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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 deactivated-59ef89729997b

How did this get and 8? It sounds like a 6 at best. Will be skipping it.

Avatar image for DarkAztaroth
DarkAztaroth

@LtJef: re-read the first paragraph of the review.

Avatar image for abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@LtJef: Yes because the almighty GameSpot's word is absolute, especially when the lowest score this game has received so far is a 7 (while scoring more 9s than anything else).

Avatar image for razecah12
razecah12

@LtJef: so fallout 4 was like a 6 at best

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@LtJef: Listening to his words when the score of 8 came up it was surprising. I guess everything else about the game is just too good for the negatives to matter much.

Avatar image for Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

I've been playing the first Xenoblade and I couldn't imagine having to play a game of that size to a deadline (I actually took a month break from the game at one point). This games bigger. I don't envy games critics on this.

I actually chose to avoid subquests too, with the exception of those I incidentally completed whilst playing the game. Contrary to what some of that games reviewers assumed, it plays perfectly fine if you avoid almost all the sub-quests. You level fast when you fight higher level mob you're always kept at the right level for the main story. It's an example of how reviewers have to make assumptions on how you have to play it based off how they played. When I was about level 40 or 50 I did do a few subquests at the fallen hand of the Bionis and I did feel I was overpowered for the start of the next section of the main story but it quickly got back to normal.

As far as this review goes I very much doubt I'll have to look through the manual much. The first one threw a fair amount of mechanics at you very fast in the early chapters and didn't explain some things properly, but I don't need to understand everything straight away. Working stuff out is part of the experience.

I'll download this day one because Nintendo games don't reduce in price much, but I doubt I'll want to follow the first one with this without a break.

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@Nev3rtime: I don't see this as one of those typical Nintendo games that maintain a high price. Plus nowadays with the WiiU's small install base we're even seeing big core Nintendo franchise games getting price breaks quickly, at least at the retailer level. That's the thing though, I'm talking about physical copies. I don't see this game selling well to the WiiU crowd and so I think there will be some good deals fairly soon.

I pre-ordered because of discounts but I'm not sure whether I should keep it or not. I'm not sure I will commit the time to enjoy it. The only thing that really stands out for me is the large world because I love exploration, but I also would like to have a game that makes me want to use my WiiU on a regular basis. Splatoon just didn't do it for me.

Avatar image for danillocf
DanilloCF

@Nev3rtime: if you don't want to read the manual, I at least recommend you to take a look on the nintendo's survival guides for the game. Its can help a lot with some systems.

Avatar image for misty_falls
Misty_Falls

Xenogears is still the God in Xeno franchise. It's a shame this game's story is not as strong as its predecessors but it's still one of the best games for 2015.

Avatar image for ThreeVo
ThreeVo

@misty_falls: "xeno" doesnt make zenogears a predecessor to this.

This series barely has any ties to xenosaga, which itself only had very VERY ambiguous ties to xenogears

Avatar image for silversix_
silversix_

i'd like to see a dudebro play this game, it'd be hilariously funny.

Avatar image for TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@silversix_:

Well, we've already seen the hilarity that takes place when a Hipster reviews it.

Now we need an equally annoying perspective.

See if you can find anyone in the Black Ops III lobbies that want to give it a shot. :)

Avatar image for xbr85
xbr85

A shame they didn't/couldn't hire Yasunori Mitsuda as the composer, but the game's sure to be great anyway.

Avatar image for Sepewrath
Sepewrath

Another open world game with a weak story, a shame, but once again, not surprising. Not crazy about the idea of grinding for a specific condition to advance the story.

Avatar image for Zombunny
Zombunny

bad combat, lacking ai, bland graphics, lame story yet gets an 8 lol

Avatar image for me3639
me3639

@Zombunny: What did you expect? Heres the truth this game looks like arse. Where is the flame over the reveal aka Watchdogs to the actual game? Oh, its a Nintendo property not allowed to tell the truth.

Avatar image for abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@me3639: Lol at the level of bullshit in your comment. Yes the game did see a slight downgrade in visuals but it's NO WHERE near the level that other developers are guilty of. Plus people starting bitching about the graphics when the character models were revealed, as far as the environments, cities, and skells go, all of them still look just as great as when it was first revealed. There is no actual truth in your comment.

Avatar image for externalpower43
Externalpower43

@Zombunny: I think you missed this part.

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
Avatar image for jpcc86
jpcc86

@Zombunny: I feel like you read a different review. Combat is complicated/ambiguos, not "bad". And story is weak. That's all. It gets a 8 because whats good is great.

Avatar image for bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

Sounds good to me! I didn't mind the characters in the first XBC but this sounds more my pace. The combat system was the best feature for me in the first one and if this expands on that then I'm sold.

Avatar image for DarkForse
DarkForse

GOOD GOD THIS GAME LOOKS FKN AMAZING! I'm gonna have to bury my copy of fallout 3 HD lol and go with this in this holiday season! I was looking for a lmtd edition and it was sold out across Australia........

I will find you :/

Avatar image for danillocf
DanilloCF

@xenoes4: he probably did not have the time to do the affinity mission , the review must had beem rushed so he could at least finish the game before writing about it. 65 hours for this game is nothing.

Avatar image for Isamu_36
Isamu_36

@danillocf: If he didn't have time to review key aspects of the game then he should have said so.

Avatar image for jecomans
jecomans

Good review. Reads like about a 6 to me, and I cannot be arsed playing such a long game if the story and characters are as weak as many other reviews concur that they are.

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

@jecomans: yea see i could careless about a weak story Im not really playing the game for a story it reads like a 8 or 9 to me (especially if average open world games like fallout 4 get a 9) - and no many of "the other" reviews (of which there is only 3 gamerankings, nintendolife, famitsu) NONE of them say that whatsoever I've already read the other reviews - this is actually the only review that says besides the character models and inconsistent explanation of the games world - thats the only reoccuring thing I've heard - I'll play it love it, exploration/combat and in depth systems and large overworld with multiple progression systems > ANY day over story (hell even xenoblade chronicles original i didnt care much for the story yet I invested 228 hours into the game) yea story doesnt mean shit to me - unless I go into the game wanting a grand story - on an epic scale, everything about this game is epic - minus what the story (soundtrack is subjective, merely opinion) other reviews say the opposite that gamespot has - personally I wouldnt miss such a big indepth detailed fun to explore vast world open JRPG just b/c the character models are bland and the voice acting is hit or miss and the story isnt up to par with some of the darker more realistic western rpgs - personally I never cared for that to begin with, I couldnt imagine missing a title (for what ? rise of the tomb raider, bloodborne ? witcher 3) they have major flaws as well - besides I already own a Wii U along with the other consoles no reason for me to miss it (again to each their own) but way I look out it - could careless if someone else misses out on it (over something as minor as the story being bad the STORY is only HALF the game hell a game like this its probably not even half more like 1/4=67-80 hour story, and then 160 hours of content, and multiple systems that cojoin and come together, plus riding a skell and exploring such a vast world is like half the fun to begin with, miss that for a bland (not bad) but bland story ? no thanks - oh well sucks to be the person that thinks like that.

Avatar image for CheeseRa
CheeseRa

@Itzsfo0: you could careless

Avatar image for gamerINchief
gamerINchief

Xenoblade Chronicles was my favorite rpg last gen. Man, I just don't know if want to spend $300+ dollars to play this game. Cause there is nothing else I would play on Wii U.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@gamerINchief: Just buy one used from Nintendo for $199. Then find a good deal on the game come release day. With Christmas coming im sure people will do a buy 1 get one 50% off or a buy 2 get 1 free or something for the holidays.

Target has 15% off right now. Monday only though.

Avatar image for midnightrush93
midnightrush93

"- Disappointing story"

I've finished Tales of Zestiria just recently. Surely the story in XCX can't possibly be worse. And I'm a fan of both series.

Can't wait to hear some tracks from Mika Kobayashi. She sings some of the most epic OST's in recent animes like, Guilty Crown, Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill, Aldnoah.Zero, etc.

Avatar image for DesertEaglex24
DesertEaglex24

@midnightrush93: Agreed, the story in Zestiria was awful lol. Tales of Xilla2 is way better imo.

Avatar image for rolento25
Rolento25

I really want to give this game a go, but that cluster of a UI....

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@rolento25: You can hide majority of the UI. The game is very customizable.

Avatar image for dreamsicle
dreamsicle

X gonna give it to ya

Avatar image for lenyora-sama
lenyora-sama

@dreamsicle: perfect

Avatar image for csward
csward

Bad characters/story means a non-purchase from me. I don't play RPGs for the grind. Maybe I'll get it next year if it ever goes on sale.

Avatar image for Isamu_36
Isamu_36

@csward: Story is important but most JRPGs have rubbish plots. Xenosaga has so far the most interesting story in JRPGs... because Monolith Namco pulled a kind of accidental LOST move by making it so complex that the player has to make it sense by over thinking and researching it.

Avatar image for juboner
juboner

The negatives are pretty much in all jrpg's, you may as well not even mention them since they are found in every jrpg. And he makes it clear that it doesnt really matter bc the rest of he game is so good. People who play these type of games are used to the stories and most likely will not find it a negative point.

So basically from the review, I was told it was an awesome jrpg.

Avatar image for whatsazerg
whatsazerg

@juboner: So we should ignore bugs in games whose predecessors also had bugs then?

Just because people are accustomed to sh*t... doesn't mean we should all be happy with sh*t when we get it.

No... I'm not saying this game is sh*t. It's an analogy. Figured I had better point that out, less I be flamed by morons.

Avatar image for juboner
juboner

@whatsazerg: I think people are taking what he said about the characters and story way out of context.

Avatar image for zyxahn
zyxahn

I was hoping for a 9 but after reading the Tales of Zestiria reviews, I found myself not agreeing with them. I don't have a problem with JRPG's too. An 8 is 9 to me. :) The reviews are usually very good, which is why the disagreement with the ToZ reviews was so unexpected.

Avatar image for Flen15
Flen15

Yeah, I'm pretty tired of the 'cute' stuffed animal type characters in jrpg's.

Avatar image for regix416_basic
regix416_basic

So am I to understand that this game has NOTHING to do with the original game? Why can't any of the similar named games EVER be related to the other? Xenosaga had nothing to do with Xenogears and now X has nothing to do with Chronicles I? And now, the story is meaningless? Xenoblade Chronicles HAD a wonderful story... this is ridiculous. There'd better be a Japanese voice track like the first game had. If not, this is a definite no sell for me.

Avatar image for Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

@regix416_basic: I felt Xenoblade Chronicles had a pretty lackluster and formulaic story. The plot twists were well-worn territory, and the characters were pretty basic JRPG archetypes. That's not to say it wasn't a good game, but I don't feel it was anything special. I felt The Last Story was more interesting overall.

Then again, the JRPGs of the 360/PS3/Wii generation weren't very memorable as a whole.

Avatar image for Kyrylo
Kyrylo

@regix416_basic: Xenosaga is vaguely related to Xenogears. Only problem Xenogears is property of Square and they couldn't establish direct connection .

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@regix416_basic: I kinda like that they have nothing in common.

Avatar image for regix416_basic
regix416_basic

@mesome713: What's the excuse for their lack of a plot? It's not f'n Destiny. In my opinion, this is no better than their sabotaging Rodea for the Wii U and 3DS.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@regix416_basic: What do you mean? There is plenty of story to be had.

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):
    Action, Role-Playing
    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