Well, for a start, its name.
This article is largely based on the Nintendo Treehouse streams, which showed Xenoblade Chronicles X first thing on the Tuesday of E3 and again on the Thursday. In both streams, three guys sat down for 45 minutes to play through the very beginning of the game and talk us through what was going on. I’m going to be talking about what was revealed during that stream, and what people have been able to infer from it and previous trailers. I’m also going to keep it spoiler-free, so everyone can enjoy it.
Xenoblade Chronicles X has a different story to the first game, and is going to be more of a spiritual sequel. I feel it’s also worth pointing out that there will be some throwbacks to previous Xeno games. So fans of Xenogears and Xenosaga can probably expect some familiar sights and references, though I don’t believe the story will be relating at all. I’m also going to state here that I have played Xenogears and Xenoblade through to completion, but due to console and then disc issues I only started Xenosaga a fortnight ago and am about 10 hours in.
The year is 2054. A war has broken out between two alien races, with Earth as the chosen battlefield. As the planet is decimated by the firefight, humans are seen leaving Earth in giant ships known as Arks in a last-ditch attempt to survive, in a scene which reminded me of the beginning of Xenogears.
Your character, customised and named by you, is awakened and brought out of their stasis pod by a woman named Elma. This takes place two months after the initial crash into the new world. Elma tells you that the surviving humans have set up their own city here named Neo Los Angeles, or NLA for short. She’s been working for the city finding those still asleep in stasis pods, such as yourself, and then bringing them back. This will be the basis for quests as well; finding certain people, as well as maybe precious possessions left behind and the like. Judging from the latest trailer at this year’s E3, you’ll also be fending off alien attacks.
In this game, BLADE is an acronym for Beyond the Logos Artificial Destiny Emancipator. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a literal blade in this game, like the Monado in the first one. According to a user on NeoGAF, the Japanese dialogue makes it clear that BLADE is something installed inside a person’s head which allows them to “transcend the word of God” and overwrite their own destiny.
This makes me wonder all kinds of things. Do people in Xenoblade Chronicles X all come pre-programmed with some kind of “destiny”? Were they born with it? Was it put into their head by other people after birth? Or was BLADE invented so that they can overcome their pre-born destiny, which was given to them by God, thus giving them more freedom? The Monado, the blade in the first Xenoblade, allowed Shulk to do this very thing with his visions. This makes it sound like, maybe, more than one person will be able to change the future like Shulk could with his visions in the first game. I’m not sure whether everyone has the BLADE implants or whether it’s just a select few.
There’s another thing – what is this percentage shown in NLA, and why is it counting down? What happens if it reaches zero? I mean, in last year’s E3 trailer, they took a couple of seconds to cut away and show it going down from 60% to 59%, and I’m wondering why. Of course, it could be something totally inconsequential, but I’m bringing it to your attention in the hopes that maybe one of you can come up with an idea.
Speaking of NLA, is it going to get completely destroyed at some point? The screens below show a giant machine attacking something whose shape reminds me of your newfound home. Maybe it’s not even NLA; maybe it’s another, similar city on the planet. I’m not sure whether more than one Ark that escaped Earth safely or not. It could even be full of friendly aliens!
Throughout the entire demo, your character is silent, which is making me wonder. Does Xenoblade Chronicles X have a silent protagonist, or were they simply not voiced for the demo? There is a large amount of appearance customisation in Xenoblade Chronicles X, from gender to facial features to tattoos. It says on the E3 website that even your character’s voice can be customised, but I suspect it may only be for battle grunts and such; I find it hard to believe that there would be multiple voices if they had to record every single cutscene each time, so I don’t think the main character is going to be voiced. There’s also going to be a number of times throughout the game where you can choose how your character reacts to a given situation, so you can personalise them further. Whether or not is has any effect on the story, I have no idea. I suspect it will affect your relationship with your allies though, in a similar fashion to the first Xenoblade’s heart-to-hearts.
Like in the first Xenoblade, in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I quote, “if you can see it, you pretty much can go there”. Movement speed can be quickened by inpressing the left control stick on the GamePad, which will come in handy for all the running you’ll be doing finding landmarks, collectibles, ship artifacts and the place that gives you the prettiest view. Weather can change as time passes like it could in the first Xenoblade, possibly spoiling that view. You can also jump off that view with no consequences if you like, for there is no fall damage in this game!
Items and equipment can be downloaded from the ship artifacts you’ll find scattered across the planet. You can also find items in organic material… like… animal droppings… leaving you with new equipment and possibly a bad smell. Some of the ship artifacts will not be accessible at the start of the game; in order to gain access, you need to expand your social circles and build up NLA a bit, in what sounds to me like the affinity and Colony 6 building featured in the first Xenoblade. The landmarks and locations found in Xenoblade appear to be back, and I saw them in the demo labelled as landmarks and areas respectively. I suspect you’re revived at landmarks when you die, but I’m not certain on this one. I did note that there were no penalties for dying though, just like in the last game.
The beasts you find around the place will start attacking you under different circumstances, like in the first Xenoblade. Some will not attack unless you attack them first, some will attack if they see or hear you, while others still will attack if you pick a fight with one of its buddies nearby. They behave differently under different weather conditions and at different times of the day.
Battle! Those of you who have played the first Xenoblade will be very comfortable with the layout. As pictured above, we have an art palette on which you can put eight arts. The big circle in the middle is used to initiate the battle. It’s possible to switch from ranged to melee attacks on the fly; I’m not certain how this is done, but I’m pretty sure you just select the big circle in the middle. You do more damage in melee mode than in ranged mode; I imagine this would come at the cost of taking more damage. Another incentive for using melee attacks is that they fill up your TP gauge faster.
Yes. In additon to the cooldowns we saw in Xenoblade, there is also a TP bar that fills up as you auto-attack your foes, like the Talent Gauge in the previous game. So, using arts will put that art into cooldown AND consume some of your TP. As arts warm up, a little bar travels around the circle. What’s interesting is that this can fill up twice for bonus effects. It could make an attack more powerful, make a buff more potent; an example cited in the video was the ability to raise your shield twice in sucession. The type of arts that will warm up depend on the weapon you have out; melee attacks will allow melee arts to warm up and halt the progress of ranged arts, while equipping a ranged weapon will put a stopper on melee arts. This will really force you to think about which arts you want to use. Your allies are able to revive you, and you them, at the cost of 1,000 TP. I also want to note that TP doesn’t deplete as you run, but remains at the same level from which it was after your last battle.
Quick time events, which were called “Soul Voice” in the demo, can provide buffs to allies; a restoration of health was seen in the demo. They can be failed, have a success, or be a huge success. As you could probably guess, a huge success has a larger effect than a regular success, and requires precise timing. Your allies will also yell advice at you as you fight. Following this advice will increase your affinity with your ally and bring up a quick-time event. If you nail the event, it’ll add one bar to your Soul Gauge. There are three bars in total, and once all three are filled, you gain buffs. There’s a whole sub-menu dedicated to the Soul Gauge; you can select the conditions required to generate the quick-time event, the buffs you’ll be given, and so on. The Soul Gauge will deplete again at the end of the battle. It can also be depleted mid-battle if you revive an ally; when you use up your 1,000 TP to revive someone, a quick-time event may come up and your ally will have more health restored at the cost of one bar of the Soul Gauge.
While battling, your terrain and position will affect how the fight plays out. Just above and to the right of the arts palette is some text telling you whether you’re at the front, back or the side of the monster, as well as whether you’re above it, below it or on equal (middle) ground. They also said that it’s possible to target certain body parts.
Now, in the first trailer, there was a person in a mech who attacked a monster, and it looked like they lopped part of the beast they were fighting clean off. In the image below on the left, you can see it before the strike. In the image on the right, it looks like that body part is spinning away. If this is true, I hope that it actually affects the battle in some way. I’m a huge Monster Hunter fan, and probably one of the only things about the series which really bugs me is that breaking monster body parts, with very few exceptions, doesn’t actually affect the fight in any way or really disadvantage the monster. So I really hope it does here.
Each character has two sets of stats. Their inner stats are those which remain constant and are affected by equipment. Their class stats vary as they swap between classes. These two different types of stats level up seperately. Each class has its own set of arts (skills), and every character has access to 10 classes including the base one. Each character has their own individual set of classes, and you can change them whenever you want, even mid-battle. When you level up in one class and learn some of its arts, you can then still put those arts on your palette when you swap to another class. Arts level up and get stronger the more you use them. All of this bodes well for those who love to strategise. Arts can be levelled up using BP, accumulated after battle. Levelling up arts can increase their potency and reduces their cooldown time.
Little has been shown on combat in mechs. There was some seen in the announcement trailer and last year’s E3 trailer, where they were also shown to be able to morph into vehicles for faster movement. It was shown in February this year that you can seemingly run in and out of them at will, and this year’s E3 trailer didn’t show any gameplay.
This game is going to be complex. And I’m going to love it.
In a breakaway from the rest of Monolith Soft’s games, it’s looking like this game will have some kind of online multiplayer component. The game’s announcement trailer, at one point, had what turned out to be a chat log in the corner. Fans translated it from Japanese and told us it was just a couple of people swapping greetings. We don’t know what sort of online mode there would be, but I imagine it would be something like finding stasis pods together, running errands for the citizens of NLA, things like that.
All right. I’ve fangirled enough (for now), so let me ask: What do all of you think? I hope this article was helpful to you all, as I had a ball writing it (it’s exam period but shhh). I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll be playable at PAX Australia in November (I may be a little too hopeful there…).
If you want to go back and look at previous Xenoblade Chronicles X screens and trailers, here are the links, in the order they were released:
– Announcement Trailer
– E3 2013 Trailer
– E3 2013 Screenshots
– Battle Demonstration Trailer
– E3 2014 Trailer
– E3 2014 Screenshots
– E3 2014 Nintendo Treehouse Demo 1
– E3 2014 Nintendo Treehouse Demo 2
I’ll be reading the comments, so feel free to sound off, ask questions, pick an argument and I’ll see if I know the answer or can find it for you.