There aren’t any mounts in Xenoblade Chronicles. That I know of. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the game surprised me. But for a game with so much running around, you’d think there was a way to get there faster.
After the jump, going the distance
First, let me be clear that I’m not complaining about the running around. At this point, I’ve fully bought into the world and I really like being in it. It’s very Skyrim in that way. But unlike Skyrim, I’m ticking all these quests off my list for solid gameplay reasons as well. All these side quests are part of a social system by which I unlock quests by improving relationships with various townspeople. There’s even a visual representation of this, like a huge sprawling family tree of who likes whom for what reason and where. I’m basically filling in the blanks with people and drawing lines between them. I don’t mind hanging out with the curry maker’s daughter or talking a bored nopon through his prayers or even killing five flying dragons for an imperial guardsman because each of these things develops the world. I don’t even care that much about the experience points, arts points, or skill points. And I certainly don’t care about the gold. Money in Xenoblade Chronicles is pretty much a joke. If ever a game could use a moneysink…
Which brings me to the lack of mounts. They’re not that missed because they’re not necessary. The world is liberally dotted with waypoints. And one of the benefits of the lo-def last-gen graphics is the negligible loading time. Fast travel to a different part of the world really is fast travel. Fast travel to another point in the same part of the world is literally instantaneous.
But there can be a lot of running around when you’re gathering collectibles, hunting down a named creature, or just exploring. And that’s where I realized gems can come into play. Most inventory items have at least one slot for gems. Xenoblade Chronicles is a little crazy for all the things you can do with gems. In fact, I’m convinced a lot of the gems are useless. Am I really going to waste a valuable slot raising my resistance to bleed damage when I can instead just give my character an extra hit point gem?
One of the gems I’d initially thought was useless is called quick step. It raises your running speed. I have a crappy low level quick step gem that raises my running speed by four percent. Pfft. I can craft something better. So I sort my assorted crystals and cylinders to find which ones have the quick step trait. Crystals are the raw materials for gems, and cylinders are the refined essence of gems. It’s easy enough to just cook a crystal into a gem. That’s how you first come to the crafting process. Just jam a couple of crystals together and — voila! — you get a gem. Freely swap it in and out of your gear.
But as you get more characters with more crafting abilities, you can finesse the process. Certain characters specialize in cooking at lower temperatures (I can’t help but think in terms of Breaking Bad while I’m crafting). This lets you can extract cylinders of refined crystal juice, each dedicated to specific traits. You can use these cylinders to craft more powerful high-grade gems than you’d get if you just jammed crystals together. A skillfully cooked batch of cylinders is some real primo stuff.
For the quick step trait, I’ve got a few wind crystals and a ponio crystal. Creatures sometimes drop crystals and, as you can imagine, a ponio is basically a space pony. See the thematic unity there? I might have to farm some of these guys for more running crystals, or maybe check the newly renovated ether mine under Colony 6 for advanced wind crystals. But for now, I have my dedicated low temp team cook the juice out of a few crystals into cylinders. I then have Shulk and Reyn, my finishing team, do their thing to craft a quick step gem. The result is a bitchin’ level V gem that adds 18% to my running speed. Fit these into a pair of boots I can switch to when I’m running around and I won’t even notice that I don’t have a horse.
In fact, speaking of horses, I think I’m going to go farm a few more ponios to feel out the upper limit on running speed boosts. At this rate, I’ll finish the storyline in Xenoblade Chronicles sometime in the year 2014.