I enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles for both its gameplay, open world and presentation. I liked it so much that when I sold my Wii along with its games to clear up clutter I ended up buying it again for the New 3DS. So, needless to say I was really excited when a new game was revealed for the Switch. I was even going to hold out on the Switch until it had more exclusives that weren't Nintendo franchise but, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 made me buy the console just to play it. So was it worth it?
As far as JRPGs are concerned the story seems very similar featuring a tale of good and evil fighting against each other. Rex, a young orphan Salvager who salvages for a living discovers a legendary Blade while on an errand. He is killed but is chosen to be revived by the Blade Pyra in exchange to find Elysium.
XC2's battle system has quite a deep learning curve. There are elemental exploits as usual with with JRPGs. You target an enemy and your party members starts auto-attacking like many MMORPGs do these days - in fact, you have the exact common roles of tank, healer and attackers so if you're used to MMOs you should be quite familiar about party setup. You can then time your Driver Arts right after an auto-attack to help build up the Special gauge which, you can then unleash and chain with your party members.
The great part is you can tell your other two party members when to unleash a Blade Special too and, if you unleash each Special in the order of power, you can create an even more powerful, satisfying chain attack. So say one of your party member has a Blade Special Stage 1 ready. You tell him/her to unleash it. Now you have to wait until you or someone else has Stage 2 ready and so on. Once you've released 1, 2 and 3 in order you unleash a Blade Combo attack.
And it doesn't end there. If you have the chain gauge filled up up, you can then chain Blade Arts as many times as you managed to unleash combo attacks.
It all works really well even though it can be slow to start off with. It's very satisfying chaining Arts (the skill attacks in the game) to create combos and dealing a tonne of damage that finish off your enemies in a blink of an eye.
Talk about a deep and rewarding battle system!
On the other hand, if you're used to having a pool of energy (usually MP) that lets you spam skills right at the start of a battle to make quick work of trash mobs, you might end up a bit frustrated with level grinding. With XC2 you have to wait for the skills to build up in every battle making the old way of grinding XP not very enjoyable.
So with level grinding via trash mobs not workable, you're stuck with side quests. This really could have been made optional. I understand how much the staff wants players to explore the rich world they must have spent a lot of time developing but, it would have been better if they allowed the usual way of level grinding by giving XP bonuses when chaining enemy kills and then just make side quests more rewarding.
It goes to show how a streamlined levelling system similar to Persona 5 or the early Ys games such as Felghana really makes a difference when it comes to the pacing of an RPG. When you have to spend a lot of time running around doing chores for NPCs, nurturing your Blades so you can solve puzzles it can feel a bit laborious.
Battle system aside, XC2's world of Alrest is huge and there's so much to explore and do. It's probably one of the most creative and fun open worlds I've enjoyed exploring in a game because, each place feels so rich with its own lore - a very nice break from the usual elves, dwarves and humans setting that most Western RPGs use.
Instead of relying on rare drops by enemies, you go salvaging around the world with different 3 button QTE sequences and it's fun not knowing what you'll fish up. Aside from the side quests there are also mercenary quests where you can send your extra Blades out to complete based on real time similar to the way free-to-play games work these days.
XC2 has quite an expansive system with upgradeable weapons, accessories for characters, different cores to customise Blade abilities, food for buffs etc. It might explain why some parts of the game are rough on the edge - It seems Monolith was so creative that they didn't spend much time developing and refining all their ideas.
The world setting is kind of similar to XC with most living things inhabiting giant titans similar to the giant mechanical beings. You also have these legendary blades of power only they weren't alive back in XC. The huge open world is beautiful to look at and explore on the Switch and, the day/night cycle coupled with weather changes just make it even more engrossing and captivating to look at. Cutscenes are fun even though they go with the usual cliche character profiles but the direction is top-notch. It's so good you'd probably find yourself getting side-tracked just to find out what happens in a side quest. Both the sound and music is as great as XC but I would avoid the English voices because both Rex and Pyra sound monotonous most of the time.
Which brings me to the way quests and world navigation is handled... Fast travel works (even lets you fast travel when you're supposed to be locked up!) and is definitely needed with the world being so huge. However, it would have been helpful if you could actually setup your own waypoints or if the pointers actually showed if you were too high or too low. Setting active quest can also be a pain too because you have to delve into the main menu every time instead of using a shortcut.
With all that said, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a huge beautiful game world to explore with a tale to match so despite some bad design decisions, I still think it's worth getting a Switch just to play this. You'll be in for an awesome epic adventure.
- Huge beautiful open world to explore with fast travel.
- Highly customisable battle system.
- Day/night cycle complete with weather and "tide" system.
- Fun salvaging system not knowing what you'll fish up.
- Lots of unique enemies to fight for a challenge.
- Satisfying Blade combos that let you deal huge amounts of damage.
- Great presentation visually and music wise.
- Fun cutscenes.
- Forces you to do side quests for XP.
- Slow skill build up slows down fights.
- QTE combo specials become tiresome and repetitive.
- Horrible map system with no custom navigation point feature.
- Quest log could be better organised.
- No quick shortcuts to frequently used parts of menu.
- No manual when the game has a deep learning curve.