In my previous look at Xenoblade Chronicles X, I covered the important affinity missions in the Wii U game. These are the most demanding quests in the game both in terms of accessing them and how difficult they are to complete. Generally the strict prerequisites for beginning these missions ensure that the player is never in over his or her head. Despite the game’s best efforts though, I managed to do exactly that when I accepted the affinity quest “The Repair Job”.
“The Repair Job” is not actually a terribly difficult quest – it just requires collecting materials to (you guessed it) repair some equipment that needs patching up. The materials are pretty rare, but there’s nothing absurd here. The problem for me is that one particular mineral, White Cometite, had to be collected through the mining network of the FrontierNav.
FrontierNav is an important system in Xenoblade Chronicles X. As you explore the world you discover checkpoints where probes can be placed to create a sort of sensor grid around the planet. Different probes have different effects such as enhancing the power of adjacent probes, storing currency, providing revenue through virtual tourism, and most importantly mining minerals. Probes are not purchased, but instead they’re obtained by salvaging mechanical scrap placed in hard to reach crevices of the world.
So you explore an area, place your probes, check the natural resources and figure out a probe pattern that effectively uses the probes you have and chains similar probes together to amplify their utility. It’s good fun and it gives the player an active hand in maximizing revenue. Upon browsing my explored map though, I discovered my first set back. I had discovered exactly zero probe sites where White Cometite could be mined.
Okay, no problem. Time to go exploring and fill in the rest of Primordia (the first continent) to find the probe sites I need. I’d been meaning to do that anyway. Funny thing though, a few hours and collection quests later I looked through my newly filled in map and realized that I still didn’t have any White Cometite mining sites available. Oh well, whatever. I’ll come back later. I’ll dump this quest and come back when I’m further in the game.
…Or not. This is an affinity quest. Not only can affinity quests not be abandoned but only one can be active at a time. Story quests count as affinity quests, so until I cleared this one mission I couldn’t progress in the game period. This was where I started to get worried – this is an early game quest! I had only barely begun exploring the continent of Noctilim. Surely I didn’t need to go there? What I needed wasn’t in Primordia though, so clearly I did.
So with no more clear objective than “fill in the map to find probe sites” I set out to chart Noctilim. I was underleveled and not too many Noctilim quests were available to me yet, but I had a job to do. Getting stuck and waiting for online guides to release was simply not an option – I had play diaries to write!
Quite a bit deeper into Noctilim than I had thought I would need to venture I finally found a probe site where elusive White Cometite could be mined. Success! …and yet it was not. White Cometite is a rare acquisition even from the sites where it’s available so it’s important to place a high level mining probe on the site to maximize your odds of retrieving what you need. My probes were uniformly low level – I had made another mistake.
There are three flavors of salvage on Mira. Biological, Archeological, and Mechanical. As you play the game a “Blade Level” slowly increases and at each new level you can level up one of these three field foraging skills. Mining probes come from mechanical wreckage, but I had opted to level up my biological and archeological skills instead. I had no way to get high level mining probes!
Welp, nothing else for it. Time to go explore a new continent. To the East of New LA is Obvlivia. I had never set foot there before, but clearly just one low level mining probe on one White Cometite source was not going to cut it. And since there’s no way to just power level up BLADE levels, the only option was to spread my low level probes over more sites. I had no business going to Obvlivia at this point in the game but whatever it took, I had to progress.
An extensive exploration of two continents and many deaths to violent creatures three times my level later, I finally got myself to a reasonable place. I found four White Cometite mining sites and had done so much while looking for them that my BLADE level had increased. I put that point into mechanical salvage to get better mining probes and placed all my best probes where they were needed.
After an hour of doing other things waiting for this setup to pay dividends? One White Cometite. One. Eventually I just left the game on overnight. I wanted those darn minerals.
But the moral of this story is not “Xenoblade Chronicles X has wildly uneven progression requirements” or “Xenoblade Chronicles X is too hard”. The moral of this story is… I actually had fun. For the full 15 hours of aimless exploring and being unable to access the best quests in the game I had a blast. That is what is so remarkable about this game.
I’ve gotten stuck on pre-release games without guides before; it’s just something that comes with the job. But I’ve never ever played a game where I could get iced out of the main progression for 15 hours of play and never lose interest. I never got bored, I never ran out of other lesser quests to carry out, I never even contacted the friendly Nintendo rep who volunteered to help writers who got stuck. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game with such an absurd amount of content and with a world that is so thrilling to explore… 15 hours off the beaten path was no problem.
And I can hardly imagine a more powerful recommendation for the game than that.