E3 2014: Xenoblade Chronicles X Looks Like A Worthy Successor

Xenoblade Chronicles is my all-time favorite Wii game, so when I heard they were making a sequel I was as stoked as a human being could conceivably be. We hadn’t seen much of the mysterious “X” until today, but nintendo came out swinging for E3, with story and gameplay details galore and a massive demo featuring the first segment of the open-world RPG. Here’s the lowdown on the much-anticipated sequel.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a tale of humanity caught up in a conflict between two massively powerful alien races -which draws immediate parallels to the titan conflict that created the original game’s world. The aliens end up destroying the earth entirely, but mankind manages to escape in gigantic Arkships – each of which is large enough to carry a city or two – and heads off toward an untamed alien world.

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The bulk of your time with the game will be spent exploring that world, and man, does it look gorgeous. The first game had a fantastic art direction, but it was undeniably held back by the underpowered Wii hardware. Xenoblade X still features some relatively low-poly models, but it supplements them with incredible effects like reflections and dynamic clouds and shadows that change in real time. What’s really striking the scale of the world, which stretches out before you full of cascading waterfalls, impossible cliffs, and immense monsters. In the opening area there’s a brontosaurus the size of a skyscraper, and if you have a death wish you can just go up and fight it.

Combat is an interesting mix of JRPG standards and MMO-style aggro management, similar to the first game. Xenoblade Chronicles X brings a number of improvements to the table, including the ability to change your character loadout mid-battle in order to shift your strategies, and a new targeting system that lets you damage individual enemy limbs. Fans of the first game know how deep and intricate its combat system could get, and I only have high hopes for the new game with all its improvements.

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I am a little concerned about the ability to create your own character. I like the added personalization, and it’s a natural evolution of the way the first game visibly represented your armor and weapon choices, but the first game also had a very strong cast of characters. Having a single character act as a cipher for the player might undermine that, although it remains to be seen how X will handle it. Regardless of this niggling doubt, I’m still excited to play the game when it finally releases in 2015.