Warning, spoilers ahead
As I mentioned last week in my Uncharted article, I’ve recently been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on my Wii U. I’m a huge fan of the first Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii and I have been waiting so much time to get my hands on this title. It’s the reason I bought a Wii U to be perfectly honest. I’ve wanted a Wii U for ages but hadn’t found the urge to buy it, but with Xenoblade Chronicles X on the horizon and with money, I decided it was time to do it.
The first Xenoblade had a fascinating universe, an engrossing story and characters and marvelous world filled with strange and wonderful beings. So when I started playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, I wondered if it would be just as good or if it would disappoint in any way. While I do have my issues with the game, which I’ll mention when I write the review for it—when I eventually finish the game, currently at chapter 10—it hasn’t disappointed with its amazing world and universe.
First let’s talk about the world of Mira. When the game opens you can only see what’s in the distance, following the character Elma to your home, NLA. Along the way I fought monsters, got to grips with the familiar combat system and just wanted to get to safety. But once I did, I couldn’t wait to go out exploring. To drive you to seek every cave and sight, the game has the FrontierNav, a grid of sensors you expand by exploring and placing probes. That’s how I spent the first day, just running around placing probes on the huge map. My character can run, man, and he jumps so high I’m sure Superman feels envy. And that is just the first map, the first continent, Primordia.
There’s almost nothing you can’t reach just by running and jumping around, and I have seen such beautiful sights, such as the bizarre arches of Sickle and Roof Rock, the different levels on the climb up Talon Rock and the amazing Wonderment Bluff. I once heard people refer to Xenoblade as “environment porn” and I agree. If you like amazing worlds created in a game, Xenoblade Chronicles X is just for you. I spend so much time just looking to the horizon while listening to the soundtrack.
And that is just primordia. When I hit the second continent, Noctilum I felt transported to Tarzan’s jungle. Long vine bridges and beautiful ponds gave way to waterfalls and the most outlandish plants and wildlife.
But my awe as I’ve played the game isn’t just with the environments, it’s not just the raw beauty they hold, but also how alive it is. In many RPGs, the places you explore are level-coded, so the starting area will only have enemies in a level range, but in Xenoblade Chronicles (both of them), it’s an ecosystem. There are powerful creatures and weak ones coexisting. Giant predators roam the land while gentle giants drink deep from a lake. I’ve fought level 5 monsters while hoping that one of my area effect attacks doesn’t damage the level 85 creature just around the corner. Young beasts are weak but their parents are much more powerful. It doesn’t feel like a game world, but true nature.
It’s also a changing world. One quest had me help the construction effort of a water-plant, and after I finished it I left the area and returned later to find the plant not only built but fully operational. I travelled through Noctilum and explored a cave but later returned to find a merchant caravan where before was a nest of monsters. NLA has just humans on the outset, but as you meet new species and invite them, they fill the streets, talk to other citizens and have their passions and conflicts all around you. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to get a glimpse into them via quests, but there are countless other stories there that we’ll never discover, patterns and routines we’ll never see repeat.
Then we have the universe and by that I mean the species, not only the native Miran but also those that followed humanity from the stars or arrived on the planet on their own. These species are all fascinating, having technology and ideas that surpass humans’ by thousands of years but still lacking in the emotional maturity and understanding that we as a species take for granted. Some of these races don’t understand the concept of friendship and feel confused when they feel it for the first time.
Cultural differences abound, and as you play you smooth some of these out, while also dealing with dark events. Xenoblade Chronicles X doesn’t shy away from darker themes. There are xenophobic extremes, vowing to kill all xenos in the city just because they claim humans should not associate with other species. There are religious terrorists as well, attempting to poison the entire water supply because they see no purpose in humanity’s current existence—which I won’t go further into for fear of spoiling something important.
One thing that amazed me was how living with humans changes these people, and how their presence changes humanity. Clashes turn into discussions and then understanding, and cultures that at once seemed completely alien you slowly realise how similar they are. The Prone, the first people you fight on Mira seem hell-bent on destruction, just killing machines, but then you learn they have two major cultures on their planet and the violent ones enslaved the others. You rescue the Tree Clan and in quests I helped a Prone woman marry a human, saw their bond and how they stood up to the scary Prone father. Another Prone trusted me as a warrior and asked me to pick a bride for him, so of course I told him to pick the strong-willed warrior woman, the one with her own opinions, strength and independence—what can I say, I have a type—and when we were done preparing for the wedding I saw it was the most human of things: family getting together to get stinking drunk while they celebrated the newlyweds.
Beyond the cultural is the biological and that is just as intriguing in Xenoblade Chronicles X as anything else is. The Prone I just mentioned are grey-skinned humanoids but their faces have strange tentacles and what we’d call a mouth is just a hole, completely circular in men and more oval shaped in women. Every time I see them I wonder what their evolutionary purpose is.
The Ma-non are a species of cute lizard people with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and technology—and pizza, so they’re my kind of people. They are small and have squeaky voices and have no issues telling you how superior their technology and capabilities are to yours. This desire to learn, to improve and tinker, drives them forward, even if that means heading into hostile territory. I’ve lost count of the amount of Ma-non I’ve saved from monsters and their own desires. But still, some develop common sense in the time with Humans and learn the nuances of human communications, to know when someone is shady and not, but as a rule they’re extremely trusting as they can’t see how allies could harm each other. Little do they know how monstrous humans can be.
The Nopon are back and they’re still as hard workers as ever, only instead of collecting pollen orbs in their Frontier Village, now they’re the greatest merchants on Mira, trading with every species and organisation. Even if your enemies bully them, they still pay what the Nopon ask—most of the time at least—because they know that without the supplies they’d starve. As a mercantile race, the Nopon see business in everything and even their gifts are just rentals. To give something for free is insulting to a Nopon, and Tatsu, the one following my party quickly told us that. Everything has value and the Nopon recognise it, so nothing is ever free, even promises. A Nopon knows that for any of his kind, a promise is meaningless unless it’s on paper, signed and stamped.
I love the Wrohian people, their cat-like features remind me of ThunderCats and their fierce pride reinforces it. They’re a warrior race and superiority in combat is one thing the value highly—I’ve had one of the most amazing battles in the game against them. But they’re not mindless barbarians and have a strict sense of honour, one that drives their Prince to break away from your enemies and start fighting them, unwilling to spill innocent Human blood, even if this betrayal puts his entire planet in danger of retribution. As the Prince states it, the Wrothians are a strong people and they’ll overcome any hardship.
The Orpheans though are the ones that fascinate me the most. A race of super-intelligent insectoids, they have their own personalities and knowledge but all listen and obey the will of their Ovah, a virus living in them that speaks to and guides them. Through the Ovah they come to conclusions together, almost as a hive mind, but still retaining their identities. When they join you they say one of their number remained with the hostile forces because he didn’t agree with the consensus—some claim he has a weak connection to his Ovah. The Ovah even tells them when it’s time to reproduce, which they don’t do by intercourse and conception as we do, but through genetic fission. Using a special substance, they split into two new beings, born from the same body, with full cognisance and each with one part of their progenitor’s wisdom and knowledge. I’ve seen it happen a few times now and the process is still as amazing now as it was the first time. Recently I even witnessed a mutation in the process. The Orphean ate a strange plant he had me collect, used the Senirapa water and his ‘offspring’ looked completely different from other Orpheans and didn’t seem to have any inherited knowledge.
Orphean also seem to analyse everything they consume, so by eating a plant they know its exact composition and can then use their technology to replicate it. It’s fascinating.
The only species that matches the Orphean in how curious I find them are the Zaruboggan, a strange people in bulky containment suits. Through a process they call Devoltanizing, they strip toxic materials of harmful elements and turn them into something they call Voltan, which they feed upon. But Voltan is much more than their food, they live for it, as the cleansing process that creates it is their life’s purpose. The bulky suits help them store the substance and assimilate it safely, as consuming Voltan without them can be quite deadly. Because they need the suits, I’m curious as to how they reached that evolutionary branch. What did they feed on before they discovered this substance and the process that creates it? Can they feed on different things, such as Pizza? The questions swirl in my head about the Zaruboggan and I hope I can find some answers before the game ends.
Your enemies have many more races, though I don’t know the names of their species or where they come from, but I’m intrigued to find out. It’s interesting to note that most of your allies were once your enemies’ slaves, mercenaries or servants in some other fashion, but by showing them kindness you win them over.
As I play Xenoblade Chronicles X I discover more and more about this new wonderful universe the game takes place on. I see new races, talk to new people and see a city and world filled with a depth of character and story that I rarely see in other video games. I take pleasure in cruising through Mira on my Skell, the Lionheart, flying over the endless treetops of Noctilum and watching the people of NLA go about their business.
I can’t wait to see more of this world and when I find something new and exciting I’ll come back to tell you all about it!