Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: A gorgeous, deep gameplay experience
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 genuinely surprised me and has enthralled me for days.
To be frank, I had a hard time getting into the first two games, but I ultimately enjoyed them. However, the story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 hooked me immediately, and when paired with a combat system similar to games like Final Fantasy 12, it’s a nearly unbeatable combo.
It’s also one of the prettiest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing on the Nintendo Switch. Aionos is a vast, beautiful world that changes and grows along with the characters, and it’s been a satisfying experience.
It has its drawbacks, but I cannot stress enough how enjoyable the title has been beyond that.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 starts with child soldiers but offers twist on theme
The notion of “test tube child soldiers” in these military colonies was a horrifying concept when I first started the game. Aionos has two major factions that genetically engineer child soldiers who only have one purpose: to fight.
Each soldier has a clock on their body that shows how long they have to live. They get ten years of life, and many never make it that far.
That might be the grimmest opening to a JRPG I’ve played in the past decade or so. It’s heartbreaking to see the Off-Seers pull out their whistles and free the souls of their dead allies when they pass on in battle. It gave me serious Final Fantasy 10 vibes, a parallel to Yuna.
I appreciate that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is its own story, and players do not need to play the first two games. They are JRPGs worth playing, but this game is very self-contained.
The main party is put together early, but there are plenty of guest characters and hero characters who tag along to help across this lengthy story.
The story does have some pretty lackluster, dull moments, but while that is true, how the characters react and grow in these situations honestly makes up for it.
It’s not a short game by any stretch of the imagination. It can easily take well over 100 hours, so fans won’t be disappointed if that’s something fans are looking for.
Without spoiling much of the story, characters from these two factions unite with a mysterious new power and the freedom to explore the world. Unshackled from the “Flame Clock” that governs the lives of these soldiers, a vast world awaits them.
Combat feels more like MMO than traditional JRPG
One of the best parts about the title was the combat. It feels like an MMO, where characters must stand still to deliver auto attacks. It’s built around a similar combat system to previous games, where users want to focus on combat debuffs like Break, Topple, Daze, and Launch.
However, I like that they can swap characters if they want to start setting up these debuff combos themselves. It has a pretty deep class system, where characters are good at specific classes but can learn most of them.
As the title continues, gamers will unlock Chain Attacks and the power to combine two characters via the Ouroboros system.
The Ouroboros reminded me a great deal of the designs in Neon Genesis Evangelion. As a party with six members, the group is broken into pairs of twos that are bonded together.
These are the pairings that come together using the Ouroboros system, with powerful new attacks. It can be done often, as the system has a cooldown.
Another vital facet of this combat system is the notion of canceling attacks for extra damage. Players can cancel an auto attack into a special attack and a special attack into another special attack.
It’s not always clear how to do it, but it becomes second nature with practice.
While combat is fun, it has some severe drawbacks
This is a very long game, so thankfully, it does have an auto-fight command for when users are grinding fights for materials for side quests, recipes, and anything else they need to get into combat for. There are always plenty of foes to fight, so sometimes, it will make life less frustrating.
However, there isn’t much in the way of character upgrades in the game. There are no new weapons to equip, just accessories. The Moebius forms have a skill tree to upgrade, which is done frightfully slow, but that’s about it.
Though this did lead me to one of the things that frustrated me the most about Xenoblade Chronicles 3: the elites and boss fights feel incredibly slow. These enemies have tons of HP; while they are essential, they feel terrifyingly slow.
When fighting elites, they also show a timer on screen while fighting. My average was about ten minutes and at least two Chain Attacks.
On top of that, the boss battles feel pretty underwhelming. Many look and feel similar, and I’m so tired of stomping my way through a critical fight only to have a cutscene that looks like I barely scraped by, or even worse, where I lost. That needs to go away forever.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s class system is great
Each character starts with a class, and you can swap them around as you see fit, for the most part. The various Xenoblade Chronicles 3 characters do have things they’re better at — tanking, dps, healing, et cetera.
I don’t like the game sort of pushes gamers to swap classes around by reminding them that they reached the level cap and should try something else.
I don’t like tanking in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, not at all. But by playing other classes, you unlock more skills to use in battle, and that’s important. Players can also skip leveling classes by collecting and using Nonpon Coins.
Other important NPCs will join the party as Heroes, essentially guest characters. By unlocking these, users can gain more classes to utilize, which unlock more combat options.
Some of these Heroes can leave quickly but come back later via side quests and things of that nature.
I love the classes and characters in the game, and each felt pretty different, despite being similar archetypes. It kept combat fresh while I explored options for my party, which was a nice change of pace.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 world is pretty and huge; use fast travel often
I will say that each area I went to was fantastic, and it was pretty satisfying to explore these regions in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It is also a gigantic game with plenty of fast travel spots; I’m grateful for those.
Alongside the visuals in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the musical score is also enjoyable and perfectly accompanies the story’s numerous highs and lows. While I enjoyed the varying terrain in combat, it can be a major detriment.
For example, being in a fight with something on a hill or outcropping can be frustrating. If users fall off or get knocked back, they must sheathe their weapon, jump back onto the platform, and then draw it again. Not difficult to do but a little annoying.
This is such an enjoyable game, and I’m a sucker for a title with tragedy and sorrow in it. It gets dark pretty quickly, and I appreciate that kind of storytelling.
I was leery at first, but I wound up loving it in the end. It has side quests that are, in many cases, very important and worthwhile. There are so many systems in the game, and with that comes an endless supply of tedious tutorials.
It felt like many things I did in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 were worthwhile. There are, of course, mind-numbingly tedious side quests and main quests, but that’s the nature of JRPGs.
Even with this game’s flaws, I found myself genuinely enjoying my time, and it’s a must-play for JRPG fans who own a Nintendo Switch.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch (key provided by Nintendo)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: July 29, 2022