The 5th* Anniversary Xenoblade (re)Play Through [*Murrica]

Discussion in 'Nintendo' started by EvilTw1n, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator


    It turns out that @sjmartin79 and I are both playing Xenoblade at the same time. Since April 6 will mark its 5th anniversary since being released here in North America, I thought we should make a thread for anyone that wants to discuss the game (and, of course, OpRainfall - @theMightyME). Post anything XBC-related that crosses your mind: why you like it, why you loathe it, why it's the greatest game in existence, why it's the downfall of modern RPGs, etc.

    I'll principally be posting as a sort of playthrough diary with sjm. I'm 60 hours in, so it's mostly looking back at the notes I made for this. I'll do it in chapters, but this means spoilers, so if you've any interest in playing the game, you've been warned.

    So, that said?

    Looks like it's time.

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    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  2. theMightyME

    theMightyME Owner of The Total Screen

    so I have a question for everyone who played the game, or is playing it... what language did you/are you play/ing it in?
    Japanese for me, I know a lot of memes came out of the english voice track, but I found the voices annoying for the most part, while the japanese VA cast was phenomenal... I did try it in english, but got annoyed
  3. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

  4. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    I. New Year's Resolution

    I desperately wanted to love Xenoblade. It looked like everything I could ever want from a game.

    Huge world to explore? Check.
    Fancy lazer sword as big as a 70's hatchback? Check.
    Giant mechs? Check.
    Anime girls in thigh-highs? Check.

    How could it go wrong? I remember the day when I picked up my copy from GameStop. I was heading down to a friends' place to do some house sitting, and they thankfully had a Wii. I sat and watched the opening menu screen at least four or five times.

    It didn't feel real. It was finally here, after so much kvetching for so many months, after so much work by so many fans (don't let anyone ever tell you OpRainfall didn't have an effect - Nintendo is only too happy to make stupid localization decisions). I'm not sure I had ever been so hyped to open a gaming case in my life. This was one that we had to work for, and the work made the reward that much sweeter.

    But then I played the game. I wondered if I had been a part of a giant mistake. This was it? I was supposed to write the review for TNE, but I had to back out of doing so. Everyone was telling me how much they loved it, how this was perhaps the greatest JRPG since the SNES era, and I was wondering if I somehow got a different disc slipped into my case at the factory. A great review was written up (by either @Menashe or @BobSilencieux ...I think; all of our old content doesn't have the correct authors attached). I chalked it up to me just not feeling like an RPG at the time. So I waited a few months and tried again. Nothing changed. I waited a year, tried again. Nothing changed. I could see the overall quality of the game and of Monolithsoft's world design; I just never felt hooked into this virtual world. It was always a remote, cold experience. Years past; I picked up XCX and found it more interesting, but not by much. Maybe I just wasn't into this type of game anymore.

    Then a funny thing happened. Square Enix got their asses in gear and finally release-d FF XV, and I felt an inexplicable itch. I needed a big RPG in my life, but didn't have a PS4 or XBone. And there it was, sitting on my shelf. Mocking me. So as a new year's resolution, I decided that I would finish it - before its 5th anniversary. Not put in 10 or 20 hours again, get bored, try to make myself love it, and eventually drift away. Finish it. Even if I had to hate-sex my way through it and leave money on the dresser, I was going to finish Xenoblade.
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    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  5. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    English on the 3DS
  6. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    Currently, I am on my 3rd attempt at Xenoblade Chronicles. Way back when I heard about about Operation Rainfall, and I thought how cool it was that someone was working hard to bring some amazing JPRGs to the US, and I promised myself that if I got the chance, I would try it.

    Fast-forward several years, and XBC was released on 3DS. Steve2 and I each got a copy. I started playing first, and... didn't last long. When Steve2 started it, I started again and made it much further, but the weird choices about "now these type are too strong for you, and the only way to do damage is to do this" made me lose interest.

    Fast forward again, and XBX was released on Wii U. I asked for it for Christmas. I wanted to support niche Wii U games, but I wasn't ready to spend my own money on something I may give up on. Turns out, I loved it. Put over 100 hours into it, and I loved every second. (I even wanted to adopt a Nopon.)

    So, now we are to the present. I had worked through a lot of my backlog and I was craving an epic RPG. And with the Switch coming out soon, I knew I had time for one really long game. And XBC it was.

    I don't know what was different this time, but I was more invested and enjoying the things that turned me off before. Honestly, I believe XCX was the reason for that.

    Now I'm many hours into it, more than halfway through. Killing it when it comes to side quests. Mastering the arts. And just having a great time.

    So, the clock is ticking. I have a little over three weeks to finish it. I know I can do it, and this time I am enjoying it.
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  7. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    II. Colony 9 - Just like your hometown, if Scranton was located on a frozen titan's rotting corpse.

    It's just as big as I remember.

    There's probably no more aptly-named developer in modern gaming than Monolithsoft. You could make a decent sandbox game utilizing only Colony 9 and a bit of the surrounding countryside. The opening hours of Xenoblade were never my problem with the game; they were always the most magical part. Cut scene, intro battle, field. Glorious, glorious field. For once, I didn't even spend an hour murdering Hand Bunnits (getting soft in my old age, I know). Taking in the surroundings was enough. Yes, it's a 480p game on charged up PS2-era hardware. But the design, my friends. The design of this world is something to behold. The topography and layout is as good as anything ever made.

    However, like my previous tries, I soon bogged down. This battle system, man. This damn battle system. It marries the RPG tradition of guaranteeing you're gonna get hit, but instead of placing it logically in a turn-based system, it places the mechanic squarely in real-time gameplay where defensive positioning should, y'know, help. But it doesn't. Out of the way? Doesn't matter, you're hit. Out of range? Doesn't matter, a lowly bat will throw some death spike at you. At face value, it's like adding the worst possible aspect of a turn-based RPG, because in doing so it removes the agency of real-time defensive movement in an action game. But wait, there's more! Although your movement for defense is pretty much useless in this scenario, your offense is 100% tied to it. This unholy MMO-meets-RPG-meets-action method is like the platypus of combat design.

    And that's before the difficulty spikes hit you. The opening hours of Xenoblade are the glass cannon sweepstakes. Oh, you can score critical hits and put up some damage, but heaven help you if you're facing a foe even one level above you. That combat system, which in theory sounded like you would have an extra layer of strategy to be creative with and take out enemies? Doesn't matter. Set foot in Tephra Cave and try to take on something even remotely higher leveled than you, and you'll be chopping and chopping and chopping until you can't heal anymore and die. Practicing is almost useless. Enemies under your level will easily fall, anything else won't. There is no learning to be had. Valiantly fight, hit that last-second heal, revive your fallen, no matter. Just run.

    You run, and come back to your first set piece. Mechs! This should be awesome! It looks amazing! But then you have to fight them. With new tactics. And, oh boy. Yeah. About that.

    "OK, here's break, in the center of your arts wheel, in black and white. OK, now use break so you can initiate topple. Fill up your gauge and initiate a chain attack; try to match colors in your chain attack. OK, use break against mechs. OK, now you have the Monado and don't need to break first. OK, now you need to break again against mechs with a face. You can only hurt face mechs after toppling them, so you'll have to use the Monado to initiate break, but don't use its art to initiate break. Oh, and the spot where break used to be is now where the Monado special is. Now break is on the far right. Also, black and white is now Monado arts. Break is now pink. Also you are only using arts to build up your gauge to initiate a chain attack, which is the only way to really topple a face mech. Also you don't match colors with this kind of chain attack, it's pink then green."

    That's literally like 7 minutes of game. During a tense combat set piece, where you have to fight every fiber of your being to not spam buttons to get through menus so you can return to the action. Because if you do, you're more fucked than a snowman in July and will have no clue how to win the fight that triggers the end of the siege. Luckily, I vaguely remembered the system.

    So, plot? Early on, not bad. If there were a heart-to-heart conversation to encapsulate Xenoblade's early story, it'd be like this:

    Shulk - Giant robots fucked up our shit again and jacked my girl.
    Reyn - I know, right? You want to go kill them?
    Shulk - Yeah, I think so.
    Reyn - Cool.​

    I thought it was actually kinda refreshing to kick the game off this way. This works. For all of the philosophical musings that Takahashi-san can sometimes spoon out, he figured out here that the easiest way to hook you into a world of giants and myth is the simplest of all impulses: revenge. It's a sturdy emotion. You understand it, and you therefore understand Shulk, even if he's meant to be a cipher.

    So we set about our epic journey by putting our hero and his bondage-armor-wearing male escort in a...cave. For some reason, this kinda bothered me more than the last three tries I made at the game. There's a gorgeous world out there, full of exquisite cliff sides and rolling hills, but that's not where our adventure truly begins. Nah, we're in a nondescript cave fighting spiders for a few hours. We're also getting time travel abruptly shoved into combat while fending off Shelob's cousin, because hey, why not?

    But a funny thing happened this time. I started to get a better feel for the combat system. It started to make a bit of sense to me. After dropping all wishes for what I had hoped Xenoblade's combat could have been, I began to at least get an idea (if not an outright appreciation) for what the designers had in mind. Despite making an effort to finish more quests and to grind on the monsters I could defeat, I still felt under-leveled. I still felt like a glass cannon. I still felt like this game was a dozen-plus hours of purposeful inaccessibility. But something shifted. For the first time, I wanted to exploit what was possible with my arts wheel.

    And then I walked outside.

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  8. CitizenOfVerona

    CitizenOfVerona Spectacular Staff Member

    Love Xenoblade (fuck the Chronicles part). I remember how blue my balls were when I lost my 30 hour save file. Started again and got burnt out and sold the game eventually to get money for more games. Rebought it last year and finished it.

    I do wish the side quests were more varied. You're either killing something(s) or finding something(s).

    I like it more than Xenocross. The main story in that game never reached it's full potential, when it got interesting to me it ended. The side quests were better written and more interesting, but it was mostly again finding something or killing something. Though the ones where you're solving a mystery or hunting down a racist prick were highlights.

    I disliked how since Elma and what's-her-face were required for every story mission, your other party members took a massive backseat.

    The perfect balance of the two games for me would be Xenoblade's plot/characters and world with Xenocross' gameplay. I would love to fly around in a mech around the Bionis.

    I played in English cause it's nice knowing what attacks your teammates are doing so I could act accordingly on the fly.

    In terms of OP Rainfall games, I played Pandora's Tower last year and loved it. Would love to see a spiritual successor. I want to play The Last Story but it's a bit pricey on Amazon so maybe I'll see it in the wild for cheap one day. Oh well.
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  9. Juegos

    Juegos All mods go to heaven. Staff Member Moderator

    I believe you're the one who coined the phrase, "collect 10 bear asses", which I use all the time now.
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  10. CitizenOfVerona

    CitizenOfVerona Spectacular Staff Member

    I don't remember that term, but I don't remember half the random insults I put together for this site.
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  11. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    @EvilTw1n The combat system really opens up once you get the right arts to establish a good chain attack, as well as when you start unlocking and customizing your teams skills and affinity.
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  12. theMightyME

    theMightyME Owner of The Total Screen

    I loved sharing skills between characters, and finding out way to make a character like ridiculously fast, so fast that almost nothing hits them...

    I think that xcx made thigns too complicated with less payoff... where as xbc had tons of systems and stuff, but none were too complicated, you could go deep into them, but it was like an easy to learn moderately hard to master thing... where as xcx was like confusing and hard to learn, exhausting to master

    making gems is another example... you could really modify your stats and such, but it wasn't confusing, on the surface level you could just grind powerful gems and equip them, but you could get deeper if you wanted... I feel in xcx the attribute additions were a headache, confusing, and with little payoff in the end

    I also hated the level cap in xcx
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  13. Juegos

    Juegos All mods go to heaven. Staff Member Moderator

    You know, I've had a post about this bubbling inside my head since I was halfway through XCX. I don't hate the level cap in XCX, on the contrary, I think that's when the game finally forces you to think about what kind of strategy you need to defeat different kinds of enemies. But in my opinion that's too late, and too confusing due to the rest of the game's existence. To me, the best case would be if there was just no normal leveling in XCX, and progression was instead confined to every other mechanic in the game: your Blade rank, unlocking arms manufacturers, unlocking teammates, learning skills, and crafting augments. Instead, 90% of the equipment and teammates below level 60 are completely superfluous as the different challenges in the game are more quickly overcome by grinding for levels.

    I'll have to leave my post confusing as it is above because the last time I tried to write about this in any depth it got very convoluted very fast, but I will come back later with a real post.
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  14. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    English. Some day I'm going to go back and replay it with Japanese VA, but for this play through I wanted to at least know when Reyn had hit Wild Down so I could inflict daze. The English VA isn't too bad, IMO. I've heard far worse.
    For me, the difference was just sticking it out through the rough opening (an opening that lasts as long as other games). I was talking with @repomech before, and he was pretty much in the same boat we were; all three of us were getting to around the same point in the game and trailing off. XBC really opens up beyond that point.
    Oh, you'll see my opinion shift. These are shells for posts I had written as I was playing, and my opinion definitely does evolve throughout.
    To me, that's one of the things that kept XBC inaccessible. There's so much to learn to do - a good chunk of it not even that well explained - that it's not a game you can leave and come back to. Admittedly, I'm a short-attention span person, but this is a 60-hour-plus game, and somebody like me has to commit to playing chunks of it all in a row in a short time span...and the older I get, the harder it gets to carve that time out. But I'm glad I made the commitment this time.
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  15. theMightyME

    theMightyME Owner of The Total Screen

    I think xcx is far far worse in this regard... even the descriptions of things are obtuse, it is hard to tell what your mech gear does.. might as well be in arabic.... xbc is at least a little more standard with stats and such
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  16. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    I am just going to say this now; XC has a far nicer menu system than XCX; even though they are functionally about the same, the inclusion of icons and coherent mapping made it much easier to understand and use the systems in XC than it was in XCX. At least to me anyways.
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  17. BobSilencieux

    BobSilencieux Well-Known Member

    I didn't write the TNE review. Which is probably a good thing because if I had, it would have been 3 months late and 10,000 words long.
    Here are some accolades I would give XBC:
    • Best game of the generation
    • In my top 3 games of all time (alongside Majora's Mask and Super Metroid)
    • 3rd most played game on the Wii (behind The Conduit and Goldeneye - 2 online multiplayer games)
    • Game that I spent the most time playing in one day. 16 hours. In one day. Yes I loved it that much.
    Then when I heard that @EvilTw1n couldn't get into it... well, you have been dead to me since that day. Now if you finish it and enjoy it, I can finally stop referring to you as "that Judas I used to call Eviltw1n." So, good luck!
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  18. Shoulder

    Shoulder Your Resident Beardy Bear

    With regards to your points:

    -#2 for me
    -Played it twice through on Wii, and also have it for 3DS, so want to play it on there as well
    -I think I also played a shit ton of hours with it. Even with 120 hours of game time my first play through, it took me about a month to finish. Mind you, I was not working full-time at that point, so I had extra time on my hands

    And yeah, I also felt kind of the same way. It really put into perspective how Evil he is that he crushed our hopes and dreams. What a dickhole. :mfancy:
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  19. theMightyME

    theMightyME Owner of The Total Screen

    - xbc was my favorite of the generation as well, just beating out no more heroes
    - probably my 5th favorite rpg of all time (1st is a 3 way tie between ff6, xenogears, and shadow hearts 2....after that is chrono trigger, then xbc)
    - it is similarly placed as far as music in a game... Not as good as ff6, not as good as shadow hearts 2, not as good as super metroid, right around the same level as chrono trigger and no more heroes
    - best of the oprainfall games, I was expecting the most from the last story, but that became my 3rd favorite.
    - in nearly every way I like xbc more than xcx
  20. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    III. Bionis' leg bone connected to the...good part.

    A pretty view was only gonna get you so far, Xenoblade. I had remembered that breathtaking vista, and was expecting it. It was pretty much the highlight of my past few times trying to play the game. Still, it's to the game's immense credit that the first time you step out onto Gaur Plain, it nearly knocks you on your ass again. Seeing the field stretching out before you is like what you remember as a kid when your eyes first glimpsed the ocean. How can anything be that big? We've all played sandbox games. We're all of roughly the age of seeing 3D open-world games come into their own; if your mind wasn't blown by the scope of Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time, then it was by Liberty City in GTA3.

    But Gaur Plain? That's on some other shit. And so it was this time. This is where Xenoblade begins to feel limitless, the first clue that you're not gaming in a town, or a city, or state, or an island. It's truly a world. The Plain feels like a small continent, with nooks and crannies and cliffs and landbridges galore. You can go to a pond or get eaten by a pack of roving wolves. David Attenborough should shoot a special here.

    And this time, I even wanted to go around and kill some stuff. The battle system had begun to click with me a bit here, and although I still had some moments of somewhat unfair glass-jawed knock-outs, it was a touch more tolerable. If you scour for loot, you can even get some not-100%-sweaty-papier-mâché-in-August armor. Just avoid the giant level-80 dude walking around like he owns the joint. On my first three tries of playing Xenoblade, I remember digging this area, beginning to appreciate the game here, liking Sharla*, and hating Juju. None of that changed on this play-through.

    [*Mainly because she slapped the shit out of Juju. Could watch that on a loop all day. Even Reyn is like "daaaaamn."]

    What did change is sticking around post-Xord.

    XBC kind of lets you muddle along up to this point. It gives you a gigantic, multi-tiered field to explore at your leisure for hours. Then it Sharla-smacks you with a difficulty spike against some fetish tentacle porn robot. In two parts, because of course. Even a touch under-leveled? Your armor ain't gonna help much. So you do some odd jobs and some grinding, and are rewarded with a giant Cockney-bot that you can't hurt. Because of course. Cockney-bot wants you to follow along to the next Colony, but nah, you're going to go back through a cave. A thoroughly uninspiring, maze-ish, don't-call-it-a-dungeon cave.

    The Ether Mine was such a letdown on my first few playthroughs that I never got past it. The Bionis' Leg was so badass that going into another cave felt like a terrible waste. It kinda felt that way this time, too. But. I had a better hold on the combat. And here, for the first time, I felt like I had begun to pick up armor-loot that didn't doom me to "blink and you're out" deaths. With the glass cannon sweepstakes at their end, I...stuck around. Xenoblade got its hooks into me in my least favorite part of the game (and it still is my least favorite environment). It all clicked together here for me. I wasn't running away from battles - I was instigating them. Maybe I had to throw a rock at a Mechon and get them to come to me separately from their enemy group, but I was confident in nearly every encounter. The fights I lost began to feel fair. It's amazing what a few good pieces of armor can do. That alone transformed the game for me. Before I knew it, I was gaming for hours at a time, raving to @juegosmajicos that this time I was finally starting to like it.

    ...maybe even love it? Ah, but we come back to Xord, who puts the cock back in Cockney. Dying is bad enough, but dying to this taunting bastard was sure to sour me on the game all over again.

    ...but I didn't die. Oh, I had to resuscitate my power bottom - err, good friend, Reyn - once or twice. But I had sharpened up my combat skills on plenty of Mechon en route to the boss arena. I had taken my time to practice (enchant, break, topple, chain, repeat), even started taking on multiple enemies around my level - which would have been suicide earlier in the game (again, I can't overstate how important non-crap armor is to turning this game around for me). The combat by this point had gotten damn entertaining, something I never thought I would say about this unholy MMO-a-trois. Popping last second heals, warning Reyn and Sharla, casting shields, initiating chains, resuscitating the fallen after scoring criticals...this was fun. Again, something I never thought I'd say about this combat system.

    Xord fell. And fell again. And the tendrils of a greater plot began to unfurl.

    Then, somehow, Xenoblade decided to have a full Phendrana Drifts moment on me.

    EDIT: Actually, y'know, I am gonna watch this all day.
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    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  21. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    I very much feel the same about these two.

    Xenoblade was hands down the best of operation rainfall, and easily one of the greatest games released in the past 10 years. It also felt far more polished and complete than xcx did by comparison. Although the world in xcx was better imo, the story underutilized it; it felt more like a shell with quests scattered about while xbc felt like a living breathing world complete with lore and denizens.
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  22. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    This is gonna be goooood...
  23. Shoulder

    Shoulder Your Resident Beardy Bear

    From a technical perspective, it amazes me how a game like Xenoblade Chronicles was able to achieve such vast and open worlds on a system that only had 88MB of Ram. Myself, and many others, even those on GAF will agree with me on this, XBC is one of the most technically impressive games of the 7th gen.

    As far as the rest of your thoughts goes, having the right equipment is very crucial here, but interestingly, you acquire better amour and weapons by simply playing the game. The game rewards you by simply playing it in the same way how MoHun rewards you when you continue to play the game. Eventually, it all comes together, and it clicks.

    That Phendrana Drift-like moment definitely happened in XBC. No doubt...and it wasn't just Gaur Plains that did that.
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  24. Juegos

    Juegos All mods go to heaven. Staff Member Moderator

    I've been playing XCX a little more these past few days, and I think I'm finally done with the game for the foreseeable future. I spent these past few days running around the world finding unique bosses, maxing out my level, and figuring out what it actually was going to take for me to be able to defeat some of the tougher enemies in the game. Well, I learned that I needed to buy gear with Treasure Sensor in order to be able to grind the specific materials I needed in order to make the augments required to negate specific debuffs, increase specific elemental resistances, and increase the damage I could do to specific kinds of enemies with specific elements. But first I needed to grind the miranium needed to add augment slots to the specific equipment that I planned to use for that specific enemy. When that was done, I had to grind out enough materials for two Resist Knockback XX augments for one specific boss (Dadaan, the Strongest Prone), which wasn't a big deal on its own. But after putting in a good deal of time reading about roughly how this game's mechanics actually work, having gotten an idea of what fighting endgame bosses was really like, and actually going through it by grinding for materials and fighting Dadaan, I didn't like what I thought the game had left in store for me: a shitload of grinding in every possible direction.

    To be specific, at this point in the game I have these things left to do: grinding missions in order to increase my affinity with my teammates so that I could do the affinity missions for these uninteresting characters; grinding for highly rare materials and loot in order to get the right equipment for beating any given high level tyrant (and then doing it over and over again with each different tyrant, as they deal different kinds of damage and inflict different status effects); when my current longsword/assault rifle build inevitably fails, grinding my other classes so I could have the right skills and arts to defeat the strongest bosses; grinding a ton of materials to acquire new skells, grinding miranium to add augment slots to every part and weapon of my skells, grinding the specific augments needed for any superboss that needs to be fought in a skell, and then doing it over again with every single freaking superboss that I hope to beat.

    Holy crap, this game just fell apart at the seams for me. XCX has made me feel conflicted ever since it released, and that's true now more than ever. Writing the essay this game deserves would require me to spend a long time carefully untangling this mess to find my feelings about it. But what I can definitely say for now is that I'm so glad that Breath of the Wild exists, as it's seemingly going to merge MonolithSoft's insane ambition of a massive overworld with the simplicity of a Zelda game. It might be my hubris to expect this from Breath of the Wild, but I think it could be the kind of game that XCX just couldn't be for me: not only awesome and humbling, but fun.
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  25. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    [​IMG] like I'll go from XBC to BotW, then.
    • LOL LOL x 1
  26. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    Although to be fair, most of the grinding in XCX is not necessary unless you want to beat the post game super bosses. Outside of its world, the mechs, and a few other touches though, I do feel Xenoblade Chronicles is far superior.
    • Like Like x 1
  27. Odo

    Odo Well-Known Member

    English on Wii
  28. Odo

    Odo Well-Known Member

    It ends up happening a lot with this game.

    ME: you should play XC, you should, you should, you should

    PERSON: nah, it's JRPG, I don't care about this sort of thing

    ME: do it!

    PERSON: ok

    PERSON: OMG! I've just played 10000 hours, it's brilliant

    ME: :cool:
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  29. Odo

    Odo Well-Known Member

    The first time I saw this view, I got killed by too much awesomeness. It was an Ocarina of Time moment. This game made me feel like a child again.
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  30. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    IV. Past from whence the Great Plains begin.

    If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me,
    They bury me some place I don't want to be,
    You'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously,
    Away from the swollen city-breeze, garbage bag trees,
    Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity.

    I'm a flaming heathen, it's true. But if there's some order to all of this that includes a type of purgatory, I want mine to be Satorl Marsh.


    It's almost not worth posting a picture, even the cheating up-res above. Because it still doesn't do justice to the moment (all I could get was a pixel-y example snapped on my phone that isn't worth posting). Why? It's a mere snapshot. This is a moment. Maybe you have photographs that are of particular importance to you, but the reason they still resonate is because of what was happening at that moment in time, of which you captured a snippet out of the ether. Moments are not something you cut up into pieces; they're brief, powerful experiences that echo. You have to walk, move, experience, feel.

    And hear*.

    In my time playing videogames, there haven't been many instances where I've had to put the controller down, because I needed a moment to simply be. Aerith. The first Colossus. Phendrana Drifts. A blooming Guardian Sapling. Satorl Marsh.

    The longer you play, the less likely you are to get these moments. You see too much. It all becomes routine. Huge bosses and high-res textures, giant fields and living cities...they all become less and less impressive in the perpetual one-upmanship spectacle that is the videogame medium fumbling its way towards mass entertainment, and occasionally, art. Then you have something like this. You walk into something you've never seen before. You feel something you've never felt before. You try to communicate what happened, but the words fail. You had to be there.

    I was there. Not in the game, true, but I was still there. For a fleeting moment, I was in a glowing, sunken forest, on the waist of a god-titan.

    So I suppose it's obvious that Satorl Marsh is, in my view, pretty special. The rest of this playthrough diary is probably going to consolidate some areas for the sake of overall brevity. But not here. The Marsh needs to stand on its own, because it is the glue that binds Xenoblade together. The early hours wow you with scope; only when the day fades and the trees alight does Xenoblade reach its moment of convergence, becoming something greater than code and pixels. In the foggy gloom of Satorl, Xenoblade trades in its ill-fitting shoes as an adventure. Here, it tries on being an epic.

    If the shoe fits.

    I could write a few thousand words on the feels alone, had to be there. So, on more objective grounds, why is Satorl Marsh so damn good? Layout, for one thing. The topography of the Bionis' Leg is staggering, but it isn't exactly cohesive. By virtue of its scope, it is diffuse, whereas Satorl is (relatively) compact, which allowed Monolith to craft a real gem. A wonderous swampland? Check. Mountainous terrain? Check. Secret lake? Check. Mysterious, relic landmarks? Check. Old, broken-down fortress hiding secrets? Check. A river that leads to what very nearly looks like the Doors of Durin, the entrance to the Mines of Moria? Check. ...half expected to run into the Watcher in the Water.

    Which brings me to another masterstroke of the Marsh. It is at this point in the game where it fully pulls together its strands of camaraderie, feeling very nearly Tolkein-ish. You're a band of allies on a quest. The section in which you traverse through a cave around Mauk Floodgate feels distinctly Middle Earth, as if a man, a dwarf and an elf could be doing it. It all felt like a realm in a land that really exists somewhere. Really, this is kind of unfair. It's not enough for this section of the game to be beautiful, it's not enough for the music to be enchanting, it's not enough that it's got more adventuring per square inch than most other full games, but it also manages the feat of telling a story with minimal cut-scene interludes, leaving you squarely in the wonder of the land itself.

    Oh, it's also technically brilliant and artistically clever. Behold the marsh, with and without fog. Smart, Monolithsoft. Any game can be big. But not every game makes you feel like you're truly discovering something, that you're in the thick of an extraordinary endeavor. In Satorl, you don't get the views you find elsewhere in Xenoblade that showcase the massive landmass you're exploring. Instead, you get a distinct sense of place. It's at once eerie and foreboding and enchanting in equal measure. Here, you're likely to meet a sheer cliff or a monster high above your level dropping in to say hello. It's as mysterious a place to the locals as it is to you. One gets the distinct feeling that this was once a more prosperous, lively place, since forgotten and left forlorn in the ever-present mist. Maybe that's why I felt so at home there.

    And the fauna? Good grief. By this point, I had good armor, I had confidence in my combat abilities, and I was running up against enemies that were just enough to cause me problems. Some I overcame, some I didn't. And that was OK, because I knew I would keep coming back here. Would it ever be as good as the first time? Of course not. But that's OK. One day I came home after an exhausting day at work, fired up Xenoblade, and sat on my couch with the lights off. I listened to those haunting voices gliding through the air as the trees began to glow. Everything was OK in the world, because I was somewhere else.

    I want to go on and on. But like the marsh itself, I shouldn't.

    Instead, we climb past the floodgate, briefly (and literally) into the Bionis, and beyond.

    (*It's the type of piece that works in a variety of musical settings).
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 7
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
  31. Odo

    Odo Well-Known Member

    You guys are making me want to play this game again. Don't do this, I don't have enough time... T_T
    • LOL LOL x 1
  32. Shoulder

    Shoulder Your Resident Beardy Bear


    Could not have said it better myself. I, too, felt that Satorl Marsh was rather special, and yes, when you compare it to Gaur Plains, it does appear rather tame in size. On the other hand, the clever use of the creative styles allow the marsh itself to stand above its own weight as a very significant area of the game. What you said about the music changing when the area goes into nighttime perfectly reflects how much this damp and dreary marsh becomes when the night falls.

    And also, you are making me want to continue playing it on 3DS once again.
    • Like Like x 2
  33. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    So I was talking with @mattavelle1 last night, and we came upon a topic pertinent to this thread: making a big game world worth it.

    Matt mentioned how he gave Skyrim a shot, but was kind of bored by the world. The first time I played XBC, I felt similar...mainly because I wasn't fighting a lot of enemies (take away combat, and much of playing XBC around Gaur Plain is simply pushing an analog stick - getting armor that allowed me to get into interesting fights changed this game completely). But once I got comfy with combat, the world opened up for me. I don't think XBC was bigger* than Skyrim (going by Monolith's statements, XBC would've been around 80 sq km), but it felt huge. However, if there would have been too much continuity, I think I still would've gotten bored. Having a world this big punctuated by very different looking/feeling areas was, I think, what made it special (also makes me a touch worried for if BotW lacks wild differentiation).

    What made XBC's world work, or not work, for you?

    [*I'm aware of the fan calculations of the world size, but I'll go by Monolith's word.]
    It's part of my evil plan. But seriously, I appreciate anyone even reading. I haven't wanted to write in awhile, but XBC has pushed me to do so.
    • Like Like x 3
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 2
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  34. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    For me, it was once you got past Colony 6 and had such variety in the areas. After that, each one was special, unique, and gorgeous in it's own way. The marsh, the sea during shooting stars. It all made me just stop and look around in awe.
    If everything had stayed similar to Colony 9, Colony 6, and the same plains, I feel I would have gotten bored with the world.
    • Like Like x 2
  35. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    @EvilTw1n A sense of newness, significance, or reward; those are the things that make massive worlds like Xenoblade's fun for me to play in. New areas like Guar plains or Satorl marsh give a sense of awe and spectacle, likewise the dialogue and story spent on them makes them more significant, and finally hidden area's and content that is rewarding to find (But not mandatory) fleshes these areas out. Each on their own is a powerful aspect, but when intricately connected they are more than the sum of their parts.
    • Like Like x 2
  36. simplyTravis

    simplyTravis "A nice guy, but looks like a f'n Jedi!"

    @EvilTw1n This thread has been a great read. You have captured the feel of this game in a way few people do. I can't wait to see what you think of the end and when you hop over to XCX one day.
    • Like Like x 1
  37. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    V. God's trachea, puffy Ewoks, and dinosaurs with electric basketballs.

    Before going forward, it sometimes helps to take a step back. I've glossed over some of the finer plot points of Xenoblade, which become important very soon. Xord, a giant talking robot, casually dropped a tantalizing clue in the Ether Mine. Soon after, our heroic crew managed to escape from a battle that they had no business surviving, mainly due to the timely intervention of a Bon Jovi roadie/PETA troll riding on the back of a hologram-stingray that ate a flying carpet. Then you walk into a forest where the trees glow, and from there take a brief jaunt into God's trachea.

    Like one does.

    I only paint the picture above as a reminder of how normal and natural this is in-game. It doesn't feel forced in the slightest. From Satorl, you are directed to literally walk inside of a giant god. Monolith's sound designers found a wicked squishy sound effect that makes every step feel rather disconcerting; it is exactly what I imagine walking inside the bronchial tube of a titan deity would sound and feel like. Again, normal. In retrospect, I have no idea why the fourth wall held up so well all of this time, but held it did. I was invested in this exquisite imagined land.

    And then I walked into a rain forest populated by dinosaurs with electric and fire shooting from their backs and was reminded, "oh yes, this is a Japanese Role Playing Game."

    If there were a rail guiding the progression of Xenoblade, Makna Forest is the location where its edge shows. This is an area Monolith made because they could. It's like their 1960's double album, where no outlandish idea was left on the shelf. The only answer Monolith seemed to have for the question of "Does a giant waterfall make sense here?" was to reply with another question: "Does it matter if it makes sense?" That's how you end up with horse-elk hybrids that have horns growing from their heads and their asses. It's how you create dinosaurs that inexplicably have neck glands that produce flame and electric currents. It's how you end up with spike damage.

    Dev 1: "Well, what else can we teach players in combat?"
    Dev 2: "It's kind of hard to beat break and topple."
    Dev 1: "That's it! We'll punish them for toppling a monster!"

    Yeah, not a fan. I mean, I get the idea behind it, but it's kind of silly to spend 20 or 30 hours treating the party gauge as an important tool to manage, but then decide to arbitrarily punish players for cashing it in due to some electric basketball bouncing around. However, it at least finally gives you a reason to move around on defense. In a perverse way, it frustratingly works, like dipping a french fry in a milkshake. Still, it's yet another ingredient tossed into combat (fittingly done so in the area of the game where "making sense is for plebs" is the running theme), and at this point I began to wonder if Monolith would ever just leave well enough alone. They finally got me in; they finally hooked me. Yet they weren't interested in pleasing me. At several points in this games, I attempted to wrap my arms around Xenoblade, to bury the 5-year hatchet between us. Xenoblade kept me at arm's length, though, demanding that my appreciation from a distance be as important as the embrace.

    So, incongruous fauna, yet another combat frustration, fourth wall breaking...why is Makna Forest worth a damn?


    I hate using phone-camera snaps (especially since I have to get inches from a 1080 screen scaling a 480 game), but it's a moment I had to capture. That little speck in the distance by the directional area? That's the rope bridge you first cross when entering the forest proper. I foolishly thought "nah, there's no way I can jump down there and get to the other end." Yeah, you can. And then some. You can swim the entire thing. Is it a bit of a false sense of scale, since there's so much cliff edge you won't climb? Is it pointless to have so much lake with so little to do in it? Is it a sensible use of the area?

    Does it matter if a waterfall on the shoulder of God makes sense?

    Makna Forest simply is, man.

    Of course, this is a double album, so weird fire-dinosaurs chilling around a giant waterfall isn't the end of it. There's also a race of fluffy cuddle balls that speak like Yoda, were he repeatedly punched in the face by Muhammad Ali. Apparently Monolith had a water-cooler discussion on things that need to live and die in modern RPGs, and decided that there is one trope definitely worth preserving. Listen, I get it. The Nopon, and characters like them, are cute. And we're all going to deal with them until my generation, the one that grew up with "Return of the Jedi" as our first Star Wars movie, dies off. We can't quit Ewoks, and I don't know why.

    Then again...does it matter when they live in a giant majestic tree house that is probably half as big as a Zelda dungeon, and designed as well as one? Frontier Village would be the highlight of most other games, but in Xenoblade? It can't be one. It's part of a long line of amazing sights, and it's not fair for it to be surrounded by this much badassery, but it is. If you are having a bad day, though, do yourself a favor and boot up your save file and visit this place. "Winsome" isn't a word you get to use much when discussing modern videogames, but it fits here.

    Like a clever rhythmic motif, Makna Forest revists its first and middle bars as you exit the area. When our heroes arrive, they are tasked with saving a strange girl who hails from a strange place. Around the mid-point (if you swim a lot), Shulk is introduced to our strange Bon Jovi roadie, who so happens to also hail from the same strange place. Of course, I had no idea of what land I would be traveling to when I left Makna, but Monolith had really given me the hints of where I was going.

    But not what was about to happen.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 5
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  38. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    VI. Meet the High Entia - like the elves from Lord of the Rings, but with escalators, public transportation, and fewer overall fucks to give.

    The first view of the great Eryth Sea is a humbling experience.

    Eryth Sea.jpg

    Bathed in an eerie glow, it's a marriage of the most ancient substance needed for life at your feet with unspeakable science fiction floating in the air above you. And somehow, it simply works. If Makna Forest was Monolithsoft showing off by throwing ideas against a wall, then Eryth Sea, and the city of Alcamoth above it, must have been the product of many nights of careful planning and crafting. This is the type of area that you play videogames for. No writer could possibly do it justice on paper or a computer screen; this is something you have to experience for yourself. Like Satorl, I could go on writing and writing about the little details, but I would only fail at the task of doing justice to the achievement Monolith shaped into being. Sometimes you just need to listen.

    Extant adjectives don't do this area justice. In a game full of "I can't believe I'm seeing this"-moments, this might be at the very top. You are given what might be the largest lake ever burned to a disc (up to its point in gaming history) to explore, complete with sights you can actually, y'know, go to. It's truly massive, and it kind of made me feel like an explorer (minus the whole "giving syphilis to a native population"-part). Swim far enough and there's a fantastic little island filled with enemies you won't be nearly leveled up enough to deal with, but it's all the more reason to keep it on your to-do list. And we haven't even talked about the exquisite city right above you.

    Mainly because you're kidnapped, stuck in a room, and forced to watch what seems like all of the cut scenes that Takahashi-san had to shelve when Namco decided to cut Xenosaga short. It's the cruelest of all ironies that an area this huge devolves early and often into a "watch cut scene, walk 20 feet, watch another cut scene, walk back to your room, watch another cut scene"-sort of rhythm. One of those scenarios is bad enough; it unfortunately becomes a bit of a habit for Xenoblade at this point in the game. The pacing is excruciating, and to put it mildly, an editor was badly needed here. That said? All of the momentum-killing, hackneyed plot dumping is done in the service of flipping a very specific switch. In the capital of Alcamoth, Xenoblade stops trying to be a part-time MMO. Henceforth, it's a JRPG.

    And a damn good one, at that.

    Sure, it's delayed gratification, because it always is in this game. En route to our JRPG destiny, we probably learn a bit too much about the High Entia. I get it, they're above - quite literally - all of the fighting and devastation the Homs have endured, and they just couldn't be bothered to help out defending the Bionis. These useless bastards couldn't be more self absorbed unless their high heads actually were up their own high asses. It's hard to blame them when they live in a soap opera, though. There's a king, his daughter (the strange girl you save in Makna), an odd path of succession, a secret religious cult, promises made to be broken, general melodrama, a laughably forced love triangle that never even forms, and escalators. Again, you could spill a few thousand words on all of this and not cover everything to make it sound coherent. But once all of that starts to exit stage left, there's also some amazing combat highlights - and equally painful difficulty spikes. The first is a fight with a Telethia and a human assassin in the High Entia Tomb. In short, fuck this fight. Fuck this fight with fire. I wanted to stick with Shulk as my lead, because I wanted to hit Aural seal on the regular. This means not being able to damage the assassin. If Satorl Marsh is where I would happily spend my purgatory, then this boss fight is one of the deeper levels of my personal hell. The Telethia is a bastard in its own right, but the assassin going around and killing your squad is some next-level bullshit. It took repeated tries (at least 6 or 7) to put the Telethia down; then I died because Shulk couldn't hurt the assassin and my party gauge wasn't high enough for a revive. The next day, a few more tries later (and swapping strategy to exclusively revive, heal, and seal on the Telethia, followed by heals-only on the assassin portion of the fight, and no chain attacks at any point on either foe), I finally cracked it.

    Which soon provided me the gift of unlocking Prison Island. Doing so hinged on invading two areas that are downright mean. I got angry enough that I had to put the game down. But then I remembered, "oh yeah, gems are a thing in this game." I had played probably 30-plus hours without even bothering to craft gems, or to use the fast travel system. So I went back to Colony 9, did some smelting, traveled back to Alcamoth and then promptly almost died, anyways. These twin mini fortresses were filled to the brim with enemies; their top floors were just wave after wave of near-death-experiences ("whew, that was close, glad I'm almost- WHY ARE THERE MORE OF YOU?!"). Still, I had just enough skill with the combat, just enough higher-level armor, and just enough crafted gems to see me through. I was thoroughly exhausted finishing them up.

    And then I got Phendrana-ed again.


    Seriously, I could've stood there for hours ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶S̶h̶a̶r̶l̶a̶'̶s̶ ̶a̶s̶s̶ watching the stars shooting. FFS, Monolith. Quit it. You shouldn't be allowed to jam so many moments like this into one game. I even forgive you the shitty pacing and stupid cut scene nonsense that initially greeted me in Alcamoth, because this moment made it all worthwhile. What follows this moment is nearly as good. Go ahead, watch it again. Really, that's cleverly done. There's so much going on - family, young love, imploring and quarreling amongst forces yet to be fully understood, bargaining, the set-up of a much larger plot. Most importantly, we meet Zanza, who announces himself as the creator of the Monado, and bequeaths its full power to its heir - Shulk. Zanza is then run through with a spear, but destroying his flesh is apparently a good deal easier than extinguishing his spirit. This is the moment the switch is flipped. We're out of MMO mode and we're into JRPG mode.

    Up until now, Xenoblade could feel almost leisurely. I had thought I was closer to the end than I was. Turns out I was closer to the mid-point. But the pacing of what was to come would feel breakneck in its delivery. I wasn't ready for what this game was about to do.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 5
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  39. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    As of a little bit ago, I can finally officially say that I beat Xenoblade Chronicles!

    Whew! That was a helluva ride.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 3
    • Like Like x 2
  40. Koenig

    Koenig The Architect

    You guys are tempting me to pick this up for the New 3DS. Stop that!
    (A damn shame the Switch is not backwards compatible with DS/3DS games, although I have no idea how that would work well if it did; as I would absolutely love to play games like this on the Switch)
  41. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    You totally should. That's the version I just finished. And this version could have worked on Switch since there is no second screen used.
  42. sjmartin79

    sjmartin79 White Phoenix of the Crown

    I'm going to see if I can give a long-winded summary of my personal experience with Xenoblade Chronicles. I won't be going over all the areas, or my experience with all the villains. @EvilTw1n is doing that better than I ever could. (For anyone that hasn't played the game, there will be spoilers. Warning you now. Don't read below if you don't want spoilers.)

    As I've mentioned before, when I first heard of this game, I wanted to love it. When I got it on the 3DS, I wanted to love it. But it felt like the game and I were in a push-pull relationship. The game opened up, and was all Evita-like: "Here is this lovely world with wonderful characters...

    You must love me."

    And I said, "Yes, yes I will."

    Over the course of the opening hours, I learned the combat mechanics, I enjoyed the sidequests, and I love Shulk, Reyn, and Fiora.
    Then the game decides that "I don't need you to love me", and they come up with a villain you can't hurt - yay difficulty spikes - and a storyline twist that hurt my soul.
    I was dismayed, but I kept going. But I was no longer feeling the love.

    Arriving at Guar Plain, I was stunned by the size of this new area, thinking "Wow, this is a big game." I had no idea at the time just how large this world and this game truly was.

    By this point, I hadn't recovered from the loss of Fiora, and wasn't really feeling it anymore.

    We soon meet Sharla, the annoying kid, and other refugees from Colony 6. With Sharla joining the team, things started to feel better. She's a great character and, for me, so useful for the rest of the game.

    Then we get to the point where I quit the first time. The weird tentacle monster that kidnaps the annoying kid. I just lost interest and put the game down.

    Fast forward a year, I've played and loved Xenoblade Chronicles X, so I decide I will make a go of it again. This time, I make it further. I'm in the Ether Mine with my party, not feeling it again, and all the business with my wedding forces me to stop playing this time. And I don't return to it.


    Now we're to the Switch reveal, and there pops up Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Well, now I have to play Xenoblade Chronicles again, and beat it, because I want to play the sequel on Switch, and I want to know the full story before doing so. So, here we go again, and I'm determined to push through. @EvilTw1n playing at the same time definitely helped. We were able to talk about it and encourage each other as we were going. (He did finish it 2 weeks before I did, so he was there for me the last half of the game listening to my excitement and frustration with certain parts.)

    It was definitely a combination of my love of Xenoblade Chronicles X, the encouragement of EvilTw1n, and my own stubborn determination that kept me going this time. And I'm so glad I did.

    If I hadn't, I never would have gotten to see Satorl Marsh at night (truly a thing of beauty),

    the Eryth Sea with shooting stars

    or to meet some wonderful characters like Melia and Riki (who is much better if you just read his words and don't listen to the awful voice acting. And sorry, but Tatsu in XCX was a much better character than Riki).

    The whole game, I was pulling for Reyn and Sharla, but we have the specter of Gadolt looming in the background.

    And when Melia arrived, and I could feel the chemistry with she and Shulk, and then Fiora returned. Xenoblade Chronicles became my very own super violent sci-fi soap opera. I just had to know where the story was going to go for all of them.

    I was very conflicted on the Shulk/Fiora/Melia triangle. Of course, I was drawn into Shulk and Fiora from the beginning, but once we assumed she was dead, I was okay with him finding something with Melia. Then this happened...
    And that just took everything to a whole new level. Inside I was squealing, but a part of me was also sad for Melia. Melia was strong, and she knew in her heart she couldn't compete with their history, but that didn't make it hurt for her any less. It also didn't help that she immediately saw that Fiora was a good person. It's hard to hate someone that is so kind. Then we were like "Wait, Fiora is a robot now. How will this work? Can she turn human again? Will she even survive this ordeal?" It was all a roller coaster of emotion.
    In the end, Shulk is with a now-homs-again Fiora (which made my heart very happy), and Melia is the strong, stoic leader her people need. But it doesn't make me less sad for her.


    It was probably meant to be obvious, but I never trusted Lorathia or Alvis. Just something about them. The revelation of Dickson threw me for one helluva loop though. Did not see that coming. Bravo to them for that one.

    And through it all, we had stories of omnipotence and unlimited power, and ultimate power corrupting. Free will versus destiny. Stagnation versus evolution. Everything with Zanza really makes you think. He is portrayed as the big villain, and what he was doing justified that. But then you see all the things that got him to this place and his reasoning for it. Still doesn't make it right or good, but you can see that in the beginning he wasn't doing it just to be a dick.

    In the end, the game had pulled me back in. Easily by Makna forest I was all in, and there was no turning back for me. I was hooked. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the worlds, and I loved almost all of the boss fights. (2 of them were unfair bitches - looking at you Lorathia and Zanza 2nd Form) This was a game that didn't make it easy on you. You had to work for it, but the end result was worth it. I don't remember the last game that I beat where I truly felt like I accomplished something and was proud that I did it. Xenoblade Chronicles and I have a long and complex history, but I can now say that it will go down as one of my Top 10 games of all time, could easily be Top 5.


    Now I'm ready for what's next.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 5
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    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
  43. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator


    No, for real.


    The end of this thread will be superfluous, 'cause our opinions converge all over the place for the end of this game.

    I will spend a big upcoming post on Zana, but I share pretty much all of your feels on the game. I did see the Dickson shift coming, and I had thought the heel turn of Alvis was too convenient by half...he always had more going on.

    Crap, I better get to writing so we can talk about all of this.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 3
  44. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    VII. Welcome to the dramatic End Game, which lasts about 40 hours.

    I took a small break after Prison Island. Mainly because the brief path you're directed to from Makna Forest into Valak Mountain had some enemies that wanted me to be highly dead. I built a bridge for some Ewoks and filled in the Makna map, instead. Of course, there are no "small" breaks in Xenoblade. During this playthrough, I usually started playing at about 8 p.m. After doing some more odds and ends in Makna, it was past 11 p.m. So I thought "ah, I'll go to bed and play a little bit tomorrow in the new area."

    Which was a stupid idea.

    I ended up starting early after work the next day, at about 5:30 pm. My first steps onto Valak Mountain were, well...disappointing. The topography is super steep, the camera gets a bit wonky trying to traverse the land, and although I love snow areas, this one seemed somewhat tame and bland. Its defining feature was "hey, look how steep I am." Of course, this being Xenoblade, the odds of amazing and breathtaking sights appearing increases exponentially once the sun goes down.


    I mean, sure, why not have gold light beams shoot up from the ground into the sky? And why not have grazing deer-buffalo creatures whose antlers actually freaking glow at night and give off particle effects? Why not completely transform an area from a somewhat boring, windswept mountain pass during the day into an acid trip at the North Pole at night? At this point, Monolith is showing off. They're dropping Phendrana moments like they're a dime a dozen instead of once-in-a-generation occurrences. Valak isn't particularly huge by this game's standards, but I stuck around for a few hours because...I mean, look at it. Alvis (the aforementioned Bon Jovi roadie who saves the party's bacon after the Xord fight) takes you to the temple. You learn about seers (Alvis is one himself), you explore, day turns into night. Twice. You hit plot. Boy, do you hit plot. Slight difficulty spike, frustration, grind, defeat the boss, and yeah, it's 2 a.m. again and I have to wake up in 4 hours. How have I been playing this long? After that plot, I should definitely go to bed, because that's a lot to process. The face Mechs aren't a secret anymore (their ingredients mirror that of Soylent Green), Mumkhar is an irredeemable asshat for joining their ranks and betraying his friends, Fiora isn't dead, she just isn't Fiora except when she is Fiora...

    But I'm an idiot. So I press on. Because it's actually happening - we're off the Bionis. We're going to Mechonis. To save Fiora (who had just been whisked from our grasp). Finally.

    And it's a bit of a disappointment. Sword Valley blown up to a 1080p screen is a mess. I was shocked how well Xenoblade had held up until now, especially in Makna Forest (which, despite some pop-in, was a real visual treat), but Sword Valley is the point at which time finally catches up to the game. Which would be OK, were the level itself well made and interesting. It isn't. Ramps, ramps, more ramps, blurry ramps, the odd hideout with a quest to beat a high-level Mechon. There is definitely a feeling of danger, a little bit of horror (the Mechon are draining the blood/ether from Bionis for their own ends; this is some creepy ish), and that carries this level quite far. But now I have to wake up in 2 hours.

    Fast forward through a day of work in which I dragged ass like a paraplegic burro, and I'm back at it. I'm closer than I thought to really getting through the area. The final boss here against that bastard Mumkhar was, charitably, a cluster of fuck. Again, time catches the Wii. There's enough slowdown in this boss fight (granted, featuring multiple giant Mechon) to drag the framerate into the teens - if not lower. I died - not due to underleveing, but due to this fancy moving picture show that I was tangentially connected to with a videogame controller. The payoff after trying again and a victory, though, is that...I kinda like Shulk. I mean, he's a damn mark. But Takahashi is underlying just how good he is and how connected he is to his people. There is no reason for Shulk to step between Dunban and Mumkhar, but he does it, anyways. He can't bring himself to kill a Homs - an erstwhile ally and friend - from Colony 9. This all could have come off terribly for a character that was skating the edge of being the annoying JRPG lead trope. But I thought it worked. Shulk is a good guy. Dunban is the wise one who insists on doing what must be done. There's balance here amongst the cast, which is why none of them feel tacked on or useless.

    Ah, what hell, it's only midnight, might as well go to the next area. Galahad Fortress is a touch generic, but fares far better than the early section of Sword Valley. Impressively, the feeling of danger still hangs a bit in the air. It feels like you're somewhere you definitely should not be. And it's time for bed again, because somehow it's 3 a.m.

    OK. So, by this point, Xenoblade has destroyed any semblance of a sleeping schedule or social life I may or may not have had. Even at a point when the technical faults are lining up, it doesn't matter. The JRPG switch has been firmly flipped, and we're in a full-on rush to save Fiora - and the Bionis, if we can manage it. And for once, there isn't much waiting for the next big thing. Turns out Galahad Fortress is more like Galahad Bank Vault. Sure, grinding levels on Mechonis droids stashed in what seem like big pantries is good fun, but there's not much more to it. We're in a fight against multiple mechs trying to save Fiora in short order. It is, unfortunately, another slide show. And Reyn cannot figure out what he's supposed to attack. Also, the Z-target kept flipping of its own volition (not the last time this would happen). Mechanically, Xenoblade is getting a bit too ambitious with its combat desires for its hardware reality. Still, it's tolerable, and we finally seem to be where we have wanted to be since Colony 9, since the invasion, since the flicker of hope on Prison Island. Saving Fiora.

    Except, yup, JRPG switch isn't done with us. Before there is a moment to breath, it's time for another boss battle - and the world truly flips on us. We had seen glimpses of the Gold-faced Mechon before - we even got the name Egil on Valak Mountain - but now he's bending Fiora to his will and rendering the Monado useless. And without the ability to cast an Enchant spell, that means combat itself is useless at this point. No matter, we're saved by that strange red glow emitting from Fiora...

    But we fall. Far. We had worked so long and traveled so far to infiltrate the Mechonis, but one wrong explosion now flings us from its depths to a...beach? Why, yes. Now, Xenoblade officially gets back into its element - a fantastic setting with a prime view of both the Mechonis and Bionis. Our landing spot from the Mechonis is the giant mech's own Fallen Arm. We knew the Mechonis had lost its arm from the opening cinematic, but Monolith being Monolith decided, "yeah, we have to use that."

    I don't know how many hours have passed of me playing by this point. I'm now playing to the point of birds chirping outside to introduce the morning. I don't want to stop playing, I want to keep-

    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 6
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  45. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    So, as I was saying.

    VIII. "When lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner."

    Above, the gods quarrel. It's a deathly quiet argument, but quarrel they do.

    Back down on the Fallen Arm, on perhaps the greatest beach ever conceived by game design, after the kiss that could have come off as pure Velveeta but instead actually worked, Xenoblade takes a small turn as a slice of life anime. I had spent dozens of hours by this point with Shulk, Reyn, and Sharla as my party, so it was more than a little disjointing to have brief control of a completely different trio. Dunban, I reasoned, must lead this group, but it would have helped had I bothered to put decent armor on him. This portion, and the next adventure back into Mechonis, give us a little shade of character development. Thankfully, Takahashi-san had gotten most of the 20-minute "cut scene, walk, cut scene" pacing out of the way. There's nothing revelatory here, character-wise, but everyone gets a little moment to shine.

    But before walking back from the mech whence we came, the island. By the standards of this game, it's downright compact. Yet somehow, it's still filled with sidequests and enemies leveled just high enough to cause you headaches. Oh, and a bunch of mech-people who begin to turn the plot onto its head. Hmm. Mech-people turn out to not only be nice, but have the most impressive jiggle physics of the game, because Japan. I would say it's far more interesting that Miquol, the king of the Machina, wants me to go kill his son, Egil, but seriously, in a world filled with all-seeing swords and giant robots, why is there a cleavage anti-gravity machine? JRPG, Q.E.D.

    But alas, I have a son to go kill. The Machina aren't too happy with Egil's vengeance porn addiction. His penchant for butchery has not made him friends with his people, and the cruelty of his actions leads one to wonder what would fill a man with that much hate to begin with? One way to find out, I suppose, which unfortunately means leaving best vacation spot ever. It would suck to leave that beach were it not for the views en route to Mechonis. This was nothing sort of a masterstroke. There your band of heroes are, looking wistfully back home. The poor, dying Bionis. We see it from afar in a different light. Mortally wounded, perpetually under attack, and having its life force siphoned away by machines. Who wouldn't want to save it?

    So we climb. Boy, do we climb. This is the part where I would usually post a picture, but I can't find a good enough one. You had to be there. This might all be a part of one big zone load, but it feels so seamless in the moment. Like skydiving or drunken sex against a car, scaling the height of the Mechonis is something you should do once in your life. Then, you have to walk indoors, into Mechonis, which should suck after Sword Valley and Gallahad Fortress. I had thought Monolith might have exhausted their creative flame on the biological environments and left the mechanical ones adrift. I was wrong. Mechonis Field and the Central Factory are the bees' testicles, or the dog's knees, or whatever it is people on the internet say now.


    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It should go without saying, but no. Really.

    It really feels like you're in a giant effing robot. This is a spot to, once again, spill a few thousand words. But I can't. It's conveyor belts, and stupidly high ceilings, and lifts, and switches, and Mechon grunts who are overpowered enough to keep leveling you up (and because I was finally adept at this battle system, level up, I did). It's mini-bosses and elevators. It's 10-story high mantis-looking robots who Reyn quizzically asks "are we really doing this?!" when I foolishly try to take them on. It's more linear than the best areas on Bionis, true, but it feels alive. It feels dangerous, like you're running into antibodies protecting the Mechonis itself from a foreign disease creeping in.

    Hours spent in these two areas? I have no idea. The memories have all bled together like a summer night I lived to regret and love. This is the real grist of this game's style of adventure, where you're left to your own devices and have to sink or swim via your adeptness in battle and your armor hoarding and matching, as well as gem crafting (which by this point had become a necessity; woe be the gamer without some fine II and III level gems by now). In these two areas, plot takes a back seat to the simple pleasure of kicking a whole bunch of robot ass and traversing through ever-more-staggering scenery. Well...with one rather large exception.

    By this point, we have learned that the Faces were a science experiment gone...well, right. The Monado could not hurt humans, so Egil had the bright idea of splicing humans into machines, and voila, problem solved (a Mechon hybrid that the Monado could not touch). The flaw in this plan, though, was the human component. Fiora's redemption was due, in large part, to her love for Shulk. But that required a redemption of a higher power.

    Gadolt had been in the shadow of this game's plot for hours. He is the link of our main characters, why Sharla can see in Shulk and Reyn kindred spirits, because they've all lost someone important to them. His reappearance was expected, foreshadowed, built up, but there's still a bit of a gut punch in actually seeing him. Maybe I just had a soft spot for Sharla, but damn, you had to feel for her. Hope flickers, though, because Fiora has already proven that a human can walk out of the fog of being made metal. Gadolt can be redeemed. Because Sharla is still there, rifle in hand, ready to beat his ass back to his senses. His initial boss fight, in the transition between Mechonis Field and Central Factory, leads us to believe him a lost cause.

    But this is Xenoblade. You never get it right. Not on your first try. We don't even get Gadolt's best shot.

    That would come soon enough.

    Turns out Monolithsoft had been hoarding bosses.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 6
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  46. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    [Alright, I promised myself to finish Xenoblade before Breath of the Wild. So now I'm promising myself to finish this journal before XBC2.]

    IX. What if they moved?

    It was always there in the back of my mind, since the opening cinematic, since I watched the simultaneous deaths the titans. They had to remain frozen...right? Right. For all of Xenoblade's impeccable spirit of adventure, there's an underlying melancholy to it all. Of course the Bionis and Mechonis had died, and there was no coming back. It would take the power of a god to breath life into them, and the closest thing we saw to a deity had a spear pierce his almighty heart back on Prison Island. Of course, he still managed to say a few words to Alvis after that, so he must exist somewhere...

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. There is still more exploring to do. If the Central Factory was like fighting in the artificial heart of an anime mech, then the trip to its head is like the over-active dreamscape of a Gundam. Agniratha, the capital of the Mechonis, is positively crawling with activity - you can pretty much pick a boss-level fight in nearly any part of the city, from Face-like mecha to spider-tanks to flying metal wasps. Sound like a lot of action? It's more than that. It's too much action. Odds are that finding yourself fighting one Mechon (there are literally level 65+ "Mass-Produced Face" mechs just hanging out that would be a boss in most other parts of the game) means another will happily wander over to join the fray. As a result, the framerate takes a pounding here like in no other part of the game, frequently turning into a bit of a slideshow. However, to the credit of the battle system that I used to despise, it is more than up to the challenge of taking on multiple high-level enemies. It's not all slicing metal - there are some quests to fill your time - but Agniratha is an area that can level you up in short order. In fact, I began to feel a bit over-powered. Back in the days of the glass-cannon sweepstakes in Tephra Cave, I wouldn't dream of running up to an enemy above my level, let alone multiple enemies. In Agniratha? That's simply what one does.

    Vanea, daughter of Miquol (and sister to Egil), met us on our journey to the capital and dropped some knowledge bombs to upend the entire plot, for good measure. It turns out that after Fiora had been "killed" in Colony 9, and her body taken to Mechonis, Vanea brought her back to life using a mixture of the technology used to create "Face" Mechon and - more importantly - by transferring the soul of Meyneth, god of Machina, into Fiora. Why would Meyneth choose Fiora? Because Meyneth is no fool. She knows that Fiora is close to Shulk, the heir to the Monado, a weapon powerful enough to slay either titan, and allying with that force is of paramount importance. And that whole "Mechs are evil and Homs are good"-story? A good deal more complicated than that. The Bionis struck first, and it was Zanza (soul of the organic titan, god of Homs) behind it all. The entire war between Bionis and Mechonis really comes down to that battle in the first cinematic, which is Zanza attacking Meyneth. Neither god died. The High Entia wisely took advantage of Zanza's severe battle wounds and sealed him away on Prison Island. Almost all Machina fled to the Fallen Arm after Meyneth went into an eons-long slumber, to strengthen herself for the day the battle would recommence. Relative peace reigned until Egil (Vanea's brother, for those keeping score at home) decided it was high time for the Machina to get some payback. He is the one who orchestrated the attacks on the Bionis, including the opening siege on Colony 9 that killed Fiora.


    So, to recap:
    -Zanza attacks Meyneth.
    -Egil is barbaric and kills Fiora, but he's trying to exact revenge from Zanza's attack on Meyneth.
    -Our merry band of Homs is retaliating on Egil's attack.
    -Shulk inadvertently frees Zanza.
    -Zanza, feeling frisky after a snooze, unlocks the full power of the Monado to Shulk.
    -Fiora is brought back to life with Meyneth's aid.
    -Reyn doesn't understand holograms, but that's not important.

    Whew. Took 60-ish hours, but there we are. Some people may bemoan that Tetsuya Takahashi makes dense stories, but you can't fault him for lack of ambition. Xenoblade is a reach for the high of myth. So, all of that said? It's time time to go stop Egil, even though we understand the tragedy of his life. After wading back into the quasi-boss battles of Agniratha, we hit the wall of a genuine boss battle. Gadolt pilots the Jade Face Mechon, and he's in no hurry to let us go make war with Egil.

    Remember all of that high-level grinding against powerful enemies all around the city? This was the reason. Gadolt isn't so much a difficulty spike as he is a difficulty schism. I got my ass handed to me enough that I went back to grinding. The reward for surviving his boss battle? The second part of his boss battle, of course, which might rank up their with my proudest achievements in gaming. There's nothing quite like coming back from being down to 6 HP and winning. Gadolt is a worthy adversary, and subduing him, trying to bring him back to his senses for Sharla's sake, is one of this game's most satisfying achievements.

    Man, sure am glad I can rest now and rela-oh wait, it's another boss battle.

    Vanea couldn't talk sense into Egil, so we go straight into battle with him (and some of his cheapest, most infuriating, Mechon buddies). After many healing arts and a lot of frustration, Egil takes a breather and...gets into Yaldabaoth, the Gold Face Mechon. Which is just fantastic, because who needs a breather when it's 4 a.m.? No matter, it's a relatively quick battle. Egil doesn't really have time for us. He, within Yaldabaoth, offers his soul to the Mechonis. He isn't a god, but remember all of that ether being siphoned off the Bionis? Welcome to its use. A shudder, a bolt. An energy rips through Agniratha. The force of the blast reaches closer to our heroes, closer to their path, closer to their very backs. But no closer. Gadolt, battered and beaten, but himself once more, sacrifices himself to give Sharla and her friends time to jump from the Mechonis. His selflessness is so powerful that it awakens Meyneth to her former power, however briefly, as she shields the party from their fall.

    And it happens. The awakening.

    The Mechonis moves.
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    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  47. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    X. Do you like boss battles? I hope you like boss battles. 'Cause we gotta lotta boss battles.

    The High Entia picked the wrong time for a counter-attack. All of that cloak and dagger, cut-scene drenched politicking back in Alcamoth? After much hand wringing, they finally put their butts in gear to strike back at Egil. Their reward? Egil reawakening the Mechonis, moving what was moments-ago Sword Valley back into its place as a cutlass of the gods.

    If you've played games long enough, you've experienced more than your share of "I can't believe that happened!" moments. This, though? The Mechonis, living once more, destroying a huge level you had been on mere hours before? For me, I put this near the top of mind-blowing, only-happening-in-videogames lore. Xenoblade, for all of its scale, is not really an open-world game. But it feels bigger than nearly any other adventure I can think of, and it's because of this sort of moment. This game has you exploring living continents, living worlds.

    When we last left our party, they were being held in mid-air by Meyneth. However, her strength isn't what it once was, and she can only hold on for so long. Thankfully, Miquol (the king of the Machina, who we met on the Fallen Arm) arrives to break our fall. It turns out Alvis came to warn them. He's a seer, remember? Funny thing how that guy always turns up at these pivotal moments.

    ...this has been a lot of plot lately, hasn't it? Well, there's gonna be more. The JRPG switch is real, my friends. At this point, some 70-hours into the game, Xenoblade has begun to deliver on every secret it has been keeping. You can always step aside, do some heart-to-hearts, visit prior areas, but Monolithsoft has structured the game in such a way that it's hard to look away from the prize by now. We are, of course, not out of extraordinary sights. Once landing back within the Mechonis, you are directed to the central Apocrypha Generator (which needs to be destroyed, as it has been running a sort of interference to keep the Monado below full strength) via a narrow passageway. But below that? Oh, just the entire central factory that you passed through hours earlier. And no, it's not merely a picture; you can go down there and explore the whole damn area again, if you'd like. If you needed reminding, this game tosses out vistas that would be highlights in other games like they're nothing. By this point, I'm numb to it. I expect grand views of stupendous landscapes within mythical realms. It's a low-resolution Wii game, but I don't care. I've never felt a world this imaginative feel this cohesive. I went for a quick visit to the central factory, in all of its steamy, rusty, glowing-orange glory, because I could.

    So, who likes boss battles? The Apocrypha Generator itself is a boss. Destroy it, restore the Monado's full power, and you...go to fight Egil in his shiny Gold Face Yaldabaoth. Wear him down and you are rewarded They completely surround Yaldabaoth, which activates a challenge (knock out three power generators while those high-level mechs try to make you very dead). Shulk sees a vision of the Mechonis delivering a death-blow to Bionis, so you have to make quick work of them. Defeat those mini-bosses, and you can go back to actual-boss Egil, who - mercifully - should be near defeat by now. By the way, this whole scene? Takes place in the eye of the Mechonis with a view out to the Bionis. Melia can literally see her house from there. How's that for scale? This is really a tiny arena fight on scaffolding, but it feels like so much more. The areas we are watching from the eye are places we explored.

    Defeating Egil creates a bigger problem for poor Shulk. A voice awakens with him, much in the same way Meyneth's voice awoke within Fiora. Egil, for his part, gives us a plot dump. He was once friends with Arglas, who would go on to wield the Monado. Its power, and its will, overtook Arglas. And then, the real bombshell: "The Monado is Zanza." The vengeful deity of the Bionis merely uses its inhabitants as temporary physical repositories, while the blade houses his soul. But Shulk? He's different; he hasn't fallen to the Monado, to Zanza. Maybe peace is an option? At this moment, it looks like we're about to see the credits roll. Then Dickson, shady through the entire game, shoots Shulk and reveals not only his true colors, but Shulk's. Dickson? A disciple of Zanza in disguise. Shulk? The moment he touched the Monado, he effectively became a shell; Zanza's soul resided in him in a dormant state. With the elimination of Arglas' flesh, and Shulk maturing to master the Monado's arts, Zanza fully awakened. In a blinding light, he was reborn. Mostly. You see, as a creator god, all living things must return to him in order for him to be whole. That includes the world and beings of the Bionis itself. Zanza is bent on annihilation.

    But if Zanza needed a host to get to this point...well, you can fill in the blank. So did Meyneth, who has been living within Fiora. Which means Meyneth has been concealing a mighty weapon - her own Monado.

    Oh, you thought we were done with boss fights? Of course not. Next up?



    Aaaaaand it's a let-down. Back in Agniratha, bosses were a dime a dozen, the best of them two-part affairs. Fiora/Meyneth vs. Zanza is over in under 5 minutes, and it's a crying shame. The incarnate forms of Bionis and Mechonis are having a fight, and this is all that we get? We're back in a cut scene before we can even get through a cooldown for all of the arts in our arsenal. Meyneth was apparently not fully healed or at full strength, but she separates from Fiora (to take her true form) as a last ditch effort to save whatever still lives inside Shulk, who is the only being who has shown the power to resist Zanza.

    Meyneth dies, as much as a god can die in this world. Zanza inherits her Monado and bends it to his own design. Our party makes for their ship and escapes - right in time to watch the Mechonis, that beautiful robot that was such an amazing experience to visit, fall into a pile of debris. Ruined. At this point, it kinda looks like things are about to get out of hand.

    I need time to process all of this. Hopefully we can land the ship and talk this over - wait, why is there another boss fight starting?
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 4
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  48. GaemzDood

    GaemzDood Well-Known Member

    This game looks absolutely stunning on Dolphin with an HD texture pack.


    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
  49. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    XI. A capricious god, a dead boy, and a computer walk into space.

    Give Zanza one thing: he's one hell of a strategist.

    The High Entia, who he bestowed with the intelligence to partially imprison him? He also cursed their genetics with a hideous, latent form - Telethia. An over-exposure to ether, and voila, a carnivorous killing force that will return all living beings to the Bionis. Upon felling the Mechonis, Zanza has to barely lift a finger to destroy all life, returning him to his former strength. By claiming Meyneth's Monado, he now only has to wait for omnipotence while safely ensconced within Prison Island, which he has buried into the Bionis itself for safe keeping.

    It is a Telethia that greets us upon escaping Mechonis. With Shulk incapacitated, we are no match for it, but the intelligence of the High Entia is not so easily subsumed. Melia's brother, freshly transformed into a Telethia, uses his newfound powers to grant our party room for an escape. As for Melia? She, and all other High Entia of half-Homs lineage, don't have the genetic time bomb within them.

    While Shulk heals up with some help from the Machina, and Fiora (now dying without Meyneth's sustaining power) copes with her fate, Alvis foreshadows the penultimate plot dump. While the rest of the survivors wish to go to war with Zanza, he doubts the wisdom of it. Can resisting god achieve anything? Whether they fall in battle, or in old age, they will invariably die, returning to the Bionis. To Zanza, the end-result is not only the same, but necessary. If no life returns to the Bionis, there is no Zanza. However, there is a vulnerability to the gods. A soul, even a god's, cannot perpetually exist in a vacuum - that is why Zanza and Meyneth took physical forms at all. Flesh, even god-made-flesh, is still vulnerable. And Shulk, who learned how to see and change the future through the Monado, is a unique threat to Zanza. How omniscient is god if the fate he has prescribed can be thwarted by a mortal?

    You need a beer? I need a beer. Takahashi-san has turned the theology knob past 11, but thankfully this section is winding up. Dickson, with a squadron of Telethia, has discovered our band back in their hiding place at Colony 6. Shulk wakes up, grabs a Machina-made replacement Monado, and joins the fight. More importantly, he now sees the future without the real Monado (turns out that the sword of god was a means to an end, not an end unto itself). The Telethia fall, and fall, and fall, in a marathon of boss fights. Then Alvis makes good on his earlier ruminations on the divine, and sides with Zanza. He and Dickson flee to Prison Island, now within the Bionis. However, that's not as well hidden a place as it sounds. Egil, in one last act of redemption, had used Mechonis to punch a hole in the Bionis. And so we go to meet our fate, in the chest of a mad titan. Yes, that is as awesome as it sounds.


    Yes, that's a giant heart surrounded by artery land bridges, blood cells the size of office buildings, ether waterfalls, and semi-transparent living enemies. And you can explore all of it.

    After a few hours of melodrama and philosophy, Xenoblade finally gets back to what it does best - exploring the impossible. Bionis' Interior is a pastel-and-aqua tour de force. It's unnerving, with that beating heart making you question if you're hearing the game or if your own chest is about to explode. It's also dangerous. Yes, you can traverse those artery bridges, but you are likely to be cornered by a high-level Telethia patrolling the area and knocking you down to your death (allies inflicted with confuse routinely walk off ledges). Those bridges are also quite easy to get lost on, as they intersect and bisect in ways that suggest a map designer sneezed while pressing "save." Sadly, what you first see when you walk in the door is pretty much all that you get here. Unlike Xenoblade's other large areas, which contain interesting terrain to explore, the Bionis' Interior is almost entirely thin, pink artery bridges covered in cilia. Don't get me wrong, I like it. I appreciate the scale and imagination, and it was absolutely necessary to get some time in walking around a giant area again, uninterrupted by cut scenes. But I don't think it's giving this section short shrift to say that the imagination of the design carries the day here more than the fun factor of navigating the area. Still, how can I argue when I really feel like I'm in the chest of a giant god?

    The boss fight is, of course, within that heart. And it's a doozy. The arena for this encounter is surrounded by a bile-y ether liquid that will quickly drain your party's health. Your foe? Lorithia, a traitor of the High Entia riding a giant Telethia (that will often push you into the ether) that happens to be Melia's brother. This might have been the only boss that made me want to throw my controller. The environmental damage is truly punishing. Victory opens up a black rip within the heart of Bionis - the portal to Prison Island.

    It has changed a bit since last time. It's darker, crawling with more dangerous foes, with new areas opened up. Prison Island would feel like a simplified, Gothic Zelda dungeon, were it not for the Battle Arena in which Dickson tosses a boss rush at you. The combat system I once bemoaned sings here; the non-blockable damage you take in these battles makes for a delicate balancing act of using arts without painting an aggro target on your face. Conquering these foes gains you the honor of...facing another boss. A Dragon. A Dragon King. I admit that I lucked out here. I've read plenty of comments of people getting stuck on this boss. I beat it on my first try, although every party revive was nearly a game-over experience.

    Instead, I got stuck on the next boss - Dickson. "Save before the boss." Xenoblade knows its tropes, doesn't it? Dickson's attacks are devastating - spike, paralysis, and topple damage for days. I tried, failed, tried, failed, tried, failed. I knew I was under-leveled. So I left.

    I took a detour to Satorl Marsh, back to my favorite area to do some exploring and questing. After so much plot, it was refreshing. The pace of Xenoblade's back half is exhausting; the storyline is doled out in heaping helpings. It's compelling, and I couldn't look away, but this break was needed. Just look back at the past few entries - there is so much narrative jam packed into a few dozen hours that it's easy to forget that you could jump away anytime you wanted to a place like this, or Makna, or Eryth Sea. I found new areas, took on monsters I wouldn't have dreamed of attacking before, and drank in the haunting fog. To be honest, it felt bittersweet. This was goodbye. I knew that when I went back to Prison Island to fight Dickson, I couldn't come back.

    And so it was. With a helping hand from the party, Shulk lands a critical blow. In the moment of the final reckoning, Dickson delivers the ultimate troll: "This martyr stuff's not for me." With a wave of his hand, he walks away to die alone. Shulk, briefly pausing, weeps for the man he once considered a father figure. On any other day, it would be an occasion to mourn. But on this day, there is a nether world, between time and space, where the boy who died will meet the order behind it all.

    The god of creation is waiting.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 3
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  50. EvilTw1n

    EvilTw1n Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. Staff Member Moderator

    XII. Theodicy

    Did we die? Where are we? Beneath our feet, stars. In front of our eyes, a strange sight for our party - balls of rock and gas that pose no resemblance to their home world of Bionis. Defeating Dickson has granted us entry to the in-between, the place where gods play with time and space, the universe itself. Walking into this strange vacuum, we are greeted by memories, echoes of our past foes - Mumkhar, Xord, Telethia, Gadolt.

    The stops on our tour are an omen for who we will soon meet. Saturn, father of gods and time. Jupiter, god of the heavens. Mars, god of war. The Moon, representing many interpretations of god. Finally a glimpse of Earth, home to mythology, but utterly foreign to our heroes. A voice blooms from everywhere and nowhere at once. It's Alvis. He is no mere traitor; he has power here, in this strange place. We are informed of the choice we will soon need to make, and are then, in a blinding light, taken to our fate. Zanza.

    He has changed. Zanza informs us that he had meant to use the body he obtained from Shulk, but he got an unexpected gift that changed his plans - Meyneth's Monado. Now, with both Monados, he has been granted power over creation itself. The plan for Bionis, and all life on it, no longer applies. The plan to rule the beyond is within reach. An offer of discipleship is made, since Shulk has been integral to this development (after all, Meyneth sacrificed herself for him). But Shulk is a Homs. He only wishes for the right to live the life he had.

    And in this, there is a parting of ways. Homs, High Entia, Machina, all of their views on right and wrong are constrained. They see life only as far as their creator has provided them vision and intelligence. Zanza's visions are that of a god, and are thus considerably more reaching. To a creature born on Bionis, the slaughter of anyone living there seems to be a high crime. But to a god? It was always part of the plan. However, even to the divine, it's a lonely existence if there is no one to share creation with. That is why Zanza imparted intelligence on his creations, which provided him company and companionship. Unfortunately, this intelligence created a problem - a desire to leave god's path. Arglas (the giant who had been friends with Egil eons ago, and who had been Zanza's original physical host) wished to see the world beyond Bionis. But the great organic titan could only live due to a constant cycle of its beings living and dying on it - life is literally food. To leave Bionis is to break that cycle, taking life from it. Zanza only desired friendship. Instead, the natural curiosity he imparted to his creations imperiled his existence. Meyneth accepted this fate as a natural outcome, and chose to live alongside her creations, not above them. The response of Zanza, the lonely god, is all too human - war.

    The boss fight that follows is a multi-part affair, with multiple cut scenes, with a god taking multiple forms. Zanza is first a winged, giant High-Entia/Homs, then a Bionis-Mechonis hybrid. Shulk is, of course, still having visions, granting him the power to change the future (something Zanza considers the exclusive right of gods). His visions were always internal, but here in the battle of the in-between, his visions manifest as a third Monado, a mighty weapon. It all plays out in a heaven of morphing backgrounds, to a soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Wagner and metal. For all of Xenoblade's grand scope, this moment manages to feel largest of all. And it's damn difficult. The game, up to this point, lets you be pretty free with your usage of Monado arts. Here, you must be disciplined. Sloppy play is not tolerated; change the future, or die.

    The final reveal is a flashback. Zanza and Meyneth were once mortals, heading a grand science project - a huge particle accelerator/collider ringing the Earth. Alvis was the onboard computer responsible for all operations. Zanza was the foolishly ambitious man, Meyneth the wise woman who tried to stop him. The experiment destroyed the existing universe, but simultaneously created a new one, with the chief players reborn as elemental forces in this new universe. Zanza became Bionis, dynamic but cold. Meyneth became Mechonis, precise but benevolent. Alvis, the computational rule book that destroyed the old universe, became Monado. All things flow from Monado, which acts as the fundamental scientific laws of the new universe. The "Monado" swords in the physical realms are merely physical representations of natural law. Zanza, in his part as creator of all things on Bionis, eventually created Shulk to be his physical host, which gave the boy the peculiar ability to wield Monado. The symmetry is striking. In the old universe, the being who would become Zanza was born with the ability to end all things. In the new universe, Shulk was born with the same potential.

    Back to the clash for being, and the battle is hard-fought. Eventually, our heroes subdue Zanza, and Shulk is given a choice. He wields Monado, the sword of creation, but what he really wants is a world in which all living beings aren't mere playthings of the gods. He briefly ruminates that the future he desires was possible; if Zanza were as wise as Meyneth, none of this would have happened. But it did. Shulk chooses, to Alvis, to Monado, to reboot the universe so that it exists without the need for volatile gods.

    And so it is. Our heroes survive, but their world is morphed. Colony 9 still exists, but it's questionable where it exists, as Bionis may have morphed into a more conventional planet. The disparate races all live together, moving toward a future that will be decided by their own will, not that of a god.

    The game ends, but a gnawing feeling remained inside me for weeks after the credits rolled. Because I killed god over a misunderstanding. It couldn't have been any other way, due to the nature of Zanza's psychology, but it still happened. And all of those memories of exploring Bionis? They are not tainted, but they're far more multifarious. Traversing the wilderness as Homs felt like exploring home, but now I know that home really wanted me dead. How do you reconcile that? How does Satorl Marsh remain close to my heart when its deepest wish was to rip mine out? How do I even stay angry with Zanza, when he was god, and it was me who defied his will and plan? All that remains is yearning for the days before I knew this destiny.

    Five years. It took half a decade for me to get here. I expected to gnash my teeth through this adventure, but I ended up spending 80 hours in love with it. Yes, it is now low-resolution by today's standards. Yes, the anime trappings are everywhere (never play a drinking game with this if you plan on taking a shot after every time someone's name is gasped, followed by ellipses). Yes, the pacing is all over the place. Yes, I'm in love with it, regardless.

    Xenoblade is the most complicated game I have ever played. It's hard for me to go very long without thinking about it now.
    • R.A.P. R.A.P. x 4
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017

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