Here's a quote:
Takahashi: I think Xenoblade Chronicles X will have a different play feel from the first Xenoblade Chronicles game. Xenoblade Chronicles is a pretty linear game, but Xenoblade Chronicles X is non-linear, and I think a lot of the gameplay will depend on that.
Xenoblade Chronicles’ core thrust is centered around its story, but Xenoblade Chronicles X is shaping up to be a game with more focus placed on action elements that take advantage of the open world instead of the story aspects.
About this... some fans are freaking out a bit. We all knew the game would be built differently than Xenoblade (and a good majority of jRPGs). There is worry that the story will suffer a lot.
Saying that Xenoblade was built around its story is also a questionable statement from Takahashi (that or the translation messed up). Xenoblade is not exactly built around
the story (Gears and Saga were). It is built around the world concept
: 2 titans as worlds to explore. Takahashi said it himself years ago that they came up with the story after the world concept. Those are two different things to me (there are games built upon world concept with no or minimal story, after all). Not to mention how exploration is Xenoblade's main selling point/what people remember/praise most, not/less its story.
However, Xenoblade has a linear progression that depends on the storyline, YES. It's like that in a majority of jRPGs, old and new.
What Xenoblade X is doing (and what I'm not surprised to see Takahashi doing... his new philosophy on game design started with Soma Bringer, evolved a bit with Xenoblade and goes much further on borrowing western RPG design element with Cross... who knows what he'll do next time... a full MMORPG, maybe... he's really close to this with XBX) is allowing the player to travel anywhere and whenever
he/she wants in the world Monolith built. Xenoblade only allowed the anywhere part (not completely, Alcamoth is not fully explorable if you noticed *and you still can't visit people's house in general*... but overall, you could go anywhere).
There IS a main story for XBX but here, it's implemented into the game like a puzzle to complete (I even assume it will be possible to miss recruitable characters). And the only way to complete that puzzle will be to do quests and explore everywhere (aka : interacting with the world). Done well with tons of lore/story to discover, it has the potential to appeal to me MUCH more than the first Xenoblade. But only if the story/lore delivers. I think, one of the reasons that make me love Xenogears so much... isn't because the story is linear. It is because it is very detailed and has a lot of small stories put together (some that are also mostly left to your imagination... though that is also due to the fact that only 1 episode out of 6 could be produced). The game's story feels like a jigsaw puzzle. And I find that really appealing. That's why I think it's interesting to see how Xenoblade X will turn out. Even with Takahashi not writing anymore (and Soraya Saga not working on his games anymore... or Kato doing... WHAT is he doing these days, exactly ? Is he even part of Monolith anymore ?), which is kind of disappointing but... eh (unless he's just not talking about his involvement in the plot). At least, Takeda's short story pleased me. That surprised me, in a good way.
As far as I'm concerned, it's really important that they improve the sidequests and lorebuilding compared to Xenoblade. They need to really add something to the experience. Or else, the game will probably disappoint old Xeno fans, some Blade fans included (I hope not, with Takahashi recently talking about story/gameplay balance
being important and saying that most wRPGs are lacking in the epic department).
In Xenoblade, the majority of quests were fetch/hunt missions that didn't affect in any shape or form the main storyline or character development (or barely... it's extremely rare to hear a party member revealing something new about him/her during quests). EXCEPT for one thing : the sociogram for NPCs. This was a brilliant idea and the only thing that motivates me to complete the poor sidequests (no really, as I play, it comes to a point I don't even consider the rewards anymore *that I already have or are obsolete considering my characters' level* and focus more on finding the right party member for discussion with NPCs and improving relationships between NPCs).
Heart-to-Heart for the party members were/are a good idea but imo, they were a bit too light and didn't trigger new sidequests (I remember that one between Shulk and Sharla in the mines... guess that Sharla will wait forever to see her watch fixed).
And, really, if Monolith wants to go down the dating sim route (one of the reasons why I actually love Persona... I don't get why some people hate the social parts of those games... if anything, it's the dungeons that need work... and Atlus seems aware of this, judging by Persona 4 but especially what we've seen of P5), might as well go all out and offer romance options, if you want the friendship to become a romance (you sure couldn't do that in Xenoblade where romance was fixed... and I probably wasn't the only one who wasn't a fan of the romance in Xenoblade... really forced for most of them *the main one was okay-ish though... but still the most forced romance EVER in a Takahashi game*).
Without a linear story approach, Xenoblade X NEEDS to improve on the sidequesting part. A LOT. And without the original concept of the titans, the lore also needs to be MUCH more developped to make Mira actually interesting (or give me underwater exploration at some point, gosh, that would be a fantastic surprise). ESPECIALLY considering the crazy size of Mira (which still looks like a tiny planet lol... that or the White Whale/Moby Dick is really as big as an Earth continent, which is crazy *how big was the Eldridge in Gears by the way? Would it fit a continent from Earth? In any case, Xenogears' planet seemed kinda small too, according to PW... *).
Maybe the online will be required to complete that "story puzzle" but I hope not (really now, online gaming sucks when you consider how ephemeral it is in the long run... especially as we're talking about the WiiU... how many people will keep using that console in ten years ? How many years will Nintendo support the online on it ?).