Welcome to the first entry in my new weekly series, Xenoblade Chronices X Check In. If you missed the announcement post I made, the basic gist of it is that I’m playing through Xenoblade Chronicles X and every week I’ll write about how I feel about it. Honestly, it’s rare for me to get through games of this scale do to lack of time (I do work full time) and wanting to play many games. But, by doing this series, I’m incentivizing myself to keep going with it, as it’ll help me put up regular content on the blog. Plus, a friend of mine has been bugging me to play it, so this’ll finally get him off my back. It’s wins all around!
I’m going to start each week with some numbers, just to give you an idea of how much I’ve played. I’m currently sitting at twelve hours and forty minutes of play time. My main character is level 17. Finally, I’ve currently played through chapter 4 of the story.
I should probably warn you that there will be spoilers ahead. Although the game does not seem to be particularly plot-heavy, I’m not going to hold back when talking about anything story-specific.
Still with me? The game opens with the Earth caught in the middle of an unrelated war between two advanced alien races. Earth is caught in the crossfire and destroyed. I actually really like this setup. So often in sci-fi, humanity is put on a pedestal. I love the idea that we were simply caught in the middle of something much bigger than us. Anyway, humans attempt to escape the planet in ships, but most are destroyed. One ship ends up crashing onto a planet called Mira.
Your first action as the player is to create your character. This is a huge departure from the previous Xenoblade Chronicles game. The editor is fairly robust and let’s you make a wide variety of different characters. I made a grizzled old dude, because that’s just what I always do. Don’t ask me why! Because the main character is a create-a-character, he or she doesn’t have a whole lot of personality. That’s ok though, as it’s easier to imprint yourself on a charter that’s a bit of a blank slate.
Your character is found in a lifepod and woken up by a woman named Elma. You tell Elma that you don’t remember anything, which is kind of frustrating. Amnesia is a pretty common trope in RPGs, and it’s a fairly lazy way to explain to a character the rules of the world they’re inhabiting when they should already know them. But it is what is. Elma explains how the Earth was destroyed and how you’ve come to live on planet Mira. Part of the ship you arrived on, the White Whale, has been converted into the first human city on Mira, New Las Angeles.
Elma hands you a weapon and tells you that you need to get back to New LA. And thus begins the prologue of the game. It’s very straight forward, but is mostly there to teach you the basics of combat. If you played the first Xenoblade Chronicles, you have a pretty good idea of how the combat will work. You move around in real time, doing auto-attacks every few seconds. You also have moves called “arts” which run on cool down timers. Some arts are more effective if you meet certain conditions, such as attacking the enemy from the side or while they’re suffering a status effect. It’s a fast paced and very active combat system, which makes it stand out from other Japanese RPGs.
When you arrive in New Las Angeles, you begin chapter 1 of the story. It’s basically just a bunch of tutorials and can get pretty long-winded, but the information is very useful. You learn that Elma is what’s called a Blade, which are basically the people who explore and map out Mira as well as defend what’s left of humanity. By the end of the chapter, you’re being asked to become a Blade. I kind of wish I had selected “no” just to see what would happen, but I said “yes” and progressed the game.
Now that you’re a full-fledged Blade, you can start running missions. This seems to be the bulk of what you’re doing in Xenoblade Chronicles X. All story missions have prerequisites, such as being a certain level, having done certain side quests, and having a certain amount of Mira probed. Most of these tasks you’ll complete from just running missions that you get from the mission counter.
I mentioned probing Mira just a bit ago. This is very important task that you need to do. It’s only been two months since the White Whale crashed on Mira, and that means most of the planet is still largely unknown. But, you can find points out in the world where you can plant a probe. This serves multiple functions. In the story, it’s helping to get data on the planet. As a gameplay function, it serves as a means of collecting money since you get paid from the probes periodically, and also as your fast travel system.
The side quests you pick up all seem to be variations on just a couple different themes. You’re either gathering items or slaying monsters. Sometimes the monsters will be a group of small monsters or they’ll be one large monster with special properties, referred to as a “tyrant”. The gathering quests are kind of annoying, as they don’t tend to do a very good job of explaining where you can find the items you’re looking for. A lot of times though, you’ll luck out and already have the items from your previous quests.
Eventually, you’ll reach a story mission where you meet another alien race called the Ganglion. It turns out the Ganglion are one of the races that was responsible for destroying the Earth. They view humanity as a cancer on the universe and are trying to wipe it out. This frustrates me, because it’s suddenly putting humanity on a pedestal again. It’s a real bummer, but what are you going to do?
And that’s about where I am in the game so far. The game is definitely not perfect, however I’m really enjoying my time with it. It’s been a long time since a large scale, open world RPG was really able to hold my attention like this. Fallout 4 was close, but that game, while still good, was too buggy and too similar to it’s predecessors to keep me going. But Xenoblade Chronicles X is taking up all of my spare time, and when I’m not playing it, I’m thinking about it.