Weirdly doll-faced humans.

A few years ago, Xenoblade Chronicles came to the Nintendo Wii. It was a spiritual successor to the Xenogears and Xenosaga games, and after much pleading by North American fans it came to our shores. It didn’t hit particularly hard, but the Nintendo 3DS ($19.99 at GameStop) port proved to be one of the more epic handheld experiences you could get on the system. Now we’ve gotten a follow-up in Xenoblade Chronicles X ($59.99). It plays a lot like Xenoblade Chronicles, but it feels bigger and looks better. The extensive number of systems in the game can feel intimidating, and it’s very much a classic JRPG-style time sink, but it’s the best-looking game the Wii U ($19.99 at GameStop) has seen yet, and offers an epic, entertaining adventure if you can commit to it.

Welcome to Mira
The Earth of Xenoblade Chronicles X ($19.99 at GameStop) is actually Earth, with familiar countries and continents and languages. That’s not often seen in JRPGs. Of course, Earth was blown up by warring aliens a few years ago, so you’re not going to see it anyway. You’re a crew member of the White Whale, one of the few surviving colony ships that escaped Earth before it was destroyed. Then the White Whale was shot down over a mysterious planet called Mira. The game starts with a lot of disaster.

Fortunately, humans are resilient, so the housing parts of the White Whale have been turned into New Los Angeles, the last human city in the universe. There are still parts of the White Whale scattered throughout Mira, including most of the survivors in stasis pods. Humanity has to recover and rebuild, and that’s where BLADE (Builders of a Legacy After the Destruction of Earth) comes in. Now that you’ve been found, you’re a BLADE, too. It’s time to fight for humanity.

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BLADE is divided into eight different divisions that run the gamut of activities you can engage in on Mira. Reclaimers and Curators salvage wreckage from the White Whale and collect useful materials from the planet. Pathfinders and Prospectors set new mapping and mining probes to enable fast travel throughout Mira. Mediators handle disputes among the citizens of NLA. Outfitters test and develop new equipment and weapons. And Harriers and Interceptors fight the various alien threats to humanity found on Mira. You can choose any of these divisions and switch between them easily.

Lots of Levels
While the BLADE divisions have a significant role in the game’s story, they don’t make a huge difference mechanically. Your BLADE division dictates how you earn experience toward your BLADE level, which is constant across all divisions. As a Pathfinder, you get the most BLADE experience placing probes on the map. As a Curator, it’s collecting the many items scattered across the game. As a Harrier, it’s bringing down large, named Tyrant enemies. Increasing your BLADE level gives you various advantages, primarily increasing your ability to salvage Mechanical, Archeological, and Biological objects found in Mira. Here’s a tip: Bring your Mechanical skill up to 3 or 4 as fast as you can; it’s needed to place probes and expand your reach on Mira. Each division also offers a different bonus, like improved defense or faster health recovery, but these are all bonuses that can be replaced and augmented with the right equipment.

Your character Class defines how you play the game much more than your BLADE division. Like the division, you can change it at any time. Unlike the division, it determines your equipment, abilities, and roles in combat. You start as a catch-all Drifter, but can quickly switch to Striker (balanced direct combat with sword and assault rifle), Commando (stealth with knives and pistols), and Enforcer (support with combat knife and heavy energy weapon). Your Class level is separate from your BLADE level, and it dictates the different combat abilities and passive skills available to you, each of which you can only have a certain number active and ready at once.

Once you hit level 10 in a second-tier Class, you unlock two more Classes. Strikers can develop their balanced role and equipment loadout more, or take a more defensive role with a heavy shield and mini-gun. Commandos can go further with dual-wielding stealth, or take a more range-focused role with a sniper rifle and javelin. And Enforcers can keep supporting with their loadout or take an offensive role with floating laser drones and a laser sword.

Then there’s character level, which purely determines your health, stats, and available equipment strength. The higher your character level, the better weapons and armor you can use. This number is the main factor in whether or not you’re going to get killed in different parts of Mira; if your character level is significantly lower than an enemy’s level, you don’t have much of a chance.

In case you’ve lost count, that’s three separate levels to keep track of: BLADE for passive resources, Class for skills and abilities, and general character level for general survivability. There are also Skells, giant mech suits you can eventually get access to, which further expand your ability to fight and explore.

A Huge Alien World
Mira is a very open world, but that doesn’t make Xenoblade Chronicles X an open-world game. The continents are laid out like massive MMORPG zones, and while you can go a lot of places on foot with ease, you’ll often be blocked by monsters that are wildly over-leveled compared with you. It’s not uncommon to wander around and suddenly find yourself before a path littered with level-50 monsters that can kill you in one hit, equipped with the red eye icon that indicates that they will attack as soon as they see you.

It’s still much more free and open than most JRPGs, and there are some breathtaking sights to find as you explore. The starting continent, Primordia, is filled with these massive, dinosaur-like aliens placidly wandering the plains and getting drinks from the various lakes of the land. Noctilim straight-up looks like Pandora from Avatar, with vivid, overgrown plant life highlighted with bright phosphorescence.

As much as the Wii U has been mocked for not being as powerful as the PlayStation 4 ($19.99 at GameStop) or Xbox One ($19.99 at GameStop) , it’s proven it can produce some excellent graphics. Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of the most gorgeous games on the system in terms of visual complexity, and one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played in terms of setting design. Mira looks stunning, with a colorful and varied landscape filled with life, displayed with a massive draw distance that lets you behold everything before and below you. The matching music is fantastic, with each continent getting its own thematically appropriate and often haunting theme.

Enemies, Skells, and characters all look very striking, with the robot suits standing out as cool-looking, customizable armor that evokes Gundam and Macross. And when they all fight, the screen fills with interesting animations and lighting effects while generally sticking to a solid 30fps framerate.

The impressive visuals fall apart in some cutscenes, or any time you look too close at the characters, though. Everything else looks great, but the human faces look like they’re from the PlayStation 2. Specifically, they look like they’re from the Xenosaga series, with most characters sporting oddly doll-like, slightly creepy baby faces. You won’t notice it when you play, but you might cringe when you stop for a cutscene and see how people talk.

Fighting Aliens
Combat is very similar to Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s a real-time, MMO-like fighting system where you automatically attack the selected enemy and activate different abilities called arts, arranged on a bar on the bottom of the screen. Most arts have a cooldown, so you can’t simply spam special attacks, and some arts require Tension Points (TP) to work. You gain TP through fighting, and can spend them to activate more powerful arts or go into Overdrive mode to unleash a powerful chain attack.

Positioning and tactics are very important in Xenoblade Chronicles X. Attacks might hit only your target, everyone around your target, or anything in a row in front of you, forcing you to consider where you are to set up maximum damage and to avoid drawing the attention of nearby creatures that aren’t aggressive yet. Different attacks also provide bonuses depending on where you are relative to your target, like dealing extra damage from behind or gaining more TP when fighting head-on.

Xenoblade Chronicles X has a ton of systems and stats to keep track of, and that’s a difficult task. There are the three ways to level, the combat arts and passive combat skills available (and you need to actively set both), HP, TP, Skell fuel, character affinity, arms manufacturer progress, equipment, equipment enhancements, collectibles, resources, exploration rates, and more. If nothing else, the BLADE divisions let you focus on playing the game in a certain way without worrying too much about other aspects, but it’s still a lot of factors to juggle.

Where to Go
Unlike western open-world games, Xenoblade Chronicles X doesn’t let you gain much progress by blindly exploring Mira, though that will help you get stronger. Most quests are found in NLA, with a narrative thread to send you out to different parts of Mira. You might find occasional quests in the wild, but you’ll almost always be returning to NLA to figure out what to do next. You can get generic, semi-random BLADE quests from terminals, entertaining side quests from NPCs with red question marks over their heads, and affinity quests that strengthen your bond with your teammates from hand-shaking icons littered through the city. And, when you want the next story quest (which often requires certain side quests or affinity quests to be completed and for a continent to be explored a certain amount), you get your briefing in the BLADE barracks.

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Managing your various quests is slightly inconvenient, since you can only display one active quest at a time when playing; all other quests you’ve accepted can be completed on the way, but you won’t get waypoints or information about them unless you individually select them as the active quest. It means you might do a lot of backtracking through Mira getting quests done, instead of handling all the ones in a region before moving on.

Fortunately, travel is very fast. You can immediately teleport to any probe you’ve placed or major landmark you’ve found on the map using the Wii U gamepad’s touch screen. Loading times are surprisingly fast, considering the size and scope of Mira, which is seamless to navigate across continents on foot; I didn’t wait more than 15 seconds each time I fast-traveled. And when you get access to Skells, you can take advantage of their much faster walking speed, awkward but quick vehicle forms, and impressive jumping abilities.

The Long Haul
You can spend a long time on Mira. The many, many side quests could easily eat up your time, but even if you stick to the main story (and the prerequisite side quests for certain chapters), a 40-hour play-through is optimistic. Xenoblade Chronicles X might not be a structurally traditional JRPG, but it’s certainly as long as one. Get ready to sink Fallout 4 ($19.99 at GameStop) levels of time into this game.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a flawed but beautiful and massive role-playing game. The world of Mira is one of the best-looking settings to ever appear on the Wii U, and you’ll be spending dozens and dozens of hours running, jumping, and mech-piloting your way around the terrain. It’s easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed by the extensive number of systems and activities in the game, and it isn’t laid out or explained in a particularly friendly way. If you can put the time into it, though, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a rewarding, enjoyable experience. Mira looks that good, and Skells are just that fun to run around in.

Обзор Xenoblade Chronicles X [Wii U]

Обзор Xenoblade Chronicles X [Wii U]

Есть игры, которые нравятся с первого взгляда. Не по роликам, потому что качественно составленное видео может в итоге рекламировать совсем не интересную игру, а по результатам первого знакомства с проектом. Xenoblade Chronicles X относится именно к таким играм — я не успела провести и в новом мире и часа, как поняла, что это один из самых интересных проектов, в которые мне удалось поиграть в 2015 году. И следующие несколько дней, проведенные на планете Мира, это впечатление только укрепили.

Игра переносит нас в будущее, в котором Земля была уничтожена. Причем не по какому-то недоразумению или из-за внутренней войны — неизвестные инопланетяне устроили бойню прямо на орбите нашей планеты, и противопоставить им никто ничего не смог. Остатки человечества погрузились в корабли и улетели в космос искать надежду на будущее, большая их часть была уничтожена еще при взлете с умирающей планеты. Корабль Белый Кит некоторое время скитался по космическим просторам, когда его нашли те же существа, что разрушили Землю, и сбили — жилой модуль корабля упал на планету Мира, а находящихся в капсулах землян разбросало по всей планете. Именно с этого момента мы и появляемся в игре.

Создание персонажа предлагает достаточно много опций, поэтому получить уникального на вид персонажа достаточно легко. И это важный момент, так как позволяет не только создать героя, который будет хорошо выглядеть на протяжении всей игры, но и также создать внешне выделяющегося персонажа, который не затеряется в мультиплеере среди других игроков.

С момента «пробуждения», которым открывается игра, нас затягивает в водоворот событий и интриг, которые разворачиваются на новом месте жительства остатков человечества. И оторваться от происходящего невероятно сложно, потому что насыщенность событиями в игре огромная. Хотя поначалу темп у игры достаточно неторопливый, с каждым новым заданием и открытием новых областей он неумолимо нарастает.

Игра всячески поощряет исследования окружающего мира. Нам открывается 6 секторов планеты Мира по мере прохождения, и каждая из них наполнена событиями, секретами, приключениями и, конечно же, сражениями. И сконцентрироваться на чем-то одном, полностью игнорируя другие игровые аспекты, не получится при всем желании. На любой из этих аспектов тратится много времени, но с другой стороны это позволяет глубже изучить игру, а не поверхностно пробежать ее за несколько часов в забыть. И это — отличное решение.

Но весь процесс мог быть простым и интуитивным, если бы не категорическое нежелание разработчиков объяснять некоторые игровые механики. В отличие от «западных» ролевых игр создатели Xenoblade Chronicles X не ведут игрока за ручку, пока он осваивается и разбирается во всех представленных возможностях. Базовые механики, без которых начальное исследование невозможно, нам объясняют подробно, а затем оставляют наедине с игрой, и часть концепций, которые в игру заложены, мы уже выясняем сами.

Правда, весь этот аспект существенно упростит появление пост-релизных вики и кооперативные возможности проекта, но все же хотелось бы, чтобы сама игра была более открыта и понятна для тех, кто не собирается пользоваться какими-либо подсказками.

Внутренние системы достаточно сложны, потому что игра предлагает нам множество вариантов развития вверенных персонажей. Мы занимаемся подбором нужной экипировки и крафтом, улучшаем и изучаем новые навыки, развиваем «базы» в разных частях мира и при этом еще и движемся вперед по сюжетной линии, открывающей больше возможностей и взваливающей при этом на плечи нашего персонажа еще больше обязанностей.

Условно все развитие игрока можно разделить на 2 составляющие — обычную и Скеллов. Последние это огромные боевые роботы, которые открываются нам не сразу. Скеллы прокачиваются отдельно и дают огромные возможности для исследования мира, не только потому, что позволяют пройти боссов и врагов, которые до этого были почти неубиваемы, но и дают возможность летать. А это открывает доступ к шикарным игровым видам. И дает возможность забраться в ранее недоступные места, входы в которые располагаются где-то на высотах.

Изюминкой игры является ее боевая система. Мне этот аспект показался наиболее интересным и очень комфортным, хотя часть игроков может быть ей недовольна. Работает она так — мы наводимся на противника и переключаем оружие (герои могут сражаться оружием дальнего и ближнего боя), начинается сражение, а нам нужно перемещаться, переключать цели (например, выбирать открывшиеся слабые места врагов), оружие, и использовать в бою разные способности. Которые позволят нанести сильный удар, сагрить на себя врага или добавить брони членам отряда, помимо прочих возможностей. Из-за того, что герои вынуждены двигаться и постоянно находятся в бою все это выглядит так динамично и, извините за это определение, «круто», что мне нравилось сражаться на протяжении всего прохождения.

Рендомайзер в игре работает донельзя странно. То есть мы в боях выбиваем различные предметы, которые требуют определенного уровня для экипировки. Но есть вариант на первых минутах получить винтовку, которая будет лучше всего, что попадет в наши руки в ближайшие 20 уровней развития персонажа. И такие вещи, когда герой 20 уровня щеголяет в паре вещей для 10, не редкость — при том, что инвентарь будет ломиться новыми вещами именно для вашего уровня и выше. Зато есть возможность не обращать внимания на визуальную сторону экипировки и выбрать заданный разработчиками сразу «скин». Хотя мне нравились все эти очки ночного видения и высокотехнологичные костюмы, так что я этой возможностью не пользовалась.

Визуально и технически Xenoblade Chronicles X, пожалуй, является едва ли не лучшим проектом на Wii U из выпущенных. Огромные локации со множеством деталей, большое количество персонажей в кадре, хорошее освещение и детальные, продуманные персонажи вместе с противниками создают отличный живой мир. Который достаточно быстро грузится, не лагает в боях и во время исследования территорий.

Планета Мира, на которой мы находимся, выглядит чрезвычайно эффектно. Каждая локация красива, продумана, и все на ней, начиная от естественных образований и заканчивая артефактами, оставшимися от других, древних цивилизаций, заставляет восхищаться увиденным. Опять же, этому со стороны игрового движка ничего не мешает.

Но если технических проблем очень мало, то к управлению есть ряд вопросов. Экран GamePad используется абы как, меню все равно многоуровневые и ими неудобно пользоваться, не всегда удается навестись на нужную цель в бою — в общем, хватает нюансов. Они не то, чтобы портят впечатление от игры, но «осадок» остается. Нужно привыкать.

Также существует ряд проблем с навигацией, а часть заданий предполагает или зачистку территорий от огромного количества монстров, или же поиск неизвестных предметов непонятно где. Это затягивает прохождение, но никак не доставляет удовольствия. Как будто часть контента делалась второпях, и из-за этого возникают проблемы.

Отдельно хочется написать и об игровой музыке — мне лично она очень понравилась, хотя многие могут не оценить выбор треков, который предлагает игра. Но, повторюсь, я осталась в восторге от аудиоряда.

Мультиплеер игры, судя по имеющимся данным, должен давать возможность играть группой из 4 человек и общаться в хабах с большим количеством других игроков. Опробовать его не получилось по понятной причине — сервера игры не работали на момент написания статьи.

Xenoblade Chronicles X это самая «крутая» ролевая игра не только для Wii U, а и вообще в этом году. Конечно, у нее есть свои особенности, которые вряд ли позволят этой игре занять подобающее место в списках лучших игр года на крупных номинациях (тем более, что она вышла в декабре, так что пока этот проект вообще проходит мимо наград и номинаций за 2015 год), но в сердцах геймеров она свое место отвоюет определенно. А я, видимо, уже нашла себе занятие на декабрь — слишком много неисследованного остается после одного прохождения!

Xenoblade Chronicles X

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Generally favorable reviews — based on 87 Critic Reviews What’s this?

Universal acclaim — based on 1743 Ratings

Universal acclaim — based on 1743 Ratings

  • Summary: Fight for survival while exploring the vast expanses of an unknown planet where anything you see is reachable in your weaponized mech, called a Skell. Customize a lethal skill set of combat and defensive skills, called Arts, to strengthen your strategies and defeat enemies efficiently. Fight for survival while exploring the vast expanses of an unknown planet where anything you see is reachable in your weaponized mech, called a Skell. Customize a lethal skill set of combat and defensive skills, called Arts, to strengthen your strategies and defeat enemies efficiently. Attack your enemies from multiple directions using melee weapons, guns, and your greatest asset—your tactical mind. … Expand
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  • Developer: Monolith Soft
  • Genre(s): Action RPG , Role-Playing , Action RPG
  • # of players: Up to 32
  • Cheats: On GameFAQs
  • Rating: T
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User Reviews

Best RPG released since the Ps2 Era.

Perfect game in every respect. Completely destroys Failout 4 in every possible aspect. From the Best RPG released since the Ps2 Era.

Perfect game in every respect.
Completely destroys Failout 4 in every possible aspect. From the character models, all the way to the superior combat system. Xenoblade Chronicles X takes the cake. The foolish and lack of mind will play Fallout 4, and the wise and true gamers will Get Xenoblade Chronicles X. … Expand

Xenoblade X is the spiritual sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. Like its predecessor this game pushes the WiiU to its limits. Xenoblade X is the spiritual sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. Like its predecessor this game pushes the WiiU to its limits. Visually the game is punching above its weight. You can notice where a few concessions had to be made however. Alpha texture resolution can create uneven edges around objects. There are also instances of clipping where a car will pass right through your characters. Despite its few graphical shortcomings however; the game still manages to impress with its sheer artistry and scale. Speaking of scale its been estimated that Xenoblade X is larger than the worlds of the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 combined. The Witcher 3 could fit in Xenoblade X three times while Fallout 4 could fit inside X’s world 5 times.

The game doesn’t hold your hand and it also doesn’t pull any punches. The game can be difficult at times but has a decent curve. Some of the menus can be a bit dense and you aren’t given a lot of explanation. If there was ever a game you wanted to read the manual or guide for? This is that game. Fortunately the game has a on disc manual that can be accessed from the gamepad. But it can also be rewarding to explore these menus on your own and learn how its systems work with one another.

You start the game by creating a character of your own. The options are fairly straightforward and get the job done. It is a bit disappointing that even after creating a character to your liking; your character is essentially a blank slate with no real personality to speak of. The story is intriguing though suffers from stiff presentation and dialogue at times. Some of the story missions unfortunately are gated behind side missions.

The biggest selling point of the game is getting your own mech (Skell). This doesn’t happen until 30+ hours into the game but is rewarding once you do. Skells themselves offer different combat and traversal options including the ability to fly. However it comes at a cost. The Skells themselves are expensive and can be destroyed in combat. Replacing them isn’t cheap either. In combat your Skell’s equipment determines what arts you can use. However like attacking appendages of your enemies in ground combat? Enemies can also attack individual parts of your skell. Once you lose an arm or something, this can prevent you from using a specific art in that fight. So it is imperative to know when to use your skell and when to save it from destruction.

Overall Xenoblade X is a fantastic game that shouldn’t be missed if you are a WiiU owner. The game offers hundreds of hours of content and is easily worth the $60.


I would like to now take this time to review the special edition. The 120+ page artbook is beautiful. The pages are glossy with a varnish applied to certain images that really give it a premium quality finish. The special edition also comes with a matted art card which is very nice. My biggest gripe is with the soundtrack that is on the USB device. The tracks themselves are gated behind a form of DRM that has for some users locked their particular drive. So at the present it is little more than a paper weight. Its disappointing that Nintendo had to implement a form of DRM for a soundtrack we had already purchased in the special edition. … Expand

Xenoblade Chronicles X Review: Reason to Buy Nintendo’s Wii U

The good: Huge and beautifully realized world to explore, excellent gameplay systems work well together
The bad: Insufficient documentation—and this is a game that could use a better manual
Bottom line: Hands-down the best roleplaying game of 2015

Forty-six hours of your life feels like plenty to surrender to any video game. And yet if I’m reading Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s numbers right, I’ve chewed through less than half its alien other-lands, its sweeping herds of indigenous fauna (dubbed “indigens,” some so enormous they blot out the sky at a hundred paces), its labyrinthine gameplay systems and its dazzling panoramas with arcing geological formations that soar above you.

That you can wander anywhere your eyeballs register is only the game’s surface allure, an assimilation of the Western roleplaying genre’s penchant for turning players loose in freaking ginormous spaces where who-knows-what lurks around any corner. In other games, most of those places turn out to be facile—battle zoos under a patina of storytelling. Scrape it off, and you’re either fighting or looking for more stuff to fight.

Xenoblade Chronicles X makes no such pretense. It knows what it is, and doubles down by inviting players to knock about its sprawling menageries without worrying whether the story makes sense or caring much about its characters. The twists and wrinkles lie instead in the gameplay (where they should be). A library of interesting ideas slowly unwinds, eventually ramifying in ways that challenge not just a gamer’s ability to cleave through the next lot of refrigerator-poetry-christened “grotto mortifoles” or “echo gemivores” or “viridian monoceros,” but his or her basic grasp of how the game works at all.

It’s further evidence of a design restlessness that’s marked most of Japan-based director Tetsuya Takahasi’s work, best realized in 2012’s superb Xenoblade Chronicles for the Nintendo Wii. Xenoblade Chronicles X isn’t a direct sequel to that game, but echoes its core ideas: realtime battles where you trigger abilities (“arts”) and shoot for combat bonuses by complementing whatever your teammates are up to, and collection-driven exploration. The difference is that instead of working your way quasi-linearly through a world that unlocks in segments, you can go anywhere on planet Mira from the start. Well, sort of. Indigens are ubiquitous, and the most lethal often roam in eyeshot of the most benign. I noticed one player on a forum devoted to the game complaining that the planet’s hostiles were making free exploration difficult, to which another quipped: “It’s as if you’re stuck on a hostile alien planet or something!”

Never mind how insanely big and dangerous Mira is, you’re busy enough just getting your hands around the periodic gameplay changeups. Xenoblade Chronicles would trot out a new idea, then lay in another, then more still, until it felt like you were playing outwards from the center of an onion, each step refiguring your grasp of all the other gameplay systems. Xenoblade Chronicles X works exactly the same, only with a totally different set of ideas.

Take “Soul Voices,” the game’s way of rewarding you for interacting with teammates as you’re squaring off with opponents. Imagine a relational data cube of trigger actions you can futz with, each dependent on some thing or other happening during combat. At first it feels like too much to have to worry about. But then you realize the actions are color-coded in tandem with your combat arts, narrowing your melee or ranged choices when a teammate shouts something like “Appendage destroyed! Move in and strike!” or “Help me out with a buff!” It’s just one of several ways Xenoblade Chronicles X helps facilitate watchful juggling of its data point barrage during battles.

But make no mistake, battles are utter onslaughts of numbers and jumbled visual information, while you’re simultaneously trying to flank for damage advantages, selectively target body parts to weaken an enemy before delivering the coup de grace, and trying to stagger then topple foes by sequencing attacks correctly. It’s a lot to take in, much less master. And just when you think you’ve got it under your fingers, Xenoblade Chronicles X upends the ground game you’ve been playing for dozens of hours and, crazily, trots out a giant robot sim.

I’m talking about “Skells,” the game’s name for giant mechs, because Xenoblade Chronicles X is partly a giant mech game lying in wait like a Jack-in-the-box. (It took me over 40 hours cranking the handle to spring a license to pilot one.) And after you’ve spent another dozen hours sussing your starter Skell’s ability to leap and move and fight an order of magnitude further and faster than your party on foot, you’re thinking about buying very different others, then outfitting your entire party with their own. It’s like Xenoblade Chronicles X is the Matryoshka doll of roleplaying games, only here the dolls are tall as buildings, can transform into vehicles (and eventually fly), and sport awesome, totally unique battle moves.

Does the story about humans fleeing an alien invasion of Earth and crash-landing on an alien planet matter? A little. Gone is Xenoblade Chronicles‘ mythic metaphor for Manichaean warfare staged on the bodies of antipodal gods. In its place studio Monolith Soft delivers a more grounded tale of first encounters that grapples at least tentatively with the hazards of colonialism and otherness. Takahasi’s penchant for philosophizing sits on the back-burner here, but it works to the game’s advantage, complementing the gameplay’s leaner survivalism-oriented vibe.

If this more open approach has a downside, it’s in the game’s commensurate fractal complexity. The acclimation curve feels endless, which itself counts as a virtue, but the game hides a lot of how it works too deeply. In other words, plan to spend significant amounts of time puzzling out what all the things you’re able to do in fact do.

Explanations exist, but the connection points are soft, the initial summaries ephemeral and often abstract. You can pop over to the 142-page online manual, but it’s set off from the game, which is a problem when you’re trying to parse transient icon-driven ability bonuses (dozens), or weather’s enormous impact on combat, or any other aspect of the game that uses symbols as shorthand, but where the explanation’s buried somewhere you have to pause the game to look. Why couldn’t all that stuff live in the game proper? We’re talking about the Wii U here after all — the only game console with a second screen.

Speaking of, the Wii U GamePad proves indispensable in other ways. Into its 6.2 inches of touchable real estate the design team jams a map overlaid with hexes that comprise an in-game system dubbed FrontierNav. It’s a handy survey tool that acts as both a quick reference guide to where you are or what’s in a hex, as well as a resource management mini-game.

Surveying Mira requires deploying different types of probes behind hostile lines, which in turn yield a unique resources that feed other systems, say money to buy better gear or pay manufacturers to research better weapons. You can even place probes that yield combat bonuses in a given hex, which becomes important when taking on “tyrants” — game speak for ominous area bosses. It’s a vital tool that demonstrates, however singularly, what the Wii U can do better than any other console. And if you don’t own a Wii U, Xenoblade Chronicles X is reason enough to buy one, even if it’s the only thing you play.

There’s another game that came to mind as I played Xenoblade Chronicles X, and that’s Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII, whose Gran Pulse sequences parallel Mira’s free-roaming and epically weird cliff-scapes and Godzilla-sized wildlife. But Takahasi’s playbook is more sublime, and in its sprawling Skyrim-scale openness, more spatially Western. That jibes with what Takahasi himself told me, that he “doesn’t have very much interest in ‘current’ Japanese anime and games,” and that the books he reads or films he watches or games he plays “are made in the West.” “As a result, I’ve come to the realization that it’s best to try and organically make the kind of things I like, or want,” he says. In Xenoblade Chronicles X, we’re seeing the superlative upshot of that process.

Xenoblade Chronicles X Review

Earth has been destroyed. Caught in a battle between unknown alien forces, the planet’s surface was quickly reduced to ash and rubble. Aware of the threat, Earth’s coalition government prepared the Earthlife Colonisation Project – Project Exodus – that saw every major city launch colossal, interstellar arks. Tragically, most never even made it out of the atmosphere. But yours, the White Whale, made a lucky escape and spent two years searching for a new planet to call home. When your enemies make a sudden return, the White Whale’s flight systems are destroyed resulting in it being pulled into the gravitational field of a nearby planet. And so, humanity’s fight for survival continues.

Planet Mira was a world that I longed to explore, and it has been reassuring to discover that Monolith Soft’s sweeping open-world epic echoes many of the successes praised in Xenoblade Chronicles. We have certainly endured a long wait for Xenoblade Chronicles X, first introduced to the world by late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in January 2013. Now, nearly two years later, it braces for launch at a similar point in time when Nintendo are nearing their plans to unveil NX.

If there was anything that immediately struck me after the game’s introductory prologue, it was the sheer sense of scale. As the camera trails across Primordia’s grassy expanse, you soon realise that it is but one of the planet’s five distinct continents – Noctilum, Oblivia, Sylvalum and Cauldros awaiting your curiosity-riddled exploration later on. Xenoblade Chronicles X relishes making the player feel dwarfed by their surroundings, whether that be in running underneath towering ‘indigens’ that slowly stomp their way around or missions that lead you to high-up vistas in encouraging you to appreciate the wondrous view.

That you spend a lengthy portion of the game on foot only lends itself to becoming captivated by Mira’s grandeur, a calculative decision made by Monolith Soft to firstly challenge players to overcome the hostile environment through skill and evasion alone. Thirty hours in and your patience is rewarded with the chance to qualify for a Skell license, a mechanised combat suit that suddenly opens up new areas for you to explore. It also emboldens you to launch attacks on enemies at higher levels than your own, even if there’s still chance that your reckless attack can go unrewarded.

Players will occupy their time by adventuring on four types of mission: Story, Normal, Affinity and Basic. Expectedly, Story missions are where the narrative is at. Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s space opera firmly treads humanity’s survival as they race to retrieve White Whale’s scattered wreckage – warding off the more heartless Ganglion as they look to destroy it. It isn’t the Wii U exclusive’s most notable component, never developed enough to captivate and lacking the speculative intrigue sparked by the Monado in Xenoblade Chronicles.

The enlisted voice cast provide some stellar performances – especially in Tatsu’s frequent bursts of comic relief and L’s misquoted idioms – but a decision to leave the main protagonist entirely silent is jarring. Your only involvement in conversation is being prompted to select between two inflections, in turn altering the mood or topic. It was perhaps an effort in response to broadened dialogue options in western RPGs, but it left me feeling more detached from the characters that surrounded me rather than involved.

I enjoyed the game’s Affinity missions far more, exploring the motives and quirks of Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s accompanying cast. These, as with Story missions, are gated, requiring the player to reach a certain level before they can be started, which led to repeated instances in which I spent a few hours grinding in order to proceed. Difficulty spikes come in the bosses that sporadically appear in the story narrative, and become increasingly overwhelming as you progress. Fail three times to defeat them and you are offered the chance to reduce their level, but even with a higher-levelled party than the opposition you can still be beaten. Back to grinding, then.

Monolith Soft at least help to objectify your grinding through providing plentiful Basic and Normal missions. These fall under Social, Bounty and Gathering categories, with the first largely seeing someone request Miranium, materials or helping lead you to discovering a new Affinity mission. Bounty sees you hunt specific enemy types or Tyrants, which are named monsters with levels that always far surpass your own. Whereas Gathering proves the most frustrating, with players tasked with collecting materials in a continent or by defeating certain enemies. The Enemy Index and Collectopedia return to try to help you identify and locate these, but it is largely left to lady luck as you waste time dashing around to grab the blue crystal indicators.

Those that adventured in Xenoblade Chronicles will find combat familiar but improved. Your party will attack automatically when you choose to engage a nearby indigen, unleashing Arts to either deal damage, recover or protect yourself and your team. It’s disorientating at first, until you learn what each Art does and can therefore begin to chain them to deal more devastating blows. Whether that be making an enemy weaker to physical attacks before slashing away with your sword or toppling a foe to temporarily prevent it from retaliating, there’s plenty of room to strategise your approach.

The Monado’s foreshadowing is long gone, but it is replaced by the new Soul Voice mechanic. This sees your allies continually shout out to one another in battle, providing hints as to incoming attacks or vulnerabilities. Simply put, certain Arts will be highlighted in response to this and activating one will provide an attack or health boost. Each auto-attack you make will earn you Tension Points (TP), which can be used to Revive a downed party member or access Overdrive to enhance the potency of your Arts. Critical hits can be scored by attacking enemies from behind, above or below, whereas players can now target their attacks at body parts – such as an arm, leg or tail – that, once destroyed, will limit the enemy’s available attacks and lower their damage resistance.

Strengthening your party partly comes through levelling, but more significantly comes through acquiring more potent weapons and sturdier armour while using Battle Points to upgrade Arts and Skills. There’s immeasurable depth here, players freely selecting between Classes to reflect their chosen play style and diversify battle encounters with new Arts. You will also join one of several BLADE divisions, each with their own recommended activities and benefits whether that be dealing increased ranged or melee damage, or improving chances of an item reward when defeating enemies.

Players can invest Miranium in Arms Manufacturers to unlock a more advanced arsenal, which eventually makes the store increasingly intimidating with the near endless raft of options to purchase. That carries across to Skells too, which can not only carry a ridiculous amount of destructive weapons but are available in differing frames. My proudest moment was finally being able to afford to deck every party member with their own Skell, taking to the skies to rain down havoc from above!

Perhaps Monolith Soft’s greatest success is in their extensive Wii U GamePad implementation, which sees players operate the FrontierNav. This allows you to fast travel to discovered landmarks or unlocked FrontierNav points, while having chance to install probes to mine for Miranium, rare resources or generate revenue from research. Different probes each have their own effects and linking the same probe types will boost their effect, investing your time ultimately rewarding you with a steady stream of income as you continue to play. This becomes of increasing importance, especially as replacing destroyed Skells can prove considerably costly.

A surprise was how well Xenoblade Chronicles X works as a socially connected experience. When players start the game they are asked whether they want to join a Lifehold, Conquest or Friends Squad, determining whether they are focused on single-player, multiplayer or tracking their friends’ progress respectively. It seems a superficial choice at first, but groups you with up to 32 players online where you can see each other’s achievements as they unlock, send short messages for guidance or join up to four players to tackle online missions – presenting an opportunity to earn more credits, experience and materials. You can also register your character online, which can be hired by other players to join their in-game team – earning experience, items and resources as a result.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is among the most visually astounding games to release on Wii U, which is all the more impressive considering the low number of loading screens. Planet Mira is a perfectly realised playground promising a boundless adventure, and, while certain detail in character models doesn’t quite strike the same chord, it is a world that you will welcomingly become lost in.

Composer Hiroyuki Sawano’s rousing score is as soaringly epic as the monsters that roam the Wii U exclusive’s seamless world, successfully matching the vibe of Monolith Soft’s creation. Xenoblade Chronicles remains to have had the stronger penned score, but Sawano’s work can still readily thrill.

With Xenoblade Chronicles widely seen as a swansong on Wii, it surpassed every expectation of what could be achieved on the console. There are certainly strong parallels to observe in Xenoblade Chronicles X and, regardless of whatever the next year holds, it will be forever cherished as one of Wii U’s greats.






Xenoblade Chronicles X Review

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