I love to look back at history and see how things have evolved, and when it comes to video game history, it’s just plain fascinating. The Xenoblade Chronicles franchise started with a game that was only meant for Japan, then fans begged for it to come to the US, and it did (then got a 3DS port later on). Then, upon seeing the hype it had gotten, Xenoblade Chronicles X was made, and it did well for the Wii U, but, it did have some issues. And now, the latest entry has come, and I have beaten it, and I can’t wait to tell you all in this Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review.
Game Name: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Monolith Soft
Release Date: 12/1/2017
As I write this Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review, I can’t help but look back at where I was 66+ in-game hours ago when I was dead nervous about the title. I didn’t play the original XC, but I did play X and loved it, so I had a lot of high expectations here, but also to see some big improvements, and thankfully, I find myself happier now than I was when I got the game.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes place on the world of Alrest, a land that is consumed by a Cloud Sea, and humans, animals, and Blades live on or in massive beasts called Titans. It’s a nice offshoot of what the original XC did, but it expands it in many meaningful ways, including some I won’t spoil just for the heck of it. Anyway, you play as Rex, an ordinary kid who lives on the back of a Titan himself. He’s a salvager and goes searching for treasure wherever he can in order to make it to the next day. It’s a simple life, but since this is an RPG, that doesn’t last long.
Upon getting “the job of his career”, he soon finds him before the Aegis, whose name is Pyra, a legendary Blade that many people want, and upon finding it, he gets killed by a group of people called Torna. But…the Aegis isn’t just sentient, she’s able to do incredible things, so she brings him back to life, and in return, all she asks is that he takes her to a legendary land called Elysium.
Now, while this may seem like a standard “hero’s journey” mixed with a “boy meets girl” storyline (those who have finished the game will get the joke in that latter comparison), it’s so much more than that. For in this story, there are lessons about life, love, learning to accept who you are, the question of what life is in and of itself, the ability to be more than you are, to trust one another so completely that not doing so is blasphemy, and so much more. Now yes, I suppose in the context of an RPG, that does sound like standard fare. But here, in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it takes on a whole new meaning because of the characters you meet. Specifically, the Blades.
It’s easy to go into this game and think that the Blades are just simple tools and weapons that you use, kind of like an advanced form of Pokemon. You raise them, but you don’t interact with them, right? Wrong. The Blades are a HUGE part of the game, and they have a mythology all their own. They share a massive part of the story that goes beyond Pyra and her connection to Rex. And you’ll find out that certain characters that appear human, or another species in the Alrest world, are actually Blades. In fact, I would dare say that (again, beyond Pyra) some of the most compelling characters in the game are Blades.
Of course, that speaks nothing about some of the amazing other characters you meet along the way. Characters like Morag, Vandam, Zeke, Corrine, and more await you, and it’s quite a journey. Oh, and the villains? They’re just as deep as the protagonists, and not everything is as it appears with them. Be careful of that Amalthus guy.
And make no mistake, the story is deep and LONG. That was one of the biggest problems with Xenoblade Chronicles X. The story was limited to certain missions, and the world was rest of the story, and arguably the better part of it (and don’t get me started on that ending.) Here though, the story is so vast and so great that you’ll feel that it’ll honestly never end. Just so I’m clear, my 66+ hours of gameplay contained little grinding for levels or for quests. Yes, I did them, but even so, the story took up a lot of my time. My fellow co-host on the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast, however, is grinding and going to find all the quests he can, and so he’s only at the end of Chapter 3 right now (there are ten in total). So by the time he’s done, he’ll likely be over 100 hours+, and he likely still won’t be done with the game.
That’s the beauty of these games, the worlds are so vast and deep that you can’t help but get sidetracked. And in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, you actually help “develop” the Titan worlds by doing quests for them. The higher the level, the more quests you can do, and thus rewards you can earn.
Plus, the world is full of creatures that you can fight. From the exotic and made just for this game, to things like A T-Rex, and yes, there are those in the game, including some in some very unsuspecting places (like a quest you can take at any level then find a level 90 T-Rex waiting for you at the end).
Where to next? Oh! How about customization? Xenoblade Chronicles 2 wants you to play the game the way you want. Both in terms of the party, the Blades you wield, the gear you can equip, the abilities you use, it’s a lot. Now, yes, sometimes it can overwhelm, but you’ll learn to manage it. A nice twist with the Blades is that in order to unlock their true power, you have to earn their trust through doing certain objectives. The more trust you earn, the more tiers you can unlock, and these can sometimes mean the difference between victory on the battlefield, and death. In one case, I had a blade named Kora, who has an ability to heal my characters (in my case, Rex) just by walking in battle. That saved my butt a LOT.
As for how to get Blades, you’ll receive Core Crystals. And through bonding with them, you’ll unlock special characters. Some are basic/generic models, but even they have lots of use. Plus, they all have different elements, which you can use to your advantage both in battle and in the overworld. For these Blades have abilities that can help you reach new places, unlock things for quests, or even open special treasure chests.
It’s a true joy to unlock the unique blades in the game. I have over a dozen myself, but I know there are others waiting for me should I choose to go find them…including one from a certain Xenosaga character named Kos-Mos RE…WHO I DON’T HAVE YET!!!! *sobs*
Now, as is the tradition of a Xenoblade game, the battle system is deep and complex. Now, before I wrote this Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review, I thought that this would be a major downpoint, but it eventually won me around. To be clear, this is a tough battle system. The tutorial does do a good job of explaining things to you, and you can figure out your own speed via countless battles. So it’ll take a while, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Which is great, because once you’re firing on all cylinders, you’ll learn to make the battlefield your own personal playground. Whether it’s unleashing the full power of your Blade, doing special combos to do epic amounts of damage, or a Combo Attack where your entire team bond together for the most grand of attacks.
Trust me, I’m just scratching the surface of it all, you’ll need to dive deep into the game to learn it for yourself. But, you won’t regret it if you give it a chance.
I would remiss if I did this Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review without spelling out some of the things that irked me one way or the other. I’ve already mentioned some of it, the toughness of the battle system is a thing that’ll weigh you down at first. But it’s the other things that kind of hold it back.
For example, Blades. On one hand, they’re great to have, but they’re a pain to summon at times. Especially when you want to get the rare blades like Kora, Adenine, Godfrey, Gorg, and more. Yet, no matter what you seem to do, you will get more basic Blades than anything else. I researched and found that having a high Luck stat will give you better odds. But when I’m at the end of the game, have over 350+ luck, and I’m still getting a lot of generics while using Rare and Legendary Core Crystals? Yeah, the RNG is rough. Also, the “Boosters” you get honestly don’t seem to work. They’re meant to help tip the balance in your favor of getting a certain element of Blade, yet, I was cranking up my Justice Boosters and I rarely ever got a Light or Dark type Blade. Thus why I don’t have Kos-Mos RE no doubt…*sobs harder*
Now, while I absolutely adore the story, there are some parts that fall a bit flat. For example, the death of Rex, the arrival of Mythra, and a few other things were spoiled in the trailers, so certain things lose their impact at the beginning. A bigger downer though is the inconsistent voice acting. Some of the voice actors absolutely kill it, both for main characters and the random blades you get. Others though waver to a degree that is very noticeable, and at times painful to hear. Characters like Patroka, Malos (at times), Bana, and even Rex can sound off, or worse, overact the scene to an astonishing degree. Plus, the game wasn’t fully localized in regards to character mouth movements. So you’ll get a very “dubbed” version where people aren’t talking yet words are being said, and more.
Speaking of Rex, while I dig the whole “he’s pure and innocent” personality he’s got, it gets pushed a little far at times. While I admire their desire to go that far, it doesn’t seem believable in certain places.
A more personal gripe is the graphics quality. This game is beautiful, no doubt about it. The world, the cutscenes, the battles, the characters, all are great. But, because I play in Tablet Mode only, I see the graphics and framerate quality drop at times. Now, sometimes it’s logical because a LOT is going on, but other times I’ll be walking and I’ll notice things getting fuzzy all of a sudden. This well and truly the only time I’ve seen this happen on my Switch, not even Breath of the Wild did this to me.
Finally, and I mentioned this before, there’s so much in the game that you have to/need to control, that it’s very easy to forget things. Like the ability to upgrade your Blade’s core chips to make them stronger. Give them better Aux Cores, increase your Driver abilities so they can be stronger, using the Pouch, etc. There’s a lot to comprehend, and that overwhelm those who aren’t prepared for it.
And yet, as I finish this Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review, I can’t help but love this game. It’s without a doubt one of my favorite RPGs ever, and I have no doubt that I’ll get the DLC for the game and play it all over again in a few months time.
The story is amazing and has such depths that the twists and turns and villains that arrive are all shocking in their own right. The battle system is amazing, and fun to play with once you have the hang of it. The characters are well written, and I adore each and every one of them. And, the world itself is a wondrous place to explore, you will lose yourself in it.
Oh, and what’s an RPG story without a happy ending, right? Well, here’s a tease, I can’t wait for you to see it yourself.
P.S. Hope you liked the pictures! They’re ones from my playthrough! Thanks, screen capture!
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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an absolute gem that every Switch owner should have. Prepare to get lost in the amazing world, characters, plot, and battle system as you seek to find Elysium.