Preview: Xenoblade Chronicles X

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Probably what you expected

Xenoblade Chronicles was one of, if not the best JRPGs of last generation. What made it stand out was not just its unique combat system, huge open world and enchanting soundtrack but that it came out on the Wii. When it was released in Japan in 2010 the Wii had reached the height of its popularity and the systems limitations were plain to see with the wide adoption of higher resolution televisions. Xenoblade Chronicles still looked amazing with beautiful vistas, gigantic creatures and a colourful art style. The draw distances were noticeably short and creatures and objects would often appear out of nowhere but this was easy to overlook considering the platform.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a sequel in style and substance, if not in story. The improvements from the previous game are immediately apparent as Xenoblade Chronicles X is displayed in 720p resolution which while no longer cutting edge, is still a huge improvement. Everything about the game is noticeably more detailed though like its predecessor, there is still a lot of pop-in. Everything from objects to giant creatures will often materialise from nowhere in front of you. Thankfully this isn’t the case with the environment and the beautiful vistas and contrasting landscapes are even more impressive than in the original.

A significant different from the original game is that you can now design your own character. There are plenty of options including gender, body size, skin tone and eye colour. Clothing is customizable in-game including many of the impractical but aesthetically pleasing items found in the first game. A major reason for this change is the game features multiplayer which includes four player co-op and the ability to recruit player avatars to help you. This was a necessary design choice for the new features but anyone who enjoyed playing as Shulk might be disappointed with a silent protagonist. It may be a classic JRPG trope but with so much voice acting in the game your avatars silence can feel out of place. The player avatar can still make some decisions with text prompts but this will always be followed up by stiff facial expressions. While mentioning facial expressions, it is worth adding that while the overall game is visually impressive, the character design is quite the opposite. Facial animations are stiff and the lack of detail in the textures gives characters a far less organic look when compared to the surrounding environment.

The original game could be said to play much like a MMORPG that is single player only. This was apparent in the quest design, sprawling, directionless maps and multitude of challenges going well beyond what is necessary to progress the story. X takes the obvious next step by including multiplayer options. Indeed, I found myself immediately comparing the game to Phantasy Star Online (the character design was partly responsible for this impression). As mentioned there is a co-operative mode for up to four players and player avatars can be used when playing alone. These avatars are found at various points on the map and in the player base in New Los Angeles, the games hub. Unfortunately, in my play time I was only able to try the latter feature and did not experience co-op.

Xenoblade Chronicles X takes place on a planet called Mira where a ship called the White Whale has crashed after evacuating earth. You are rescued from one of many scattered escape pods by Elma a member of a group called Blade which you soon join. Shortly after you join with Lynlee and these two become the main members of your party. A large part of the game involves expanding the frontier of aforementioned New Los Angeles and going up against the hostile creatures of the world. This includes reaching certain points on the map and setting up various types of probes which also allow quick travel. This aspect is woven in the story that will make progression impossible without achieving certain goals. Though the game begins this way, it isn’t long before a more sinister alien threat appears and as this is a preview, I’ll add no more than that.

My total time with the game amounted to a little over fifteen hours. In that time, I did not get to use a “Doll” mech (Skell in the English release). For fans of the original, this may be the most exciting new feature and it certainly was for me. I didn’t get that far mostly because I very quickly stopped enjoying the game. I finished the original game and still have positive memories but Xenoblade Chronicles X quickly reminded me of why I just wanted the original to be over after an investment of 40+ hours. This for me is a long enough time to want to see the end and the completionist in me wanted to see it done whether I enjoyed it or not. Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared to do that over again, even with the promise of robots. All that needs to be said is that if you enjoyed the combat system, the quests and the voluminous content of the original, you’ll be absolutely into this. I just wasn’t prepared to invest any more time than this which is why it is just a preview. If you are new to the series but love lengthy JRPGs then you’ll almost certainly be of the same mind as fans of the original. Everyone else should do their research before making any commitment.\r\n

This is based on the Japanese edition of the game Xenoblade X (ゼノブレイドクロス). Names and other features may differ in the English release.

June, 2015

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