Xenoblade Chronicles X wasn’t the longest game that I ever completed, (more on that on Saturday!) but it was definitely the hardest. For exactly a year, it was almost the only game I played, and it kept on going. I could probably write all 60 of my “SixTAY Days of Writing” articles about how I completed Xenoblade Chronicles X, but instead, I’ll be closely examining what I believe sums up my experience with the game: a single sheet of paper.
Most games eventually get figured out. If there are people playing it, someone, whether it be IGN or Todd in his basement, will likely post a generally comprehensive guide on how to complete something. But what makes Xenoblade Chronicles X somewhat special is that no such guide exists. I bought the official Prima guide for the game on launch, and while it held very valuable information on where to find enemies and items, it says next to nothing about most quests, and nada about character optimization. So instead, there are a bunch of people on the internet that each do their part to help people conquer this mountain of a game. There are so many different ways to complete this game that there’s no one way to go about it, so people on the r/Xenoblade_Chronicles subreddit created posts describing what to do “after you hit level 60,” the point in the game where your options really open up.
That’s about 100 hours in.
There’s an interactive map showing where items, enemies, quests, and just about anything else is. There’s post after post on the best way to farm for every last thing. And the fantastic thing is that the Xenoblade Chronicles community is always willing to help one another. There were multiple times when I got stuck, couldn’t find anything about it online, made a post about it on the subreddit, and would have a cohesive explanation, sometimes multiple, within a few hours. I needed help a lot.
This sheet has been at the side of my Wii U for over a year now, gathering dust and cobwebs. Written by my 15-year-old self in cursive that hasn’t changed much, (if anything, it’s gotten sloppier) “XCX sheet” is written in the top left. Then, in big letters, “Infinite Overdrive.”
In Xenoblade Chronicles X, you can get status effect called “Overdrive.” When you hit Overdrive, the screen goes all blurry and a crazy amped up German song starts playing, but more importantly, your arts (moves) get renewed super fast, and you can keep that going infinitely by doing… stuff. Look, I’ve never been good at math, chemistry, or coding, and that’s basically what this system is. It’s super awesome that you’re able to basically program your own potentially broken moveset, but it’s hard for someone like me to wrap my head around.
The thing is, you don’t need to get infinite Overdrive much during the game, possibly never. For most of the game, you can get around just fine in your Skell, a really awesome flying mech. But for one quest, you have to fight an impossibly difficult boss. It’s ridiculous as to the lengths you have to take to get to the boss, much less fight it, and it’s in a cave inaccessible for Skells. I largely left my actual character’s stats uncared for, as a big giant robot could solve most of my problems up until then, so I was caught with my pants down. And the only guides I could find for beating it required infinite Overdrive, so I looked up a guide to get infinite Overdrive, which required many more guides to get the arts I needed to pull it off.
But it was finally ready, with my instructions written out. More than a year after completing the game, many of these terms are Greek to me, but I remember pressing the home button every five seconds during that boss fight, checking my sheet, playing five more seconds, checking again, until I finally had the entire thing memorized. And boy did I have it memorized by the end, because this thing would. not. die. I likely spent 10 hours preparing for the boss fight, and another five actually fighting it.
But as I defeated it, an overwhelming sensation rushed over me. I couldn’t feel my fingers, everything felt like it was zooming past me, and my entire brain was solely focused on getting every single input. When I finally beat it, I had to pause the game to take time to breathe. My heart was racing, and sweat was pouring down my face. It was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in a video game.
Then there was a second phase to the boss, and for a single terrifying moment, I plunged into a state of deep denial, muttering “no, no no” not wanting to progress the dialogue.
And then I found out the second phase allowed you to use your Skell. I beat it in seconds.
There were “harder” bosses in the game, for sure. But each of these bosses had augments that specifically dealt with them, so it was really just a bunch of grinding over and over until I had enough. The Ares 90, the parts for which are under my “recipe” for infinite Overdrive, is an absolute pain to get, but the feeling of empowerment you get once you can tear through nearly anything with it is unparalleled. The final boss of the game (to complete, not reach the credits) is a really big challenge that took me days to master, but the solution had less to do with my technique and more to do with the number of boss-killing augments I had installed.
I love Xenoblade Chronicles X as much as I hate it, which is to say, a lot. It’s not exactly the type of game to respect your time, but if you’re comfortable spending a few hundred hours in the beautiful world of Mira, it has a lot to give.
But geez, does it make you obsessive.