I don’t know why I was compelled to finish Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. I finished it in approximately 60 hours and enjoyed – at most — a quarter of that. I played the majority of the game while watching sports or listening to podcasts; I just used to keep my hands busy.
My MMORPG experience consists of Guild Wars, small stints with a few Korean free to play online RPG equivalents and listening to enough World of Warcraft stories to last a lifetime. I haven’t experienced an MMORPG first hand but, by all accounts, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is what I imagine an MMORPG would look like if it was taken offline.
Everything from the vast empty spaces, paper thin fetch quests, to the battle system and even the way the characters jump reminds me of an MMORPG.
By now it’s obvious that I use the term “MMORPG” as a derogatory term and I mean it. There is depth, complexities and joy within certain MMORPGs but there’s no denying that there’s a dearth of shallow experiences full of meaningless grinding.
Nintendo and Monolith pulled off quite the feat squeezing this huge open world into the New Nintendo 3DS. I was genuinely impressed with how big the world was and how well it ran considering the size. I braced for frequent slowdowns in the open world but was relieved to discover that wasn’t the case at all. The most severe performance issues arose when there were several large enemies on screen at once. Those moments occurred more than I would like but they were not game breakers.
Judging by the quality of the visuals, it’s obvious how Monolith and Nintendo managed to get the game to run as well as it did. I’m not kidding when I say it’s one of the ugliest games I’ve played in recent memory. The visuals did have a PlayStation era charm to them though. The character models were stylized enough to convey their intent but not quite enough to deliver the gravity of dire situations.
I was fascinated by the lore of Xenoblade Chronicles. Two titans frozen in battle with life flourishing on the surface of them after some time. What if the Earth was a living creature? The idea that I was traversing across the back or leg of the titan, Bionis, was an amazing spectacle. However by the time I made it across to the other titan, Mechonis, I was no longer wowed by this idea.
I was tired of running across giant expanses by foot. Fast traveling eased some of the boredom but only between known destinations. Every area was largely the same; it was vast, filled with blue orbs representing some nonsensically named collectible and full of the same handful of enemy types.
Every so often, I would encounter a town and the hopes for a break in monotony would be renewed. I slowly discovered that these towns fell into their own cycle of repetition as well. Outside of the big story beat, I expected numerous fetch quests and monster hunts. The reasons behind them were unsubstantial and did very little with regards to world building. I was better off tapping through the gibberish and just getting down to what I had to gather and moved on. Eventually, my quest log was filled with so much junk quests that I stopped tracking them down. If I happen to finish a quest, so be it. If I had to go back to town to turn it in? Who cares. I would have found or crafted a better reward by then anyways.
Early on, I found the cast of characters endearing but the more screen time each of them got, the less I liked them. The protagonist, Shulk, grew to be irritatingly selfish with his visions and worries. He had the power to see the future but for some reason he wouldn’t share what he witnessed despite others around him imploring he did so. I thought Reyn, Shulk’s hometown friend, would develop into more than just a meathead with good intentions. There were moments where characters like him and Sharla showed they were more than caricatures but those moments were too infrequent and were dwarfed by the blatant fan service.
Did I mentioned that I found the Moogle knock offs, the Nopons, annoying as well? I was particularly perturbed by their speech patterns and the party member, Riki’s, was undoubtedly the most irritating because he reminded me of Jar Jar Binks.
The threat based battle system was a surprise to me because I thought it would be the one aspect of the game that I would wear thin the quickest. I operated with the standard tank/healer/fighter lineup and stuck with it all the way through. I experimented with other setups but I was most content maneuvering Shulk for optimal attacks. I was waiting to see if this simple setup would fail me but it didn’t. I played the exact same way from beginning to end with just a small degree of variation in skills.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a game of quantity; there’s a whole lot of stuff to do in this game. There are dozens upon dozens of checkboxes to tick off and a giant world to explore. But I didn’t want to do any of it because it wore out its welcome at least twice over. The world was huge but it was mainly empty space. There were a lot of quests but nearly every single one them were frivolous fetch quests.
Towards the end of the game, I entered a town with two rows of computer terminals. The town was uninhabited, overrun by rogue robots. There were no NPCs to interact with but there were the terminals. There was a store terminal which contained useless equipment. As for the other terminals? They dispensed the same set of quests that I’d been given for each and every town up to this point. I was literally being given quests by terminals. Even though there was context, it was like they had given up but it was also the very essence of everything I disliked about this game distilled into one town.
I don’t like it