I'm not gonna finish Xenoblade X

With Nintendo shutting down online play for Wii U and 3DS in about a month, and given that I had just finished the absolutely fantastic Xenoblade: Definitive Edition on my Switch, I recently dusted off the ol' Wii U and unsealed (!) the copy of Xenoblade X I had bought way back in… well, looks like 2015, I guess, since I bought the limited edition?

It took me four tries to get through the original Xenoblade, actually. The first time was the original US Wii version—the one you had to get at GameStop. I played that for awhile, loved it, but was in the middle of being a parent of young children and didn't get very far. Then the 3DS remake came out, and I got further! But, again—it's hard to dedicate a lot of time to stuff like this as a parent.

My kids aren't little anymore now, though. I got the Definitive Edition on Switch, hit a difficulty wall and got distracted. Finally put it back in and gave it its due this year—and did it ever repay me.

But this isn't about Xenoblade—this is about what followed.

X is unique in the Xenoblade series, I say, not yet having played Xenoblade 2 or 3. It's much more about exploring worlds and experimenting with systems than putting a story to be told up-front, even though there is a story to be told.

So, let's hit that story first. The "main story" itself is pretty light; a lot of what's going on is told through cutscene dialogue accompanying sidequests. To tell the kind of story that X is going for—a decently-sized cast of characters all working together to survive on an alien planet—I think this is a pretty good idea, honestly.

But when I posted at the halfway point of this game, I said—and I said I'd add this to my review—that the game has been hitting more or less for me as "deal with toxic men until you finally get a giant robot".

You see, your de facto team includes a woman colonel and a 13-year-old engineering genius girl. I also set up my fully-customizable avatar as a queer woman. I also tend to take another woman who has some really useful battle skills with us in my party when I have the chance. All of us make up (canonically) the most kickass team in all of the game's New Los Angeles.

Now, New LA is led by men, natch. One is an unremarkable politician. Another, an unremarkable general. The third I actually have a bit of have a soft spot for—a big ol' former chief engineer who's rather entertaining and gives off maternal vibes as well—a mama bear in many senses of the word. We run into him a lot. I think the game is better for it.

And then there's all the rest of the men who make up the majority of the population, and boy do they have issues. Misogyny and hyper-inflated self-importance runs rampant. Abuse is common. There's a story-required quest around getting one of these guys a girlfriend for some reason. I think I sprained my eyes from rolling them so much.

It didn't help that when these men weren't chewing scenery, the rest of the voice acting was often flat, the jokes terrible, and the music inappropriate (and that's before it got mixed so badly that I found I couldn't even hear the voices from time to time.) And If you loved Riki, as I did, you're going to wonder what the hell happened with X's very own Nopon "comic relief".

What I'm saying is don't come into this game expecting anything out of the story. Honestly, it's probably net negative.

Xenoblade X, with New Los Angeles in the background.

What you can expect, though, is an exciting if sometimes bewildering array of ways to play and an absolutely beautiful world to explore. It starts off with combat that's much like Xenoblade's and builds from there, piling on all kinds of new ways that you can—and, honestly must—play.

You start off timidly poking around a few feet from the base, seeing not only low-level bugs and bats, but also giant creatures you don't have any hope of defeating and must avoid for now. Basic leveling gets you a little ways, but then there's also class leveling, specific armor resistances, the myriad stats of myriad weapons… there's a lot. And you're going to start hitting walls if you're not into it.

Thankfully, we have the Internet, and there are a lot of people who are really huge fans of diving deep into this game. And for good reason! When you do know what you're doing (the game is terrible at helping you know what you're doing), it's a lot of fun! And, halfway through, you get the aforementioned giant robots, letting you kick ass a whole new way.

And, oh my gosh, is the landscape in which you kick ass beautiful. I loved exploring what I could on foot, seeing what was around every turn… even peeking out and seeing a monster that would thoroughly destroy me and figuring out a way to keep my distance and still progress, if possible. When I got the giant robot at last, I gained not just fighting abilities, but enhanced traversal as well, which opened up some neat new things.

And now, ¾ of my way through, my giant robots (yeah, I have two now, gave one to the 13-year-old) can fly. So I had some really cool new stuff to explore, from previously inaccessible parts of the continents I've been on for awhile, to the even just the upper levels of places I've already been.

I did do that for awhile, but really, I've taken the rest of the game as far as I'm gonna. I'm still acquiring levels and occasionally picking up some upgrades here and there, but now that I can fly, and now that I've got a good handle on what the giant robots have to offer, there's not a lot else I want to do.

I'm definitely not interested in the remaining story fights. Maybe I would enjoy taking down a dinosaur-sized monster or two? Maybe? Well… Would I enjoy all the work it would take to get all the systems set up just right to get there? Probably not.

Now that my giant robots can fly, there's no carrot big enough for me to level or equip to pull quests, story or otherwise. I am not even entirely sure I want to dedicate hours to watching the remaining cutscenes on YouTube, just because I'm not expecting much in the way of quality content.

So, some 50 hours in, I'm packing it in. But I did really enjoy parts of it.

Oh, one more thing—I can't let this game pass without mentioning that it carries on the Xenoblade tradition of having women wear truly ridiculous outfits and armor. I guess this gets worse in Xenoblade 2. Sigh.

Still, although I'm gonna take a Xeno-break (sorry (also if you want to make a game called Xenobreak someday, Takahashi, call me and we'll work out royalties)), I am really looking forward to trying 2 out, and then 3 after that. I just loved the first game so very, very much. I'm hoping for more good things from 2.

And I don't regret playing X at all. I'm glad I finally broke the seal on it. If you're sitting on a copy, give it a spin! I don't think the online is critical, but I do think it'd be good to at least start while it's still a going concern.

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