Tonight’s session with Xenoblade Chronicles was the first in a while in which the only new things happening were story-related. This freedom from learning new systems allowed me to range around in the Gaur Plain – the game’s first wide open space.
And is it ever wide.
But the thing that strikes me about it is that it’s varied in composition in comparison to the area around Colony 9. I mean that in terms of landscape (the area around Colony 9 didn’t have any mesas or land bridges or forests), but also in terms of what populates the area.
Strangely, I think, the Gaur Plain has very few items strewn about it. Around Colony 9 it was hard to go more than ten steps without finding an item or two. Instead, and no doubt indicating what lay ahead, Gaur Plain has far more enemies. Not just enemies who are slightly weaker, an even match, and slightly stronger than you, though. Oh no.
One of the advantages to having a battle system like Xenoblade Chronicles‘ is that you can see the enemies that you’re going to engage and get a quick look at things like their level, their attack condition, and the threat that they pose to you.
This system is very clearly advantageous for the player because it lets you gauge your chances in an encounter with an enemy, or (thanks mostly to the displayed attack conditions (e.g.: an open eye for “attacks on sight”) helps you to avoid fighting them for whatever reason. It’s also advantageous for the game’s developers because it lets them do things like throw in a few enemies whose levels far outpace your own without causing the frustration that would come with a battle system separate from the overworld.
Frustration would be a gentle word for winding up in a Final Fantasy-style random encounter with an enemy who’s at level 82 when you’re only level 15.
But player reaction aside, why is showing enemies’ levels so great for developers?
It helps to keep players on track, for one thing.
Certain parts of the Gaur Plain are either patrolled by these grossly out-levelled monsters or populated with them. Very obviously you can’t get there just yet. That’s where the true value in this system is.
Much like an out of reach ledge in a Zelda game that you know you just need to find the hookshot to get to, seeing an area full of or patrolled by such enemies makes this field area feel like it has a lot of stuff going on in it. It makes it feel like a real place, teeming with life.
Speaking of which, it dawned on me for the first time that Xenoblade Chronicles‘ monsters aren’t very traditional RPG fodder. They’re mostly animals that are just minding their own business (the Armus) or that are aggressive only under certain conditions (Volffs) or that are intelligent enough to use tools (Bunnits). There aren’t any goblins or trolls in sight (well, except for that level 82 behemoth mentioned above).
Realizing that I’ve been slaughtering these animals made me feel a tinge of regret.
This regret flowed mostly from noticing that the smaller Armus around the Leg Armus I slew for a quest are called “Daughter Armu.” Those two animals I killed were (at least through implication) parents.
Of course, those two “Leg Armu” that I slew will re-spawn when I next start the game. Yet, I can’t help but wonder what will become of those six parentless Armu.
This sort of thought pattern makes one thing clear to me, though: I’ve bought into the fantasy of the game’s world. This feat lets Xenoblade Chronicles join the likes of Tales of Phantasia and Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage.
Have you ever felt remorse for killing an enemy in an RPG (animal or otherwise)? What was the game and the enemy? Do you think you felt that remorse because you were just that absorbed in the game’s world?