The Nintendo Direct broadcasts keep coming, with a Xenoblade Chronicles 2 special just hours away. It's not necessarily surprising that we're getting this particular presentation - Xenoblade Chronicles X had its own Direct in 2015 - and there's plenty of scope for Nintendo to keep us intrigued with the game just under a month away.
Of course we've actually seen quite a lot of the game already. It had a flashy trailer and some Nintendo Treehouse time during E3, and an extended segment in the September Direct. As a result some will wonder how much more there is to say, but anyone that's played a Xenoblade game will know there's a lot that could yet be covered.
When is the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Nintendo Direct?
The broadcast is early in North America but rather accommodating in Europe - it all goes down at 6am Pacific / 9am Eastern / 2pm UK / 3pm CET on 7th November. If you're in Australia / New Zealand it's a slightly painful 1am AEDT on 8th November.
So, bearing in mind this is a Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Direct we don't expect any whopping surprises, but we do hope to learn more about the following goodies in the broadcast.
More Story Elements and Characters
Yes, we've already seen a fair amount of this, but there's more to come because, well, it's a Xenoblade game. We know the main protagonists and a few 'Blades', and the September Direct took a look at a handful of the varied factions that feature in the world. It notably didn't go through all of the factions so it seems highly likely that gaps will be filled. Ultimately, we may get given a better sense of how the journey (at least early on) unfolds, and where protagonist Rex begins his adventure.
Beyond that we're intrigued to see whether the lore makes any notable nods to the first Xenoblade Chronicles, the sort of references that will give established fans a warm and fuzzy feeling. We also expect more regional dialects that'll be both delightful and absurdly cheesy. Trailers up to now have featured the likes of posh English, Cockney, 'och aye the noo' Scots and some Aussies from down under. Give a Yorkshire (region of England, for those of you outside old Blighty) accent to a tall and slightly obese man with a moustache and the set will be nearly complete.
More Painstaking Detail on Combat
This one is perhaps a 'maybe', because Nintendo's tackled this before, but if the company decides that it's targeting those on the fence it may take another punt at pitching the neat blend of real-time and strategy that the series has used from the beginning.
Expect Blades to be a big focus, as they have been on the official Japanese Twitter account, for example. In truth the combat seems more like an evolution than a revolution; yes, there's fancy new terminology, but you still auto-attack and activate arts, while balancing a team with healers, tanks and all-rounders. The same core principles seem to be there, but pleasingly the user interface looks chunkier and clearer than the eye-strain inducing miniature text of X.
That said, combat's biggest evolution is away from the field in those menus that all of us Xenoblade Chronicles fans know so well. With the ability to build relationships with a dauntingly broad range of Blades, all seemingly with their own distinct qualities, there'll no doubt be substantial depth to add to the familiar battle action. Quite how Nintendo condenses this into a Direct will be interesting to see.
A Look At the World's Towns and, Importantly, Trading
Nintendo has shown a variety of impressive environments, and we already have the sense that this game will be ludicrously big. That said we've not learnt a great deal about what you do in various towns and lands when it comes to engaging with the locals. One point of interest, for example, is trading.
If you think Link carries a lot around with no obvious place to keep his goods, play a Xenoblade game. Inventory screens have sub menus for sub menus, and there's impressive depth. The first game - if this writer's memory is correct - was more about natural resources to sell or indeed forge into useful things through towns. X on Wii U went big with lots of shops, upgrades and crafting to deal with, to an almost baffling degree. Obviously this sequel doesn't have an economy around Mechs (called Skells or Dolls in X, depending on your region), to deal with, but we're interested to see how much a savvy trading mind will help with the adventure.
Quests, so Many Quests
Xenoblade Chronicles games are all about questing. Sometimes it's the big things like saving the world, but occasionally you'll spend an hour looking for one more Translucent Slug just because an old woman wants to make her favourite soup for a Nopon. These games have incredible numbers of quests, traditionally, and surely this'll be no different.
This category also taps into the trading and world sections above, of course, as it all interconnects. The Direct may showcase some examples of major- and sub-quests, perhaps as a means of building bonds and relationships with factions. Perhaps, like in X, you'll eventually need to 'choose' a faction / side, and quests could adjust to that decision. The storyline already seems interesting, with the goal of reaching a World Tree and land, but the scene has also been set for cross faction intricacies to play into the experience. While the Wii original didn't dive as deeply as spin-off X into those ideas, perhaps we'll see a middle-ground here.
Online Elements and Some Small Goodies
In our view the online elements of Xenoblade Chronicles X were better in theory than in practice. There was a nice idea that you could dip into shared goals with others online - as part of a faction system - along with a concept of epic team battles against enormous monstrosities. A slightly baffling UI, difficulty spikes and the tortuous process of actually getting a team battle going made it a bit of a miss, but considering the giddy scope of the core game we didn't mind too much.
Will this game have some similar ideas? An early instinct is that it won't, as Monolith Soft may want to focus more on the core adventure and avoid distractions. Nevertheless it's possible.
Beyond that expect a plug for the special edition / Pro Controller depending on region. Perhaps we'll get confirmation of amiibo functionality for the under-appreciated Shulk figure, too. We wouldn't bet on new figures for the game, but we may regret saying that once the Direct rolls around...
Those are some of our thoughts on what we expect in the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Nintendo Direct. What do you hope to see in the broadcast? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to join us for the live stream / blog / chat when it comes around.