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Xenoblade-Chronicles-XFor a long time, I had doubts about Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Unlike the original Xenoblade Chronicles, which was a semi-linear story-driven game, X was described as an open world RPG with a stronger focus on exploration than story.

Although I eventually got excited for its sci-fi world and decided to give it a chance, I braced myself for disappointment. After all, I don’t really like open world games.

But you know what? I love Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Let me take that further. I enjoyed X more than the first Xenoblade.

Xenoblade Chronicles X’s open world worked for me in a way other open worlds and some massive semi-linear worlds don’t. For me, the appeal of a semi-linear structure is that I can do all of the optional stuff, progress the story, and then have more optional stuff to do.

X is structured that way. Although the world is entirely open, missions depend on how far you’ve progressed the story. After each story mission, a new batch of affinity missions and regular missions unlock.

And since the world has 5 continents, and missions often tie in directly to exploring the world, I never felt pressured to try to explore as much as possible in one go. So while I neared 100 hours in the original Xenoblade feeling overwhelmed, sick of side quests, and ready to just finish already, I’m still not bored with X after well over 100 hours.

Now, let’s talk about the story.

While Xenoblade Chronicles X isn’t as story-focused as many JRPGs, it has an enjoyable story with plot twists, exciting cutscenes, and memorable characters. The thing is, its storytelling isn’t confined to story missions. Alone, they would make the story somewhat weak. It’s through the affinity missions and normal missions that X’s writing is at its best.

And despite the seriousness of its overall plot, Xenoblade Chronicles X is funny.

L says 'When in Rome, get to roaming'

I really loved how X made use of the lighter side of science fiction. We’ve got an alien race obsessed with pizza. A time traveler named B°&7k%±|. An alien whose self-taught English leads him to hilariously mess up idioms.

Affinity missions handle the character development of individual party members, and it works well. My only wish is that there were fewer party members. With such a massive roster, most characters don’t get the story attention they deserve. A smaller party, with greater focus on each member, is my hope for the sequel.

Likewise, I wish party members not required for a specific mission could still get contextual dialogue when taken along. That, too, would help you get to know the party members.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is not a perfect game. In addition to the concerns I just mentioned, it makes you seek out each party member in the city to add them to your party. And once you have Skells (the mechs), you can only retrieve a destroyed Skell from the barracks… which isn’t a problem until a boss destroys your Skells and you realize you need to go back to the barracks and then back to the fight to try again.

Xenoblade-X-affinity-mission-notesIt’s also complex, with menus and sub-menus, numerous icons and stats, equipment and augments, arts and classes and skills and Soul Voices…

The complexity is not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re frustrated with “hand-holding” in games, the way Xenoblade tosses you into the deep end will be refreshing.

Reading the manual is a necessity. I also took notes to keep track of party member locations, as well as Affinity Missions: where they were, what level they required, and what unlocked them.

Combat is similar to the system used in the original Xenoblade, with auto-attacks and stronger special attacks (arts) you select from a hotbar. The Monado is replaced by “Overdrive,” which has a variety of special effects and requires TP to use. (You build TP as you attack.)

You don’t have to pay attention to every game mechanic to play, but there’s enough challenging end-game content to make full use of these systems if you want to take on the toughest enemies.

Xenoblade-X-Oblivia-westThe Wii U GamePad is used to display the map. However, if you want to use off-TV mode, like I did, you can switch to the map whenever you need it.

Overall, two things stand out to me the most about this game: its characters and its worldbuilding. From meeting different alien races and watching the city come to life, to exploring the planet and seeing glimpses of long-abandoned alien ruins, I really fell in love with planet Mira and its mysteries.

Ah yes, its mysteries. Let’s talk about that.

Xenoblade Chronicles X needs a sequel. While it concludes its core plot and doesn’t feel incomplete, it leaves many questions unanswered, along with obvious sequel hooks. If there isn’t a second game, that will be very disappointing, and not only because this one was so much fun.

Overall, I highly recommend Xenoblade Chronicles X to RPG fans. It’s an exciting, entertaining adventure with an open world that even I love… and enough character development and lore to flesh out its story.

So, Xenoblade Chronicles X 2 at E3?

Buy Xenoblade Chronicles X from Amazon
Buy Xenoblade Chronicles X from Play-Asia

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  7 Responses to “Xenoblade Chronicles X: An Open World Even I Love”

  1. “Reading the manual is a necessity. I also took notes to keep track of party member locations, as well as Affinity Missions: where they were, what level they required, and what unlocked them.”

    If only it was a physical manual with its in-manual Notes section…!

    Can you try to re-explain how the open world-ness worked for you? I don’t think your explanation in the article was really… helpful.

    • Yes, a physical manual would have been great for a game like this!

      All right, let me try to explain. My problem with most open world games has two parts:
      1) I like to explore everywhere possible before continuing with the story, but there’s too much to explore and no boundaries.
      2) I like to do all possible sidequests before continuing with the story, but there are too many.

      Xenoblade Chronicles X does have a completely open world. However, there are crazy-powerful monsters everywhere. You can (and must) sneak past some of them, but at times it becomes clear you’re too low a level. (Plus there are areas you can’t reach until you get a Skell, and other areas you can’t reach until your Skell can fly.) This both encouraged me to keep my exploration confined to smaller areas, and gave me a pseudo-boundary to turn back at. It also made me disinclined to explore the entire world all at once. Early in the game, I decided to explore as much as Primordia as I could, but I didn’t go near the other continents because I considered them higher-level areas.

      The world is also segmented on the map, with each segment having a specific goal to “survey” that area and have it marked complete.

      One of the reasons I often like to explore everywhere first in games is because it feels separate from the plot. Let’s say you have a wide, wide area to explore, but the plot is about going to a specific location and killing some villain. Separate. In XCX, though “we need to explore this planet” is directly tied in with the story and sidequests.

      Meanwhile, the sidequests are all nicely grouped so you can do (or at least attempt, depending on your level) every available sidequest before proceeding with the story, just the way I like.

      Does that make it clearer?

      • So basically: The game becomes really hard if you try to explore certain places, so you know you should stay away there. Plus there’s sidequest grouping and the map is divided into meaningful hexagonal sections.

        So… How do you reconcile “One of the reasons I often like to explore everywhere first in games is because it feels separate from the plot.” with “In XCX, though “we need to explore this planet” is directly tied in with the story and sidequests.”?

        Thanks. ^.^

        • Right. You can see some of the hexagons in the Oblivia map screenshot I included.

          Hmm, let me try to use an example…

          Most RPG plots: “Yes, there’s a wide open area to explore, but we need to get to Point A immediately!”
          XCX’s plot: “We’ll need to get to Point A eventually, but you really should explore this wide open area, okay?”

          Since part of the overall story was about gradually exploring the planet, I felt much better about not trying to do it all at once. Some story missions are even locked until you’ve explored a certain percentage of the planet.

          Does that make more sense?

  2. […] I had my doubts about it ahead of launch, I ended up loving it despite it being a fully open world game with a lessened emphasis on story. The worldbuilding, […]

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