First things first, the most noticeable and prominent feature of the game is the the setting. Everybody in the Xenoblade world lives on one of the two gigantic gods: the Kyoshin and Kishin. Traveling across these vast “worlds” is quite a breathtaking experience (and yes, you do get to travel across both of them) and is a testament to the vision Monolith Soft had for the game – a massive world, filled with life and tons of content. It’s the kind of world that incites the player’s desire to just go off course and explore every nook and cranny. I’m pretty sure this was mentioned in an article somewhere but it’s true – in Xenoblade, if you can see it, you can go there.
I think an appropriate, fairly recent game to compare it to would be Final Fantasy 13. Whereas FF13 was designed to be extremely linear. Remember the Archlyte Steppe? Or to put it in more familiar terms - the huge, wide open area filled with quests and monsters that the game thrusts upon you after so many hours of linearity? Many areas in Xenoblade are similar to that right off the bat, which was really just a breath of fresh air. Not only are they as expansive as the Steppe, but they all have built-in transportation (that you don’t have to unlock like Cie’th Waystones) in the form of Landmarks, scattered across each area in more abundance than Waystones. All you have to do is find them, and you can teleport back to that Landmark via the map whenever you please.
Onto the battle system! While it does have some unique facets, let’s focus on the common items first. From the start, you can see many similarities between Xenoblade and MMORPGs: seamless battles, auto-attacking, a hotkey bar for your Arts (all of which have some sort of recast time), enemy ‘conning’, and Hate (even incorporating taunts and hate reduction abilities).
I felt right at home with the way things were set up in Xenoblade, especially since a lot of the hassle of a normal RPG isn’t there:
- Normal fights are short and sweet.
- You can save anywhere you please.
- There was no need to worry about MP or healing up after a battle.
- Retreats from normal battles are as easy as running the hell away.
- Dying just sends you back to the last Landmark you saw (no penalties!).
- Dying during a boss battle lands you right back in front of said boss, minus the cutscenes!
- For the most part, the AI is competent – they’ll generally revive and heal you as needed, and work with what skills you assigned them.
...recovery items are non-existent. You will be completely at the mercy of the recast timers of your heals. This can be a pretty big pain, because early on it limits your ability to use different party members well. A few characters get a light heal to provide minimal support, but the game’s true healer is Carna, so for pretty much all of the early game and boss battles you’re kinda stuck with her. Later on as you get more powerful, you’ll be able to switch her out with someone more offense oriented and get by with minimal heals on normal monsters at least. Bosses might be possible too, if you were to learn a certain secret Monado Art…
Continuing on about the zero recovery items… should one of your party members fall, you can go up and revive them if you have a Party Gauge bar available. They can also revive you if you happen to fall and there is a bar available. But the moment you die and there are no Party Gauge bars left, it’s game over. But like I mentioned before, death isn’t that bad. An actual game over screen does not exist for Xenoblade.
There’s also a ton of stuff I didn’t mention still, like Gem Crafting and Skill Trees – both of which add a ton of depth to the customization of your characters.
...before this I mentioned that the game took me about 70 hours, but I played for a total of about 150. Or at least I think
I played for 150… it’s probably a bit less like 140. Stupid 99:99 timer limit! Anyways, the extra 70 hours or so was spent on my second playthrough, doing all the crap I had neglected the first time around like Questing (there is a TON of quests, even that might be an understatement)