The Xenoblade series has come a long way, from the Wii game fans had to petition Nintendo of America to localize to now being the company’s blockbuster game of the summer, yet here we are. After over 100 hours in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I can safely say it brings this strange, fantasy trilogy to a fitting conclusion.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 successfully ties the story of the first two games together while adding a cast of likable new characters into the mix. With an enhanced battle system that is complex yet easy to pick and a broad world that pushes the Switch to its limits, it’s a thrilling, surprisingly touching ride through a sea of clouds.
Welcome to Aionios
The first thing we should note is that while you can play this one standalone, I would highly advise that you play the previous two games: Xenoblade Chronicles, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 first. The story is meant to be the end of a trilogy and fans who are familiar with those first two titles will get far more out of the plot.
The game takes place in the world of Aionios which is on the brink of ruin due to constant war between the nations of Keves and Agnus. Every soldier in each nation is tailored to be a living weapon with a limited lifespan of 10 years after which they die and are reborn without any of their memories.
The two main protagonists Noah and Mio, are both “off-seers” of the opposing forces. They carry the responsibility of sending off the soul of fallen soldiers by playing the flute. Noah is accompanied by his close friends Lanz and Eunie (best girl) while Mio is also accompanied by fellow comrades Sena and Taion. Oh, and there are also two Nopons named Riku and Manana, because of course it is.
Being on opposites sides of the war, Noah and Mio start off as enemies but upon releasing an ancient artifact, are able to become “Ouroboros”. These are powerful beings that formed as a result of an Interlink/fusion between two people imbued with the same power. They also soon find out that of all the bloodshed and violence, the war is being controlled by a secret organization called Moebius. Whether it’s trying to end the war, finding a true purpose behind life itself, or bringing about a world of peace, one thing is for sure: they need to find the answers. Thus starting our latest chronicle.
Flutes And Welsh Cat Girls
That’s a pretty long synopsis but it’s not even scratching the surface of the overall plot. I’ve always felt that the best JRPGs feel almost like fantasy epics and Xenoblade fits that definition of perfection. Its world it vast and alive. but also grim and heavy. If you didn’t like Xenoblade 2’s more lighthearted story, you’ll also be happy to know 3, while still having its fun moments take itself far more seriously, which in term made it far more gripping to see what will happen next.
The game never lets you forget that these are a group of child soldiers, who raised their whole life to fight and obey orders without question, and have less than ten years to live, especially Mio who only has three months before her time comes. You can feel how it eats away at each of them on the inside and there are times when you really just want to give some of these guys a hug.
That being said also times were their laugh-out-loud hilarious. That’s a good thing mind you. The game strikes the right balance between intense bleakness and comic relief which made the story flow a lot easier. Said, comic relief can also make the dark scenes all the sadder, and trust me, they very much accomplish that job.
The game addiotnally puts a much stronger emphasis on the romance between Noah and Mio. I know some people tend to hate romance in JRPGs but Xenoblade 3 finally handles these elements far better to the point that I’d honestly say it has one of the best romances I’ve seen in gaming.
The two have great chemistry and watching them learn about the world and each other is truly touching. There are legitimately cutscenes in this game that could bring you to tears, something I’d really didn’t expect after how action-oriented Xenoblade 2 could be. I can’t say more than that without going into spoilers but if you’re a fan of more story-oriented RPGs, you’ll have a good time with this one.
The Ouroborous Arts
Combat of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 works more or less the same as the previous games. The game features MMO-style real-time action where you approach an enemy, draw your weapon, and begin auto-attacking them while charging up Arts (normal skills) and Talent Arts (ultimate skills) with different effects. That’s the basic idea at least because the combat gets far more complicated the more you progress through the game.
The barrage of tutorial scenes isn’t quite as bad as the last few games but it will take some time to understand each new mechanic you can use for battle.
You control seven party members are can be split into three primary classes: attacker, healer, and tank. That’s a lot more fighters on screen than the last game’s three (plus three blades). This is balanced out however by them all being a bit more fragile meaning that team coordination, positioning, and keeping your healer safe are important.
The powerful Chain Attacks also return from the past game and it’s way better executed than ever before. This is a super move kind of like All-Out Attack in Persona games where all of your characters will beat an enemy in one full combo. The difference is that it’s a lot more strategic since you need to accumulate the right amount of Tactical Points (TP) to reach at least 100% before successfully executing an Order.
Once you do though, it’s incredibly satisfying. Laying an onslaught of attacks on that one boss for massive damage feel great every time.
A new addition to the game is by using The Ouroboros, you can perform an Interlink to fuse two characters and transform them into a more powerful being that looks kind of like a mix of a Gundam and a Power Ranger. In this form, you can access a more powerful set of Arts and won’t take damage, but there’s a time limit indicated by Heat Gauge where you can go into an Overheated state and need to wait a while before you can transform again. As far as invisibility forms go these are quite fun and give you a real sense of empowerment. I do wish they were a little longer though.
Much like its predecessor, I think the best aspect of Xenoblade’s combat is its flexible accessibility. When you start the game, the amount of mechanics can feel overwhelming but in truth, you can still get buy just by getting to know the basics. The game knows it’s asking a lot of players so most of the flashy, big damage moves are easy to pull off and they’re really all you need, at least on the normal difficulty.
If you want more or a challenge, take it hard and learn about technical points and elemental types. If you want it casual, no sweat, here are your chain attacks and ouroboros and you’re good to go. The game’s great at letting you play it the way you want.
In The Presence of Heroes
So how can you have seven party members when there are only six main characters? Well, that’s because one extra slot is reserved specifically for “Heroes”. These are basically the replacement of Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. You can have additional party members that follow you into battle. Each Hero has their own backstory and personality with 19 to collect across the game by completing different quests.
While there aren’t as many Heroes as Blades in Xenoblade 2, I prefer them since they require so much less boring busy work. You don’t really need to invest in their skills tress or raise their affinity to make them battle-ready and they can pack a lot of damage. You also don’t get them through gacha. That alone makes them better than blades.
The World In The Clouds
Exploration has always been one of the main focuses of Xenoblade games with their grassy green meadows and crystal clear sky. While it’s not an open-world game, Monolith Soft sure knows how to create a living breathing world with a wild sense of scale, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is easily their biggest yet, rivaling Xenoblade Chronicles X in that regard.
There’s a lot more stuff that you can do and discover. My favorite thing to do is trying to reach every “?” around the map and see what events it leads you to. Sometimes it’s a boring fetch quest, sometimes you’ll find a new Hero for bonus EXP. As off-seers, Noah and Mio can also help the fallen soldiers to pass on which, alongside being incredibly somber, can also build affinity with the colonies they belonged to, in turn unlocking new skills and stat buffs.
It’s a small thing but you can also perform small activities at Rest Spots found throughout the world. These include things like crafting gems, cooking, discussing new topics, and even cleaning clothes (you don’t want to fight mechs while dirty do you?). It’s cute watching the characters interact and you do get rewards for these activities like new items to use in battle.
While the game is certainly gigantic, the navigation as a whole is improved. There’s a handy navigation feature that acts as a route guide that you can activate seamlessly at any time. This means the days of spending ages lost in the forest because the map won’t account for obstacles in your path are finally over. It’s very relieving and I’m very thankful for the update.
Blurs In The Blades
Here comes the not-as-good part of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 which is the technical performance on the Nintendo Switch.
I can safely say the game actually runs fine, minus the occasional FPS drop when visiting busy areas or when there’s too much stuff going on in battles, but it’s far from unplayable.
That being said the graphics can be inconsistent. Don’t get me wrong, Xenoblade 3 looks amazing, especially in some story cutscenes, but the backgrounds and some items can be a bit on the blurry side. Nothing game-breaking but you do wish The Switch was a little more powerful to iron out these kinks. We can only hope Nintendo’s next console will allow Monolith Soft to cut loose.
Many people might also not like the English dub but I’ve personally always found the British voice acting charming and something that sets the series apart from other RPGs. Also, how can say no to Tsundere Welsh Cat Girls?
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is huge, the world is vast, the mechanics are complex and the characters are well developed. It’s the full fantasy epic that JRPG fans long for. It delivers a powerful experience not only from its amazing story but also in a much more fleshed-out and richer gameplay experience. The Heroes are a vast improvement over Blades and combat continues to be deep yet casually accessible for all parties that wish to play.
If not for the occasional blurriness holding it back, it would be near perfect. Even then, however, this is probably the biggest Switch exclusive of the year and if you’re looking for the next big RPG to get lost in, the world of Xenoblade awaits you.
|Amazing story and well developed characters||Backgrounds can be very too blurry at times.|
|Expansive new world with better navigation|
|Lots of new mechanics and quality of life improvements (no gacha)|
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is available exclusively for The Nintendo Switch.