That description makes it sound like I had an awful time, but that’s far from the truth. I mean, I wouldn’t have bothered playing the game for so long if I wasn’t having fun. But there definitely came a point towards the end when the balance of “fun” to “unnecessary grinding” tipped too far in the wrong direction. It probably kicked in just at about the time when I was struggling to find an ice cabbage.
First things first though, Xenoblade works mostly because the setting is so wonderfully ludicrous and fun to explore. The game is set on the body of an enormous giant, and scurrying along the creature’s verdant kneecap while watching the eerily glowing eyes of another enormo-giant in the distance is as epic as it sounds. In short, it’s a fun world to explore, and the game is at its best when it gives you side quests that prompt you to seek out the farthest corners of the world and encounter unique monsters. Often these quests will generate other quests, and I spent hours happily padding back and forth, filling in bits of the map and generally having a great time.
Unfortunately, however, the game overdoes it a bit on the quest front – with over 400 side quests, many of which are meaningless collect-a-thons, exasperation eventually sets in. My breaking point was the moment when I was one step away from the final bit of colony reconstruction, only to realise that the quest to get the parts I needed would involve levelling my characters from from around 80 to 90 – i.e. several hours’ worth of grinding. It seemed a shame to leave the colony unfinished, but my gaming time is at a premium now and I can’t waste it on grinding: so I bit the bullet and faced the final boss.
Speaking of which, the ending of the game is great, and in general the story is a cut above the generic RPG fare, mostly thanks to its setting. My only major quibble is the sheer amount of similar collecting missions – if they’d just trimmed down the number of quests and kept the fairly meaty ones that actually affect the characters or story in some way, the game would have benefited.
Unfortunately, it seems that the sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X, has gone the other way, with an even bigger world and more quests – and I can’t help but think they won’t be able to top the setting of a world atop two giants.
Less is sometimes more, right?