Xenoblade Chronicles: A Review

I really enjoyed your post about your ferrets.  It was shway Ze Frank.  I’d write some about my lizard but he doesn’t do much in the long term.  His would be weird like:

Dear Diary,

Today I noticed a perspective mate in my domain.  I went to mate with her but as luck would have it, it was simply my own reflection on the glass.  Now I must sit here bearing the embarrassment of my swollen, black beard.  I will flex it at the passing humans as a show of dominance, though inside I am deeply alone.  I will hold a court of crickets tonight to assuage my lizard dong.

This past weekend I finally fucking beat Xenoblade Chronicles with an ending playtime of 108 hours.  And it felt so good.  I will note that its a different game than Xenoblade Chronicles X.  Which is yet on the horizon.  I played the version on the New 3DS.  I was itching for a good RPG to get invested in and Xenoblade Chronicles beat out the other games I was trying out.

Xenoblade Chronicles starts you out in a small “Homs” city located on a celestial being known as the Bionis.  The city is modestly thriving in the wake of a grand war with the metal beings from Mechonis.  Things go south when the Mechonis strike again and force a young man by the name of Shulk to wield a legendary weapon known as the Monodo.  Seeking retribution against their assailants, Shulk and his friend Reyn leave to find the Mechonis and destroy them once and for all.  The story is grand in scope and takes you to many unique places; though its cliched in a few ways.  There were plenty of moments that caught me off guard and kept me wanting to play.  The characters motivations and development are awesome, all make sense, and you really begin to understand who they are through the game.

The games story feels really well written, but its clearly from a japanese writer.  It felt a lot like a Kingdom Hearts story was placed in a Phantasy Star realm.  It was a very cool, fresh setting.  The game world is fucking huge!  The people live on the Bionis’ body, which is literally a tremendous creature that all biological life spawned.  You can look into the sky and see pieces of it depending on where you are.  The areas feel unique and expansive and there is plenty of reward for exploring.  There is a day and night system and the weather can randomly change!  These also effect what types of creatures are free roaming the world as well so it all feels really interesting and new.

The combat system was functional if clunky, but in a good way.  Its a real time combat system and plays an awful lot like Final Fantasy 12 with some MMO elements.  You control your character and you can run around and they’ll auto attack, but you have a tray full of secondary abilities and attacks that all have a cool down after you use them.  It was a little daunting at first but it became really second nature pretty quick.  You engage enemies in very fluid way in the game.  They are just running around and you can see their level before engaging.  Its one of my favorite things about Xenoblade Chronicles: there isn’t a single place they won’t let you go (barring a few story driven areas).  If you aren’t supposed to be there all you’ll really know is that suddenly the goddamn ants are like LVL 900 and really fucking pissed that you walked across their field of view.

Even though the main character is Shulk, you can at any point switch out your party members- including the one you control when you run around the world.  As your party grows you have to adapt to the enemies and its really nice to be able to be like “Man Shulk sux0rs right meow time to play as a different character!”  The characters all play really differently and are well balanced.  It gives you the freedom to switch out skills and party members to really dial in a new strategy based on your enemies.

There is quite a bit of infrastructure elements that get really confusing really fast and I found myself learning about things I could do with my characters way too late in the game to really abuse it.

Your characters can have affinity with one another and affinity with cities in the game.  You get this by playing with them in your party and the higher their affinity the more things you can do.  Cool battle buffs, more trading in cities, and eventually you can start finding Heart-to-Heart moments where you can play out little conversations between characters.  They are charming and really flesh the characters out.  That’s not the part that was hard- I accidentally missed the part where they tell you can have characters give gifts to one another which fucking helps.  I missed the bit where you talk to this unmarked kid to work on upgrading certain elements in a city.  Certain elements of the game I mostly didn’t use, even though I knew how.

The game has a lot of polish to it.  The menus can be confusing, but the game tries to make up for it by helping you organize it.  It’ll let you know when an item might be useful in the future, it’ll prevent you from buying skill upgrades you’ve already upgraded.  The fast travel system is fucking dope.  Since you can go anywhere anyway they let you fast travel at a moments notice to any previous landmark that allows it.  You could be at the gates of the final dungeon and be like, “Whoops I need some muthafuckin’ steel yams” and just teleport back to the first city.  They allow you to change the time of day at a moments notice as well which is handy for side quests and finding certain people.  You can save at any time which is a fucking delight.

My 108 hour play time probably wasn’t typical.  The main story quests give you a cool little arrow on the screen that points you in the right direction, which is pretty handy but it does take a lot of the mystique of exploring out of certain areas.  I did a shitload of the side quests (of which there are hundreds) and many of them are tedious.  They are easy- you know the standard “I need 6 Vorpal Farts” and “Go kill 7 Lizard Boners” but the problem is that many of the missions require you to go back to the specific person who asked you to do it.  Those bastards move around during the day, which is cool because the world feels fleshed out and scheduled, but there isn’t a way to quickly locate them.  Much of my time would be going back to town and running around for an hour finding them all.  And that’s assuming that the stuff you were doing is easy.  Later on the missions get really esoteric.  It may sound easy to kill 7 Lizard Boners (mirrors do nicely) but did you know that Lizard Boners only spawn in the swamp, in a certain area, at night, and it has to be foggy, and only one spawns?

My advice to you if you decide to play this: just FAQ the side quests.  I’m sure you could do most of them without help, but you’ll save so much time just looking up item and person locations.  There wasn’t a single side quest that was relevant to the main story line so you shouldn’t FAQ a spoiler on accident.  Also- if you are in a city, and there is an NPC with a name instead of “Colony 9 Citizen,” talk to them, it boosts your affinity with that town which you need to abuse.

I absolutely recommend Xenoblade Chronicles to anyone looking for a pretty straightforward RPG.  I wouldn’t say it breaks any new ground but at the very least it has a huge world to explore and a very good story.  You can get it on the New 3DS which is stupid handy since you can just close it to pause it at any time and pick back up whenever you have a moment.  I’m excited that games of this size could potentially be normal for handhelds.

Final thoughts: Loved the world, enjoyed the story, use a FAQ for side quests, talk to everyone, Riki is best character.

8.5/10

-DTM

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