Monday, August 22, 2011

Game Diary: Xenoblade Chronicles impressions

It's time to share with you all some of my initial thoughts about Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii, which was just released in Europe this past Friday. I have managed to put in just over 20 hours of play time over the weekend, which I feel is plenty long enough for me to comment on the game so far.

First off, the game looks fantastic. The areas that you will be exploring are huge, colourful and extremely detailed, with grass blowing in the breeze, creatures both small and gigantic roaming around the environments, and a very impressive draw distance. It really does show off just how powerful the Wii actually is under the hood, and is also a testament to the programming and design skills of Monolith Soft.

Next, let's get on the game play. For those that have played Final Fantasy XII, then the way that Xenoblade plays should be quite familiar to you, though it lacks the ability to program your AI companions. Basically it is a lot like playing an MMO without an online component. Within a given area there will be a safe town or other such settlement, full of NPC's with dozens of quests to dole out. These quests typical involve killing things, gathering a certain number of resources, or seeking out a particular item hidden away in the zone. Then you will venture out with your party into a wide open expanse of countryside, populated by wandering wildlife that is both benign and openly hostile to you. The game world really feels like a living, breath ecosystem.

Of course there is a central plot that runs throughout the game and you could just ignore the 300 or so quests and stick to that, but where would the fun be in that? Plus you get the benefit of cash, loot and levelling up that comes with carrying out these tasks. Speaking of the plot, it would seem that Monolith Soft have reigned in the complicated narrative that typified the Xenosaga trilogy and delivered something that is much simpler to follow, with cut scenes that rarely run over 10 minutes (which may seem quite long, but scenes from Xenosaga could go on for up to an hour). That's not to say there aren't plenty of twists as you progress through the game, but it would seem the game mechanics were the main focus here, and the game is all the better for it.

I have no idea how far through the game I am at this point, but it wouldn't surprise me if Nintendo and Monolith Soft have delivered an RPG as huge as Final Fantasy XII (which I easily spent 111 hours on without getting bored). I'm now really looking forward to the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend where I can sink a whole load more time into the game (as well as Deus Ex: Human Revolution which is out this Friday). Anyone from the US who happens to read this and is angry that Xenoblade hasn't been announced in their territory could import the game (with or without the optional red Classic Controller Pro) from or (and I really wouldn't blame you, the game is worth the inconvenience and Nintendo of America should really get their act together and release the damn game already).

Below is part one of the Nintendo produced and spoiler free Let's Play series for Xenoblade.

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