The premise of “Xenoblade Chronicles X” is nothing that video game players haven’t heard before: The Earth is no more, so it’s time for humanity to explore a new planet. It’s one thing to venture to a completely new world, but Nintendo and Monolith Soft have made their game stand out in one major way. The new planet truly feels like a massive, new world and that sizable new setting is home to one of the most gratifying (and lengthy) adventures of the year.
The story is a simple one. As mentioned, the Earth has been destroyed by a mysterious alien race that seems to be hell-bent on eradicating the human race. The remnants of humanity have set up a colony on a foreign planet called Mira, filled with dangerous wildlife and enough resources to start up an entirely new civilization. And all would be well and good if that same alien race hadn’t decided to pursue the survivors and continue their quest for total extinction, leaving military organization BLADE no choice but to fight back.
Brave new world
This point cannot be emphasized enough: Mira is huge. It is a massive world, ripe for open-world exploration. The planet is filled with resources, collectibles and wild creatures – and it is impossible to explore the entire area in less than a few dozen hours. It’ll likely be days before you can explore beyond the sub-continent of Primordia, not just because the enemies are much stronger outside of its borders, but because there’s so much to soak in.
This is where it should be noted that while off-screen play with the Wii U GamePad is possible, it is absolutely not recommended. The second screen acts as a handy map, separated out into clusters. While this is mainly to keep track of what’s been collected, it’s also to avoid getting lost. And with the world the size that it is, the first few days will be spent wandering aimlessly around the continent. Fast travel paths open up later and that becomes a godsend, given how long it takes to traverse Mira and how quickly the day-night cycle passes.
“Xenoblade Chronicles X” is not for the impatient. It will take hours to get used to the real-time combat system, especially when it comes to learning which MMO-style Arts abilities work best with one another. Even with the aid of capable AI party members, death will happen quite often. The solution is to grind and, unfortunately, experience doesn’t come quickly, whether it’s through battle, exploration or side missions. And there are plenty of side missions to play, especially when story instances often come with prerequisites. This is another reason that the whole experience runs longer than the average game.
There is a rewarding light at the end of the tunnel, though.
Not only do characters eventually level up enough to take on larger creatures, but after enough time, they can wield the artillery to match. Leveled-up abilities, as well as character weapons, will vary based on class, and the game is generous about allowing players to experiment. New weaponry and armor can also be unlocked after contributing towards a variety of manufacturers, with resources raised through probes placed across the world.
There’s an insane amount of depth to how characters are raised. And while some of the more nuanced ideas can be ignored, it’s worth learning the ins-and-outs of these systems in order to create the strongest character builds possible. After all, survival is much easier that way.
Earning your stripes
“Xenoblade Chronicles X” feels like a truly breathtaking effort, evidenced by how much love has gone into crafting each and every inch of its massive planet. And it’s a planet that Nintendo and Monolith Soft have made worth exploring and worth learning. It’s not for everyone, as the story gets off to a slow start. In fact, expect the story to last well over 40 hours.
The game also doesn’t waste much time with tutorials. Players aren’t left entirely to the wolves, but the combat, equipment, stats and party system is far more complex than the simplistic tutorial tips let on. It’s also worth repeating that new players should expect to die — a lot!
With that said, investing dozens of hours into the game does feel rewarding. There are immensely satisfying moments for those who choose to stick with this game, but those moments need to be earned. Nothing will come easy, but nothing truly worthwhile ever does.
‘Xenoblade Chronicles X’ (rated T) is now available on Nintendo Wii U.