It’s been a bit of a roller coaster week for my Xenoblade Chronicles X play-through. Although I’m still really enjoying the game, a lot of it’s problems are becoming much more apparent. But as I was preparing to write a largely negative blog post this week, I got to a story section that really surprised me and made me excited all over again. I know I gave this warning last week, but just to be clear, there will be spoilers in these posts, so read at your own risk.
Like I did with last week, let’s start with some numbers. I have 22 hours of play time, I’m level 23, and I just finished chapter 5. This means I played for about ten hours this week, but I’ve only completed one story mission. So, what was I doing the rest of the time?
As I previously mentioned, a lot of your time in Xenoblade Chronicles X is spent on side quests. The majority of those quests can be broken down into two categories, bounties and gathering quests.Bounties are typically pretty straight forward. You hunt down and kill a group of enemies or one large enemy called a tyrant. The game does a great job of pointing you in the right direction and letting you know what time of day you need to do these quests. But then there’s the gathering missions.
When you select a gathering mission, you’re told what you need to get and what continent you can find it on. That’s it. The items will only appear in certain parts of the continent, but the game does absolutely nothing to point you in the right direction. Items appear as small diamonds that you don’t know what they are until you’ve picked them up. They’re determined by a drop rate, so if you’re looking for a hard to find item, you might be picking up diamonds for hours. And unless you look up a guide, which I will admit to doing, you have no idea if you’re in the right spot or just getting unlucky drops.
The whole thing reminds me of the quests in Final Fantasy XI and other pre-World of Warcraft MMORPGs. But the thing is, those games have a built in community. The idea is that you’re all trying to figure this stuff out together. Xenoblade is a primarily single player game, meaning you’re basically stuck looking up walkthroughs.
Another type of quest you can go on is an affinity quest. These are usually a little better than the other side quests as they actually provide some story context. The down side is you can only have one active at a time, so if you’re stuck on one, you kinda just have to deal with it. Case in point, I was doing one of Lin’s affinity quests, and it had a step that required me to gather materials. One of the materials could only be obtained through FrontierNav, which is a yet another bag of worms.
Remember last week when I mentioned planting probes throughout the continents? Well, besides making fast travel points and helping unlock story missions, these are also used to obtain money and items. Basically, every twenty minutes or so, FrontierNav will activate and give you items based on the drop rates of the probes that you currently have. Because it’s based on drop rates, you don’t always get what you want. I ended up running other gathering and bounty quests while waiting for the right items to pop, since I couldn’t do other affinity missions while this one was activated. I ended up taking about one and half play sessions of praying they show up. It was infuriating.
But then I played chapter 5, which was great. In this story mission, you’re sent to investigate what appears to be a ship fighting with the Ganglion. When you arrive, you meet the Ma-Non, another race of aliens. They have high pitched voices that definitely will get on your nerves, but they’re good guys and they need your help. Basically, they need to get their ship out of there, but there are anti-aircraft turrets making that impossible. Since they’re enemies of the Ganglion too, you agree to help them out.
The mission requires you to take out three of those turrets. The actual enemies associated with the mission are pretty easy, although I may have been over-leveled for them. However, I kept running into enemies that were much higher level just kind of hanging around the mission area. This was pretty frustrating as I couldn’t ever manage to beat them, but if you’re patient and pay attention to their patterns, you can sneak by just fine.
After defeating the turrets, you find the Ma-Non surrounded by four giant robots that are being piloted by the prone. In the cutscene that follows, your group takes out one of the robots very easily. Then you fight the rest in actual gameplay. I had no problems taking them out, but I was a higher level than they were. And then things get crazy.
After the fight, a cutscene plays where one of the giant robots takes one last shot at Tatsu. Your character heroically jumps in the way and takes the hit, losing his/her arm. But, it looks like you’re a robot? Elma explains that she hadn’t realized that with your plot-convenience amnesia, you don’t remember that you’re a mimesome. And what that is, is that all the crew of the White Whale are actually in a section of the ship called the Lifehold and their consciousness’ have been transferred into robots. This was because they had no idea how long the journey to find a new planet would take.
I don’t think I mentioned the Lifehold in my first post, but finding it is one of the main objectives of the game. It’s implied early in the game that it holds more survivors, like yourself. Turns out it holds everyone’s real body, meaning that if the Ganglion get to it first, they could cause the extinction of the human race. This added some much needed desperation to the plot, which has otherwise been pretty laid back for a story about the earth being destroyed.
So, yeah, overall, I’m still really enjoying my time with the game, but it has become more frustrating. But, so far there’s been nothing that would cause me to actually want to stop playing. So, check back here next week and see how far I’ve gone this time.