I've not finished this game. I wanted to, don't get me wrong. Yet with SF0 coming up, and TPHD still unwrapped, it's time I acknowledged to myself that I'm not going to and that this is fine.
The reason I've been so reluctant to so much as touch the game for ages is that I got killed on the final boss - and not just killed, but he had just regenerated half his health by the time I died. I was nowhere near killing him, he's only the first final boss of what I'm sure is a couple of phases, and to get the Level 50 Skells I'd need to give myself more of a chance, I'd need to leave the game on for enough months to mine up enough money.
Not my idea of fun.
MMOronic Design Choices
So, XCX! Is a single-player MMORPG. That's really what it feels like. That may sound crap, and bits of it are crap. Bits of it are also more amazing than most other games.
The crap bits are the main story, mostly. About three characters (Lin, Tatsu, Lao) get developed; villains are thrown at you, then whisked away, without any development of your rivalry. There are some blinding boss battles and a couple of really nice set-pieces, but the majority of the game's central plot, and what you do? Rubbish.
There's no sense of progression, either in the story (kill aliens, kill more aliens, kill more aliens, oh look we found the macguffin!), in the characters, or in the enemies. You know how in most RPGs, you get stronger and the enemies get stronger with you, and you feel like you're progressing that way? XCX doesn't do that. There are good aspects to that, but there's no feeling of, "yeah, I've been here, beaten here, now I'm strong enough to tackle the next area". That's a good-to-have in RPGs. Instead, every area has a few weak enemies, and a bucketload of ones that will liquidate you on sight.
Cue stealthing. Cue much stealthing. Can get a bit irritating, especially when one attack means game over.
Finally, the collectables system is tripe. The blue crystals that could be anything can get absolutely shafted. Not fun to collect, and you get made to quite a lot. Sometimes you can't jump out of an Affinity Mission until you've got them, and they're rare. Cue hair-tearing. And why are there still no chests?
I Can Show You The World
Crap bits out of the way. What's good?
XCX's world is good. It's great. Exploring it is one of the best things you'll ever do. You start off in grassy plains, then suddenly
That's not even Sylvalum. That's not even one of the enormous monsters. XCX's world is filled with fantastic beasts and where to find them. Discovering every single area, while not necessarily necessary, is a joy.
And that's on foot, where movement speed is okay. Skells can move faster, jump higher, fight better, and get you noticed by horrid monsters quicker. Fair trade-off.
THEN YOU GET TO FLY AND EVERYTHING BECOMES AMAZING. Seriously, flying for the first time, music and all, is one of my top ten gaming moments EVER. Don't search XCX's music on YouTube if you want to feel like a flying GOD the first time you take to the skies.
What else is good? The side-quests. They're also pretty great. There are side-quests that put the main story to absolute shame, with their writing and their dark happenings and their guilt-making choices that don't ultimately matter and stuff. You get rewards too, but Professor B. vanishing off into the future is reward enough, frankly. You greedy sod.
Tyrant Antics (I know that's not funny it's late I'm tired)
Fighting is good too, for a JRPG. The basic fighting is simple enough - you hit foes (sometimes in a robot), you switch from gun to sword, you select special moves, you respond to the B-button circle things, you react to team-mate chatter... Okay so it's not that simple, but it's easy to learn, fast-paced, and mostly fun.
The pre-battle setting-up, weapons and skills and that, is less easy to learn. I was still having to try out mechanics that were new to me fifty hours in (oh yeah this game is massive by the way, talking 90 hours doing not all the side-quests I mean my gosh) to beat some of the tougher bosses. Then I smacked them about with my enhanced Arts and felt the difference.
The actual fighting is fun, let's say, whereas the pre-fighting set-up can be really rewarding, or a pain in the rear.
The graphics are pretty nice, you may have noticed. Not the most detailed, but nice. Also the music is too. Ignore Andy, what has he ever known about anything? Granted, Neo LA's two themes and the standard fight theme are pretty bad, and they're the two you'll hear most often. But the exploration themes are top, the boss themes are top, and the flying theme is simply chuffing brilliant. GOD TIME.
Until one of the "tyrant" monsters sees you trying to be all "God" and restores the natural order the only way it knows how: violence. But the tyrant theme is grand too.
And it's all part of the whole "giant ecosystem" thing that the game doesn't quite pull off as well as XC because of the whole dodgy progression system mentioned above, but it's still good and running around a Millesaur's toes makes you remember that you're a little squishable bug and that's nice to feel now and then.
Did I Mention How Fun Flying in a Skell is?
I didn't play the online, so maybe it's not just a single-player MMORPG. It might even be better in multiplayer. But meh, JRPGs are meant to be played solo.
Final summing up? I didn't finish the game, but I really enjoyed a lot of it. It's a game of great moments and frustrating ones in almost equal portions, but great > frustrating sufficiently for me to feel that the game as a whole is great. And everyone should fly a Skell for the first time once in their lives.
- The main story is tripe
- Lack of progression
- XC's collectable system still awful
+ One of the best worlds to explore
+ Great writing in the side-missions
+ Dear God, the Skells