I’m not intending to sugar coat this in any possible way when I say that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the best game that I have played in a long time, and perhaps has become my new favourite game of all time!
This isn’t to say that I haven’t played many good games, but quite the opposite! For Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to soar to the top is something I was never expecting when I first booted up the game and it’s an experience I am glad that I was able to have.
The game was developed by Monolith Soft, the same team behind the development of both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X.
At face value, the game appears to be entirely unrelated to the previous games in the franchise; taking place in an all new world named Alrest.
Alrest is a world comprised of gigantic Titans that float atop a sea of never-ending clouds, and circle a large tree at the centre, referred to as The World Tree. These Titans are the home to the wide variety of races that live in Alrest. In this world, most species aside from the returning Nopon species from the previous titles, have the ability to bond with Blades – beings that are born from what are known as Core Crystals.
The plot is centred around the dying out of these Titans. As time draws on, more and more Titans around Alrest die and sink beneath the clouds, enter Rex our protagonist, as he dreams of one day reaching Elysium – the top of The World Tree, where allegedly there is endless land to live on.
When his life becomes entwinned with a special Blade from centuries past, The Aegis: Pyra, and Rex becomes her Driver, he is given the opportunity to make his dreams of reaching Elysium a reality.
The overall story of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is expertly paced, and the dramatic rises and falls in the narrative are perfectly spaced. Arguably, there are is a lot of crossover in terms of themes that are tackles in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that were addressed in the first game.
These themes are identity and purpose. However, in my opinion, this game handles them far more beautifully. There is purpose for these themes that transcends more than just the plot of the main adventure.
The effect that the journey the characters go on during the game affects them as people is astounding. Without giving away any specific spoilers, there are instances that individual character approach these themes and it allows for incredible development for their characters.
The characters supporting Rex on his journey offer a much different dynamic than what was seen in the original Xenoblade Chronicles.
Whereas before, each character had their own reasons to join Shulk in his goals, now the characters don’t have that much purpose. I found this off-putting on my first outing with the game, as I could wrap my head around their purpose for being there.
However, when I revisited the game, it all became clear and it all comes back to Rex. Each of the supporting crew are there because of him. His dream inspires them; he encourages them to believe in a brighter future.
Overall, the main cast of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are excellent. Monolith Soft have outdone themselves with the smaller nuances within a character’s traits allowing space for them to improve and become more rounded as a result.
There were a few instances in which the slightest change to a character, be it in design or vocalisation, that resonated with me so much. There is a lot that can be taken away by Monolith Soft’s attention to detail in the way that they forge their narratives and I can’t praise them enough for it.
Furthermore, the voice talents of each of the main cast were phenomenal. Voice direction is becoming a more significant aspect when it comes to story-driven narratives in games nowadays and it’s through the expert deliverance of each line that the emotional impact of the game is truly realised.
There has been a lot of controversy surround Rex’s western voice actor: Al Weaver. I want to settle this dispute by definitively stating that his talents are near perfect. Though his battle cries don’t have the same impact that they perhaps could have, this is easy to forget when the rest of his performance is so exceptional.
As for the gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the original concept that was present in the original game is still here, however it has been greatly streamlined to allow for a smoother and more immersive experience.
Many of the elements of the original game have been reduced in quantity but vastly improved upon. Rather than having eight abilities (Arts) that you can pick between at any time, you are given three, with a special move that builds as you use more Arts.
Furthermore, the core gameplay for combat ties in with the Blades of the game. As you progress through the game, most of your party are able to bond with Core Crystals to gain new weapons – or Blades.
These Blades offer a different style of play across three different roles: Attacker, Tank and Healer. Most of your party are able to assign up to three Blades that they are bonded with, and each Blade has a different weapon type that has its own set of Arts.
Therefore, you are able to mix up each of your characters and party set up to organise your party ready to take on a variety of different battle scenarios.
You are also able to switch between the three Blades you assign to your lead character during battle in order to take a strategic advantage over your opponent by utilising attacking elements that they may be weak to.
There is a lot of potential in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with how you decide to play. This is what is so great about it; there is no designated right party set up and so you have to freedom to experiment with whatever works best for you.
The combat is extremely satisfying and very intuitive. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a rhythm that came with the combat of the game. The quick-time button prompts return with much greater focus this time round, and there has also been the addition of a new mechanic, called ‘cancelling’.
Every character has a three-attack combo that they carry out constantly in battle, after the end of any attack in the combo, you can activate an Art. If done correctly, your attack charges up your special gauges much faster allowing you to perform more of your Arts sooner.
Each battle becomes so much more immersive because of this feature, as you are constantly observing the fight waiting for the best moment to ‘cancel’.
The combat is the most satisfying that has come from the Xenoblade series so far! Its simplifications allowed for it to be greatly improved upon with much greater depth – once you have the hang of how the system works, there is a great deal of fun in fine-tuning your strategy to make your team a well-oiled machine.
This being said, however, personally, at no point did I ever feel as though I had become too overpowered during my playthrough of the game.
During my playthrough, I was completing as many sidequests as I could, and battling almost every enemy along the way and yet at no point was I ever too strong when I returned to the story.
Every fight was a challenge and I loved this. So often in games you’ll find yourself having to decide between completing the main story first or doing the side content but being too overpowered by the time you reach the end of the game.
I’m glad to say that this is not the case with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. As you enter into late game, the bosses that you come up against, and even some of the random enemies that you face are still very capable of taking you out! You’ll need to remain on your toes as you progress, and I found that a great aspect of the game.
If I had to raise any issues that I had with the game, it would be in the world of Alrest itself.
In the original Xenoblade Chronicles you were given a dramatic sense of scale between yourself and your world on the Bionis and Mechonis. You were often able to look into the distance, or over a cliff edge and see an area that you had either come from before or were able to visit.
This isn’t the case in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I understand that the smaller scale of each location you visit, is to reinforce the idea that living space is running out. However, the concept of an interconnected world isn’t really present.
Aside from The World Tree, you aren’t really able to see any other Titans in the distance from each other– at least not until late in the story.
There isn’t enough good that I can possibly say about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it perfectly encapsulates what I want from an RPG, both in story and in gameplay. I can’t recommend this game enough, and if you have a Nintendo Switch this game is a must-have!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 earns a 10/10
I hope that if you haven’t had the opportunity to give Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a try yet, I hope that this review has made consider it a little bit more. I highly recommend it – you won’t regret it!
Thank you for reading my review, I hope you liked it.
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Have a great day.