I have a confession, I am STILL in love with Xenoblade Chronicles X.
It’s a bit of an obsession; I can compulsively play the game for hours on end, even after a hard days’ work a year after its release. The breathtaking views, the need to explore every nook, the ridiculously deep combat system, and the excellent (if polarizing) Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack all come together to make a package that is as satisfying as any Monster Hunter game. Only an experience of this caliber could make me create an alternate Nintendo ID so I could start over and attempt a mission upload project for YouTube page, which I’ve since shelved due to time-constraints.
A word of caution to the uninitiated: this entry into the series is not like the story-focused Xenoblade Chronicles, but that does not make it inferior by an measure.
The story boils down to this: The human race has to evacuate Earth because of an alien threat, and they do so on gigantic arcs moments before earth is destroyed. Pursued by said alien threat, the arc is shot down on planet Mira. After about two months, your avatar is stirred by Elma, one of the high-ranking captains of the military. After you make your way back to New Los Angeles, you’re asked to be a part of the effort to explore the world and set up data probes. What unfolds over 12 chapters is a grand story with some outrageous unexpected twists, none of which I’ll detail here.
The main argument against Xenoblade Chronicles X is that the story portion is lacking compared to the original. While I agree that the story eschews the linear, character-driven narrative of Xenoblade Chronicles for more of a “story of the world”, I don’t agree that the story is less robust. If you level up and go chapter-by-chapter without taking on side-quests, you miss out on large chunks of the story. Affinity quests and even certain normal quests flesh out the main narrative by offering perspectives on events that occur during the game. Yardley’s Mission, a series of normal quests given by a relatively unassuming npc, even opens up a way to change certain things about your avatar.
This is where Xenoblade Chronicles X really shines; to this day I’m still learning new things. If you’ve played the original Xenoblade, you already have an idea of what you’re getting, but XCX really polishes things, specifically the battle system. The varied options can make things seem daunting, but the name of the game is still Stun -> Topple -> Beatdown -> Soul Voice Activation -> Beatdown, but since your avatar can choose a class, and there are side characters representing each of those classes, the combinations open up your battle options significantly. I won’t discuss the finer details of combat here as there are various guides on the web that describe things in excruciating detail, however I created a leveling strategy video detailing my experience with the Enforcer/Psycorruptor/Mastermind classes which you can view here.
Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Guilty Crown) created a masterful score that really captures the essence of the new world you’re exploring. Primordia’s earthy melody and deep bass tones make me think back to Final Fantasy VI’s The Veldt, which is very appropriate given the new frontier feeling of the opening area. Noctilum’s jungle feel and Sylvalum’s alternatively barren white desert and shallow pools of still water are enhanced by their appropriate sound moods. My favorite piece is Z10 Briefing; the instrumentation and how it builds up to the climax give me goosebumps every time; listen to it with headphones on for maximum effect.
I want to play it right now, but life duties call. If you have not given this game a chance yet, I highly recommend you do so.
Head over to the GamingNoir YouTube page to see some gameplay and story videos. Don’t forget to subscribe!