In a season when Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 rule the roost, you might expect Wii U devotees to be feeling starved of open world games in which to lose themselves. But with the formidable Xenoblade Chronicles X, Nintendo stalwarts have an audacious exclusive that’s every bit as good as the competition, and is arguably the finest freewheeling adventure of them all.
Staged in the verdant, unspoiled world of Mira, XCX is the story of the last remnants of humanity, who are forced to abandon Earth when it’s devastated by mysterious alien forces. A colossal escape ship, the White Whale, narrowly dodges the carnage – but once it crashes on Mira and the city of New Los Angeles is established, fearless pioneers step out into uncharted territory to gather resources, defeat towering monsters, and lay the foundations for a brave new world.
Although the Wii U lacks the processing grunt of its rivals, XCX nonetheless offers a cyclopean, exquisite world; a landscape of rolling prairies, colossal mountain ranges, dense forests and five unique continents that feels overwhelming when you first step into the unknown, but is an endlessly rewarding microcosm to explore. Moreover, as Mira is populated by fanciful creatures of all shapes and sizes – including beasts that loom above your puny heroes like skyscrapers – playing XCX is daunting and exciting in equal measure, and elegantly provokes the emotions that history’s real-life swashbucklers must have felt when uncovering the treasures of the ancient world.
Building on the time-honoured traditions of Japanese RPGs, XCX sees players crossing Mira in the company of three computer-controlled allies, and defending themselves against the planet’s eclectic fauna in thrilling turn-based battles. Defeating enemies and earning experience then allows players to evolve their avatar and improve their team’s battlefield prowess; and as elusive missions and potent powers are unlocked as your skills blossom, a glowing sense of achievement and progression is never far away.
XCX isn’t without its problems. For starters, vital information – including the confusing healing system – isn’t fully explained, and players are forced to spend time poring over the tedious in-game manual to find elusive answers. Crucially, seeing the best Mira has to offer requires the patience of a saint, and anyone who spends less than 40 hours with the title won’t even scratch the surface of XCX’s myriad rewards, or get to pilot the incredible Skell machines that allow you to bridge huge distances and ruck with the planet’s biggest bruisers.
If delayed gratification isn’t your bag, XCX will drive you round the twist. But with an awe-inspiring world that rivals anything Fallout or Witcher has to offer, gripping gameplay, and a sense of rip-roaring adventure that’s unrivalled anywhere else on the Wii U, this is an experience no Nintendo fan should consider missing.