I’ve set myself the goal of finishing all three ‘Operation Rainfall’ RPGs, but finishing the second game on the list, Xenoblade Chronicles, is proving to be something of a challenge. I’m already 91 hours in, and the game just keeps unfolding like a never-ending carpet of multi-coloured delights… and frustrations.
I’ve already blithely ignored my pledge to avoid side quests in the aim of using my limited gaming time efficiently – Xenoblade has sunk its claws into me deeply, and I just can’t help but explore every inch of the beautifully realised game world, mopping up sub-quests as I go.
It’s not like the side quests are even that interesting – mostly they involve just killing X number of Y type of monster, or collecting Z number of some random collectible. And there are ludicrous numbers of them – more than 480 quests altogether, apparently. The sheer scale is almost overwhelming.
But the beauty of the quests is that they provide a legitimate reason to carefully explore the extraordinary game world, and this is their magic. The universe of Xenoblade, set as it is on two enormous gods locked in combat, is compelling: it’s easy to spend hours running through the beautiful landscapes, admiring the views and learning more about the world’s history. It’s easy to forget that the reason you’re doing this is to merely to track down two ice cabbages that have a woeful spawn rate of 6%.
Occasionally the subquests do offer something a bit more interesting, however, such as a bit of character development, a bit of world lore or some ultra-rare items from a previously inaccessible game area. The game would be much improved if all of the quests were like that, and the overall number of quests was reduced. But even though there are so many, I feel compelled to complete them all, or at least as many as I can – I’m right near the end of the main game now, and to be honest, I just don’t want it to end. Part of me wants to just finish the game and move on to something else – Splatoon and Yoshi’s Woolly World arrived recently, and I’m dying to give them a go. But I keep being drawn back to Xenoblade…
Part of the reason is the clever ‘affinity’ system, whereby all of the characters appear on a sort of relationship map that gets filled in as you complete quests and talk to more people. It’s a clever way of representing the complexity of the world and the people in it, and completing the connections is an addictive pursuit. But mostly, the reason I keep plunging back into the game is that it’s such a pleasant place to spend time in.
And come December, I get to do it all over again with Xenoblade Chronicles X…