Xenoblade Chronicles X released back in December of 2015 with one of the largest open worlds in recent game history. With a complex battle system and the ability to customize just about everything from Soul Voice effects to the colors of your Skell, the game’s true depth lies in the details. As a result, the mechanics can seem overwhelming at first, especially since the game offers little in the way of training or tutorials; many of the available options merely sit there and wait to be found and used. The most detailed lesson I’ve seen so far was a mission walking me through how data probes worked, and that involved linking similar probes together, boosting their effects, and integrating storage probes to increase item space. Luckily, the most critical source of information (besides the Internet) is available with the press of a button: the game’s manual. Take my advice and read it. Your life on Mira will be made that much easier.
Before we go out into the world itself, let’s take a quick look around New LA, the game’s one and only human civilization. You have the ability to run all over the place right from the start and talk to various people. Most of the time it’s like talking to any other NPC in any other RPG game; possibly interesting, not really useful. You will also notice several affinity mission markers, many of which you won’t be able to take on until later. New LA only really starts to come truly alive a bit later in the game.
On each of Mira’s continents, players will see a wide degree of diversity among the wildlife. Not all enemies are hostile – in fact, many of them won’t give you a second glance. There are two indicators of a creature’s power and temperament. Eye and lightning bolt symbols tell you the monster may attack if you approach, and a color-coded level is given over their heads. While levels are obvious, the colors denote the enemy’s difficulty compared to other creatures of that same level. A purple-named (easiest) enemy five levels above you is perfectly capable of beating the heck out of you. If you plan to fight, make sure your levels are close.
I won’t go into many story details so as to avoid spoilers, but I will say that things don’t really get going in earnest until a few chapters in. The preliminary missions are more focused on getting the player situated in the game’s world, rewarding them with additional options and abilities as they progress.
Skells, the pilotable humanoid mechs, are where XCX really takes off. Coming in multiple models, Skells are fully customizable and make traveling and battling even more gratifying. The mere act of driving around in one is bliss. Those small fry enemies that bugged you before don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell against you now. On the flipside, monsters that ignored you before will become aggressive, and some are powerful enough to send your beloved giant robot back to the scrap shop. For example, creatures much stronger than you, even ones with aggressive icons, may walk right by you if you’re on foot. But go out in a Skell and expect to get into fights more often.
No game is perfect, of course, and XCX suffers from a few unnecessary flaws. One of the most critical, I feel, is the inability to abandon affinity missions or continue with the story during them. There are minimum requirements for each to ensure players aren’t totally in over their heads, but sometimes those requirements aren’t really enough. For example, I had to battle a level 20 monster on a level 16 mission. XCX would hugely benefit from being able to cancel affinity missions if you’re not up tot the task.
I touched earlier on the lack of in-game explanations and tutorials for the in-depth mechanics. Obviously, this leaves it up to the player to learn everything themselves. For a game of this magnitude, that’s a tall order. On the other hand, taking the player through it all during gameplay would require hours of dialogue and go-there-do-this quests. XCX may not be perfect, but it allows the players to explore and learn at their own pace rather than forcibly presenting it to them. I learn a new command or new mechanic every day, which means I’m always a better player than I was yesterday. And every day, XCX is an even more amazing game than it was yesterday.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is an open-world JRPG that offers one of the largest video game worlds ever created. The combat system is highly complex and requires somewhat of a learning curve, and the story is straightforward for a decent chunk of the game. The graphics are astounding but are slightly let down by an unimpressive musical score. Gameplay wise, there are always tons of things players can do at any one time. The game's flaws detract very little from the overall experience, making XCX one of the greatest games of 2015, and maybe even prior years.