Xenoblade Chronicles has grown to be a successful JRPG series following its initial release on the Wii in 2010. From a JRPG that Nintendo initially wasn’t going to bring over, to a multi-million series, Xenoblade Chronicles has truly come a long way. The announcement of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was met with a lot of excitement, even more so once the official release date was given.
While connecting to Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, no prior knowledge is required in order to jump right into this third installment. But for those who are familiar with the two previous games, there are many Easter eggs to pick up. Past those Easter eggs, is Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a worthy sequel in this stacked series?
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 opens in the middle of a festival. However, the celebration comes to a stop as time freezes, with a young version of the protagonist looking up at the sky in confusion. The scene then shifts over to a war-torn battlefield as Keves and Agnes are in the middle of a large-scale battle. Waves of people from both sides are dying, with their life essence being stolen by the other side. It’s a raw scene, but the player isn’t given much explanation before being thrown right into the combat.
The player eventually comes to learn that Noah and his friends are a part of the country of Keves, and the only meaning in their life is to fight against Agnians. From the moment that they are born, they are raised as soldiers, fighting in what seems to be an endless battle. They also don’t appear to have typical human lifespans, only lasting ten years, or “terms.” Once the tenth term has passed, they go through what is known as “Homecoming,” where their life essence goes back into the Queen who gave birth to everyone.
That is all that Noah, Lanz, and Eunie know as their lives until they come across a camp holding a strange egg, as well as a weird old man. They also come across three Agnians: Mio, Sena, and Taion. The two groups lock into combat, but it isn’t long until a large creature unlike anything they’ve seen before comes and attacks them. The old man that they came across unlocks the sphere and unleashes a power known as Ouroboros onto the six protagonists, allowing them to fuse together into a form not unlike the creature they’re fighting.
There are a lot of questions front-loaded into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 that the game takes its time to answer. The beginning portions of the game are almost painfully slow, especially taking into account the large number of tutorials that interrupt the flow of the game at times. However, once the game picks up, it’s very easy to sink hours into it just to fully explore the area and figure out what exactly is going on. Like other JRPGs, there are moments where event after event is happening, before a lull in the story occurs where you can breathe.
There are also a lot of cutscenes in the game, and the spacing between these cutscenes can be just seconds apart at times. Other times, you’ll come out of a cutscene, walk about 30 paces, and find yourself right back in another cutscene. As the game progresses, those cutscenes will start to get longer, to account for the amount of explanation that the game will have to do to catch you up.
Much like the side quests in other Xenoblade Chronicles games, the majority of the quests are simple fetch quests or involve defeating enemies. The plot of these particular quests can be monotonous as they do the bare minimum in building relationships between the characters throughout the Colonies. However, there are a few side quests related to both the main characters and the “Heroes” (characters that you unlock in your journey) that actually go a bit deeper into the backgrounds and development of these characters. Whether the actual content sticks with you depends on the characters, with some landing while others fall flat.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an action RPG that lets you control any of the available six members of your team as you battle and explore the areas of Keves and Agnes. You have the main story quest to complete as well as countless side quests with the choice of focusing on any at any given point. Xenoblade is definitely a game where you get what you put in in terms of building out your team and unlocking heroes, so it’s heavily encouraged to test out all of the features that the game offers to give yourself a better chance during the later stages of the game. You could also get by from grinding your character until you overpower everything.
Along with combat, there is a lot of exploration to be had. With several regions within Keves and Agnes to go through, the entire map is open to you. Your only deterrent is time and enemy levels.
Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 plays out similar to MMORPGs where you have skills that you can make use of and an auto-attack that will automatically trigger when you’re within range of an enemy. Your skills have a cooldown that fills up either by landing auto-attacks (Agnians) or refilling over time (Kevesi). Auto-attacking is where most of the battling occurs (although not damage-wise). So, it can end up feeling like you’re not doing a whole lot while waiting for your skill cooldown timer to reset. That’s where there’s some weird balance with Xenoblade Chronicles: there’s a lot to take in with your team status and keeping track of the skills being used, but outside of moving your unit when appropriate and using your skills, there are those moments in time when the player isn’t really doing anything.
Along with auto-attacking, you also have skills known as “Arts.” Each class has its own set of Arts to choose from, and you can mix and match Arts based on your play style. By using your Arts and performing “Role Actions,” you also build up your “Talent Art” gauge, which allows you to use a powerful skill. This can be anything from directing all aggro to your character, healing your entire party, or unleashing a powerful attack. This gauge isn’t too hard to build up and it’s possible to execute your Talent Art multiple times during battle (depending on how long the battle ends up being). You can also make use of a technique known as canceling. This means right after the animation for an attack occurs, you execute an Art, causing the previous attack to be halted and your new Art to play out. This can result in increased damage, and given that canceling is extremely easy to execute, it’s a no-brainer to cancel all of your attacks into Arts.
There are three main class types that you can make use of: Attacker, Defender, and Healer. You will want a mixture of all three on your team, as each of these types has its own roles to play in the battle that can make things easier. Attackers deal out large amounts of damage, defenders are your tanks that will control aggro, and healers handle healing and support. While it is best to try and have a balanced team, you can play around with how many of each type you have on your team to see what works best for you. You will need healers at the very least, though, since there is no way to heal yourself in battle without them. In terms of which class is the best to play, it does come down to which one feels the best for the player. If you’re looking for classes with more impact, the Attacker classes may be more up your alley. But if you’re looking to have more influence over buffs and health, the Healer classes will align with what you’re looking for.
You are able to play as any of the six main protagonists throughout the game, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. You can change through the characters at almost any point in and out of battle, but if you’re not the type to experiment, it can be easy to forget that the other five protagonists are playable. Who you end up preferring to play as comes down to personal preference as each character is viable in their own way. Their moves change based on the class that they are currently playing as, and there are a lot of classes to unlock. Each character plays the same in terms of controls, so it’s easy to switch from one character to the next.
A bit into the game, you’ll unlock “Chain Attack,” which is a technique that allows party members to take turns performing Arts. The Chain Attacks gauge fills over time and once you press the corresponding button, you’ll be taken to the order screen. Before going into a Chain Attack, make sure all of your units aren’t knocked out, as any units whose health is 0 won’t be able to participate in the Chain Attack.
You’ll be given three characters to choose from to execute an order. The orders remain the same based on the character, such as lowering an enemy’s defense or increasing the chance of dealing damage while ignoring the defense stat. Once you’ve selected an Order, you can execute Arts using your team members. Each character uses one Art per Order and you need to build up the Tactical Point gauge to 100% to complete the Order. If an Order is completed, you will continue on with the Chain Attack, with one or more units coming back through Reactivation. The chain will continue with a maximum of three orders, so long as you still have units that can perform arts. Chain Attacks are a great way to deal a large amount of damage, especially against bosses. Against normal enemies though, they tend to be overkill and can elongate a battle. However, you can also cancel a Chain Attack at any point.
Chain Attacks are fun to experiment with when it comes to racking up a lot of damage against an enemy. They are also the only consistent way to hit for a lot of damage and without them can end up making long boss fights even longer. They can also be a great way of healing your entire team back up if you’re having a hard time healing against a tough boss.
The last main battle mechanic that the game gives you is “Interlinking”. Interlinking allows you to fuse with a character’s corresponding partner into their Ouroboros form. Ouroboros can use their Arts as many times as possible (with a small cooldown in-between executing). The damage output is also much higher than when the human characters are attacking. However, there is a timer in the form of a Heat Gauge that fills up over time. If the Heat Gauge fills up all the way, you are forced out of Interlinking and locked out due to overheating. It’s always best to exit out of Interlinking just before the Heat Gauge would be full, if you don’t want to be locked out of the option to Interlink in the future. This gauge fills up quickly, and it feels as though right when you’re starting to ramp up with your damage output, it’s time to break out of Interlinking.
Another good thing about Interlinking is the fact that you don’t take any damage. So if you notice that your partner is low on health and may not be able to heal before they’re knocked out, Interlinking can buy you some time. Ouroboros also tends to draw aggro, which is another strategic point if all of your Defenders are down for the count and your healers need to revive them without pulling aggro. Interlinking and Chain Attacks are mechanics that keep battles interesting, as there can be some monotony in auto-attacking and using Arts.
Overall, the battle mechanics of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 can be overwhelming at first when you are let go to experiment after unlocking everything. But at that point, the game has walked you through a multitude of tutorial screens to make sure that everything sticks. For new players or those who haven’t invested a lot of time in any of the Xenoblade Chronicles games, battles end up going smoother and you develop a rhythm with how you want to handle battles. Battles will follow their own ebb and flow, especially during boss battles that can end up stretching out for a longer period of time.
Given that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an open world game, you can explore the map at your leisure. However, in certain locations, there will be enemies that overpower you. You can see all enemy levels above their heads. If you have a higher level than the enemies around you (around five or so levels above), they generally won’t attack you. However, almost all enemies with a higher level will automatically target you if you get too close. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled at all times because it’s common to walk through an area of enemies around your level along with some that are much higher. Although, you can always try sneaking past and running for your life if you’re seen.
As you explore, your map will fill up, making it easier to figure out where you are. The map will also show icons of landmarks, colonies, collectable items, quest markers, and other tidbits. Along with your mini-map, you can also make use of clues on the screen itself. Containers that have rare items will have a yellow pillar of light emitting from the top, fallen husks will have red orbs floating around them, and quest markers will float on the screen in the general direction that you need to go in. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 strikes a nice balance in this way of not making things too obtrusive and allows players to explore around as they wish. And exploring new areas almost always has something worthwhile waiting, giving players more of a reason to go beyond the regions of the main quest.
The areas in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 are available for the player to interact with in one way or another. It tests your ability to find a path to reach your destination. There is no climbing mechanic, which is a constant point of frustration when you’re right above (or below) a quest marker and the only way up is to find a path.
As you discover new areas, you’ll gain experience for finding a new landmark. Some landmarks will also reward you with SP, which can be used to upgrade your Ouroboros skills. These landmarks are helpful, as they are used for fast travel. They are also used as checkpoints whenever you die. Some of these landmarks act as campfires, where you can perform a range of actions such as increasing your level, crafting gems, or cooking.
Heroes and Classes
Along with a multitude of classes, there are also heroes that you bring along that can join your team as a seventh member. While you won’t be able to play as them, you can unlock their unique class for the other six protagonists to use. Having this seventh member on your team can help to cover any holes that are present in your current team lineup. Whether you need another defender to help draw aggro away from your healers or you need another healer to carry the weight of the team, the heroes are there at your disposal. It’s fairly easy to locate potential spots to unlock new heroes, as they tend to appear as question marks on the map. For every hero that you meet, you’ll need to complete a quest before they join your ranks. But once they do, they are around your level and will gain experience as you level up, even if you’re not actively using them. This makes it much easier to switch out heroes on a whim without feeling forced to have to invest in only a few.
Along with unlocking a new hero, you’ll gain access to their class. In the beginning, only one protagonist will have immediate access to use that class. All other protagonists will have that class locked for them. In order to unlock the class, you’ll need to play with the hero in your team long enough for their class icon to fill completely. This, of course, does mean lots of grinding and dedicated time with each hero to make that possible.
All classes cap at level 10, with the main protagonist’s classes having an option to be uncapped later in the story. Once your class reaches level 10, you won’t gain class experience anymore. It’s encouraged to level up as many classes as possible because you can unlock Arts that can be used for other classes. For instance, you can learn a healing Art and use it, even if your current class is a defender.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 uses 3D anime models and is definitely one of the best looking games on the Switch. Of course, there are moments when things can look a bit pixelated and fuzzy, but overall, it is a gorgeous game in both appearance and sound. A minor nitpick would have to be concerning the camera at times during cutscenes. There were a few moments where it looked as though the camera was vibrating almost, almost like it was lightly stuttering against something.
Voice Acting and Music
If there is one thing that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has become infamous for, it’s its English voice acting. Both the English and Japanese voice acting are great in their own right and worth listening to. During battles, however, the protagonists are screaming out the same 10 lines of dialogue. At that point, it can feel a bit like a fever dream.
The music is just as gorgeous as the visuals, with a lot of emphasis put on the flutes that Noah and Mio play as off-seers. Xenoblade has always been orchestral music galore and 3 is no different. It does a great job of delivering the somber emotions that hang around a lot of the moments of this game. This is absolutely a soundtrack that would fit right in an orchestral hall during a concert.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an absolute treat to play through. Of course, there are flaws with a game of this magnitude. While very little grinding is needed, if you wish to make full use of every hero and class available, you’re going to be exploring every inch of the map and fighting against a large number of enemies. The fact that you aren’t able to climb up rock faces (not even the steep cliff sides) is frustrating at times. A lot of the side quests also tend to be monotonous, whether they involve finding a specific item or beating a monster.
However, combat against bosses can be very intense and the inclusion of Interlinking gives a lot of satisfaction to watching your protagonists fuse into a huge creature and battle against enemies. Chain Attacks are fun and watching your damage output increase with each wave is always a treat. Being able to change character classes and build out teams to best fit different play styles helps keep things interesting.
Don’t let the fact that you haven’t played the first two Xenoblade Chronicles games deter you from this addition. It is well worth the long journey and does an excellent job of telling its story and bringing forth a cast of interesting characters.