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    dkirschner's Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

    [April 3, 2020 05:03:25 PM]
    So, coronavirus huh?

    Now that I've contextualized the times...

    I have so many more videogames than I did a couple weeks ago. I bought my girlfriend a Switch Lite and she grabbed a few games for it. I've gotten some nice freebies from the Epic Store. Humble Bundle had a massive $30 "help fight COVID-19" bundle with a handful of games on my wishlist, and that came with a one month subscription to Humble Choice, which has another few games this month on my wishlist (and it looks like I get to keep it for next month's games too?!). So I'm swimming in video games AND I have a little more time to play!

    The first thing I did when faced with not being allowed to go to work and being in teaching limbo (we weren't allowed to teach for two weeks as we prepared to move online) was find the longest game in my backlog, which was Xenoblade Chronicles (and its sequel) on Wii (both around 100 hours!), and plop down on my couch. I've made it a little over 20 hours and am thinking about just moving on to the sequel, not because Xenoblade Chronicles isn't a great game--it is--but because I get the gist of it and I want to see what the second one changes.

    This is a massive JRPG. I haven't played a massive JRPG in a long time, so this feels like reverting to when I was younger, very comforting. It also feels like a single-player MMORPG, with large explorable environments and very MMO-esque skills for each character. There are things I love about the game and things that are encouraging me to just try the second one in hopes they will be different.

    Like

    1. Presentation - Music, art style, cinematography, all that is excellent. It's a beautiful game, which is odd to say about a 10-year-old Wii title.

    2. Setting - The game world is the body of an old, dead god. I lived on the bottom of the leg and have been traveling my way to its head. See, in the past, these two old gods fought and died. Their bodies became fertile ground for life forms or something. It's so cool.

    3. Overall story - I don't know where exactly the story is going, but I like the big arc, which is a fight against the "Mechon," which are (you guessed it) machine-like beings. They are, in typical JRPG style, pure evil bad guys. There is something bigger going on, and I want to know what happens!

    4. Combat - I do generally enjoy the combat. It's active in real time. You control one character and the others are controlled by AI. Positioning matters. The order of abilities matters. It's challenging and complex.

    Dislike or meh

    1. Characters - This is one of those "kid saves the world" stories. The voice acting is fine (the British accents grew on me) and the dialogue is fine, and there isn't anything special about the characters really. They fit stereotypes. Except I did just meet Riki, the mandatory cute/annoying nonhuman party member, and I think I hate him.

    2. "Affinity Points" - There are places in the world where, depending on your party members' affinity for one another, special cut scenes will occur. I've found like 30 of these places and only had the right affinity to see like 2 scenes. There is a lot of "social" interaction between characters and NPCs that contributes nothing to the main story and feels arbitrarily locked behind vague stats and busywork side quests.

    3. Pointless side quests - Do you like to "kill 5 Red Hoobaloos" and "find 4 Plains Wacacadoodle toes?" Great! Because you'll be doing that all the time. The same NPC will give you 5 or 6 quests like this at once. There is no side quest pacing. You go to a new area, talk to two or three NPCs to pick up 10 side quests, and maybe knock them out along the way.

    4. Too many skills - In true MMORPG fashion, each character learns up to 16 skills, but can only equip 8 of them. They are complex in how they work together (good) but this makes it difficult to understand which skills can be left out (bad).

    5. Bad party AI - #4 is coupled with bad party AI, who tend to use skills poorly. For example, there are some really useful chains of status effects. You can "Break" an enemy, which allows them to be "Toppled" and take a bunch of extra damage. If an enemy is toppled, you can "Daze" them, which is an even stronger debuff. So I have various skills equipped on the AI (who can only use the skills if they are equipped too) that do these various things. I use my Break skill and...neither of my AI companions uses their Topple skill! Why not?! They should never be using Topple unless the enemy has Break. There aren't any detailed AI settings you can play with to guide their behavior. It's quite maddening. There are so many more examples. If you let the AI control Schulk (the main character), he won't do basic things like using Monado Arts (his special attacks) at crucial moments. Some characters the AI does a serviceable job with and others the AI is horrendous and basically cannot play.

    6. Wii controls - This is one that's going to make me retire the game. You've played MMORPGs. You know how many buttons there are. Now try and map all that onto the Wiimote and the nunchuck. The result is a functional, but awkward and slow control scheme. I spend so much time in menus. On a keyboard, or with a regular controller, navigating menus would be much breezier. Combat also feels at times like a big menu navigation game because you have an action bar with 9 buttons on it, and you can only move the cursor left or right. So battle is you running around with the nunchuck thumbstick pressing left left left left A right right right right right right right right A left left left A right A left left left left left left left A...selecting skills on the action bar until someone dies.

    There's plenty more to say, but I've listed some key positives and negatives. My decision is whether to skip ahead to the sequel. I feel like I've gotten many awe-inspiring moments from this game, and those moments are now few and far between, replaced with more frequent feelings of tedium. I am motivated to continue for the story, but I understand that however much I enjoy that and the exploration, I've got at least like 60 hours of gameplay left, and that is such a long time for something I'm not wholly into at this point. I may chug ahead for a while and decide after another long play session or two, perhaps after committing some combat learning to memory. We shall see!
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    Status

    dkirschner's Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 18 March, 2020

    Opinion
    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Good lord, this game is amazing. Feels very MMORPG-ish.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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