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Monolith Software | Official Site
Action RPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 2015)  | Pub:Nintendo
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An Open and Sprawling RPG - Edit

Written By Robert Lashley on December 03, 2015 | Comments

An Open and Sprawling RPG

At E3 in 2014 I saw a lot of wonderful things. The Amiibos that would become the bane of some’s existence were on display. A giant Super Smash Bros tournament was on hand. Microsoft and Sony where launching volleys in their console war across the hall from each other. To say that there was a LOT going on is putting it mildly.

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In the midst of the controlled chaos, however, one thing really grabbed my eye. Attached to the ceiling of the convention center was a gigantic video display and being streamed to it was a game being shown at the Twitch stage. It was beautiful. Gigantic animals were seen roaming the horizon. It was a lush green deciduous area. In the middle of it all was a ship labeled United States of America. It was immediately recognizable as being some sort of far future US spacecraft that had crash landed on a foreign planet. What I couldn’t determine was what game was on display.

It was clear that this was some new RPG that was under development. What was not clear was just about everything else. At the time I was walking the floor with our editor in chief Bill Murphy, he was equally perplexed and interested so we decided to do what any poor-to-decent video game journalists would do... we asked someone what the hell it was. We headed off to the Twitch booth because it was on their stream after all, and they ought to know what was up on the screen right? Wrong. Turns out the lady at the booth was just as clueless as we were. This was in game video being streamed but no one could tell us what it was. This mystery would go on for a few more days.

Finally I arrived back home in Saint Louis. The place of good baseball, terrible football, and toasted ravioli. I spent some time researching and found out that what Bill and I had seen was gameplay of a new RPG for the Wii U. So this gorgeous game we saw wasn’t for the PC, PS4, or XBox One. It was an exclusive to the weakest of the hardware out there. While I personally enjoy the Wii U I’m able to recognize that if you are a Wii U exclusive, you are really cutting down on your potential market. The game managed to look fantastic even with the Wii U’s hardware but, man. An exclusive? Wow.

So I’ve patiently waited since summer of 2014 for Xenoblade Chronicles X to release and that day is almost here. Nintendo provided me with an advance copy of the game a few weeks ago and so far it has lived up to most of my expectations and exceeded them in others.

Earth has been destroyed, fallen victim of an intergalactic war. Whether it was targeted or collateral damage at the onset of the game you are unsure. What you do know is that you have escaped Earth and crash landed on the planet Mira. You are rescued from stasis in a crashed escape pod by a member of Blade, the military arm of the new Earthling colony on Mira --- New Los Angeles. Just go with it.

You’ll quickly discover that Mira is massive. There have been a number of RPGs to come out this year that boast of a large open world but Mira just might dwarf them all. Made up of 5 different continents, each with their own unique biome, Xenoblade Chronicles X is comprised of beautiful vistas, diverse life, and futuristic robots known as Skells, which will leave you full of amazement at a number of points through the game. That sense of awe I felt when I saw the game on the big screen over a year and a half ago returned to me within minutes of firing up this game on my Wii U.

Unfortunately the game is a bit of a slow bake. Those Skells I mentioned, while you will get introduced to them in the first few hours of the game, you won’t actually get to use one until you are about 20 hours in. There are so many different and in-depth systems interacting in the game which are slowly rolled out to you in order to prevent information overload that the Skells are left as one of the later additions. This is a mixed blessing though. It gives you a chance to explore Mira on foot and meet some of the local life and engage in combat, like any good expeditionary force, before you become powerful enough just to step on them and kill them.

My chief complaints with X center around two issues that become prominent in combat. The first is the UI. Due to the depth of the game there is a lot of information coming at you in combat. In order to convey this information to you the UI takes up at least 1/3 of the screen leaving you with less screen real estate to focus on the actual game. Combat is fun and a lot of your skills, or battle arts, are based upon where you are located in combat. You can switch between melee and ranged weapons on the fly and will want to position yourself in relation to your enemy according to what art you would like to use. Get behind the enemy and lay in with a big melee hit for serious damage, or you can get out to range and throw in some fire grenades. It is hard to do all of this though when you can’t always see what is going on because so much screen is dedicated to the UI.

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