Monday 24 October 2016

Xenoblade Chronicles X review: Muddled monster hunter

Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U); rating: 8.5/10; Age 12+

Published 16/12/2015 | 14:42

Xenoblade Chronicles X: Epic scale and robots
Xenoblade Chronicles X: Epic scale and robots

INVEST 30 hours in this epic Japanese RPG and you’ll probably still be as confused as when you started. Your appetite for its quirky brand of open-world adventure rests largely on your reserves of patience and curiosity.

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You certainly won’t come for its story, a muddled hotch-potch of genre clichés involving – yes! – an amnesiac hero who crash-lands on an enigmatic planet named Mira that teems with deadly animals.

Xenoblade Chronicles X: complex and poorly explained battle systems
Xenoblade Chronicles X: complex and poorly explained battle systems

The lack of much narrative drive is compounded by Xenoblade’s welter of complex systems that are barely even mentioned, never mind explained. Left to your own devices (and perhaps internet forums), it takes many hours to understand the interplay of its real-time battles, crafting and special abilities.

Luckily, then, Mira and its wildlife provide an enthralling incentive to persist while you muddle through the lengthy introduction. Ten-storey dinosaurs roam alongside creatures the size of raccoons. Spectacular cliffs, coastline and forest catch the eye as you pursue your next objective.

Then, perhaps 30 hours in, comes the big pay-off: the ability to pilot giant transforming mechs known as “skells” that change combat and ease the tedium of traversing large distances. If you’ve made this far, you’ll be hooked on Xenoblade’s resplendent world, deep role-playing and compelling combat.

The danger is that you’ll have given up before you get to the really good stuff.

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