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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.

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Huge, beautiful world to explore.

Feels very open.

Lots of activities.

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 ($260.00 at eBay) 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 ($679.99 at Amazon) 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.

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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.

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.

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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 ($295.00 at Amazon) or Xbox One ($200.00 at eBay) , 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.

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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.

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 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.

Xenoblade is the best RPGs on the market right now. The world is truly epic, the characters are deep, and the combat is fluid and fast. The Xenoblade is the best RPGs on the market right now. The world is truly epic, the characters are deep, and the combat is fluid and fast. The story is very strong, the more sub quest you do, the better story and character development you get in the game. It does take a lot of patience in order to really enjoy the game, and it will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you love RPGs, then this game is your ticket to paradise with a thumping soundtrack, huge world to explore. characters who are funny, emotional, and have personalities.

The combat is deep, but accessible. A simple press of the button, and you can switch from a knife to a machine gun. You get to scroll through the selection of actions that range from healing your team mate, to using a big charge attack that will deal big damage. The monsters are plentiful and are they smart. I saw one enemy jump off a cliff from me, he went to get two of his friends, and they all ran away. Another enemy called for help when I was almost ready to defeat it. This shows the developers took a lot of time and care into creating this game.

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The submissions can range from really short and easy, to extremely long and difficult. The harder missions of course are more important to the mission, so they will take longer and be harder. The controls are spot-on, the button layout feels right and the movement of the character never felt stiff or weighty. The controls felt natural and easy to master which gives the player a sense of power.

Even if you don’t like RPGs, you might want to check out Xenoblade, the music is a good mixture of rock, techno, and symphony. The action is fast, fluid and the bosses are extremely hard, and of course, mechs! How can you not love a game with mechs in it. If you love hard games with a long campaign, (counting the side-quest, it can take over 300 hours to do everything( then this game is a must for you, and if you don’t like games like this? The new COD is out, go play it instead, and leave us real gamers to this game. … 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.

*****SPECIAL EDITION REVIEW*****
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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

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