Xenoblade Chronicles X: Review Xenoblade Chronicles X is like cilantro; some will love it, others think it tastes like soap, but ultimately it’s kind of just there and does nothing to satisfy your hunger. This sequel to the Wii entry Xenoblade Chronicles (and spiritual successor to Xenosaga, which in turn was labeled a spiritual prequel to Xenogears) has no connection to any of the entries that came before it. And if you think that is confusing, wait till you see the 76 different menus available in Xenoblade Chronicles X. Players can drop immediately into the Wii U title and control an amnesiac survivor who joins a rag-tag team of misfits who want to ensure humanity survives after fleeing Earth from an antagonistic alien species. The backdrop is heavy handed but there isn’t a sense of urgency or philosophical quandary as man searches for a new home in the galaxy. Instead, information is dulled out in overly long cutscenes where characters spend as much time reinforcing their archetype personalities as they do advancing the plot. Plus it feels like they all talk a little too slow with unnecessary pauses between the next line in the conversation. There are a couple twists within the narrative, but they lean heavily on the POV of the amnesia-ridden hero. Facts are revealed that everyone else knew about, except for the player and it feels a little disingenuous and more for shock value than creative storytelling. The story ultimately boils down to a cycle of exploration. The sidequests, gather missions, bounty hunts and story segments all end up with the same interaction from the player – pull up the map, head to the blue marker and complete task X. Monolith Soft uses a variety of marketing terms to label the objectives of task X, but it is always kill enemies in the area. The gamepad is a necessary tool to navigate the world (without it you would be lost), but it also undermines the entire scope of the vastness created. The player can run at Sonic-level speeds and leap forward like a miniature version of the Hulk from one side of the continent to the other in just a few minutes or use the fast travel feature to return to somewhere you already planted a probe or completed that segment’s sidemission. When the entire world can be traveled in a minute, it starts to feel small. And you’ll be returning to the same areas often… You might find Xenoblade Chronicles X in the JRPG section of most sites, but make no mistake this is truly an open world game. The land is massive, there are millions of nooks and crannies to explore, doodads and widgets line the land waiting for you to collect and you’ll go over the same spots with new equipment just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s slightly frustrating to reach a point in the map to launch a data probe and the only thing stopping you is a lack of Skell (giant robot) that you won’t earn until 15 – 30 hours into playing (depending on your love of sidequests). Xenoblade Chronicles X manages to feel like an offline MMORPG with the never-ending supply of fetch quests, random NPCs to interact with, timegated skills and abilities but manages to loose sight that people play MMORPGs to interact with others. Just like how all the missions feel the same, so does every battle. The player controls one character during combat who is constantly auto-attacking the enemy. Being behind, above or on the side instead of front does provide combat boosts but aren’t that necessary. As the battle continues one of the three party members will call out for the hero to use a certain Art type. The player can then use this Art for bonus effects, healing to the group and combo damage. This is the same strategy for big bosses, group battles or random peons on the map…waiting for a party member to tell you what to do to press or you can just power level and auto-attack the entire time. There is a lack of sense that you are in control of the action, more of a passive observer. This is the key takeaway from Xenoblade Chronicles X – all the class changes, unlockable weapons, vendor perks, affinity missions, probe deployments, arts, skill, gear, support rank, division and other mechanics in the world are completely optional and superfluous. They create an air of complexity that can be completely ignored. And even if you wanted to dive deep into the system, you are better off reading an FAQ online than expecting the game or game manual to teach you anything. There are a couple design choices throughout the game which add to the clunkiness of the user experience – no auto save, no shared experience, have to ‘find’ characters before adding to party, forced party members for most missions, required to return to base when a Skell is destroyed, limited storage caps, limited sidequest spots and known glitches – which makes that no auto save even more obnoxious. Xenoblade Chronicles X is more of a checklist for an OCD gamer to complete and less of a grand-epic JRPG. The characters are bland and many are interchangeable, the sidequests are filler and don’t expand the lore and the game constantly is reminding you to explore more with a ‘helpful’ percentage of how much of the land you have surveyed. At least it’s honest in its intentions. For what its worth, this is one of the best looking games on the Wii U – but at the expense of pop-in enemies, textures and a system that sounds like it is working extra hard to keep up with rendering the massive world. If you like exploring for exploring sake than this world is large enough to keep you entertained for hundreds of hours. If you prefer interesting characters, dynamic storytelling or an engaging combat system…. then this isn’t the adventure for you. Level Up, Friends!