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 Post subject: Xenoblade Chronicles
PostPosted: September 11th, 2011, 2:11 pm 
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A JRPG by Monolith Soft, the team behind the Xenosaga franchise, Super Robot Wars Endless Frontier amongst a bunch of other JRPGs.

Xenoblade has nothing to do with Xenogears or Xenosaga. The game was initially slated to be named Monado, but was changed to pay homage to their previous titles.

Xenoblade was recently localized for the European market and is on the Wii. For the non Europeans, you're just going to have to find other ways! A US localization is on its way however last I heard.

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Xenoblade takes place in a world where it is nothing but sea except for two dormant titans. And people live on these titans. You play as Shulk, a boy whose colony is attacked by a mysterious threat known as the Mechon and takes up the legendary blade Monado - known to be able to slay Mechon with ease. Spoilers happen, Shulk sets off with a party to get to the bottom of all this.

The battle system is somewhat reminiscent of MMORPGs, you can move around and activate skills but your character automatically attacks an enemy that you've locked onto. You can't actively dodge attacks, everything is dictated through stats. Movement and positioning does play a role in the game, certain skills have additional effects when performed from the side or the back of a target. Sadly you hold little to no control over your party members, although you can choose which to play as when configuring your party. The AI however isn't too shabby, but could always be better. Here Xenoblade could take a lesson from its western contemporaries such as Dragon Age, with its party members not only being playable but also somewhat 'programmable'.
Being able to control only one member does simplify the gameplay down a bit and you rely on building your characters correctly. Each character while being able to learn a whole bunch of skills can only equip and use up to 10 in battle, so you have to customize your characters for their roles. They also have a set of passive skills which they can share with one another - the number of shareable skills limited by their affinity with one another and affinity coins. Affinity coins are gained by defeating powerful enemies as far as I know, characters gain affinity with one another by doing sidequests together and by executing a quicktime event in battle which can be triggered by exploiting an enemy's weakness, dodging amongst other things. While characters are sort of set into certain roles already, like tanking or DPS or support - you can sort of customize their roles within those established roles. Do you want your tank to base himself on an array of stances or make him semi offensive with a set of attack skills? Also the caster attacks by summoning elements and launching them - the catch being a summoned element provides your party with buffs. So you can play the caster by avoiding enemies and providing buffs or constantly assaulting enemies with the elements, or balancing things out a bit. So characters do have some depth to their customization and gameplay.
The battle system does have an additional gimmick, basically the main character gains the ability to see the future. In battle, if an enemy is gonna lay it down really hard on you, you get a vision of the future - a short demonstration of what skill is going to be used, its damage and effects. Then a bar appears at the top, showing the damage, effects, skill name and the time until it happens. You can then counter or delay the skill by using your own defensive skills or status effects and the such. It is an interesting feature, although somewhat annoying at times to watch the whole vision in the heat of battle.
Other battle features I found unique were toppling and dazing. Basically there is a chain of status effects which can only be performed if a previous one is in place. You can at first Break an enemy, which does nothing really but allow you to Topple them with certain skills. After being Toppled, an enemy is basically immobilized and vulnerable, unable to dodge or guard or anything. You can then further Daze them with certain skills, which increases the amount of critical damage they take.
Uncontrollable party members does make this hard to exploit but they can be commanded to use certain skills in certain situations. You basically have a bar divided into 3 which fills up as you fight. When you have a vision of the future, you can then command your teammate to execute one skill regardless of skill cooldowns and such, which uses up a third of that bar. If you have a full bar, you can then perform a chain attack which allows your party to use skills one after another. Skills are also colour coded, the break, topple and daze skills being in different colours. If you use same coloured skills one after another, the damage of the skills build up. So you gotta choose between maximum damage or immobilizing your enemy.
Battles aren't random, enemies roam around the place and you can choose to engage them at will. Some are hostile and will chase you however if you get too close.

The game also has a moronic amount of sidequests. Some have substance, a lot don't. Most of them are annoying fetch x of y items, or murder x of y monster. Some are part of a quest chain, and some NPCs have interesting dialogue regarding why they want you to do stuff for them(like one NPC wants you to murder the local wildlife because they attacked him when he tried to ride them, paint on them amongst other things). You can do a whole bunch sort of on the way with the main plot, others require you to step out of your way a bit. The monetary rewards are extremely welcome, quests are a major way to earn money. Enemies don't actually drop money, but they drop materials and random crap which while can be sold - are often needed for quests which pay more money and give you a solid lump of experience points. Gathering quests are by far the most annoying - random items can be found in different places represented by glowing blue orbs. And they are pretty goddamn random - so you just gotta run around collecting random blue orbs until you get what you need. I didn't do most of those quests(I accepted the quests and if I happened to have or find the items... yeah) and only did the ones that I could actually do a thing about like hunting monsters, collecting monster drops or finding certain places and stuff like that. While they could have spent more time on each individual sidequest instead of drowning you in a sea of half arsed ones, it does help flesh out the game quite a bit. A lot of the quests often lead you to secret areas, fighting unique 'boss' monsters for special loot and stuff.

The game itself is bloody massive. Environments are bloody huge, to the point of annoyance sometimes. It is nice to behold, even if the graphics are pretty dated looking even for a Wii game. There is a day night system, which basically dictates what NPCs hang around in town and what monsters lurk about along with what items spawn. The environments can change as time passes. Like in the twilight hours in the snowy mountains, these crystals start glowing and sending beams of light into the sky. Similarly a swamp starts glowing at night. So even if the graphics aren't that great, the environments manage to look interesting and beautiful. Along with the time system, you can wind time to whenever you want, making it convenient if you want to hunt for certain things or talk to certain NPCs rather than having to sit there and wait.

Sadly the character models do suffer a fair bit. Their facial textures being quite muddy, with their eyes being textured on rather than being separate models - and the textures being quite low resolution. The characters look worse than those in PS2 games which is a bit sad. The character designs themselves are interesting enough - although there is no set character design as their appearances change as you equip them with different gear. So whether they look cool or a weird ramshackle of heavy armour and short pants is really up to whether you want to prioritize looks or min-maxing.

The story and characters are interesting enough to hold attention although the game's plot does start a bit slow and you might find yourself buried in the vast amounts of sidequest that you start to forget just what the hell was going on to begin with. There is a quest log and story status to remind you of things however.


The game isn't without faults. Some monsters are massive to the point of stupidity, which makes moving around quite a pain in the arse. You wonder just what they were thinking with certain areas when giant flying monsters flap down and blot out the sky, making controlling your already shoddy camera a pain in the arse. The massive world can be held against it - it gets tedious trekking through vast expanses of whatever. Some areas could have been compacted just a bit. Also the battle system with the lack of party member control does seem a bit backwards for this time and age, even if it is fun enough, it does get repetitive as well.

The game itself is pretty long. I finished the game in 50 hours only doing probably a small fraction of the sidequests. I hear those dilligent with sidequests have dumped more than 70 hours in the game and still haven't finished it. These days we do lack single player games capable of being massive time sinks. So if you want a massive time sink, here you have one.

Additional pros to the game is being able to save whenever the hell you want and effectively having no game over. When you die, you get launched back to your last Landmark. Monsters respawn. This is very convenient considering how bloody massive the game is and how surprisingly tough certain enemies can be along with situations being unpredictable at times, with roaming monsters crashing into your tough fights. There were a few times where I ran into really sticky situations where I couldn't fight or run my way out of, and losing all my accumulated loot and exp since my last save would have been pretty harsh.

All in all, Xenoblade is a very competent JRPG. Something that hasn't been around for a while. Some people do regard it all too highly, and I suppose a JRPG fan would. I don't regard it as highly though, finding plenty of faults with the game. Even if they aren't severe enough to drag the whole game down, I do think certain design choices were definitely iffy. If I had to rank it, I'd probably give it an 8/10.

Definitely a very solid game. A JRPG fan wanting a long awaited fix should definitely check Xenoblade out.

To abbreviate things further.

Pros: Solid story, characters and gameplay. Lots of things to do in a massive world.
Cons: World can be too massive sometimes making traveling annoying. Sidequests while in quantity do lack in quality. Certain iffy areas with overly large monsters. Camera is annoying.

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 Post subject: Re: Xenoblade Chronicles
PostPosted: September 11th, 2011, 3:38 pm 
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Interesting. And you took 50 hrs to get through the game?
Say, what is it that you do all day besides gaming or Anime? :lol:
(50 hours of gaming would take me about a month if I did nothing else in my free time but concentrate on this one particular game.)

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 Post subject: Re: Xenoblade Chronicles
PostPosted: September 11th, 2011, 11:25 pm 
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School hours are sparse and I being a student, I don't have a day job or anything so free time is abundant. Also I make do with like 6 hours of sleep so I have a fair bit of waking hours to fling around.

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 Post subject: Re: Xenoblade Chronicles
PostPosted: September 15th, 2011, 5:56 pm 
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I'm hoping they localize this one in the US along The Last Story and Pandora Tower I think the other one was called...
Three excellent games for the Wii yet Nintendo is reluctant to bring them to the US :d-_-b:

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 Post subject: Re: Xenoblade Chronicles
PostPosted: September 17th, 2011, 9:57 am 
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Storm_Shinobi wrote:
School hours are sparse and I being a student, I don't have a day job or anything so free time is abundant.

Oh man, those slack-off students... :lol:

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