After the jump, seven legitimate reasons to pass on one of the best RPGs ever made
1) It’s a Nintendo Wii game and it looks like it. Not to say it’s small or ugly. It’s not. On the contrary, it’s often staggeringly “this-is-on-the-Wii?” vast. Furthermore, there is some lovely and imaginative artwork in here. But it’s lo-def and last-gen. If you expect from your immersive RPGs the technical spectacle of Skyrim, you’re not getting it here.
2) You will need a classic controller. The Wiimote and nunchuk won’t cut it. This is not a game to play with only one analog stick. You’ll often need to simultaneously move your character and the camera, often in real time and often when timing is important.
3) For some unholy reason, Xenoblade Chronicles is a Gamestop exclusive. You must either get it directly from Nintendo or you must patronize Gamestop. Did you pre-order? And would you like the strategy guide with that? Would you like this used copy covered in sticker glue and fingerprints for 49 cents less than retail?
4) There is a lot of fiddly inventory management, particularly if you want to swap out your best armor or gems when you switch characters. What’s more, there’s a whole mess of detail in here that might be useless. For instance, why would I waste a valuable inventory slot on something that protects my character from a specific effect that only occurs occasionally? Why would I bother with specific protection against bleed damage, for instance, when I can instead boost my character’s agility for better dodging, or strength for more damage, or simply give him more hit points? Many of the fiddly bits in Xenoblade Chronicles seem to make no sense.
5) Furthermore, some elements of the game pretty much require keeping a notepad handy. There’s a sidequest that runs the entire length of the game, and there’s almost no ingame provision to keep track of how you’re doing or what you need for the sidequest. Some of the gear sold by vendors is actually useful, but there’s really no way of comparing what the vendor is selling with what you’ve already got. In these instances, I had to jot down the stats for everything the vendor sold and then go into my inventory screen to compare it to what my characters were already using.
6) This isn’t a game you’ll be able to put down and come back to in a few months. It’s going to be tough jumping back in after being away. As is the case with many RPGs and MMOs, you need to ride the continuity of that long shallow learning curve to know what to do in a difficult battle. Xenoblade Chronicles demands a lot of your gaming time for a long term investment.
7) Which leads me to the degree of investment you’re being asked to make. I wouldn’t dream of assuming how much and whether you care about the price of a game. But I do know when to tell you that you are about to do something that will take, literally, days of your life. Xenoblade Chronicles is a long game. And it takes its time getting awesome. For instance, there are things that happen 40 hours into the game that are crucial to what makes it awesome. And then again at 60 hours. Beyond that, who knows? I’m guessing this is at least a 100 hour game, and that’s only because I’m making an assumption about the soonest possible point it could end based on where I am now. Are you willing to spend that time with an RPG? Should you watch The Wire or read the short stories of Flannery O’Connor instead? Should you just play four moderately good but shorter games instead? Should you get to the level cap in an MMO? How much of your entertainment time are you willing to devote to this? Because it will drink up a lot of it.
If you remain unconvinced and you’ll be playing Xenoblade Chronicles anyway, tomorrow I’ll tell you the things I wish I’d known when I started playing.
UPDATE: For whatever reason, this article keeps generating traffic. I’m not sure where, why, or how it’s being linked, and I certainly appreciate new people coming by to check it out. But please keep in mind it’s one of several entries I’ve written about Xenoblade Chronicles. This is part of a series on Quarter to Three called a Game Diary. If you’re interested in reading more, it begins here and it culminates with a five-star review here. You will furthermore find Xenoblade Chronicles at a prominent spot on my top ten of 2012 list. This entry is just an attempt to provide a little perspective in a series that would otherwise consist entirely of me yammering away fondly. So while you’re welcome to comment below as negatively as you like below — seriously, have at it! — please don’t mistake me for some garden variety Xenoblade Chronicles hater.