So I finally finished Xenoblade X after putting it off for a few months... (ramble ahead)
What the fucking shit, Monolith.
The story wasn’t terribly interesting until the very end; both right before the credits and the post-credits scene which hints at a sequel.
The thing is, those developments were actually really damn interesting and I wanted to see it continue, but not in a sequel. I wanted half of the crap that was in this game cut out and focused on building on the cliffhanger at the end.
I’m avoiding spoilers but imagine if the first game was solely about getting revenge on Metal Face. You get to him, seemingly defeat him, all is right with the world. You get hints of Zanza and what the Bionis and Mechonis really are, but not much. Then the after-credits reveals who the Faced Mechon really are. And that’s after 60 hours. That’s what Xenoblade X is. The Samaarians’ relationship with Ganglion are an obvious parallel to Zanza and the Homs but this isn’t really developed into anything worthwhile.
The story is lackluster with hints of genuine wonder but doesn’t come anywhere close to the genius of the first game. The villain is laughably weak. The characters are bare-boned with the sole exception of Elma. And I’m only even giving her a pass because of the ending. People call Shulk a blank character but your custom guy in X basically proves that to be wrong. Shulk matters. He has his own personality. Your guy is just sort of… there. You may very understandably argue that it’s nice that your guy is an “observer” in the events that unfold but considering that you can directly control your other squad members, it’s pointless. Some also complain about Riki being annoying but hahah that’s nothing compared to Tatsu and Lin’s unbearable banter which kills the flow of any scene in which it happens. You can’t even play as Tatsu for fuck’s sake so why is he even here? He has no arc. He’s a punchline to a joke that wasn’t funny the first time. The voice performances in this game are a masters’ thesis on why JRPGs need Dual Audio and the dub a massive downgrade from the excellent British performances in the first game. You could place this complaint on the writing but just consider Metal Face in the first game, who wasn’t terribly complex. He was still so much fun thank in large part to the VA’s delivery.
Okay I’m bitching on it too much but the truth is I don’t regret the £40 I spent on it. The gameplay is very solid and when all cylinders were firing it was electrifying. The art is gorgeous, the soundtrack delivered where it counted, the exploration was very engaging. Thank goodness these guys were brought on to help with Breath of the Wild’s open world because they know how to make open-worlds fun to explore. But those praises are secondary to what I enjoyed in the first game. The stellar story and lovable characters are what I remember foremost from that one with the art, music, etc enhancing it.
tl;dr: The first Xenoblade was so good it made me want to keep playing until the end. With X, I kept playing until the end just to see if it ever got good.