Building a World with Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Nintendo has done its best to provide a solid launch library for the Switch. In a year, the system has received an action-RPG, a racer, fighters, third-person shooters, a puzzle game, and an open-world platformer. Now, before the year is out, it has received a JRPG. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the third such entry in the series, but don’t let that fool you. This is an accessible game for anyone to enjoy and, while it takes some time to build momentum, does a lot of things right.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is set in the world of Alrest. The Cloud Sea is everywhere, with people forced to live on the backs of gigantic creatures known as Titans to survive. However, the World Tree in the center is said to hold a land called Elysium where all can live. Rex is a young scavenger who salvages item from the depths of the Cloud Sea, ruins from prior people, to sell and support his home village. The planet is plagued by fighting, since Titans call every day and reduce available land to live on.
Rex is offered a job from Bana, head of the Argentum Trade Guild, that will give him a substantial amount of money. He would help a man named Jin and his allies recover a mysterious Blade in uncharted territory. He takes it without question. Once this Blade is found, Jin kills Rex. However, Rex touched the weapon in front of the Blade beforehand. He then meets Pyra, the Blade, in her memories and agrees to take her to Elysium in exchange for her sharing her lifeforce with him. The two then must evade capture from multiple forces who all want her and her power and attempt to reach this promised land.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ’s battle system is similar to both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X , which is to say it plays similarly to a MMORPG. You have three Driver characters in your party, each with between one and three Blade characters connected to them. You control Rex, with the others acting independently. Drivers are physical attackers who get access to different kinds of attacks and special skills based on the Blades they have equipped and active. Blades support them and can trigger special abilities. Standard attacks happen automatically, with skills triggered by the player.
The downside is, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has battles that feel slow unless you are standing absolutely still. In previous games, you could attack while characters were moving. Here, you can’t. If you do try to move with a weapon drawn, it feels like your character is moving through gelatin. Waiting for skills to fill so they can be activated can take quite some time, unless you place items in your pouches that reduce wait times. This means a lot of the actual fighting is spent standing still, occasionally pressing the right buttons at the right times to switch Blades, trigger skills, pull off specials, and prepare combos. It isn’t necessarily bad, since it does allow people time to make strategic choices, but I felt it was a step back from the previous games.
While the battle can be hit or miss in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 , finding and preparing for these fights can be pretty great. The game is set in a big, open world that feels alive. The Titans you are on each walk or fly through the Cloudsea, resulting in tides that give or take away access to different areas throughout the day. Different things happen or appear during the morning, afternoon, and evening. Monsters interact with you and one another, so you might see someone crash your fight, see animals with families, or watch a member of one species attack and eat another. There are collection and salvage points, where you can collect new items. Alrest is a big and beautiful place.
And making sure you are ready for anything Alrest might throw at you is quite an involved process. Rex is a scavenger, and this factors into accumulating funds for your Xenoblade Chronicles 2 excursions. If you purchase containers, you can perform a button-press minigame to drive down and pull up scrap, money, items, and maybe even Cores that could turn into potential Blades. Collection points are around the world, with more items. Enemies drop pieces of themselves after a fight. These can all be turned in at any town either separately or in sets for money.
The pouch system is another important element in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 . In each town, you can buy items and place them in your pouch. Each one has a different effect. You might reduce wait time on skills. You could promote affinity between Blades and their Drivers. Health could be impacted. Critical rates can go up. There are a number of different ways to influence the game for different periods of time, each of which can benefit you in different situations. It requires you to be well-rounded.
There are also the Blades themselves. Each of your playable characters comes with a Blade that factors heavily in the story, but there are also plenty of common and rare Blades to collect from Cores. By equipping and working with them, you can build affinity that gives them new passive or active skills, strengths, and even field abilities that let you perform more actions in the world. You can use earned WP from leveling up to improve the skills tied to each Blade. Equipping different trios of these humanoid weapons impacts your characters’ roles, making them attackers, supporters, or tanks. There are even plenty of moments where you might struggle unless you take the time to get new Blades and switch up everyone’s loadout.
Poppi is an exception. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes place in a world where Blades seem to be a natural and accepted part of life, where people with potential can touch one to summon up a weapon and assistant. But it is also one with artificial blades. Poppi, one of your party members, is such a Blade. To improve her, you need to play a Tiger Tiger minigame. While the minigame itself can be a bit tedious to play, Poppi herself is an interesting character and having her alongside the party adds a sense of balance. After all, when you are dealing with older Blades, having a new, artificial Blade with a unique Driver relationship makes for an interesting set of balance. The more you play, the more you get to thinking about things.
Speaking of things getting more interesting the more invested you get, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a game that takes time to build. For the first few hours, it can come across as a rather stereotypical JRPG. The situations will seem familiar. It may be difficult to identify with some characters. But as time goes on, its story does get better. Especially if people are familiar with the previous Xenoblade Chronicles games. The voice acting for some characters is a bit stiff and could use improvement, as Rex in particular is particularly disappointing, but others are quite good! It is especially interesting how different accents can imply origin and help you draw conclusions about characters. As things begin to pan out and the lore grows, things and people become quite interesting.
Fortunately, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 gives you plenty of reason to keep playing. This is an open-world game with many quests. Each area is filled with folks to talk to and things to do. Spending time with people will develop the area. This will make it a richer place to explore, adding to the shops and developing the town. This makes dallying tempting, as you can better prepare yourself for the main story quests. Especially if you visit an inn to distribute the extra earned experience from such encounters to characters.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a game that takes time to grow. People who are patient and invest in the characters, their growth, and the world will be rewarded with a story that eventually goes to some interesting places, people who will be ready to handle any challenge, and a place with lots of areas to uncover. It can take some time to adjust to the speed of the battle system, but even its pace offers opportunities to develop tactics that take advantage of multiple Blades and various character builds. It is a good starting place for the Switch’s RPG library, one which will please existing Xenoblade Chronicles fans and give those new to the series a substantial game to enjoy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Beautiful game with lovely vistas and many biomes, but sometimes the resolution doesn’t seem great. 5.0 Control
It is easy to control your character in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and manage your party in intense battles. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is incredible and there is some great voice acting. Some characters’ delivery, Rex in particular, falls flat. 5.0 Play Value
If you are willing to be patient and put the time in, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offers a huge world with lots of blades, places to explore, and people to help. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|