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Review

Xenoblade Chronicles X Review

  • First Released Dec 4, 2015
    released
  • Reviewed Nov 30, 2015
  • WIIU

Go big or go home

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Of all the open-world games to come out this year, Xenoblade Chronicles X may be the most formidable. It is a truly enormous game, both in scale and scope, with towering animals and rock formations stretching as far as the eye can see. Even after as many as 60 hours, X continues to provide taller mountains to climb, and stronger opponents to topple, with no end of new challenges in sight.

At the same time, X is a long RPG with a thin story and repetitive, lifeless characters. You hear the same jokes over and over again, and endure drawn-out cutscenes with little to no emotional payoff. Like so many Japanese-made RPGs, X's serious moments are often undermined by the presence of a cute and cuddly sidekick. When you aren't wincing at the sight of Tatsu--the game's stuffed animal of choice--you may instead be reeling from the soundtrack, which is dotted with low-rent tracks that make you reach for the mute button.

These are reasons enough to walk away from most games, but X isn't most games. By offering a steady stream of challenges that take you to fantastic places and put you into fights at the feet of giants, X has no problem enticing you back for more. It's a feat of large-scale game design that would be impressive on any console or computer, let alone on the modestly-powered Wii U, and getting the chance to explore and fight in a world as impressive as this one is worth enduring a few annoyances along the way.

Your journey begins when you wake up in a life pod on Planet Mira. A spaceship that escaped from Earth crash landed here after just avoiding complete destruction in an alien conflict, and the few humans who remain are left to fight for the survival of species. As a member of Blade--the military organization in charge of scouring Mira and defending humanity--your primary goal is to locate the invaluable pod known as the Lifehold. If Blade can secure it, the safety of your colony--New Los Angeles---will be ensured. If it falls into the wrong hands, your time is up.

Healing your characters requires you to react to QTEs, which can be difficult during heated battles.
Healing your characters requires you to react to QTEs, which can be difficult during heated battles.

Apart from the odd name given to your colony, X's story isn't memorable, save for a couple twists. However, the context provides an excellent framework for exploration and combat. You play the part of a soldier on the frontier who treks across Mira, an ancient land whose features suggest a storied and chaotic past and whose inhabitants regularly dwarf your squad of explorers. Massive, electric creatures hover over land and sea, and spiders the size of small houses march across plains. Dinosaurs and mammals with feet taller than your character cast huge shadows over the land, and while I felt intimidated the first time I saw one of these monsters, I dreamt of the day that I would be strong enough to take one on in a fight. With enough time and energy, that dream can become a reality.

While some animals are content to leave you be, others are aggressive and will attack on-sight. You defend yourself and your team of three AI controlled soldiers in real-time combat which, for the most part, is a smooth and exciting experience. Every character has a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, and, depending on their class, a selection of offensive and defensive Arts (read: abilities) at their disposal. You earn new Arts when you level-up, and special class-based skills unlock every time you earn a new rank, so you have a steady stream of new abilities to experiment with as your adventure continues. Once you begin to identify skills that suit your play-style, you can invest a third measure of experience--battle points--to soup up your favorite moves and craft a unique fighting style.

After dozens of hours exploring on foot, the moment you jump into the pilot's seat of a Skell is an awakening.

Instead of casting healing spells or using consumable items to patch up wounded warriors, you rely on a QTE system, which is triggered by a complex series of events in battle. Something as basic as healing, in a game where combat is central to the experience, should be made clear from the start, but you're left to decipher a complex system, known as Soul Voices, where you assign automatic actions to very specific battle conditions. As much as you might want to, you can't totally control the tide of battle, so you pick and choose variables, praying that when the going gets tough, you've assigned a suitable automatic event to save the day. If this sounds confusing, it's because it is. While it's rare that you're left without an opportunity to recover some health, there are times when you wish that you could take matters into your own hands.

X does a poor job of explaining things in general, and you will spend a lot of time with the in-game manual, poring over pages in search of information. X allows you to dive deep into character progression and resource management but, without proper guidance, you will undoubtedly get lost. This may sideline more advanced pursuits in order to continue exploring and fighting--if only because those activities come so naturally.

You always remember your first Skell.
You always remember your first Skell.

Story missions set a good pace for exploration and skill development, and the conclusion of each chapter grants you access to a new series of rewarding side quests. It's unfortunate, however, that you can't organically weave your way from one chapter to the next. Each story mission comes with a set of prerequisites, such as surveying a percentage of Mira, or, collecting a certain number of items from the wild. Exploring Mira isn't big ask, because it's just another excuse to dive headlong into its captivating wilderness, but fetch quests aren't as simple as retrieving items from fixed locations; the items you have to collect appear at random, be it from enemies or in the wild. Sometimes you find exactly what you need in a matter of minutes, but on a bad day, it can take hours.

Though progression sometimes slows to a halt because you're required to complete a seemingly unimportant mission, grinding in any form can be made easier by recruiting other players' characters. By visiting a terminal at your base, you can spend in-game currency to hire avatars that people have shared online. While this isn't something you have to do often, hiring a high-level character can make it easy to grind for experience, or to venture into dangerous territory. Even though I couldn't chat with her and strategize, I still loved that I was able to recruit a level 60 character named Samus and watch her tear through a swarm of aliens when I needed it most.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a feat of large-scale game design that would be impressive on any console or computer, let alone on the modestly-powered Wii U.

Exploration and missions are an important part of being a Blade soldier, but you are also responsible for setting up a network of devices to mine Mira's resources and gather information. Miranium is a key resource that can be invested in weapons and armor manufacturers in order to unlock powerful exotic gear. From your humble beginnings in kneepads and wrist guards, you slowly blossom into a skilled warrior who's decked out in the finest ornate alien equipment, and it’s all because of your efforts as an explorer. X has no shortage of wondrous sights to behold, but it also incentivizes you in other, more beneficial ways.

Just when you start to think that you've exhausted your hunt for new gear, you unlock Skells, which are X's giant bipedal robots. After dozens of hours exploring on foot, the moment you jump into the pilot's seat of a Skell is an awakening. It can transform into a vehicle on-the-fly, allowing you to traverse large swaths of land in a flash. You are considerably more powerful in combat, too, and you finally have a fighting chance against monsters that previously seemed out of your league thanks to your newfound beam saber and missile launchers. You can also trample over smaller enemies without skipping a beat; small being relative, of course, as practically everything in X is bigger than you when on-foot.

Where we're going, we don't need roads.
Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Your first Skell is just the beginning--there are multiple models to buy, each with over a dozen parts to customize and upgrade. Between your party of four and any Skells that you acquire, X gives you a near endless supply of goals to pursue and countless beasts to test your might against. After 65 hours doggedly chasing the next best thing in X, I felt like I had only scratched the surface, with game's the biggest challenges still ahead of me.

Mira and its inhabitants are awe-inspiring, and experiencing everything X has to offer is a monumental and rewarding task. It makes the journey consistently interesting by giving you intricate control over your characters' abilities and gear, and by offering a wealth of new toys to play with as time goes on. You will roll your eyes at characters, and bemoan the unnecessary story padding, but these frustrations are quickly forgotten when you head into the wilderness in search of unexplored territory and unforeseen challenges. X is a grand adventure that satiates your appetite for exploration and combat in ways that few games ever do, but because getting started is half the battle, it’s an experience reserved for dedicated players who have the patience and energy to unearth its greatest treasures.

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The Good
Impressive scale
Breathtaking landscapes
Captivating creature design
Tons of unlockables and quests
Exciting ground- and mech-based combat
Deep character progression and customization
The Bad
Inconsistent soundtrack
Ambiguous systems
Disappointing story
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter spent 65 hours in Xenoblade Chronicles X and still longs to uncover all of its secrets, but more importantly, all of its Skells. Nintendo provided a copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
648 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

Bigger than fallout 4. Looks better. Still scores lower. WHAT?

Avatar image for ewjiml
ewjiml

@Bread_or_Decide: Have you even played Fallout 4? "Looks better" so I guess I will take that as no. I'll say Xenoblades looks terrible.

Avatar image for tacoman32x
tacoman32x

@ewjiml: i play fallout 4 on ultra settings on my pc and its really unimpressive actually. sure technically it has higher resolution textures and better lighting but its not a better looking world

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

@ewjiml: Everyone agrees fallout 4 looks like a PS3 game.

Avatar image for vile-okami
Vile-Okami

@ewjiml: Yes. It looks like a last gen game to me.

Avatar image for tommiveceti
tommiveceti

@Bread_or_Decide: It's up to the reviewer, not acutally reflecting the game as you want it to be. Reviews are always subjective.

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

@Bread_or_Decide: Yes, because that is how the reviews work, it is all about the scale and graphics.

Avatar image for really_tho_bruh
Really_tho_bruh

Eh, from what I played, the game is easily a 9 imo and I absolutely love the soundtrack. That being said, I realize the soundtrack is divisive and I haven't played the dubbed version yet. I also have grown to respect the reviewer so I respect the review. Still disagree with the review, but clearly effort was put into it

Avatar image for maneljoao
maneljoao

Somehow I feel the score is a bit inflated, but then again, in perspective it is a wii u game and according to the scale and sheer size/scope of it, it deserves some credit.

Avatar image for tacoman32x
tacoman32x

@maneljoao: still better than fallout 4

Avatar image for whatsazerg
whatsazerg

@maneljoao: Yeah.... a western developed rpg of the same quality would score a 7 at best.

I might actually get this sometime down the road. But it seems many Japanese developed games get a pass when it comes to characters, story & technical aesthetics (ie: facial animation, etc.)

Avatar image for metallinatus
Metallinatus

@whatsazerg: I know, right?

....a 7, like Fallout got....

Avatar image for Litchie
Litchie

Seems like a worthy successor to XB:C. Bad story? Well duh, it's a JRPG.

Might get this game sometime. Kind of wish it wasn't so huge, though. I don't have that much time for gaming anymore..

Avatar image for BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

@Litchie: "Bad story? Well duh, it's a JRPG." i'd agree with it in most cases, but the first xenoblade caught me off guard with how good the story was :P

Avatar image for boerew0rs
Boerew0rs

I've been playing this game with my brother and we're about 40 hours in. The good thing is that I can't wait for me to come home and play again or for him to hand me the controller, the bad thing is that if he played for 3 hours that I missed I don't really care. When I'm playing my brother's playing on the Vita and vice versa and although you like every minute in the world, you don't really connect to it.

I play it like I play my MMO's: the first 10 hours I'm reading everything, after that I'll skip the story in favor of exploring and enjoying the mechanics. This game is insanely beautiful and for people who weren't yet convinced after MK8, SSB, Kirby, Yoshi and Pikmin, this game makes it abundantly clear that Nintendo does not need more power to do what they do best. If you're an J-RPG fan I would even go as far as to recommend buying a Wii U for it if you don't have one already, a game like this is a once in a gen experience. But where I recommended the original Xenoblade to lots of people I think the treshold to get into Cross is a bit too high for most.

Avatar image for gamingfan
Gamingfan

Let alone the modestly powered wii u? I sense salt from a fanboy. It's not my fault fallout 4 looks like a ps2 game and ths game is bigger than the witcher 3 and fallout 4 combined lol.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@gamingfan: “fallout 4 looks like a ps2 game”

And there I thought making you look stupid was going to be my job.

Thanks.

Avatar image for Daian
Daian

@gamingfan: lol no.

Avatar image for gamingfan
Gamingfan

@Daian: Would you like more salt on those chips?

Avatar image for Daian
Daian

@gamingfan: I don't require any, you on the other hand require to know that Witcher 3 lasts 150-200 hours, and without mindless grind like in this. F4 I extremely overrated but even I know that's a big game too.

Avatar image for gamingfan
Gamingfan

@Daian: Grinds are common in rpg's. Was the witcher 3 your first one?

Avatar image for Daian
Daian

@gamingfan: not even remotely close, and grind is a cheap, lazy design choice to make the game seem longer than it actually is. Not one quest in W3 was identical to another, not one moment felt redundant, this on the other hand seems to suffer from the horribly repetitive grind that most JRPGs suffer from.

Avatar image for justbefahad
JustBeFahad

@Daian: The Witcher 3's quests were fantastic but I'd be damned if I say that chasing all those question marks across the maps wasn't a grind that inflated my playtime. Its not a problem if you realize quickly that most of the loot is crap but sadly, I only realized that once I cleared the Velen map...

Avatar image for whatsazerg
whatsazerg

I get the impression that if this exact same game was made by a western developer it'd have scored a 6 or 7.

Bad story, bad music and boring characters with no sense of emotion? A western developed rpg game would get slammed for this.

Avatar image for AndreasRufus
AndreasRufus

@whatsazerg: ...boring characters with no sense of emotion

Isn't that exactly what gamespot said about Fatal Frame? ;)

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

@whatsazerg: Yes because WRPG's are SO GOOD at story...cough almost every WRPG...cough.

Avatar image for whatsazerg
whatsazerg

@Bread_or_Decide: KoToR is amazing. The Witcher 3 is amazing. Mass Effect is TERRIFIC!

There isn't a single JRPG that comes anywhere close to any of the 3 that I mentioned.

Avatar image for tacoman32x
tacoman32x

@whatsazerg: the original xenoblade has a better story than all three of thos ames combined and the charachters in x are great stop pulling bullshit out of your ass to criticize a game you never played becuase you dislike Japanese stuff

Avatar image for AndreasRufus
AndreasRufus

@whatsazerg: It's called "taste" - google that if you don't understand it.

Avatar image for IncisionX
IncisionX

@whatsazerg: Final fantasy 7.

kthxcyalaaaaaaaaater

Avatar image for whatsazerg
whatsazerg

@IncisionX: FFVII came out like 17 years ago. What's happened since?

Avatar image for adam4897332
adam4897332

I was expecting a 9,cause someone in Gamespot told me that this game is going to be in the top 10 games of 2015.

Avatar image for TJDMHEM
TJDMHEM

this is a great game.

Avatar image for ocidax
ocidax

Day 1. Great game

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

Disappointing story, now that's a bummer.

Avatar image for vile-okami
Vile-Okami

Anyone want to take a guess on if Gamespot is going to lowball another Nintendo game?

Avatar image for mastertien123
mastertien123

@vile-okami: Yes ! All Nintendo games should always be 9/10 10/10 "best game eva".

Avatar image for vile-okami
Vile-Okami

@mastertien123: No, but Tropical Freeze sure as **** didn't deserve a 6/10.

Avatar image for mastertien123
mastertien123

@vile-okami:And Bayonetta 2 got 10/10, Mario maker got 9/10, Hyrule Warriors got 8/10, Splatoon got 8/10 . Whoopy doo, people likes some games and doesn't like some others as much. Deal with it.

Avatar image for vile-okami
Vile-Okami

@mastertien123:You aren't going to cry about my opinion, are you?

Avatar image for mastertien123
mastertien123

@vile-okami: Your opinion of what ? Of gamespot lowball-ing a Nintendo game ? You think he gave the game this review even though he enjoyed the game so much more (because he (or Gamespot) hates NIntendo) ? Are you him ? You see thing as he does ?

I respect others's opinions. Just not baseless ones (and yes, i often cry about those for fun).

Avatar image for viciouskiller
viciouskiller

How dare you have an opinion.

Avatar image for Johiden
Johiden

@viciouskiller: How dare you have an opinion about their opinion.

Avatar image for viciouskiller
viciouskiller

@Johiden: opinonception.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@viciouskiller: Hey there pussy, long time no see.

Avatar image for justbefahad
JustBeFahad

@RogerioFM: ROFL!

Avatar image for brazprince
BrazPrince

@RogerioFM: Lmaoooo

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@viciouskiller: Aren't you the most erudite pussy around here.

Xenoblade Chronicles X More Info

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  • First Released Dec 4, 2015
    released
    • Wii U
    Xenoblade Chronicles X is the next massive sci-fi role-playing game from Monolith Soft, the creators of Baten Kaitos and Xenoblade Chronicles.
    8.7
    Average Rating79 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Xenoblade Chronicles X
    Developed by:
    Monolith Soft
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Animated Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence