If you’ve been following my blog since it started, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of my favorite games. While the general consensus seems to be that the more story and character driven first game is better, I much prefer the open-ended gameplay of X. Now the long awaited third game, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (because that’s not confusing) is out. It’s too early for me to give a definitive review, but I wanted to give you guys my thoughts after playing for around ten hours.
As the name implies, this game is both thematically and mechanically more in line with the first Xenoblade Chronicles than X. Just like the first game, 2 takes place in a pure fantasy setting, unlike the more sci-fi spin X went with. Also just like the first game, this one takes place in a world where everyone lives on top of giant creatures, called Titans this time around. However, the Titans are getting old and starting to die out, taking the civilizations on their backs with them.
Our main character is a boy named Rex. He lives on top of a small Titan who he calls “Gramps” who apparently raised him. Rex makes his living as a salvager, diving off of Gramps’ back and into the sea below to try to drag up anything if value. Rex lives a pretty simple life, but as you might expect, things get a lot more complicated.
After some tutorials and running around a ton, Rex gets summoned to take part in a very high paying job. He doesn’t even ask what it entails before agreeing. Turns out he’s trying to obtain some cargo with the help of Drivers and Blades, which are new concepts for the series. Blades are beings who basically serve as weapons, granting their Driver power and abilities. Without giving away too many specifics, Rex eventually finds the cargo, a Blade named Pyra who has the appearance of a young woman and is something called “The Aegis”, which is apparently important.
The gameplay flow is pretty similar to the rest of the series. You run around towns, dungeons, and huge open environments and take part in quests. There are tons of side quests that range from fairly mundane to pretty exciting. I did one that had me buying one of every item a shop had for sale because the owner was bummed out, but I also did one that had me help fix a broken crane as well as hunt down and defeat the creature responsible.
You’re encouraged to take on side quests with the usual rewards of items and experience points. The way the game gives you that experience is a little different though. You build up bonus experience which can then be cashed in and applied to any of your characters when you stay at an inn. I don’t know why you would, but if you wanted to only level up through old-fashioned grinding, you totally could. Personally, I’ll be cashing out my bonuses.
Finishing quests also raises a town’s development level. I’ve only seen a tutorial on this and not actually seen it in action, but it’s my understanding that you’ll unlock certain features in a town as they’re level goes up. Things like more quests or more items for sale. I like this idea, it kind if reminds me of the renown system from Final Fantasy XI. Hopefully when I actually see this stuff happen, it’ll turn out to be pretty cool.
Whether you’re running quests, gathering materials, or just trying to level up, you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time in combat. Xenoblade uses a real time combat system with an auto-attack, similar to your average MMORPG. Get in close to your opponent, and your character will start attacking on his own. As he does, he charges up his Arts, which are specific attacks that have different effects. Rex has one that drops health potions when it connects with an enemy. As you use Arts, you build up a special attack. A special attack can be leveled up multiple times as well as combo with other character’s specials. It… Sounds complicated. But honestly, it’s pretty easy to pick up and figure out.
What’s really complicated us character progression. You have a ton of different things you need to keep an eye on. As you level up, you’ll unlock new abilities. On top of that, when you fight, you earn SP which can be used to level up your Arts. There’s also Aux Cores, which you have to find and then activate by going to a specific shop and use materials you find out in the fields. After that’s done, you can apply them to your Blades for added effects. There’s also a fully customizable Blade who has their own progression system that involves playing a retro themed game called Tiger Tiger. It’s all really exhausting to think about.
The first thing you’re likely to notice when you start playing, which now that I’m thinking about it, is weird that I’m mentioning it so late, is that the overall tone has changed quite a bit. The art style has gone full anime, including things like big sweat drops appearing on characters heads during awkward moments. While there’s still plenty of serious moments, the story has gotten a lot wackier as a result. I’m not complaining about this, but it does feel different from what I’ve come to expect from Xenoblade. There’s also a surprising amount of more adult themed humor, including what seemed to be a subtle reference to prostitution. This doesn’t bother me, it’s just surprising to see from Nintendo.
It’s hard to say if I’ll still feel the same way I do about the game after playing for eighty hours, but right now at ten hours, I’m pretty happy with it. The combat is and progression is fun, if a little too complicated. The characters are fun to be with and the story is entertaining. It’s not the sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles X that I’m waiting for, it does seem to be a pretty solid sequel to the original Xenoblade Chronicles.