It is that time of the year again. E3 looms, no longer on the distant horizon, and games and hardware of which we know naught shall be at long last revealed. At the same time, those games that we know quite a bit about will continue to release new information. One game that falls squarely in the middle of those descriptions is Monolith Soft’s X.
X was announced with a reveal trailer in the January 2013 Nintendo Direct broadcast. From the creators of Xenoblade Chronicles, the game appears to be a spiritual sequel of sorts. That is the thing, though: we don’t really know anything else about the game. Thus far, we have two trailers, neither explaining what the game is about or how it will work aside from exceptionally vague hints, and one video showing us the battle system. That is it. We do not even know the official name yet! But as it so often does, E3 offers hope. With the game’s release inevitably growing closer, the time has almost come for details and cold, hard facts to be unveiled about Monolith Soft’s latest. So naturally, no time is better than the present to begin speculating, hoping, and wishing for what this game might offer.
It Does Not Rely On Superior Hardware
One of the things that I found most remarkable about Xenoblade Chronicles were the visuals and that should not have been so. The Wii did not allow for incredibly huge, yet supremely detailed, areas, but somehow, they did it. Textures weren’t always perfect, character models were iffy, and objects would suddenly pop in at times, but they still managed to make the game absolutely, completely, and utterly gorgeous.
Who could forget seeing the boundless plains and massive hills of the Bionis’ Leg? Who could forget ether illuminating the night in stunning ways at Satorl Marsh and Valak Mountain? What about viewing the shooting stars at Eryth Sea? Xenoblade Chronicles was beautiful not because of the number of polygons, but because the team focused on the art to achieve something breathtaking. I find myself fearing that X may rely on hardware superiority too much. However, the footage we’ve seen so far has been nothing short of incredible; some of the backgrounds are jaw-dropping and the art department has clearly gone all out to make a stunning world to explore.
Even still, I can’t help but worry that something might end up missing. It could simply be the slightly darker color scheme that the developers have chosen and, if that is the case, that would be crazy. One should not hold something against a game simply because it takes a different stylistic approach than its predecessor. Either way, I just hope that the developers don’t focus so much on making massive, detailed worlds that they forget to make them uniquely beautiful as well.
In the trailers, there has been many instances where it seems almost certain that there will be multiplayer in some fashion. Both chat boxes where different players appear to be communicating and different characters going off and doing things out of the player’s control have been shown. Multiplayer has been all but confirmed, but to what lengths will the game include it?
Well, hopefully, quite a bit. Ideally, the entire story campaign will be available to play with others joining in the fun. I don’t know how exactly it could work, as players undoubtedly will advance through the story at different times when playing separately, but from a gameplay perspective, it would be fantastic. It is not hard to imagine playing Xenoblade with other players taking control of the rest of the team manually. So long as the entire game does not lose anything in single-player due to the addition, it would be brilliant to have not just an additional mode, but the entire main game available to have friends along for the ride.
From what we have seen, it will clearly be an online feature if it does, in fact, happen. Since we’re dreaming here, though, how about having it available locally as well? Imagine being able to jump into a massive JRPG with your friends right beside you; otherss such as Tales of Symphonia, have successfully attempted this in the past. Again, I am not sure how it would work exactly, with all the different control options and the need to split the screen to make it work, but just think how cool it would be.
Keep Side Quests Massive — But Easier To Track And Find
If there is one thing that Xenoblade did that was both a positive and a negative, it was the side quests. There were tons of them. On the one hand, they helped make the world feel much more alive, as well as encouraged exploration of a beautiful world, and added even more additional content to an already huge game. Seeking out and completing the 400 side quests is a challenge, to be sure. In some ways, there being such a huge amount — many being nearly impossible to find and complete — adds a lot to the game. But on the other hand, there is something that just feels wrong about so many quests being so close to impossible to complete without a walkthrough. Possibly as many as a hundred of Xenoblade‘s quests expired after passing a certain point in the story, even extremely major quests like Colony 6.
It is just unfair, especially for such a massive game. Not allowing players to complete everything the game offers just because they didn’t pick up enough of an object in an area that would later become inaccessible is frankly a bit ridiculous, even on a second playthrough. This is especially true for the Colony 6 quests, in which you would not even know that there is a limited amount of time to gather some of the items. Additionally, many side quests are basically impossible to find and the game does not indicate whether or not you have found every side quest that is offered. Without a walkthrough, few people will be capable of accomplishing everything that is possible. So with X, I hope for two things: no timed quests and the option to know when every quest and special enemy for an area has been completed. Also, perhaps have the exclamation marks indicating a quest giver show up on the mini-map before you’re basically right on top of it.
Well, this one goes without saying, but generally improved combat would be fantastic. Xenoblade‘s was arguably great; it did a stellar job at making major confrontations intense and challenging, while fighting the average enemy was never boring, yet rarely extremely hard, making it so that grinding and side quests were not frustrating.
That said, it had kind of lost its luster by the end of the game. Once major skills and characters stopped being introduced, it sort of fell into a rut for a while. Enemy types were reused and at this point, most strategy and character set-ups were locked in. For much of the game’s second half, it began to feel repetitive, so let’s try to avoid that in X. Keep the enemies changing noticeably — at the very least visually — and make sure that players aren’t allowed to fall into a rut by introducing new options regularly to keep us on our toes. The addition of mechs and changing weapons should certainly allow for such things but, no matter how improved the combat may be, make sure it stays interesting for the entire experience.
Release This Year If It Is Ready
At an investor’s meeting, Nintendo listed X for 2014 in all major territories. This is by no means a direct confirmation, but it certainly bodes well. Needless to say, I would love it if the game released this year. The sooner we can play it, the better, and ideally, that means it releases by the end of 2014.
But only if it is ready. If the game has to sacrifice anything to release by the end of the year, I would rather X be delayed. I cannot speak for everyone, but I personally would prefer the best game possible to a game not quite as good that releases earlier. The game has been in development for a long time, so the game hitting a worldwide 2014 window certainly seems feasible, but if the game ends up rushed to make the deadline, it is not worth it. As a certain man once said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
Xenoblade Chronicles being my favorite game of all time may give me some rose-colored glasses in this area, but be that as it may, there are still many things I hope the team changes going forward. X has the potential to be one of the Wii U’s most important games and I, for one, cannot wait to see it fully unveiled.