Xenoblade Chronicles, by all means one of the greatest games of the previous generation and unquestionably the Wii’s grandest adventure, was a JRPG – a genre generally looked down on by many – that was able to avoid the niche’s many traps, mainly, through the use of one simple trick: the disguising of its most negative quirks via the borrowing of MMO elements. What was a gaming category often restricted by a set of rules and narrow progression got turned into a full-blown journey filled with exploration, freedom, and open ends. Naturally, an audience that was growing weary of the same old molds embraced the title as a sort of second coming that dared to do what needed to be done.
Xenoblade Chronicles X, aware that fans of the saga wanted a mixture of more-of-the-same with bigger and better mechanics, delivers precisely that. However, where Xenoblade Chronicles was a JRPG covered in an MMO cloak; Xenoblade Chronicles X further embraces the tendencies of massively multiplayer online games and becomes an MMO dressed up in a beautiful JRPG garb. Freedom and exploration are taken to a whole new degree, and not simply because Xenoblade X features what is the biggest and, possibly, better-crafted world to ever appear in a videogame; the core reason that tide shifts so heavily has to do with the game’s design itself, for – differently from what had happened in Xenoblade Chronicles – the focus is not the main plot, but the thousands of ornaments that surround it.
Due to an alien war that happened a bit too close to our home planet, humanity had to escape Earth aboard huge ships and look for a new world on which to settle. One of the few ships that were able to get through the massive battle crashes on an unknown planet bursting with docile and aggressive wildlife, and hordes of alien species that either want to see humanity destroyed or that serve as willing helping hands. It is in the middle of that environment, with the city of New Los Angeles working as safe headquarters, that the surviving humans must organize themselves and join forces with one another to survey the planet for resources, recover vital parts of the ship, and battle the otherworldly threats that have followed them all the way to their new home.
Such setting serves as the perfect trigger for a number of missions of varying nature: setting up probes in newly discovered locations, finding and analyzing objects abandoned out on the field, fighting creatures that endanger human survival in some way, gathering resources, testing recently developed weapons, mending turbulent relations between the survivors, and more. As a member of one of the teams whose task is to venture outside the safe confines of the city, players are free to do all of that as they see fit. Aside from the game’s initial segments, Xenoblade Chronicles X never forces players to tackle the main quest; instead, it leaves it up to them to decide what to do, and it rewards whichever path is taken with cash, experience points, character development, and plot details.
Consequently, even when focusing on side-missions, players will feel like they are doing something relevant and advancing; after all, the game’s tasks are entirely connected to its central goal: keeping the human race safe and healthy. That sense of satisfaction found in the hundreds of extra quests that are present plays right into the hands of the game’s greatest strength: the sheer size and appeal of its world. Mira is divided into five fully connected continents (with no loading times in between them) that host astonishing sights, breathtaking geology, numerous sub-bioms, and eye-catching forms that just invite players to explore them. The unbelievable amount of time that it takes to traverse each of them, certainly a time span that reaches past the 90-minute mark, then, becomes alluring and pleasing rather than daunting and dull.
The game’s pleasant shift towards its sidequests has a noticeable negative effect, though. The main story, despite its obvious qualities, comes off as less-developed and not-as-engaging as the mind-blowing tale contained within the original title. The missions that make it up are not as compelling and as intricate as the ones present in its predecessor; they are often relatively straightforward battling affairs that send players to a region of the map to face foes guarding something that is vital to humanity or to investigate evidence that points to the location of one of the ship’s missing parts.
Regardless of that shortcoming, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game that keeps on giving through its many hours of gameplay. It features, even when non-Nintendo games are included in the comparison, a world of unparallelled size whose constantly exposed brilliant design and details will frequently make players wonder about the amount of dedication that it took to build something so impressively big and carefully planned. The matching of something so gargantuan with the urgency of the game’s quest for survival and the rewards that lie in, literally, every corner of the map is the secret recipe that keeps players going for an obscene amount of hours of exploration, discoveries, battles, and adventures.