Xenoblade Chronicles X Review


Xenoblade Chronicles X

The Verdict

In a year that was filled with games like Fallout 4, Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Rocket League, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I never expected a Wii U game to top all of those. For me, Xenoblade Chronicles X is the epitome of everything I want in a JRPG. It not only builds on the systems introduced in the first game, but completely changes up others to keep things feeling fresh and new, even after 50 hours of game time.

But even though I'm gushing about how perfect Xenoblade Chronicles X is, despite its few negatives, I realize it's not a game for everyone. After all, The Witcher 3 might have an equally impressive world to explore, but it's fundamentally a completely different game.

I will say though that those of you who loved games like Rogue Galaxy on the PS2, or any JRPG on that console from that era, will find a lot to love in Xenoblade Chronicles X. It might have taken a while to come to the US, but as the saying goes, "better late than never," is especially true in XCX's case.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

The Positives

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X takes the 'Go big or go home' statement quite literally. Everything is giant in scope. Whether it's the five continents and New LA to explore, the massive enemies you'll be coming across, the giant mechs (Skells) you'll get at some point in the game, and even the storyline, which quite literally has Earth destroyed with mankind trying to make one last stand on a completely alien planet. It's so massive that at first, it might seem hugely overwhelming, but that's one of the game's big draws.

  • I put in over a 100 hours into the game, and found myself continually learning or discovering something new throughout that time. It's impressive that a game can keep surprising you after putting in so many hours, essentially making sure that you're never growing bored with its mechanics.

  • The game's pacing might be quite divisive among its players, as its main missions require you to complete certain side quests and even explore a certain percentage of each continent. While I didn't find this to be an issue, only because I've been enjoying literally every aspect of the game, those that want to plough through the story will most likely be irritated by this.

  • Despite being on the Wii U, XCX is one of the best looking games I've seen on the system, and even better than some of the current-gen games that came out this year. A lot of this has to do with the game's art direction.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Seriously, just look at it!

  • Part of the magic stems from the game's giant, fully explorable world. Mira is most certainly an alien planet, something that you'll quickly realize as you step out of the game's initial tutorial area. Floating rock structures and islands hover across land, huge dinosaur-like creatures roam around while smaller, more agile ones run around them. Each continent also has its own theme as well; Primordia is your lush green plains and mountains, Oblivia is a desert with alien artifacts serving as huge landmarks, Noctilum has a dark forest and swamp areas, Sylvalum is an ashy, almost dead continent though still very beautiful, and Cauldros is filled with lava and fire spewing everywhere.

  • Did I mention there isn't a loading screen to be found when exploring the entire world? The only loading screen you'll ever see is when going into a cutscene, or if you're going into the interior of your BLADE Barracks.

  • Unlike its predecessor, XCX lets you create an original character, who, despite their importance in the main narrative, takes a backseat in a lot of the conversations. While this might be viewed as a negative to some, I found that it doesn't really detract from the overall storyline, which leads me to the characters.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Don't judge her by her looks, Lin is a fantastic character

  • The supporting cast is absolutely fantastic. Going by the trailers, I was worried about characters like Tatsu the Nopon or Lin the 13 year old mechanic. Usually those kinds of characters end up being super annoying, as per their standard anime trope. In fact, Lin ended up being one of my favorite characters, as she's strong, independent, and a damn good mechanic to boot. But the game's filled with a lot of other supporting characters that are just as great, and each have their own backstories and motivations, that you'll actually get to explore.

  • It's not often that a game with so many supporting characters (that can also join your party) has them so fleshed out. This is largely thanks to the Affinity Missions that you unlock throughout the game. Each character has a personal side story that will not only allow you to get more familiar with them, but makes them feel like actual people with goals and motivations.

  • The combat system is very reminiscent of Xenoblade Chronicles, though with some minor tweaks that actually make it a lot more engaging. You now have access to two weapons at a time; Short ranged melee weapons and ranged guns. You can freely switch between these on the fly, and both have skills associated with them.

  • You're also never tied down to just one class or a certain weapon. You can free switch between classes, and continually unlock more specialized ones. Once you master a specialized class, you'll master those weapons as well, allowing you to equip them even when using a class that doesn't support them. What's even better is that the game automatically switches your skill bar according to what class you are, meaning you never have to manually switch anything up.

  • The Skells are absolutely amazing, and do indeed take around 25 to 30 hours to unlock. However, putting them behind such a large playtime barrier was genius, as it keeps the game fresh. Trust me when I say the game changes drastically once you unlock these huge mechs, and it's yet another mechanic to master once you've already put in so many hours.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

  • The Mining meta-game which is handled entirely on the Gamepad, is also a challenge, as you're tasked with switching out various Probes with different specializations and linking them together for resource or income bonuses. There are also combat Probes which provide various buffs when you're in range of them.

  • Customization is also a large part of the experience. Armor is once again modular, which lets you equip different pieces on various parts of your body, and actually see the result. Don't like the way your armor looks? Just slot whatever better looking armor you have in your fashion slot. Your BLADE base can also be customized with various color schemes and hologram statues. Even Skells can be customized with various paint schemes.

  • The game's online component is quite interesting. Early on in the game, you can pick one of eight Divisions that each specialize on various parts of the game. Pathfinders get more XP for exploring the world, while Interceptors get more XP for killing mobs, etc. When playing online, you'll get specific Squad missions that will earn you points for whichever Division you're in. At the end of the day, you'll get awarded with a bonus package depending on how well your Division places. You can also join others online in completing these Squad goals, but from my experience, it has to be done separately, meaning everyone in your squad is in their own game world, but contributing to the same goals.

  • Players who have registered their character to the Blade Network can have them recruited as an NPC by other players. You can literally find other players anywhere in the world just standing around, and recruiiting them will cost you some credits. This is especially helpful if you come across a higher level character that you can recruit. It will cost you more but it might help you beat a boss or enemy that you were otherwise struggling with.

The Negatives

  • The soundtrack is a huge case of hit or miss. For every one song I liked, there were a few I couldn't stand. The New LA theme, night and day versions are both quite terrible, and don't really fit in with the rest of the soundtrack. 

  • While I wouldn't say that the game is a grindfest by any stretch of the imagination, it can be tedious for players who won't indulge in exploration. I say this because like in its predecessor, those little blue crystals will award you with random materials that are often used for quests. A lot of the times, you can easily finish a quest right after you've picked it up, if you've already collected the right items for it, but if you're on the opposite side of the spectrum, hunting down for a specific item that comes from these blue crystals can be annoying, since the material you get from them is random, at least in the confines of the area that you're in.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

  • While it is possible to pick from a large cast of supporting characters to join your party, you shouldn't ever really replace Lin or Elma from your party, since they're necessary for most of the game's story missions. This is quite the oversight, especially since characters that aren't in your party won't gain any levels.

  • Switching Divisions can only be done online, which seems strange and sucks for those that plan on playing the game offline. It's not game breaking since you're not locked out of any content that way, but it is a weird decision none the less.

  • The Skells, while amazing, control terribly when in their vehicle mode. 

  • You can't really set up NPC combat behavior before battle, and instead, have to rely on commands. However, this clunky system completely takes you out of the battle menu, which can be fatal when going up against a tough enemy.

  • Frequently during conversations, you'll be prompted to respond in one of two ways. While I don't mind that per se, I really dislike the way it was handled. The cutscene literally freezes in place, putting a halt to the conversation, until you choose one of the two responses. It's so jarring.

  • While I understand the censorship of Lin's bikinis, since she is, after all, 13 years old, it's completely asinine to take out the breast slider option, otherwise present in the Japanese version.

If there are two things that are quite well known regarding Nintendo, is that they either like to play it safe with their core franchises like Mario, Pokemon and Zelda, or in the case of franchises like F-Zero or Metroid, abandon them completely. With the exception of their hardware, Nintendo aren't the biggest risk takers in the business, and while some of their franchises do indeed innovate such as Super Mario Sunshine or the two Galaxy games, it's not long before we're back to the standard platformer mechanics in games like Super Mario 3D World.

In 2011, fans banded together and created a campaign to persuade Nintendo to release a trio of Japanese games in the West, and not long after, Nintendo actually gave in. The first game to be released, which was arguably the best one, was Xenoblade Chronicles, an RPG of grand proportions. I still remember gushing over size of Gaur Plains when I first entered that zone, or seeing the other continent (which happened to be a giant robot) in certain locations. For the Wii, this was a very impressive game. Never did I think we'll be getting a sequel.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a sequel in name and mechanics only though, as the story here is completely removed from the first game. However, once again, it managed to impress me with its grand scope, five giant continents to fully explore, fun combat system and engaging storyline.

I don't usually recommend buying a console for a video game, and when I do, the core game has to be so stellar, so addicting, that the thought of not having the console to play it would drive you mad. I didn't say that for Rise of the Tomb Raider. I am, however, saying it for Xenoblade Chronicles X.