As much as I’m enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles X, I’ve got to admit that it has one massive, glaring fault: the online multiplayer mode.
To be fair, it’s more that the feature that doesn’t quite work the way I expected, rather than it being outright broken or something. The online component is strung throughout all facets of the game, but in a way that you could ignore it completely if you so choose. To be so tightly woven into the game and remain unobtrusive, most of the multiplayer aspects are asynchronous.
Oh. Yeah, that’s already disappointing.
Let’s dial it back a bit and start with what I was expecting. I had been under the impression that the online multiplayer component was like Monster Hunter, where you team up with a few other people to go out on missions to slay gigantic beasts. This mode does exist in some capacity within the game, but it’s very limited and buried under a pile of other, less interesting features.
After you get so far in the story, the game will ask you if you want to join an Online or Offline squad. As far as I can tell, the game doesn’t really care which option you choose. Everything seemed to be exactly the same when I tried each one out. I think it’s just that if you join an online squad, it’s implied that you’ll be participating in the multiplayer aspects, instead of just ignoring them.
XCX has a few online features similar to those in Dragon’s Dogma. For one, the world will be populated with avatars of other players, who you can recruit into your party if you get tired of palling around with the stock allies. This is a neat feature, and I like it, but it’s not enough.
The other concept it shares with DragDog is the Global Nemesis. One big, scary monster is popped into an online arena, and then player teams from around the world throw themselves at it until it dies. Or at least I assume that this is how the feature works. I’ve never actually been able to face off against the Global Nemesis because… well, I’m still not totally sure. XCX doesn’t do a great job of explaining any of its features. Hooray!
When it comes to actual multiplayer shenanigans, it’s just as confusing and complicated. Every squad is handed out a palette of five Squad Tasks to complete within 45 minutes. I don’t know how often these are distributed, but that 45 minutes is your only window to play online. The squad tasks are simple: kill a certain number of monsters or find a certain number of collectables. Sometimes you can skate by easily because it only wants a certain type of monster/item, but other times it wants very specific things. Most of the time, it asks for stuff what I don’t even know what it is yet. But that problem should solve itself over time.
Completing a Squad Task will allow your squad to attempt a Squad Mission. Missions are exactly what I wanted from the online multiplayer: you and up to three other players go out and hunt a group of monsters or one really big one. But you have to earn these, which is dumb. Also, a squad can only complete a Mission once. So if four other players get to it before you, you’re SOL. Needless to say, it can actually be very difficult to play with others.
And then your unlocked Missions go away once the 45 minutes are up, and you have to start from scratch when the next bunch of Squad Tasks appears.
It really is a shame, because a) I seldom get excited about online multiplayer modes and b) XCX is a lot of fun to play with others. I don’t know why Monolith Soft took so many pains to make sure it’s as hard as possible to play online, but that’s the way she goes. There may even be some other online things that I don’t know about because the game is so obtuse when it comes to explaining its features. For example, I know that you can trade items with people somehow, but I have no idea how it’s done.
At the end of the day, though, the multiplayer aspects are just extra bits grafted onto a game that was designed primarily as a single-player experience, so I suppose that I ought not to gripe about it too loudly. I am really loving the game otherwise, after all.