Xenoblade Chronicles 2
When looking at the scope and scale of the world in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it’s almost impossible to think that the game is limited in any sense of the word. However, while developer Monolith Soft is a veteran of the Japanese RPG genre, that doesn’t mean that Xenoblade 2 is without faults. The game is entrenched in traditional JRPG design, and while that may be a good thing for some expectant fans, it could turn off many newcomers to the series.
The world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is vast, and takes place in an ailing land where continents have fallen and all of existence lives upon the backs of “Titans”, huge creatures who are able to traverse the abyssal Cloud Seas. With countries and ships built around these gargantuan Titans, you’re able to travel and explore the enormity of every one of the different Titans, and explore everything from deserted wastelands to the insides of a Titan, all the while discovering new monsters and creatures along the way.
While exploring the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it becomes clear that the game is one of the rare titles where the world isn’t crafted for player benefit, which it to say that it feels that systems are not built around player presence or agency. In the starting areas of Xenoblade, it’s possible to run into impossibly strong creatures and get crushed immediately. There’s a living, breathing world for you to explore, one that’s not just crafted because the player is there, but one that exists in spite of the player being there. Just make sure to not wander into a powerful monster’s territory.
For all the success of the world building in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, its story and characters aren’t quite as laudable. You play as Rex, a plucky, young hero that is inexperienced and meets a fate much grander than his birth. Rex crosses paths with Pyra, an “Aegis” - who is obviously destined to save the world once they get to the world tree at the centre of the Cloud Sea. You pick up and meet a huge number of characters
along the way, but none of them seem to have any substance beyond being anime tropes, even when 50-plus hours into the game.
The anime tropes don’t stop there. The character designs are beyond egregious at many points in the game, and fanservice is rife. The nintendo Switch may be portable, but you wouldn’t want to be caught playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 out on the bus. The main story of the game gets better as time goes on, but the sluggish start often makes it feel like the opening hours are just there for the player to get used to Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s huge amount of systems.
When exploring, there are a wealth of activities and quests to partake in, meaning that you don’t just have to be going through the story to experience the depth of the game’s world. You’re able to pick up quests from people and notice-boards, all of which can consist from gathering ingredients to make a cake, to defeating unique monsters to help some villagers. This improves the mastery of the continent that you happen to be on, which can enable you to buy new items from shops and more. These never feel like a chore, and are a great compliment to experiencing the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Where it all gets a little bit more complex is within the battle systems of the game. each character is equipped with three “blade” slots, which you’re able to Switch out and customise. each blade has a different role, Attacker, Tank or Healer, which is also complimented by an element. The real-time fights in the game have you exploiting enemy’s elemental weaknesses while also rolling with a team balanced out to suit the needs of your battle. You’re able to perform special attacks once you’ve chained together your three skills, which is all rhythm based upon the game’s auto-attacking mechanics. If you follow up your elemental special, you can execute a chain of elements to do massive damage.
The battle system can be a lot to take in, but once mastered, the dynamics of the system all harmonise at once for an engaging battle system that feels equally rewarding as it is complex. This could be a turnoff to many new players, but once we’d found our groove, it was hard to put down entirely. battles all have a rhythm, and never once feel insignificant or drawn out, you’re kept on your toes at all times and it never stops feeling great to use.
It’s not all fun during certain battles and in certain areas in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however. In docked mode, there can be occasional significant slowdown while exploring towns or in dense areas with lots of effects. The same can be said of the Portable mode, which runs at a much lower resolution and just plain doesn’t look good.
While playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, there are echoes of Monolith Soft’s other titles. The gargantuan Titans, and Cloud Seas remind us of Baten Kaitos, while the deep mechanics and battle systems are refined versions of those seen in Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X. It feels like the developer has come to an apex of open-world design, and while the game makes some missteps along the way in its story and characterisation, it all makes up for it in the exploration of the world.
THERE’S a living, breathing world for you To explore, one THAT’S not crafted because THE player is THERE, but one THAT exists despite you being THERE
Xenoblade chronicles X
Above: Selecting the right team of blades is essential! Here, we’ve got
Rex equipped with three different attackers of separate elements.
below: if there’s one thing that’s not too great about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it has to be the dialogue.
below: about those anime tropes… yup. That’s a giant robot maid. we’re not making it up.