Ryu’s Musings – Xenoblade Chronicles X

Posted on January 20th, 2016 by Ryu Sheng |

xbxLanguage: English
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: Wii U
Type: JRPG

Synopsis:

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.

The next massive sci-fi role-playing game from Monolith Soft, the creators of Baten Kaitos and Xenoblade Chronicles, comes exclusively to Wii U. A terrible intergalactic war leaves just a handful of Earth survivors trying to live in a beautiful yet hostile environment. Players engage in battles against powerful creatures of all forms and sizes using the deep battle system that builds on the triumphs of Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii.

Features:

  • Riding and controlling a weaponised mech, players can explore every inch of the massive open world displayed in gorgeous high-definition graphics. The world is filled with strange and imaginative creatures, from small bugs to giant dinosaurs.
  • As characters improve in different classes, they will learn new combat and defensive skills, or Arts. Players can customise the Arts palette as their characters learn new Arts. All Arts have a ‘recast’ time – once cast, the player must wait out a ‘cooldown’ period before that Art can be used again.
  • Players can customise everything about the main character’s appearance, including gender, shapes, height, skin colour, voice, and tattoos.

I’ve gamed on pretty much everything over the years, except for two consoles. The Wii and the Wii U, simply due to the fact that there was never anything on them for me.

This all changed in December with the release of Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U. For me this was a system seller, I bought my Wii U purely to play this game; and was further surprised to find the original Xenoblade Chronicles (from the Wii) had been ported over as well. So naturally I bought that as well! My post on that game will follow shortly

For this post alone I’m going to change my normal format and give my conclusion first, because otherwise my comments could be easily misinterpreted.

So, is Xenoblade Chronicles X worth picking up, and can it be considered a system seller? ABSOLUTELY!!

However, if your like me and living in the UK, don’t get the Collectors Edition, it’s not worth the money. As per usual the yanks get the best Collectors Edition and we’re given the after thought crap version. If your going to buy a Wii U at the same time however, pick up the Xenoblade Chronicles X version of the system, and that will give you the collectors edition for free!

I’ve now racked up over 130hours in this game since I picked it up christmas eve, and it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve not regretted buying the console just for this game at all!

Sadly though, that doesn’t mean the game is perfect; it isn’t, and that why I gave my conclusion first because while I’ll be highlighting the good, I also have to highlight the bad, and there’s a lot of it.

This game is HUGE, if you buy the digital version of the game I hope you’re prepared to delete just about everything off your console, the game is that big. If you have a 32GB Wii U you’ll have around 1.5GB left over after you install the game. If you have an 8GB console you’re going to have to use an external drive.

If you buy the disk version though your going to have significant load times, and when I say significant, I mean almost 5minute load times. On one occasion I had time to go to the loo, make a coffee, and get back to the sofa to find the game still loading. Thankfully you can download a set of 4 data packs that both improve the games visual fidelity (which it did need) and bring the loading screens down to less than 30seconds on average.

This does mean you have to download a little over 10GB of data, which means dealing with Nintendo’s horrific servers. For me, it should have taken no more than 10 to 15minutes to download, it took me near 2hours to download and install. It is more than worth the slow slog though, as the game looks and runs significantly better.

Which leads nicely into discussing the graphics, which surprisingly have been criticised a lot since it’s release. I’m gonna be honest here and say that in my opinion, graphically the game isn’t that bad. It’s certainly no Witcher 3, but people seem to be forgetting that it’s on the Wii U, which is by far the weakest of all the consoles. People need to realise that the Wii U is only ‘slightly’ more powerful than the PlayStation Vita (sourced: Binding of Issac developers). So expecting High End PC graphics on it is both stupid, it’s almost as bad as criticising a black and white TV for not being in colour.

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Graphically the game really isn’t that bad, but it’s not amazing either. There are several times when you notice just how bad it can be. For example in one of the cut scenes your landing in a ship next to some steps, which have that ugly ‘wave’ effect going on because there’s no AA in the game. You also get texture pop-in (which can be mitigated to a degree using the data packs), and out in the world you get mob pop-in.

The texture pop-in I honestly don’t mind to much, sure when you notice it you really notice it, but honestly the only time I’ve really encountered it is when running around the city. Even then it’s not a frequent issue on the level for me to criticise the game for it. Especially since realistically you don’t go around with your face pressed to things looking at the minute details of the textures. Admittedly if this was on the PS4 or PC your damn right I’d be criticising the developers for their incompetence, however since it’s on the Wii U I feel the need to praise and compliment the developers on squeezing out everything they could of the Wii U’s power.

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The game does require you to suspend disbelief at times though, as your in a city, but it’s only got half a dozen houses for hundreds if not thousands of you…..

Out in the world of Mira however the game really does show off the skills of the developers. It’s a zone based pseudo open world. What I mean by that is when you reach the end of the zone and move to go into the next, you get a mini cut scene of you moving through the pass, while this is going on the game loads the next zone in the background. If your using the data packs this is seamless and unnoticeable, if you aren’t using them, be prepared for a coffee break (if you haven’t gotten the idea yet, it’s best to use the data packs!!)

The world is stunning, beautiful and varied in a way that blew my mind. Not only do we have day/night cycles and weather effects, but each zone is significantly different from the others. Which makes exploration a joy, which is important as there is a lot of exploration to be done!

Graphically the world is amazing to look at, with some amazing vistas that genuinely made me stop just to look at them for a few minutes. Given the varied zones I never got bored of just exploring and was always finding some amazing views.

What surprised me is that usually you’d expect the world to be fairly empty due to the limitations of the Wii U, but surprisingly this is not the case. When I was watching Talutha stream this I commented it looked like Jurassic World the Video Game, purely because of the number of mobs in the world.

They range from little cockroaches (and no I’m not kidding) all the way up to brontosaurus style mobs that are freaking huge. Another person commented it’s like Monster Hunter, in the way you can target different appendages and the scale of the monsters.

Given this, and the amazing cut scenes, I think that Monolith did an amazing job here and deserve a shed tonne of praise.

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Time to move onto the combat! Combat is split into two sections, ground combat and skell combat.

Ground combat is the same combat system as in the previous game, just with a shinier UI. You equipped weapons define what skills you get, and you have a pseudo free flowing combat. Sadly you quickly realise that it’s not free flowing fairly quickly. On the surface the combat gives you the illusion of being able to run around shooting and hacking the mobs, dodging out of the way of attacks and feeling like a badass. Sadly this isn’t quite true, while you do get to run around hacking and slashing, you can’t avoid enemy attacks (except for one class which has a dodge skill). Several times I’ve seen a mob about to attack me, so I’ve dodged well out of the way, and still taken the damage despite the mob attacking in an opposite direction.

After the initial disappointment of this I got over and moved on, because the combat is still a hell of a lot of fun, and very satisfying.

As I said skills are defined by the weapons you have equipped, but weapons are defined by the class you are. Each class has 10 ranks in it and once you reach rank 10 in a class you can move up to the next tier of class. If you play long enough you can open every class in the game and just change on the fly. I love this system, and if it had been implemented better I think it would have been one of the best systems around. Sadly it wasn’t implemented properly, sort of. The actual system itself is perfect, however the way it’s integrated into the game is what causes the problem.

So at the start of the game you create your character, you then get to choose what division (sort of like joining a guild in other RPG’s) you want to be, however after that you find the cracks. You’re placed into Elma’s team for the duration of the game and your introduced to the load of companions (and there is a lot of them). You’d think with that amount of companions you could build a team the way you want it, sadly thats not the case. For the story missions your 4party team is immediately reduced to 1 free spot as Elma and Lin are almost always mandatory characters. So you only have 1 free spot to picking choose who you want to bring.

The relationship missions are the same, you almost always have to take Elma and Lin. This was an issue for me as I decided to play a tanking character, but Lin is a tank as well, which lead to some issues. If you run the side missions (and there are a crap tonne of those!) to level up another party make up your screwed, since you can’t use that party and Lin (who is the one I usually dropped) doesn’t level up. So I found myself going up against lvl 26 mobs while everyone in my party, bar Lin, were lvl 23; and Lin was lvl 16. Naturally she’d die in a heart beat, making the story missions damn hard.

If companions levelled up outside of the party to your level, it wouldn’t be an issue. And lets face it, given the situation (story), just because she’s not part of your party she isn’t going to be sitting around twiddling her thumbs!

This was in my opinion, one of the biggest issues of the game, and frankly did cause me to walk away for a little bit. But I did come back and I’m past it now, it’s frustrating, but not so much so that I’d not play the game!

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The second aspect of the combat is Skell based, your own personal Gundam! if Gundam’s were pea shooters!

So yeah, I was very disappointed in Skell combat. The initial Skell is garbage, you don’t want to use it. Give it to one of your party to use instead and stick with ground combat. Once you hit level 30 (I believe) you gain access to shop bought Skell’s which are a lot better, to a degree. All Skell’s have ‘insurance’ once this is used your screwed and it becomes seriously expensive to recover your Skell if you loose it in combat. The current trend is to use a Skell till it has one insurance remaining and then pass it down to a party member since the AI always perfectly ejects from their Skell’s making them free to recover.

However the Skell’s biggest problem for me is that the combat feels anaemic. On the one had it looks awesome, but on the other you shoot a small critter and it doesn’t blow into dust, which you’d expect given the size of the guns. Admittedly I’ve not gotten access to the ‘top tier’ Skell’s which could improve the feel (I hope).

The Skell also fails hard when you change into vehicle mode (tank or bike), they handle like arse. The controls are clunky as hell and on several occasions the damn thing just drove off a cliff of doom insta killing me and wasting a insurance ticket. After that happened a few times I stopped using the vehicle mode and stuck in robot form. While it’s slower than vehicle mode, it still beats running, and once you get the flight mode your laughing.

I have to admit flying around was bloody awesome! It also rather surprisingly brought some all new beautiful views. Frankly the art direction in this game is perfect, I can not pick flaws with it!

Speaking of story, what’s it like? This is open for debate. People who played the original Xenoblade Chronicles are criticising this game because the story isn’t as good. I can’t comment on that at all, since I’ve not played beyond 20 mins of the previous game. However what I’ve played so far (and I’ll admit that I’ve not finished the story…..after 130hours…..) has been pretty solid, if atypical of the genre. It’s got all the usual tropes and cliche’s you’d expect and doesn’t do anything to really shake things up. However I have to admit that I am thus far really enjoying the story, it’s had me laughing my ass off, it’s had me angry and it’s had me concerned. Frankly it’s done good so far!

The story is split into two sides, the main story (self explanatory|) and companion missions. Comp missions only open up when you meet certain requirements, level and your relationship level with said companion. You improve your companion level by using them in your party, different actions will increase their comp level. These are also how you gain access to new companions, but as I said before this feels redundant given that you have to take Lin and Elma all the time.

The music in the game is 99% perfect, so much so I’ve bought the OST and have it on my iPhone now and listen to it constantly. However the director should be be taken out and shot for making one of the worst screw ups in any medium: loud sining over cut scene dialogue! Several times you have loud singing (and worse still it’s singing that docent match the scene) while there’s talking going on, usually revealing some important story elements.

This is made worse by the game not having separate audio sliders for music, so you can’t just turn the music down.

Despite that though I have to admit that the music in general is amazing, and even after 130hours I’ve not gotten tired of it.

Now lets talk the ‘multiplayer’ aspect of the game, and the nightmare it is (especially here in the EU)

There are three modes of play, Lifehold, Conquest, and Friends. If you pick Lifehold you get placed in a random PvE squad, thats focused on doing the main story and not the squad missions. So this is the place to be if your looking for solo play.

Conquest is for those who are preferring to focus on Squad Missions so as to aim for taking down the World Boss.

Friends, is well a squad made of your friends for doing whatever you want!

Sadly Conquest is broken because the game doesn’t explain what it is your supposed to be doing. For over 20hours all I knew was that I was supposed to be doing the squad missions. Only I had no idea WHAT the squad missions were, since all you see is an icon, no explanation what the icons mean.

You have to do some finger gymnastics to open the special menu that allows you to navigate the icons at the bottom of the screen which then tells you what your supposed to be killing. However it doesn’t mention this anywhere in the game, or the manual. So it’s relying on you finding it by accident, or someone who already knows how telling you.

By completing the squad missions you are rewarded with squad tickets, these can be used to either buy proper squad missions, which you can access through the division terminal. These missions are the ‘multiplayer’ aspect, you and 3 other players take on a kill mission. Or you can use them to buy things you need for side quests.

Because of the lack of explanation on how your supposed to play, how you target certain monsters, the game is a pain to play of your wanting to focus on the squad missions. To really get the most out of the multiplayer aspect you need to be in a community I feel. Working together in a bid to get the world boss, rather than hopping and praying in the normal squad.

And sadly that leads to the biggest problem the game has, it docent explain what needs to be explained. It has vast amounts of convoluted tutorial dialogues, that are fun to watch the first time, but it still manages to miss a lot of vital information.

The controversy, almost forgot to mention this. The game does have a bit of controversy around it due to the censorship it has. In the character creator of the Japanese version the female avatar had changeable breast sizes, the US/EU version doesn’t. They also covered up Lin, who is basically a 13year old. This caused an out cry from the US/EU fans who threw a tantrum over it.

Frankly though this is the bed we, the west, have made, we’re so PC mad these days that some game dev’s would rather remove elements that could cause problems in the press, rather than appease fans; and I can’t really blame them. 

So now you see why I put the conclusion first, this game does do a lot of things wrong, but at the same time it does so many things right. If your willing to put up with what it does wrong, this is an amazing game to play, and was my favourite game of 2015, yes IMO it was better than Witcher 3!

Now to play the original Xenoblade Chronicles!

Curious to see how the game play? Check out Talutha’s twitch VOD, it’s the first 10hours of the game from the start, and covers some of what I mentioned in the above post. He has around 30hours of gameplay up at the time of writing.

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