Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) Second Opinion Review

By David Lovato 24.02.2016 4

Review for Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U

Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the last big games for the Nintendo Wii. It took several years and a strong fan campaign to bring it to the West, but the game has since been cemented in Nintendo history—besides a New Nintendo 3DS port and Shulk as a playable character in Super Smash Bros., a sequel was practically guaranteed. Shown off early in the Wii U's life cycle, Xenoblade Chronicles X was finally localised (for Europe and North America simultaneously this time, using voice actors from both) and released late in 2015.

For a game that took place on the abandoned corpses of two titans, Xenoblade Chronicles was somewhat linear. The playgrounds were massive, with plenty to see and do, but progress still moved along an easily defined line, with Shulk and company moving from one area to another and there not being much incentive to jump between them, with a few exceptions. Xenoblade Chronicles X exists on the opposite end of the pendulum: there's almost no direction at all.

Players are dropped right into the thick of things, and while tutorial screens appear here and there, most things are unexplained. It's a blessing and a curse, as this is a game with a tremendous amount of content—NPCs, story quests, side quests, and gameplay elements—and explaining everything in too much detail would likely be overwhelming and boring. The lack of explanation found, instead, is also overwhelming, but it's far from boring. There's a certain appeal to being able to get right to work, especially for players of the first game, but the lack of direction can also be frustrating at times, especially considering the first few character levels offer very little to actually do.

Character customisation is rich, where the main character is built from scratch. Offensively missing from the Western release is the female character breast slider; a one-size-fits-all approach to female figures is never a good thing, and some will even have difficulty making a proportionate character—those who make the main character short, for example, are stuck with a top-heavy-looking lady. That aside, different pieces of armour show up in-game in most cases, and while it can sometimes be odd to see a T-shirt sleeve sprouting from a scale-based fantasy-type armour, it all fits into the quirky tone that led to things like the famous "underwear Shulk." On the flip side, different armour can be set to appear in-game while keeping the stats of another set, so the developers have their bases covered.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U

Xenoblade Chronicles X's story is a strong one: Earth is destroyed, humanity takes to the stars, and one ship, the White Whale, crash-lands on an alien planet called Mira, where the crew gets to work trying to survive. Unfortunately of note is an artificiality that underlies the entire experience. From the graphics to the progression of the story, it feels like a video game, and it seems like a deliberate design choice, and even if not, it's quite jarring. The environments and creatures, for example, are beautiful and realistic—giant wheels, bioluminescent plants, floating islands; all of it dripping with lore. Meanwhile, human faces are static and look painted on, animations are stiff and stocky, sound effects (footsteps and swimming, in particular) are repetitive and grating, and story progression is locked behind arbitrary player levels and the completion of often unrelated side quests.

Crises and emergencies arise, yet level-grinding means the main characters decide to just put those off in favour of hunting down some mining zones. A game like this could've easily benefitted from immersion, but the developers have opted for the opposite. One instance in which this works in their favour is the battle system, where attacks are automatic, but skills and position are selected and timed by the player - a system sometimes criticised, but one that stands out as original, especially compared to these other artificial-feeling features.

Another negative example is in the forced silent protagonist trope. Gamers can pick their character's voice (and the game brilliantly lists the voice actor for each in the character creation menu - a small touch, but one the industry could use more of), but as part of the story, the main character is silent, with players left picking from nods and head shakes. Suddenly, during battle, the main character can shout out attacks in addition to grunts and sometimes full sentences, despite being told that they can't talk during many cut-scenes. It's an odd choice, but the rest of the cast is colourful enough to make up for the blank-slate protagonist; the interactions between Tatsu and Lin Lee are golden, while Elma shows a surprising amount of depth and basically serves as a surrogate primary protagonist. The voice cast is strong and performs their roles well.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Beneath the sometimes nonsensical design choices and lack of guidance is the type of sprawling, nearly endless RPG experience punctuated by philosophy and existentialism many fans have come to expect of Monolith Soft. JRPG fans aren't going to find many better games, but genre outsiders are likely to be turned off by the artificiality and absence of tutorials, yet those who stick with it will be rewarded with a deep and thoughtful experience. The game world itself feels natural and full of history, while its inhabitants and events look, by and large, placed or crafted. Considering the story involves humanity's displacement onto a planet in which they don't belong, maybe there's an underlying point to it, but in the end it comes across as jarring. All told, it's a long game with a lot of content, and it solidifies Monolith Soft as Japan's answer to Bethesda Game Studios; anyone looking for an alternative flavour to the developer's open-world RPGs need look no further.

Developer

Monolith

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

Guest 24.02.2016#1

I'm so confused by the scores this game gets. One of the best rpgs ever made and 7/10 or 8/10s are all it seems to get. It seems like genre bias plays a big part. Bayonetta 2 has an equally poor tutorial and lets face it an ok at best plot. Yet it gets tens and nines. I don't see how a game as awesome as this reviews worse than so many average games.

I think part of it stems from how it compares to Xenoblade Chronicles, which was far superior overall.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Our member of the week

My opinion, as I personally only just started playing it (well... I already put nearly 40 hours into it, but feels like I'm only just getting started XD), it's the kind of game that's indeed really hard to get into. Heck, after 40 hours I'm only just finding out about mechanics that I hadn't discovered before, which for an RPG is problematic.

The first one was deep too, but not quite as much. It's nice that there's so much to see and do, considering the scale they were going for, they needed to be able to fill in such a vast world to make it rich, but because it was smaller and more compact (though still huge by any means) it was easier to apprehend and didn't need to be complexified so much with a zillion mechanics to avoid it feeling empty.

EDIT : I would personally have preferred slightly smaller areas but more different ones. 5 types of environment doesn't sound like much. There were more types in the first one I believe. Because areas are so large with the same kind of environment, it's hard to figure out where you are at times, whereas making the game just as huge but with more different types of nature to run around, it wouldn't have lost of its impressive scale but would have not lost the player so much.

( Edited 19.03.2016 10:57 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I know what you mean, Rudy - it doesn't matter how fantastic the adventure becomes later on, if the initial stages are hard to penetrate, then it's hugely problematic, and therein lies one of the major drawbacks of X. The thing is, that's what happened when Monolith Soft worked on the XenoSaga games - the plan was originally for six games, I believe, but they ended up squeezing all the ideas into three, with II and III being nowhere near as easy to get into as the first.

Did you ever play Xenogears on PS? Now that's a fantastic game! But again, I think I vaguely recall one of the discs not being quite as fun as the other. My memory is a bit hazy on that one. Too long ago Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Our member of the week

I only remember trying out a demo disc at a friend's house and I remember the game looking nice and the battles being fun stuff Smilie. I know the game by reputationof course but I'm not too accustomed to it for having never played it myself.

EDIT : I have Xenosaga I & II on DS but I'm still waiting on Kingcom to finish the fan translation of that >.< !!

( Edited 19.03.2016 13:59 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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