Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) Review

Jae Lee

Xenoblade Collectathon X.

The original Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii was an exceptional game.

It featured one of the biggest worlds I’ve ever seen in a JRPG and implemented elements from MMOs like a cooldown based combat engine and a vast array of quests spanning well in the hundreds.

Held together by a memorable cast and a unique take on a familiar story, it was a shining example to quiet all those who claimed that the age of JRPGs had long past and gone.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it was my pick for game of the year for 2012.

Suffice to say, when a sequel to Xenoblade was announced, I was positively teeming with anticipation.

Years later, I’ve finally got my hands on the game I more or less purchased the Wii U to play, and after spending a copious amount of time in the alien world of Mira, I have some very mixed feelings.

There aren’t too many cutscenes presented in X but there are still some epic moments.

There aren’t too many cutscenes presented in X but there are still some epic moments.

MSRP: $59.99
Platform: Wii U
Multiplayer: Time attack leaderboards and online co-op (not tested due to server unavailability)
Voice Acting Selection: ENG Only.
Length: 60~ hours

Caught in a war between two technologically superior races, the Earth is pushed to the brink of destruction, forcing humanity out of its home in hopes that they might find the new promised land. After some time spent wandering the infinite sea of stars, one such ship finds itself under attack by an alien force and crash lands on the planet of Mira, where they must reclaim the “Life Hold” before it’s too late and humanity is lost forever.

It’s a fairly compelling setup all things considered, and it managed to keep my attention all the way till the credits rolled, but the game ends just when things truly become interesting, and I have to ponder if they’re setting up a sequel that may or may not come to pass.

Also, much of the story’s impact lost some of its flavor due to the mute player character, and I felt the sacrifice made so that the player can create his/her avatar was a bit steep in this case.

There were over a dozen characters I could recruit into my party, but most of them fell flat due to rather uninspiring designs, both visually and in terms of personality.

While the affinity quests were a nice touch to add some much needed back story and developments on the party members, only a select few inspired any attention. I ended up sticking with a set party of four for the vast majority of the game.

Where most of the characters and story failed to impress, the world of Mira left quite an impression with its sheer size and beauty.

Planet Mira is as massive as it is beautiful.

Planet Mira is as massive as it is beautiful.

I think it’s no exaggeration to say that environments and vistas available in X were some of finest I’ve seen in recent memory.

Spanning five completely different environments with its own weather effects and teeming with all manner of life, some of which were the size of mountains, it’s really something to behold.

Sure, there are other games that have better textures and lighting, but when it comes to artistic design, Mira is truly an exceptionally crafted world.

On the side of gameplay, the combat on foot is an intricate mix of strategy and skill, with a widely customizable load out of classes/skills/arts and equipment.

X plays similarly to its predecessor in its cooldown based combat skills, but adds a few new mechanics like “Soul Voice” that encourages using a variety of arts to take advantage of its boost and healing effects.

Combat on the mobile suits known as Gund… I mean, “Skells” felt a bit sluggish by comparison due to the rather long cooldown weapons and the inability to use points to lower the cooldown on the attacks like I could on the character arts.

Unfortunately, X clings to some rather annoying MMO tropes, like how higher level enemies are nearly impossible to hit and do a crap ton of damage for no real good reason.

Worse yet, the levels of the enemies in any given area felt comically random as there were often level 15 enemies right next to a bunch of 60s that would love nothing more than to dine on my face, and dine they did, many, many times.

However, the worst perpetrator that nearly killed the entire experience for me was the insanely obtuse quest/story progression.

Kill anything that moves and run away from everything else that has significantly higher number than you.

Kill anything that moves and run away from everything else that has significantly higher number than you.

Before I was able to accept the quest to start the next chapter of the story, the game would often task me with completing certain quests or surveying a certain percentage of the map.

While that sounds simple enough, I found myself desperately searching for each probe point (helps with surveying), tip toeing around enemies that were 20-40 levels higher than me.

Getting caught and killed with literally zero chance of survival dozens of times just so I can trigger the next part of the story felt like a major flaw in X’s design, and if that wasn’t annoying enough, I often had to complete quests that required me to find a bunch of different items in the world, with only a hint of what continent it was on.

OH IT’S ON OBLIVIA YOU SAY, WOW THAT NARROWS IT DOWN, THANKS. HOW ABOUT YOU FIND ME SOME CORAL MARQUES, IT’S SOMEWHERE IN SOUTH AFRICA!

Suffice to say, I spent hours upon hours combing the land for shinies until I finally figured out where they spawned. They also did the same for dropped items from creatures, and of course the drop rates were abysmal.

In fact, getting my actual driver’s license was both easier and quicker to accomplish than getting my Skell license and flight module.

No guides, walkthroughs or forums could help a poor reviewer like me in my time of need, and I was left only with stupid persistence to power my way through, and by god, I did it.

Still, it’s nearly game breaking, and serves to do nothing but kill all the momentum of the story- so much to the point I have no idea why anyone could have possibly thought this was a good idea.

Taking to the skies for the very first time is an unforgettable moment after all the hours I spent working towards it.

Taking to the skies for the very first time is an unforgettable moment after all the hours I spent working towards it.

Lastly, there’s some multiplayer elements including time attack leader boards and co-op missions, but I was unable to test that functionality in detail due to the servers being down during my review playthrough.

Xenoblade Chronicles X has a lot going for it. The incredible world, in-depth combat engine and an amazing soundtrack sets up the foundation for something that could’ve been an absolute classic. However, due to the missteps in quest design and overall progression, it’s a game that can only truly be enjoyed despite itself.

Fun Tidbit – People have been hyping the connection between this game the original and even the Xenosaga games. Just remember that it’s Bandai Namco that owns the license to the Xenosaga games.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Expansive world, filled to the brim with fantastical creatures and beautiful vistas
  • Memorable soundtrack full of cheesy songs and sweeping orchestral pieces
  • Solid combat engine with a lot of room for customization

Bad

  • Incredibly obtuse story/quest progression
  • Infuriating enemy placements
  • Tired MMO tropes
7.5

Good

Jae Lee
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.
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