In awe of Xenoblade X and the Wii U

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The Wii U continues to impress me with its visuals and game concepts. Xenoblade X is no exception. I’m 50 hours into the game and just finished up Chapter 8, so let me share another take on my views of what I experienced so far.

Amazing Visuals & Gameplay

Visuals

The way developers have been feeding us shovel ware for years, you’d think that the terms Visuals and Gameplay are on separate ends of the same spectrum. There are games that blurred the boundry, and showed that it’s possible. Metal Gear Rising for example, while very clean, is a bit too sterile looking for the most part, Bayonetta 2 on the other hand is just that, stunning visually and full of amazing gameplay. Bayonetta 2 pales in comparison to Xenoblade X when it comes to scope. You start your journey on foot, traversing the huge areas around NLA like the Primordial Wilderness, the Luminous Forest and the Forgotten Desert Valley. There are two more continents which you can see on your world map, but to get there involves a lot of swimming, which takes ages. As you wander through and explore these locales you realise very quickly how deep everything is. When you’re not standing in the midst of a huge open field, you can clearly identify that there are separate layers around you. You just don’t know how to get onto that “upper floor” so to speak. At that point you start figuring out how to use your aerial binoculars to get an understanding of your area, where the next drill point is, possible landmarks and so on. Keep in mind that all of this is done with your eyes and not something that is marked via your GPS systems unless it’s part of a mission. There’s so much to do, so much to see and everything looks absolutely mind blowing. In fact it looks so amazing, that you have to remind yourself of the fact that it’s a Wii U and not a game on a legitimate Next Gen console, like the PS4 or the XBone. I swear, apart from Bloodborne there’s still no reason for me to even have a PS4 as of yet.

Combat

Combat for the most part is handled very similarly as it was done in the original Xenoblade. I can’t really compare the games too much yet, as I haven’t spent that much time on the original Xenoblade past beating the main storyline. I just didn’t really like any of the characters. Now I am my own character, saying whatever I damn well please and I LOVE her… but back to combat!

You can switch between projectiles and melee at any points during battle and I mean at ANY point. You have your differently coloured panels representing your Arts with different effects to them. Upon use, they start a cool down period, hell, Rin even has a move where she yells “cool down”. Once an Art is ready, it’s not actually at its maximum potential yet, there’s another green circle working its way around the icon now. It only does that for the Arts that are tied to the weapon type you’re currently using. For instance, if you have your melee weapon out right now, all melee Arts that are ready will now start creating that green circle. If you switch to projectiles, those will now start to create that green circle instead. Attacking with a fully green submerged Arts is about 2.5x as powerful from what I’ve seen. Then if you pop your B.B. Over Clock, there’s another one, a white ring, circling your skills. Once that is full it does even more damage, and during B.B. Over Clock all Arts are charged simultaneously, regardless of which weapon type you’re actively holding right now. Then there’s a chain command that has all icons of any single colour glow. This will not only partially heal you and increase your chances for Soul Stage progression, but will also act as if the selected Arts was green already. Best of all, it’s stackable. At level 17 I started to understand the combat system a little better once I managed to get a combination of Aggressive Mode (an Arts on the Long Sword path), B.B. Over Clock and a chain attack prompt, including a soul stage QTE. While usually the Arts would’ve done 200 x 3 damage, it did 7,000 x 3! Damage modifiers are extremely pliable in this game and invites for experimentation. Combat is also much more manageable, considering how visibility has been expanded tremendously, than it was in the last game. Little subtleties like the ability to jump, to sprint instead of jog and the combination thereof to quickly close in on an enemy and attack without a recovery period on your sprint, which is cancelled by the jump and the fact that you can avoid certain attacks altogether with that, like a ground slam for example, ultimately ending up behind your enemy and unleashing a plethora of pain on it, is simply blissful and satisfying surpassing everything I’ve ever played in any JRPG. Then there are available commands you can issue out during battle via the press of the Plus button, ranging from “do as you please” over “concentrate on the enemy I’ve locked on”, “Use melee only”, “Use projectiles only”, “conserve your TP” and so on. You can issue these to everyone at once or to single individuals. You also get audible feedback, confirming that your order has been understood and is being taken care of.

All of this is NOTHING compared to what combat turns into once you get your Doll license. Seriously the whole game opens up even further and changes how you assess any current situation at hand. Dying so far had no real impact apart from, moving down the same track you did already, once more. Which can be annoying, but it’s a very forgiving system since you didn’t really lose anything. Once I got my Doll license, I felt invincible, but within reason of course. I still didn’t really run up to monsters that are far beyond my level. I did start to target higher level monster though. Instead of fighting within the safe ranges of +/-3 levels, I started targeting enemies that +5-8 levels on me. Which worked really well and of course started boosting my Experience and Class points significantly. Dolls are big though, which means enemies that didn’t used to be able to see you, especially these huge flying ones, because you’re too far away, now can if you’re not careful and you have to be careful. This ain’t Xenogears, where your Gears are basically separate characters that are tied to your sprite based characters, they go KO and then start recharging, no no no. The Dolls I have access to so far, look awesome, but they are nothing really special in the world you’re in. You can buy them at the shop in fact. You can buy them, because you can irrevocably damage them beyond repair. Yup, that’s what happened to my first doll. Some giant “Fuck you Laser from the skies” trashed the thing, while I was fighting something else. I saw numbers around 80k pop up and that was it pretty much, back to my last check point. I went back home to check on my Doll, but just read the message “sorry, that thing ain’t going nowhere no more… do you want to remove it?” A really bitter sweet moment. Yes it sucked, but at the same time I felt this sudden urge to protect my belongings inside that world. It creates real value for something you should and will care about. Then I saved up around 800k and bought three new ones. All the while grinding up to Level 30, so I could pilot them. Now Sasa (My Avatar) has “MERICHU-II” since the original “MERICHU” blew up to into tiny little pieces, Elma has “SHINOHAN” and Rin has “Rinchan nau!”. Having witnessed what happened, I am now much more inclined to traverse and explore completely new areas on foot again, because I don’t want my investment of close to 1 million ending up on the junk yard. I could continue to explain this further, but for someone who loves Hardcore Modes, I find this system amazing. They’re machines and they can break and sometimes you have to replace them. I think it’s a great touch to a mecha based game. Oh and of course combat is still non intrusive, same as it was in the first game. Combat takes place right there and then when you engage an enemy… or if you’re being ambushed. There are no transitions, neither in nor out, so you never lose orientation unless it’s a long drawn out battle and you really just forgot what you were doing.

I think that’s enough about combat for now. There’s more to it of course, I haven’t even really touched on classes, class changes, the Passive Skills and even the Soul Voice system. There’s so damn much to talk about, that I might save it for next week.

Music

I’ll make this short, I’ve long surpassed the 1,000 words mark on this post, I doubt most people will even read this far to be honest…

The music is amazing, it has so many influences from all types of genres, but the one track that stands out to me the most is Melancholia, it sounds like a track by Linkin Park and an absolutely amazing track it is. Sure Gaur Plains was an amazing track, but honestly I can’t remember any other piece from the original Xenoblade, but here, every time a new battle theme kicks in it sounds great. Every time you enter a new area and the music is eventually layered with vocals, the fact that battle themes change further with getting in and out of Dolls, it’s masterfully executed.

Nitpicking

I’ll make this even shorter, because I don’t really have that much to begin with. It’s a Wii U game and often it will show. As beautiful as the game is, you will see pop ups and on screen, texturing as well as detexturing right in front of your eyes. Those are the limits the Wii U has to deal with. Honestly though, I can live with that, really, if that’s all you ask of me to accept as the price for a quality game, I’ll gladly pay the price three times over!

So that’s it for this week though, see you next time!

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sasa

I play games and stuff!

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