Review by Crackery
"A surprised & surprising dissenter amongst the ranks!"
Xenoblade Chronicles is a game that surprises me. It surprises me a lot.
It surprises me because I don't understand why it underwhelms me. I played it from start from finish, studying every cutscene carefully and being sure not to miss a beat. I have always been in the majority camp when it comes to player opinion to the extent that I feel compelled to write my first review on the site. All I'm going to do is explain my views on the game and hopefully people will understand, although perhaps not agree with, my respectable but not awesome score.
Yah I guess this was pretty good stuff. You are an orphan living on a dormant robot who died in arms-locked combat with another robot. Your robot houses natural life while the other sentient mechanic life. You fall heir to a sexy blade, the Monado, that lets you SEE INTO THE FUTURE. AHHHH.
The game REALLY drills in how CRAZY it is that you can see into the future. It bugged me. Aside from that it is very enjoyable in that Shulk, our protag, gets visions of his friends dying gruesome deaths--and other such things of that ilk--and is powerless-ish to stop them. This allows for this particular JRPG to venture into new territory story wise and it definitely makes sure to utilize its potential for some heart-wrenching and heart-warming scenes; you'll be left pretty emotionally exhausted by the end, which is a good thing!
My problem is with character development. I feel that this is a point on which there is much controversy with many games, this perhaps included. There isn't even the classic "Tales of.." development of self-righteous, hot-headed brat --> self-righteous, cool and collected adult, much rather the characters have pretty solid personae from the start. This sounds nice but it means that no one really flourishes, they all flounder by the middle. There is a forced romance that finds itself impeded by this fact only for it, and the cast in general, to be saved by the successful epicness of the greater story at hand.
Like I scored: great, not amaaaazing.
Ok, well played Monolith Soft, well played. This too, was excellent. Every field area you went to was just sprawling with green plains and fields, enemies of appropriate animal class littering the path. Some areas really stick out, like the snow area of the game that lights up at night, a real treat!
I won't dote on graphics (or sound), that's not why this review is here. I will concede that the graphics are the best you'll find on the Wii, however, methinks.
Good and bad. As an American growing up in England I thought the english accents were generally incredibly shoddy and for the first time the VA really grated me (ok second time, thanks ARF). Reyn is unbearable, and the team's mascot sounds like a strangled hippo, so so bad. There is some goodness to be had though, such as by Dunban, team guardian/ponce, and by Sharla, team medic.
I suppose sound comes down to opinion in that most sounds in the game are battle cries as the team is shouting CONSTANTLY. I do like mah spells and whatnot being yelled out all flashy-like but Xenoblade just overkills it with constant chattering in between spell casting. It does not classify as banter, it was just obnoxious. I did like the slashes of swords, the "oomph" of physical skills, and "woosh" of spells though.
Shoot me, I could not handle so many aspects of this game's GAME. Let me elab:
Upon being told that combat works on a cooldown system I was joyous given that I much prefer this system to one where I need to constantly work on preserving mana. I wanna nuke all the time, dammit! Unfortunately, I just didn't enjoy it. I played as the protag, not fun, mage (my favourite!), not fun, tank, super not fun, etc.
I'd be lying if I said that's all there was to it. There is a gem/socketing system which is crazy crap, let me tell you. I want a system which is simple and user-friendly, not one that works off poorly explained mechanics and hidden RNGs. If I put in crystals into this gem machine that overwhelmingly suggests Ether (magic) Up gems for socketing will come out, why do some random crystals come out? How is this influenced? I learnt after some searching the ins and outs... don't bother, it's all for randomness really. This problem is also exacerbated by an inventory system that is pants, recalling ME 1 but much worse. Just... it's scandalous how bad it is. Quantity does not equal quality and I do not care that different armour/weapons show up on the avatars - they are mostly palette swaps people!
There is something quite unique here though, going back to that whole seeing into the future thing. When an enemy is going to use an attack with grave consequences, you'll get a vision showing you the future and said attack. You'll get time to make proper countermeasures as a result and.. well.. it's just a nice little gimmick.
On a different note, the most grievous offense by FAR is the questing. I love me some sidequests so again I was super stoked to hear that there were oodlage of questing to be had. Unfortunately all quests get scribbled down in your journal that give no hint on where to go so you are lost scratching your head/running to gameFAQs. No one has the time to track everything required for the tonnage of quests. Just because there are so many once again does not make it good, I was constantly frustrated by the overwhelming number of generic fetch quests that had cryptic locales involved as well as monster hunting quests with zero direction on where to go.
The one saving grace to the above is that in the latter half of the game some quests pick up and actually go somewhere interesting, but about 70-80% of the quests are just throwaway filler that really rack up playtime given the time that'll be spent wondering around. This is made worse by the massive maps you roam around in--once again a plus made into a minus by exigent factors. It is also made MUCH worse by the day/night system which means you'll need to spend hours waiting around cities to make sure you visit everywhere at everytime. You'll also need to check every settlement after every major event. Did I mention that there is some arcane affinity system that means you'll need to do the rounds after all the above as well as after you gain some weird affinity stars with any given settlement? Things could have been much more streamlined, something this convoluted was of minimal enjoyment to me.
So, there you have it. I pointed out where the game did indeed live up to the hype and the way in which I feel it grievously fails as an JRPG. I'm surprised my opinion is so much against the flow but I feel that there are some out there who feel the same way as I do: jaded by some elementary errors in the gameplay spoiling a lot of the rest of the fun. There are enough unique things here that suggests a pick up by RPG gamers, but I wouldn't say it is a total must have like many others. It is, in my opinion, the second best JRPG on the Wii.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/06/11
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (EU, 08/19/11)
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