We witnessed the first minutes of Xenoblade Chronicles X two E3s ago, thanks to the Nintendo Treehouse broadcast that the Japanese company came up with to make the previews that were shown at the event available to players all around the world. In that video (the first one's embedded in this article), we learnt of the game's premise: Earth has been destroyed by aliens and humanity has been scattered all across the galaxy. A huge ship that carried a small replica of the city of Los Angeles is attacked and sent crashing down onto the surface of a planet called Mira.
After our first hours with the new Xenoblade we can confirm that this is indeed a massive game, even bigger than its predecessor Xenoblade Chronicles. We can also confirm that it takes some of the key features that made the first game unforgettable - the combat system and the level design - to a whole new level. It's true that, unlike the Wii and New Nintendo 3DS titles, the plot in X takes its time to kick in properly, so we'll wait until we write the full review to provide more detail on that.
In order to get familiar with planet Mira, some initial tasks are entrusted to us in order to aid New Los Angeles. They mostly deal with exploration, installation of exploratory probes, and defeating enemies in the area of Primordia, the first of the five continents that make up the expansive surface of Mira.
The map of Xenoblade Chronicles X is so huge that if we press R + B we're given the option of having our character walk automatically. In one of our first expeditions we jumped into the sea to swim out to where we supposed there'd be an invisible barrier that would send us back to a checkpoint. We were wrong. With no loading time whatsoever, we were able to visit virtually every nook and cranny of the five continents that form Mira: either slowly making our way across the water where there are less dangers, or risking our lives on land, where, in most cases, huge high level enemies work as a "natural" barriers against our desire to explore.
Each enemy, it doesn't matter how simple it is, has two or three specific body parts that we can attack during combat. If we manage to destroy them we won't only obtain different materials and objects once the battle is over, but we'll also nullify the attack or special ability the enemy had assigned to that specific part of their body. For example, there are robots with great defence and armour, but we can destroy their arms and that'll render them completely useless. To do this, we can use both melee and ranged weapons, as well as give basic orders to our group members so that they attack a specific area, maintain their distance, or take a more defensive approach.
One aspect in Xenoblade Chronicles X that is of importance right from the beginning is the brigades. Almost everything we do gives us experience points, whether it's during a mission or simply when free-roaming. That said, in New Los Angeles there are eight different brigades (see the second video embedded in this preview) that we can join depending on what kind of tasks we prefer. For instance, the Interceptors are a perfect fit for one's first steps of the game, as they get more experience for completing missions and eliminating monsters. However, if what we like is finding and eliminating magnos, the largest and strongest monsters in the game, the perfect brigade would be the Harriers. Making a good choice as to which brigade we join at the beginning is important to progressing faster and to gaining access to high-level missions sooner.
We've left out a lot of things in this final preview, like the class system that allows us to be one kind of warrior or another, the importance of the game's climatology during combat, the mission system and structure, the customisation features, weapon research and upgrades, exploration with SKELLS (previously known as DOLLS which you can see in the third video below), the affinity, the use of beacons and the online gameplay. There's so much content in Xenoblade Chronicles X that the 19GB it takes up in our hard drive comes across as small in comparison. Monolith Soft has done a great optimisation job with this Wii U exclusive.
In just a few weeks we'll come back to share our final verdict. Until then, we'll keep going over the ruthless planet Mira for many more hours, because right now we don't feel like leaving at all.