My second issue is with targeting something to engage in combat. You have to hold down a series of buttons to engage an enemy from range and invariably I just face pull the target instead of getting that critical first strike in from range that I want to. Also once you have engaged in combat switching targets isn’t always that intuitive.
Much like I hunted down information about Xenoblade Chronicles X in real life I was left hunting down information in game too. Whether that was with the collectible system that will leave you chasing little glowing blue dots across the landscape, or flipping to the in game manual. The world of this game isn’t the only thing that is big. So is the complexity of playing it at times. To help out Monolith has created an in game manual to explain some of the systems that may not have made a lot of sense when it was explained in a cut scene or if you just need a bit of a refresher.
Character creation is similar to what you would find in most modern MMOs. You’ll have a choice of preset character looks to pick through or you can customize by mixing and matching hairstyles, hair colors, skin tones, facial features, eye colors, etc…. The only thing I really found lacking is that I couldn’t be completely bald, but I could frost the tips of my hair 100s of different colors… strange.
The tips of my hair ended up being the most colorful thing about my character’s personality. Well that and some of the flamboyant cosmetic gear you can wear instead of having to look at your normal combat gear. The cast of characters around you though are what will provide you with the most flavor. These NPCs that can flesh out your party tie into your main character with the affinity system. Essentially you are building reputation with these characters. Depending on the choices you make you can end up with different NPCs becoming available to join your party. This is a really twisted web you will weave. Just wait until you get a look at the affinity map in game.
X also makes very good use of the Wii U controller but comes up a bit short of making great use of it. At your disposal on the second screen is a mini map that will allow you to quick travel between certain locations. You can also view systems and menu options. What could have been the highlight of the Wii U controller experience ends up coming in as half backed at best. Monolith included off TV play but the problem is the UI and the size of the text. This screen resolution of the controller doesn’t support the text and it ends up blurry and for the most part illegible. You can still run around and do some exploring but it can become difficult to take part in actual quests.
Even with its short falls Xenoblade Chronicles X is a strong candidate for game of the year on the Wii U and is easily the best RPG. While I’ll stop short of saying you should run out and buy a Wii U just for this title if you already own a Wii U and are a fan of RPGs this is a must have game for your collection. There is also multiplayer content for X that fans of MMOs might like that I’ll talk about in more depth next week after the game's been live. We'll alter our score then if this should change how we feel about the title.
*This game was reviewed using a retail copy provided by the publisher.
Gameplay: 8 - Tons of intriguing game systems with multiple levels of depth will keep you deeply engaged in combat, exploration, and making nice with potential party members. The UI is a bit clunky and can get in the way of the fun however.
Visuals and Sound: 9 - Loses points due to the soundtrack and the voice acting. The game is breathtakingly beautiful though and provides some of the best vistas in an RPG. The fact they pulled this off on the Wii U is a coup for Nintendo.
Polish: 9 - Tons of systems, lots of depth. Targeting and the UI could have used a little more work.
Longevity: 9 - Monolith slowly deals out different things to do in the game and them provides you the freedom to decide what you want to do with them. In X it really isn’t just about the destination. The journey is a lot of the fun.
Value: 9 - $59.99 for what will end up being close to an 80 hour game for most players. You will be hard pressed to find a game with this amount of quality content at this price point for the Wii U.