Xenoblade Chronicles X review: X-ceptional

Xenoblade Chronicles X is an enormous game, both in terms of its world's size and the length of its adventure. It will take a lot of patience to grasp everything it has to offer, but is it worth it? Our review.

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Xenoblade Chronicles X's premise is nothing that video game players haven't heard before. The Earth is no more, so it's time for humanity to explore a new planet. It's one thing to venture to a completely new world, but Nintendo and Monolith Soft have made their game stand out in one major way. The new planet truly feels like a massive, new world and that sizable new setting is home to one of the most gratifying (and lengthy) adventures of the year.

The story is a simple one. As mentioned, the Earth has been destroyed by a mysterious alien race that seems to be hellbent on eradicating the human race. The remnants of humanity have set up a colony on a foreign planet called Mira, filled with dangerous wildlife, unfamiliar settings, and enough resources to start up an entirely new civilization, with the player character as a custom-made clean slate. And all would be well and good if that same alien race hadn't decided to pursue the survivors and continue their quest for total extinction, leaving military organization BLADE no choice but to fight back.

Brave New World

This point cannot be emphasized enough. Mira is huge. It is an absolute massive world, all ripe for open-world exploration. The planet is filled with resources, collectibles, and wild creatures and it is virtually impossible to explore the entire area in any less than a few dozen hours. It'll likely be days before you can explore beyond the sub-continent of Primordia, not just because the enemies are much stronger outside of its borders, but because there's so much to soak in.

This is where it should be noted that while off-screen play with the Wii U GamePad is possible, it is absolutely not recommended. The second screen acts a handy map, separated out into clusters. While this is mainly to keep track of what's been collected, it's also essentially to avoid getting lost. And with the world the size that it is, the first few days will be spent wandering aimless around the continent. Fast travel paths open up later and that becomes a godsend, given how long it takes to traverse Mira and how quickly the day-night cycle passes.

There's another reason that Mira is so large and that's to give the game's wild creatures space to roam around. While players will find smaller creatures closer to their level, they'll also find some massive dinosaur-sized Level 50 beasts grazing in the distance. Many times, these higher-level wild animals will mingle freely with their lower-level brethren, which is both a cool sight to see, but also a bit of a problem at times. Grinding for experience can get tough, since there are times where you'll be poking at Level 8 creatures during one of the game's real-time battles, only for an errant shot to attract the attention of a Level 35 behemoth. There are also other times when a rare Tyrant (a more powerful version of a standard enemy) will pick a fight with your character on sight. Unfortunately, there is no way to decline these battles other than to attempt to flee on foot and, even then, it's easy to get smacked down in a single hit by a relentless bully of a beast. That can get annoying after a couple of sessions.

Growing Pains

With that said, Xenoblade Chronicles X is not for the impatient. It will take hours to get used to the real-time combat system, especially when it comes to learning which MMO-style Arts abilities work best in conjunction with one another. Even with the aid of capable AI party members, death will happen quite often. The solution is to grind and, unfortunately, experience doesn't come quickly, whether it's through battle, exploration, or side missions. And there are plenty of side missions to play, especially when story instances often come with prerequisites. This is another reason that the whole experience runs longer than average.

There is a rewarding light at the end of the tunnel, though. Not only do characters eventually level up enough to take on larger creatures, but after enough time, they can wield the artillery to match. Leveled-up abilities, as well as character weapons, will vary based on class and the game is generous about allowing players to experiment. New weaponry and armor can also be unlocked after contributing towards a variety of manufacturers, with resources raised through probes placed across the world. There's an insane amount of depth to how characters are raised and while some of the more nuanced ideas can be ignored, it's worth learning the ins-and-outs of these systems in order to create the strongest character builds possible. After all, survival is much easier that way.

But while a stronger arsenal is a good incentive to keep on trucking, the true reward comes when earning a Skell. These are massive mech suits and piloting these puppies makes traversing Mira feel like a completely different experience. Sight lines are suddenly no longer a concern, since Skells can go toe-to-toe with just about anything on the planet. In fact, they can kill numerous hostiles in a matter of moments, thanks to their powerful beam swords and missile barrages. It's a powerful piece of machinery, but while it's all-powerful, it doesn't break the game, as there are still plenty of Godzilla-sized creatures that are more than capable of putting up a fight.

Earning Your Stripes

Xenoblade Chronicles X feels like a truly breathtaking effort, evidenced by how much love has gone into crafting each and every inch of its massive planet. And it's a planet that Nintendo and Monolith Soft have made worth exploring and worth learning. It's not for everyone, as the story gets off to a slow start. In fact, expect the story to last well over 40 hours. The game also doesn't waste much time with tutorials. Players aren't left entirely to the wolves, but the combat, equipment, stats, and party system is far more complex than the simplistic tutorial tips let on. It's also worth repeating that new players should expect to die a lot!

With that said, investing dozens of hours into the game does feel rewarding. There are immensely satisfying moments for those that choose to stick with this game, but those moments need to be earned. Nothing will come easy, but nothing truly worthwhile ever is.


This review is based on a Wii U retail copy provided by the publisher. A 10GB patch was also used over the course of this review. Xenoblade Chronicles X will be available December 4 at retailers and through the Nintendo eShop. The game is rated T.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Review for
Xenoblade Chronicles X

9

Pros

  • Massive, beautifully-rendered world
  • Wide array of creatures that are fun to fight
  • Intuitive combat system
  • Skells are a blast
  • Investing in dozens of hours of gameplay actually feels rewarding
  • Almost no glitches; remarkable for a world of this size

Cons

  • Grinding for experience is a very slow process
  • No real option to escape from battle
  • Day/night cycle passes quickly

From The Chatty

  • reply
    December 2, 2015 6:05 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Xenoblade Chronicles X review: X-ceptional

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 6:15 AM

      I'm excited for that EQ grind. One of the best parts of the Wii u is the second screen with rpg games. I love it

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        December 2, 2015 1:32 PM

        This is where the second screen is essential. Like I said, you CAN play it off-screen, but I do not recommend it at all. You need that map.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 6:16 AM

      I really need to wrap up Witcher 3 so I can get to this. However I think I still have weeks of playing that game left.

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      December 2, 2015 6:18 AM

      I'm so excited!

      Anyone know when Nintendo stuff tends to unlock? I bought the digital version, and I'm wondering it'll be like Fallout 4, where it's midnight EST, and I can stay up to play, versus say, midnight PST in which case I'll just sleep.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 8:36 AM

        This is the question that needs an answer

        • reply
          December 2, 2015 9:51 AM

          Seems smash brothers got a midnight release. starting at 10 pm pst . Hopefully that wasn't just because it was a first party title. I cant really find anything on eshop midnight releases besides that

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            December 2, 2015 10:32 AM

            Yeah meant 9pst. Looks like midnight ET !!

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 10:05 AM

        Midnight EST is what I remember

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 7:47 AM

      Cant friggin wait. Even though I just bought just cause 3, that game might be put off for a while...

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 8:04 AM

      Holy cow, that is high praise.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 8:20 AM

      Question for the review team: I generally don't like JRPG's at all. Is there any chance this one would change my mind about the genre?

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 9:14 AM

        I'm not on the review team but based on the first game I'd say... maybe? It's really hard to say. I'm not into JRPG's either and I loved Xenoblade Chronicles but it's still such a Japanese game in so many ways. This game would never be made by a Western studio. But at the same time it avoids so much of what I hate about JRPG'S.

        So basically I'm no help. Watch some videos and try to decide for yourself would be my advice.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 9:19 AM

        I wonder the same thing. Can't stand JRPGs. Based on what I've read I'm thinking I wouldn't like this, but it always sucks hearing lots of praise for a game that falls in a genre you know you don't really enjoy.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 9:26 AM

        Here's the launch trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb8QpABNTPM

        If that gets you excited, then I imagine you might enjoy the game.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 11:02 AM

        i hate JRPGs and every time ive tried to play something to change my opinion, im just more reminded of why i hate them. from everything ive seen of this game, it would probably just reinforce my hatred of the genre/japanese games. id personally recommend you ask yourself why you hate the genre in the first place, and then see if those things seem present in this game. id be willing to bet the answer will be a huge "yes".

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        December 2, 2015 11:12 AM

        I doubt it but I guess it depends on why you dislike jrpgs.

        If you dislike then because of the characters/story hell no this thing is as jrpg as you can possibly get.

        If you dislike them because of combat or gameplay flow then maybe you would like this one. It seems super open with a shit ton of things to do in whatever order you want.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 1:31 PM

        I am somewhat into JRPGs, but I think there's enough exploration and cool stuff that anyone can get into it, as long as they stick with it.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 9:18 AM

      How were the loading times? Did you play it off USB or the HDD?

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 11:46 AM

        No load times when traversing normally, fast travel load times are just a couple seconds: https://youtu.be/0YUIleDjcyM?t=15m35s

        I'm assuming that at the very least it has parts loaded on the Wii U flash drive

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          December 2, 2015 1:33 PM

          There's no significant difference between internal flash speeds and a good external USB hard drive.

          There's a few comparisons out there that bear this out; really it's not something to worry about. I have a 1tb external seagate and haven't seen any notable difference between games loaded there and internally.

          • reply
            December 2, 2015 7:06 PM

            I'm talking about disc only as opposed to disc plus download, which is an option to help with load times

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 1:30 PM

        I played off the HDD and the load times were fine. No stuttering when traveling between areas.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 9:22 AM

      This looks incredible!

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 9:45 AM

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2015-vs-xenoblade-chronicles-x

      digital foundry FPS rundown. seems like 98% solid 30 fps

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 10:09 AM

        It's pretty incredible what these guys have done with the Wii U. But I guess it shouldn't be surprising after Xenoblade.

        I can't wait to see what they do with the NX.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 11:04 AM

      Isn't there some sort of clan multiplayer bit in this? Wondering if there's a way to set up a Shack clan for this.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 11:05 AM

      This game will more than make up for my stupid Mario tennis ultra smash preorder. Ugh, waste of $40.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 11:41 AM

      Vistas

      https://youtu.be/0YUIleDjcyM?t=5m48s

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 12:06 PM

      I love how the Ars review begins with "After about 25 to 30 hours of solid work, Xenoblade Chronicles X finally becomes a video game. Before that point, the game exists not to be enjoyed but to rhythmically clobber you into a biomass able to be sculpted into someone capable of playing the remainder of Xenoblade Chronicles X."

      And ends with "Probably the best JRPG this year, and definitely one of the best in a good long while."

      It sounds like the type of game I like; a game that drops you into a massive, complicated world and says figure it out on your own, jerk.

      http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/12/xenoblade-chronicles-x-review-the-reward-is-sweeter-for-the-struggle/

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 1:29 PM

        They aren't wrong. The tutorials aren't great, but the systems aren't complicated enough that you won't be able to figure it out as you go.

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 2:10 PM

        I don't have 25 hours to drop before I start liking a game. Fuck that.

        • reply
          December 2, 2015 7:09 PM

          witcher 3 your first time through was about 20 hours? the first area?

          • reply
            December 2, 2015 7:10 PM

            wait more like 10, then 10 to really get combat down if you were playing on a harder difficulty

            • reply
              December 2, 2015 7:23 PM

              So... Another game I'll never play? Got it.

              • reply
                December 2, 2015 7:59 PM

                You had to get past the first area of witcher 3 to experience the amazing story and everything else. Sorry you couldn't get into the witcher 3

                • reply
                  December 2, 2015 8:01 PM

                  A story I cared about so much it brought tears to my eyes on a few parts. Just sayin. The game is deep

                  • reply
                    December 2, 2015 8:16 PM

                    God damnit. Just watching the scene still brings tears. When geralt has the memory of young ciri running towards eachother and him doing a semi smile, like he is still sort of a person with emotions... that the trial of grasses didnt take from him... that is what strikes the most with me.

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                      December 2, 2015 8:20 PM

                      DONT CLICK DONT CLICK DONT CLICK

                      MAJOR WITCHER 3 SPOILERS IF YOU HAVENT BEATEN THE GAME


                      https://goo.gl/Ic3SLg

                      Used google url shortener just in case the chat clients load titles. Man that scene hit me hard.

                      AGAIN DONT CLICK THIS IF YOU HAVENT BEATEN THE GAME

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 1:30 PM

      Awesome I can not wait to play this game I opted for the DD and am pre loading it now on my HDD.

      Make sure you click the downloadable content next to the game there is 4 large pre install packs that make loading massively fast and it dumps all the assets on your HDD.

      Friday is going to OWN

      • reply
        December 2, 2015 1:35 PM

        If it is from the eShop you dont need the DLC.

        • reply
          December 2, 2015 1:50 PM

          That is what I thought, its not true for me I had to manually pick all 4 extra content downloads by default its a 15gig download from the eShop.

          Check it out adn make sure yours is fine, my region is CND I doubt that has to do with it but the extra content was not part of the core download I had to pick [Downloadable Content] to get it and download it.

          • reply
            December 2, 2015 2:04 PM

            total download on mine was something like 21 gigs

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              December 2, 2015 2:13 PM

              Well that is stupid mine didn't do that? I knew it was larger than 15gig that was the only reason I double checked.

              Huh?, well doesn't surprise me actually.

              The WiiU menus and everything is really bad and slow and just bad I hate it. It always feels like it is broken and not working, could you imagine if PS4 or XboxOne performed like the Wii U in the menus people would not put up with the shit.

              I have to say the Wii U menus and interface are the worst shit ever it is so freaking slow and just bad I hope to god the NX fixes this.

              • reply
                December 2, 2015 2:16 PM

                Just looked. WiiU HD copy/delete menu shows 19 gigs

                • reply
                  December 2, 2015 2:20 PM

                  Hmmm weird, I wonder if they jacked up and you should not let the DD users be able to download the add on with the DD version? Maybe that is all what is wrong?

                  Well I will let you know if they download and install and is > 19gig like yours.

                  Well we have till Friday to sort it out :) , thanks for letting me know your install size.

          • reply
            December 2, 2015 2:05 PM

            also it says if you have the eShop version, right on the page on the wiiU, it says it's for the disk version

            • reply
              December 2, 2015 5:27 PM

              Hey man its installing the freaking downloadable content??????

              I will let you know what the install size is when its done.

              • reply
                December 2, 2015 5:30 PM

                The only DLC in this game is the free stuff for lessening load times in the disc version.

                As the digital version already has *everything* copied to the hard drive, you don't need them.

                But since they put them up for anyone to download, you could mistakenly grab those DLC files (which you don't need).

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 1:35 PM

      someone let me borrow their wii u

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        December 2, 2015 3:20 PM

        It was $250 and included 2 really good games last weekend. And you KNEW this was coming out.

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 1:44 PM

      Fuck yea can't wait for Friday

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      December 2, 2015 2:15 PM

      wup wup preloaded and ready to go!

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 5:20 PM

      They had it on the shelf early at my TRU. When they rang it up they told me they couldn't sell it yet. :[

    • reply
      December 2, 2015 8:39 PM

      To many games! I bought a Wii U with this being one of the three games I really wanted on it, problem is I currently don't have time, after Uncharted comes out in March the rest of 2016 better have terrible games.

    • reply
      December 3, 2015 6:25 PM

      God DAMN I want to play this game so bad. There is no way I'm buying a Wii U for it. I wonder if I should pick up the game just in case it becomes as rare as the previous game did eventually. At some point I will play this game.... hopefully it will be playable on Nintendos next console in some form.