My time on Xenoblade Chronicles X was met with mixed feelings. I felt a little hype inside when it was announced. Having played its predecessor on the 3DS and the Wii before it until my thumbs hurt, X demanded my attention. Boasting a huge world, a more refined battle system and….what’s this! Skells?! Huge mechs to resurface the planet Mira from which Xenoblade Chronicles X is set?! Developers Monolith Software has their work cut out trying to fit all this into the now limited Wii-U hardware.
My mixed feelings began from the very beginning. After a neat movie setting the scene for me explaining that Earth had been destroyed by not one but two alien races, humanity managed to barely escape. Their luck ran out over the planet Mira where the ship “The White Whale” holding a decent portion of human life, more than enough to sustain life, is shot down by the aliens again. A standard plot of the survival of mankind, left in the hands of an organisation known as Blade. The player plays as a user created avatar. Gone is Shulk and his cockney mates. Creating your avatar is not as fun as it is in the likes of Fallout 4. Here, you have only a choice of a few faces, hairstyles, height and weight, scars and face paint. There is no morphing or tweaking here. It’s no biggie. I made a stoic looking hipster with purple spikey hair and a tattoo down his face. A kind of “look at me the wrong way and I’ll kick your teeth in” sort of thing. It matters not who becomes your ending result. The premise remains the same as you are found in a capsule by your new BFF Elma.
It’s not long until you are shown the magnificent surface of your new home planet. It’s vast and brimming with wildlife. We’re not talking cows and horses, no, strange looking animals roam these lands and they come in all shapes and sizes. To the miniature to the gigantic. Luckily they are not all hostile. Eye symbols above them beside their level shows whether it will go for you if you cross their path. Some even have names and are way more powerful then your average grunt. These are Tyrants. A lot of missions require you to take them down.
Speaking of missions, they are Xenoblade Chronicles X’s main problem. Aside from the story missions, they are laden with fetch quests and grinding with the occasional kill a Tyrant for good measure, rinse and repeat. It’s not the content of these objectives that are the issue, it’s the repetition. At first, it’s a novelty collecting materials and resources from the blue floating gems scattered all over, looting from beasts slain by your hand and killing Naracyon The Shadowless. When you complete these then accept more of the same, it becomes very tedious. I even traded squad tickets to buy items I needed at times to save myself from the grind.
Xenoblade Chronicles X’s main selling point doesn’t come available until a good 2-3 hours in. Skells aren’t available until after the 6th chapter and even then you need a license to use them and it’s not easy to get. Endure the run-around though and you’re rewarded with a faster way of traversing Mira and the ability to fight bigger foes. You feel like an utter badass! Transforming into vehicle mode Optimum Prime style is simply brilliant and really convenient. Gaining your Skell opens up the store to buy new Skells parts for yours increasing your punching power, metaphorically speaking.
The combat uses the same free flow system as the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Once battle commences, you and your team attack automatically. Special moves called Arts can be unleashed at your leisure but requires a cool down afterwards. It’s more efficient to organise your team so that you can do combos. You know they are initialising them because your Arts flash. Trigger them immediately to pull off brutal versions of your chosen Art. This strategy takes down foes with ease but not all Arts are used offensively. Some Arts are used to heal and grant buffs for you or your team adding serious depth.
After the battle, you may be rewarded with some cool loot which could contain new armour or weaponry. This is another department where Xenoblade Chronicles X falters a tad. The menu system is all over the place. Literally everything to do with Art customisation, loot management, Skell management and equipment is managed through menus. You will spend a lot of time here but the action doesn’t stop so be wary not to decide to equip that new Titanium Knife in the middle of a group of pissed off level 40 Cave Spiders or you won’t last very long.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is a huge adventure that will keep you tied to your Wii-U for hours. The vast world and impressive bestiary with take your breath away but the repetitive missions and confusing loot system may make you fall out of love. Until you get your first Skell at least only then the game completely opens up, if only it wasn’t such a pain. Every Wii-U owner needs Xenoblade Chronicles X in their library.