By Collin Urban, Business Manager Assistant
Xenoblade Chronicles X is an open world action role playing game from Monolith Soft, best known for Xenoblade Chronicles. While Xenoblade Chronicles X may seem like a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, the two games are completely disconnected, and aside from a few passing references and similar game-play, the two games have nothing to do with each other story-wise. This is a shame because Xenoblade Chronicles had a great story with a stellar cast of characters, all with cohesive motivations and goals, all of which were wrapped up nicely by the end of the game. X’s story isn’t awful, and indeed it starts off promisingly enough.
After an alien conflict results in the destruction of Earth, humanity is forced to migrate to the stars in search of a new home world aboard a number of space ships. The player character, who is created by the player as opposed to being predetermined like in Xenoblade Chronicles, was aboard one of these ships before it was pursued by hostile aliens and shot down. The survivors of this crash are marooned on a planet called Mira, and must survive long enough to find the Lifehold, a section of the ship that contains the rest of the crew, who were cryogenically frozen.
From there, the plot is one of mystery and intrigue, which is a pretty good setup for an open world RPG. No one knows anything about the planet they’re on or the hostile aliens they’re facing, so the player is told to explore the land and plant data probes to find information about the aforementioned. To the game’s credit, the open world itself is great, and manages to capture Xenoblade Chronicles’ amazing landscapes despite being in a much more grounded universe. Additionally, the entirety of the open world can be explored from the start, you can get around the world quickly, and exploration is rewarded with money and important resources. It’s a winning formula where a central mechanic feeds into ancillary mechanics (crafting and upgrading gear to name a few) without either feeling token or shoehorned. This is one of it’s major improvements from Xenoblade Chronicles, where the exploration was only important because it allowed you to continue the story.
Another way X improves upon Chronicles is in the combat mechanics. From the functional yet somewhat bland basis of Chronicles, where characters automatically attack in timed intervals and “arts” can be used freely but have cool down times, X adds a variety of new features. There are now skills, a set of passive buffs that apply to the characters based on their class, secondary cool downs for arts, where if an ability is left unused for long enough it will gain additional bonuses when it’s finally activated, limb targeting, where vital appendages can be targeted to weaken the enemy, and giant combat mechs. There’s also a robust class system in place with plenty of ways to let the player tailor a character any way they want. While Chronicles only had 3 member parties and 7 playable characters, X has 4 member parties and over 15 possible party members. It all sounds like a straight improvement, but the problems arise from how this works with the story.
While normal missions might allow any combination of characters, the story missions require 2 characters. Since the player character is required, this leaves only one slot open for another character for the purposes of story missions. The issue that naturally arises is obvious; since these two characters are required, they need to be at a decent level, or story missions will be impossible to complete, as the party will be too weak. This means that the average player will end up doing normal missions with these 2 characters just so they don’t have to spend time grinding levels. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that story missions give large amounts of experience, and the fact that lower level characters receive more experience than higher level characters, but it’s a small bandage over a deep cut.
It also must be re-iterated that the story is not that compelling. From a promising start, raising a lot of interesting questions, the story never bothers to pay most of them off. Several events come up out of nowhere, are noted as important by characters, and are then never mentioned again. The worst offense is probably the ending, which introduces a huge twist that both makes no sense and invalidates most of the struggles of the characters. It’s a blatant sequel hook, but as of the writing of this article, no sequel has been announced.
On the whole, X is a game of small annoyances balanced by well designed core mechanics. The annoyances do add up over the game’s 80 hour run time, but on a personal note, it didn’t stop me from finishing the game. Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game worth playing, the exploration and combat are fun enough to carry the game despite the disappointing story.