Published: Aug 18, 2016 12:00:00 PM

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Trembling disappointment has engulfed the gaming landscape. The messianic No Man's Sky, a game that fans literally launched death threats over reports of its delay, has finally be released.

Some people liked it. Some found it wanting. Word is that it's boring, aimless, endless, and zen. That's pretty bold, releasing a game with so few objectives. Then again, Minecraft didn't make 1 billion dollars by accident.

To those of you who feel disappointed over No Man's Sky, don't sweat it. There's a zen-like alien-planet exploration game with vehicles and endless, freakish alien monsters.

Here's why you should give Xenoblade Chronicles X a shot:

Who is to blame for No Man's Sky?

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Hype is to blame. Hype, and people falling for it. You fell for the advertising. You let your imagination overwhelm your sensibilities. Anything less than an intergalactic Jurassic Park on an infinity of planets would be seen as failure after the game was shown off at E3 2014.

Instead of an alien wind's warm breath coming in over the primordial lagoon, sashaying your spaceship's canopy as you broke atmo, players got a random-number generator auto-filling terrain, species, and mineral types. Somewhere, a God has died, beauty has become an impossibility, and chaos' cruel fairness reigned. Randomness shapes No Man's Sky's worlds. Just like reality, every planet in the galaxy is dumb, empty, and uninteresting: a stepping stone to the next point of survival.

It isn't romantic. You can feel the artificiality, noticing the same nose on that dog-frog hybrid on this planet that you noticed on the dino-bear two planets ago. Better mine for zinc and be on your way to the next Minecraft sphere to mine for the trash to power your ship's Mr. Fusion reactor.

Conjecture: you didn't want a planet of alien randomness, you wanted a planet of alien beauty.

Everything you liked in No Man's Sky's unveiling pitch is in Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U.

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Which parts of No Man's Sky's first trailer looked cool?

  • Cool monsters
  • Cool planet
  • Cool ships
  • Cool alien monolith weirdness
  • Cool traveling around seeing more weirdness

All of that is captured in the above .gif from Xenoblade Chronicles X. This is a game with scale, design, and guts. It has confidence in what it has made.

Everything in it was placed with purpose, not randomness. The topography makes logical sense as you travel from one continent to the next. Once you earn a vehicle license, you earn access to a gigantic, transforming, robotic skell that can take you even deeper into each area's unknown. Like NMS, XBC's main currency is discover. You can earn experience from fighting monsters, but exploring is equally as lucrative. Exploring also gives you the opportunity to set up mining sites in a little turn-based strategy metagame.

All of this feeds into your colony's overall resources. The resources feed into the quests that push you further into the frontier. Into the deserts. Into the jungles. Into the icy, beautiful pollen forests, and to the volcanoes of Cauldros beyond that.

The planet's geological topography is untamed, or, perhaps, not in a very long while, as you notice abandoned alien ruins cragging from the turf and rock. Each contains lore.

There is minimal story in XBC. It only exists as motivation to explore further. It's a loving little nudge forward.

In closing, there is so much to appreciate in XBC that you might've wanted in NMS but felt under-served. XBC also has one of the floppiest, highest, most mutant-kangaroo jumps. It is a bound, in every sense of the word, springing you 30 feet into the air. The propulsion is a wonderful sensation.

Isn't that what you've been after?

-- Alex Crumb
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