Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Christopher Columbus, “discovering” strange new lands? But without the slave trade and the genocide and … you know what, bad example.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Lewis and Clark, exploring and mapping strange new lands? If so, “Xenoblade Chronicles X” will be your jam.
For something that sounds like a direct sequel to the brilliant “Xenoblade Chronicles,” it’s actually quite a departure. The battle system is mostly the same, and the sense of grandeur and wonder is still there, but “XCX” feels more like a Western MMORPG than a JRPG.
A big part of that is player avatars. You can design the main character to look how you like — sort of necessary for the online multiplayer components, as you can’t have a team of 32 Elmas running around — but that leads to the awkward scripting where you get called “Rook,” as in rookie, and never have any voiced lines in the cutscenes. That makes getting invested in the story and the characters much harder.
And there is quite a story. Earth’s been destroyed, and only one ship made it away from the planet during the vicious alien attack. It crash-landed on planet Mira, and the struggle against the alien powers — and the local flora and fauna — is not only for your survival but the continuation of the species.
Heavy stuff. But I’m just not as engaged as I was in Bionis and Mechonis. Perhaps that’s the price to pay for the now-trademark scenic vistas of the “Xenoblade” series in stunning high definition. The Wii game looked OK and had a great story; the Wii U game looks amazing but isn’t as compelling.
The battle system comes with a mixed bag of changes as well. Is anything quite as cool as Shulk using his Monado powers to change the future? No, not really. But that process — being given a prompt and responding with the correct move — has been centralized into the Soul Voice system.
While you’re fighting, teammates will yell things like “Give me some cover fire!” or “Move in and attack!” If you respond with the appropriate action, highlighted on your command bar, the entire team gets healed. It’s a smart change that frees you up from having a dedicated healer in your party. However, the different classes don’t seem to have the move-set variety the seven characters of the original game did.
I suppose that’s sort of made up for by the fact you can fly around in giant mechs. And since you can go literally anywhere on the map, that’s not just for show. If you’d like to reach the soaring peaks and shard-like protrusions across Mira, you’re going to need a little help from your Skell.
I don’t know. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed even as I frantically search for the next probe site so I can flesh out my map of Mira. It’s like this was the practice run in HD for the “Xenoblade” team, and I’m looking forward to their next project. But finding the secrets crammed into every nook and cranny will keep me well-entertained until then.