Thanks for validating some of my frustrations.Yeah, I think all of your observations are all on point. The game is very different from Xenoblade 1 and 2, especially in that story-telling/character department. I almost never enjoy silent protag, and it isn't very good here. The text size is INSANE. What were they thinking? Nearly unplayable off the WiiU pad, you have to hold it up to your nose.
The first 1 hour of the story/plot and the final 1 hour of the story/plot are the absolute best. The game drip feeds you "story" for all the hours between, it's really disappointing. They save their best stuff for the final 30 minutes of the game's story and leave you wanting so much more. So don't get too heavily involved in the story... it's not going to pick up and blow you away mid-way through or anything.
All that said, the game is still a 10/10 for me. The exploration and combat are so so awesome. If you manage to stick with it long enough to get a flying mech (about halfway through the game) it's INCREDIBLE to be able to fly around this open world. There's even more exploration to do once you can fly. You'd assume that you'd just "break" the game and do whatever because you can fly, but nope. There's vertical areas to explore with high level monsters protecting them that you have to fight mid-air in your mech! It really feels like the "upside down castle" in SoTN, where once you think you've explored it alll.... NOPE, you're only halfway through!
If they ever do a remaster/remake they should definitely speed up the process and get you the flying mech sooner. I'm afraid too many people leave the game before getting it and it's really the most special/unique thing about the whole game... so magical! But it does feel so rewarding because you have to do a lot before you get it, you definitely feel like you've EARNED the moment.
Don't stress too much about understanding all the crazy systems, or which skills to use in combat. I'm pretty sure the game is tuned well enough so that you can make it through the entire game just ignore that, and just picking whatever skills fill up the fastest. I feel like "knowing what you're doing" is really only important if you want to tackle special monsters above your level and end-game monster stuff. But just natural progression through the game doesn't require you to have super knowledge of all the many poorly explained systems the game throws at you. Like you mentioned: there is a great support online wikis and YouTube videos that do a great job of explaining all the stuff the game doesn't for you. But don' tfeel like you need to know and master all that stuff in order to enjoy the game. Just play and do whatever, you'll be fine and take down the monsters you need to progress.
Generally I agree that the game’s strengths are still impressive. I’ve played plenty of open world games with worlds that aren’t nearly as interesting to explore as Mira.
I think that’s part of what makes the letdowns frustrating. There’s a massive, beautiful world to explore but it’s filled with almost nothing but blue sparkles. The game is also really bad at providing meaningful rewards for exploration. I discover a cave tucked away behind a riverbed and I get a generic blue sparkle and a “location discovered” if I’m lucky.
I still haven’t gotten over how awful the combat is. The fact that I can get by simply using abilities whenever they’re off cooldown and just sitting around the rest of the time is just indicative to me how terrible the design is. It’s such a bizarre design decision and I can only imagine how amazing this game would be if I didn’t have to roll my eyes at drawn out battles that involve zero meaningful decision making. It’s just a hassle. Thank god I unlocked skells because while the battles might not be any more interesting, at least they’re faster now.
I still generally feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of quest content and having no way of knowing which quests are going to be inconsequential drivel and which ones will be interesting or unlock an ability. The worst quests are the ones that want me to find an item that exists somewhere on a continent. Like I’m literally supposed to wander around the continent aimlessly until I find at least one of the things. Unforgivably bad game design :/
Side note, the data tester girl (Alex) has an astoundingly good voice actor. She’s the only character I’ve heard speak that actually makes me feel like there’s a personality underneath the dialog. Everyone else sounds like standard video game VA “this is my first read through of a script I’ve never laid eyes on before.
One thing that I’m finding really baffling is that the game keeps sending me out on level 20 quests that have me go to or through areas with aggressive level 40+ enemies. Why? The aggro mechanics are clunky and unintuitive and it’s like the game just wants me to suffer for no reason.
I’m still enjoying it despite my complaints but it’s hard not to be annoyed at how badly they dropped the ball with some of this stuff.