This may be an odd way to start a review, but I feel that it’s important to know this to understand the scale of Monolith’s newest game. I haven’t finished Xenoblade Chronicles X yet and as of writing this I have finished chapter 10 of the main story. I’ve been doing a lot of side quests, fleshing out my character and the world around him and last night I passed the 100 hour mark. So, while I haven’t finished the game’s main plot yet, I do feel that 100 hours worth of play is enough to review the game, so let’s get into it.
As a quick overview, the premise is that humanity has fled earth shortly before it was destroyed by a collection of alien races called the Ganglion. Each major city on earth built their own escape ship and while most of them were destroyed, your ship, The White Whale, survived, containing a residential living area called New L.A. that was designed to help start a new life on a suitable planet. Sadly the plan goes wrong as the ship is shot down over a planet called Mira, meaning humanity has to try and carve out a life on this unknown planet while defending itself from the Ganglion.
The first thing that strikes me about the game is the scale that Monolith have managed to create, something they have been brilliant with in the past. The game opens with your character being found not too far outside the city of New L.A and having to walk back to the city. You are given two paths, one is a natural bridge over a canyon and the other is leaping down into the canyon. From the edge you can see some large enemies at the bottom of the canyon, and while walking the upper path you see a wide array of large creatures roaming the area and flying in the sky above.
Enemy and world size are both incredible. Not everything will attack you on sight as most of them are just animals wandering around peacefully – walking between the legs of what I can only describe as a giant dinosaur while it takes no notice of you is just a brilliant feeling. It is important to know the threat these monsters pose though. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game in which you will die a lot as you may pick a fight with an animal that you have grossly underestimated or maybe you’ll be having a fight with something easier and a large threat will stumble into you. The game isn’t harsh with deaths though, once you die you are simply sent back to the last landmark you visited. No penalties apply, at least not yet.
Part of what I have loved about Xenoblade Chronicles X is how it keeps things pretty fresh, even though I’m 100 hours in. Depending on how quickly you blast through the main quests, you unlock one of the games big draws, a large walking mech that transforms into a vehicle called a Skell. I unlocked mine about 40 hours in and it was a lovely boost. It’s important to know that Skells do not remove the challenge of the game. They do let you punch a bit higher above your weight than you could before, but tackle too strong an enemy and it will still not end well.
My first move after getting my Skell was to go out and fight a tyrant enemy, which is a buffed version of a normal enemy, and that fight destroyed my Skell pretty fast. You need to be careful as this game makes you work for your mech in more ways than one way. Each Skell has an insurance stat, which is a counter for free replacements when your Skell is destroyed. When you destroy your Skell you get a new one free of charge and the stat goes down by one. Once it reaches zero that’s it, no more free replacements, you have to buy another Skell, which is by no means cheap. So it’s important that you realise your limitations even when it comes to Skells.
Around 70 hours in I unlocked another aspect of the game, one that modifies your Skell to make traversing the world a lot easier. I’ll not say exactly what it is but suffice to say even that far into the game it was giving me new toys to play with and that is a lovely and rare thing for that far into a game.
The combat itself will not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve seen it described as MMO-like combat a lot and that’s a pretty good description. Your character will auto-attack every few seconds with either a ranged or melee weapon while you can use and charge up special attacks called Arts. The combat is pretty much the same as in the first Xenoblade Chronicles with one difference; there is a distinct lack of healing Arts this time around. The only real way to heal yourself and your party is to succeed with a short QTE by pressing B at the right time. These QTEs get faster and therefore harder as the fight goes on so ending fights as quickly as possible is quite important.
That leads me to the music and how it affects the fighting for me. The soundtrack for this game is wonderful and I’ll talk about it in general in a second but for now I’ll talk about the battle music. I’ve seen people complain that the battle music has lyrics to it, and I didn’t expect to care one way or the other but I was pleasantly surprised. I love the addition of lyrics in the battle theme because of how they are used. The lyrics don’t start until about 45-60 seconds into the song, meaning all the short easy fights you have end with just some upbeat battle music. However when you get into big dangerous fights, after a little while the lyrics kick in and it adds this wonderful feeling that makes the fight feel just a bit more intense.
The rest of the soundtrack is brilliant as well. One of my favourite tracks is the day music for New L.A., I’ve wandered around New L.A. taking on random quests not really because I wanted to do the quest but just to listen to the music for a while. For anyone familiar with the anime Kill La Kill the music in Xenoblade Chronicles X was composed by the same man, Hiroyuki Sawano, and you can sense some of the same vibes in it.
As you can tell there is a lot I like about Xenoblade Chronicles X, but it is not flawless. My complaints with it are few but they do exist. I have found the bosses to be unreasonably hard in some cases, resulting in scenarios where I have to get to a point where I am 10 or more levels higher than the boss to win, a level difference that would make most normal enemies in the game a piece of cake. Monolith seem to have realised this might be the case as once you lose to a boss three times the game offers you to chance to lower the difficulty just for that fight, by lowering the level of enemies involved.
A second complaint, though it is a minor one, relates to item collection side quests. A number of side quests ask you to find a certain number of items either dropped from enemies or littered around the world. This is fine as is, but all you are told is which of the games five areas you can find the item in, and the areas are incredibly large. I would be happy if the game even narrowed it down just slightly by saying North Primordia, instead of just Primordia, for example. What makes this worse is that the strategy guide for the game does divide the areas up into sections and details what items can be found in certain sections of the areas. If this was in the game, in the Enemy Index or Collectopedia, it would be a far nicer experience.
As I said at the start I haven’t finished the game yet so I won’t be saying much on the overall story itself. The story is interesting and I am enjoying it, even if it is quite easy to predict at quite a few point, that isn’t always the case. I was thrown for a loop by the story on at least one occasion. Overall I’m not quite as into the story as I was with the original Xenoblade Chronicles, but it is a perfectly serviceable story, even so.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is a fantastic game and probably one of the best open world games of 2015, which is impressive given the range of other sandbox games that were released this year. The game may not be the most impressive graphical powerhouse but what Monolith have managed to create on the Wii U is something really special.
The unrivaled scale and scope of Xenoblade Chronicles X alone make it highly recommended.