Thursday, 14 January 2016

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Dinosaurs are awesome. I say this because I am a rational human being, and my parents brought me up to always tell the truth. What's more awesome than dinosaurs? Alien dinosaurs!!. Obviously. Xenoblade Chronicles X, out now for Wii U and developed by Monolith Soft, has alien dinosaurs. But that's not the only reason I love it.

There is absolutely no way that I'm going to cover it all in this review. I'm basically just going to gush like a little kid after his first time at Toys R Us, but that's because I had such ferocious fun playing this game; and, even though I've finally seen the story through after almost 70 hours of play, I'm nowhere near done with it yet.

The story is frustrating, in that the overall concept and structure is fantastic while the nitty-gritty of the dialogue rarely reaches above 'average', and sometimes plummets below it (a side effect of translation, perhaps). It doesn't help that early on in your adventure, you are introduced to the painfully unfunny hairy little git Tatsu. Imagine if Jar Jar Binks and Wicket had a baby, and you're thinking along the right lines of annoyance. Alien war, forced off Earth, new planet new home, vital withheld information... it's a good tale in the end actually, but it's hardly the main attraction.

XCX's world is big. No, wait, I mean fucking huge. It's split into five continents and, while of course they're not as big as actual continents, each area is massive and crammed full of things to find, fight, or run away screaming from. It's open-world too, and you can almost immediately bugger off and do your own thing ignoring the story completely, should you so wish. That's not necessarily a great idea, though. You, your companions (you can have a maximum of three at once), and each and every creature on the planet has a level. While many animals will leave you alone if you don't poke them and you can try to run away from anything that picks a fight, it's wise to level up a bit and get hold of some decent gear before exploring to any great extent. Besides, following the story has several benefits.

New characters are introduced as the story goes on, which also unlocks new side missions which, in turn, unlock further side missions themselves. These optional activities send you all over the map and task you with something as simple as picking up a certain item; or farming enemies for certain drops; or just killing a specific Tyrant (basically a boss wandering around without a stage to call home) or a certain number of specific enemies in a certain area. There's often a little mini-story to back it up too, even if it's only story missions that guarantee voice acting. The very act of levelling your characters up has benefits beyond the obvious, helping you work towards accessing new weapons, armour, and missions. The real reasons for working your way through leveling, without a doubt, are Skells.

For those not in the know, 'Skell' is the word used here for 'transforming mech'. After many hours and a lot of work, you'll hit level 30, and will have the right to earn a Skell license. Getting one of these things is almost like a new game. You're suddenly in this mech that is big, and powerful, and opens up a load of new attacks. Later on in the story, you can unlock the ability to fly in it!! Yet powerful as Skells are, they're far from indestructible; wreck one three times, and you have to start paying a hefty fee every time you want it resurrected. You value it in a way that few games manage with their virtual items.

I've only scratched the surface. No time to explain the unique combat system that succeeds where so many other RPGs have produced only frustration; no time to explain the FrontierNav system where you plant probes to produce fast travel points, materials, and cash; no time to better explain exactly why this is one of the best games this generation will ever produce.

The 'X' stands for 'Xtremely frickin' awesome'. 5/5


Luke Kemp

Xenoblade Chronicles X at CeX

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