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Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xeno Blade Chronicles 2 is a direct sequel to the first  Xenoblade on the Wii and its successor Xenoblade X for the WII U. The game is set in Alrest, a world where humans have settled down on gigantic creatures called Titans in the sky as the earth is no longer habitable. The Titans themselves are becoming endangered so obviously the humans have to find out why.

The series of the Xeno games use a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy for its art and world design. The various worlds are very creative, highly detailed and look fantastic. Monolith hired a wide range of manga and anime artists to do the art work of the game each bringing their own distinct style to the world. Tetsuya Nomura one of the art and game designers for The World Ends With You, Kingdom Hearts and  The Final Fantasy series did some of the character designs. The anime art style for the characters looks great and facial expressions are like what you often see in anime. 

I also like its anime styled graphics with the high resolution visuals displaying bright and vibrant on TV. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the visual effect in portable mode as it pales in comparison. This is to be expected with portable mode in many Switch games. 

You play as Rex, a young salvager who along with the mysterious Pyra, embark on a trip to Elysium, a so-called paradise which holds the solution to make the world more habitable.  The story is fairly long with an estimated 60 to 80 hours of story to cover and it takes its time in order to set up events and for you to explore rather than rushing during the gameplay.  Its grand sized scope and world building of the lore is pretty impressive.

Each interconnected world you explore is unique and different with a great variety of things to do and find. You are able to explore new areas fully and seamlessly without any loading times. Discovery of new locations can lead to treasures and new and faster travel routes. The scenery and background designs of each world is highly detailed and lifelike. Every location you visit has a lot of side quests to do and it is recommended that you embark on these quests in order to scavenge stuff like gold and XP. Each town you visit has a development rate so the more stars you earn from taking part in quests allows you to purchase new items which can be very useful during your journey. There are varieties of stores where you can purchase stuff that will come in useful on you journey and it’s advisable to buy at least one item from a store. One of the quickest ways to level up through the games economy is through resting at inns and once you have certain amount of XP, you are able to level up to multiple different levels. This can be useful when you don’t have much time to play. 

Core crystals are used to earn new blades to serve as your partner during combat. You can select different kinds of blades to serve you through combat at any time and the rarer a core crystal is, the more powerful the blade you will receive. You can use boosters while creating blades to improve their status abilities. 

You encounter many different characters on your journeys and some may want to join your group. Each member of your group has their own strengths and abilities that are on full display during combat.  You can also play as your party members too and hold up to 3 party members at a time for both drivers and blades. You can change the class of your character and your party depending on each blade you equipped, giving you different kinds of bonuses and enhancing your health.

The game has an interesting take on its combat system. The games in the Xenoblade series uses an auto-attack system where you don’t need to press down buttons for the most part. On the other hand, “arts” are special moves that you can perform when your charge rate is at a high enough level and you can select different kinds of arts depending on your blade to launch powerful attacks on enemies. You can improve many aspects of your abilities and skills by leveling up. “SP” points are for abilities while “WP” points are for your arts that can be increased up to four levels. Rex and his party members like Tora or Nia are “drivers” and through combat they are assisted by “Blades” such as Pyra for Rex and Dromach for Nia. Each “Blade” you have comes with certain elemental abilities and weapons that you use in combat. They are connected by a form of chain called ether and being closer to a blade will be more effective in battle.

Each party member you have are part of different classes that encourages you to experiment with various combinations during combat. You can choose to have Nia as a healer during sticky situations. At certain moments during combat, you or your party members could inflict elemental status effects to weaken enemies by pressing “A” to summon a fire attack. Chain attacks are another powerful form of attack you can use when you have a full party guage. You or your teammate can be revived at any time if you are down. So teamwork in the game is a very important aspect of success in combat throughout your journey. 

You can customize your blades with a variety of aux cores and accessories that has different effects on them such as increased damage to enemies or critical rate. You can equip accessories for yourself and your party members too from the items you collected with a variety of bonuses that comes with it. Consuming food provides you with useful bonuses for a period of time. Affinity is used to increase the stats of your blades and to increase the affinity, you have to either succeed in combat by performing certain actions or by completing quests. The higher degree of trust your blades have for you, the more effective they are in battle. 

The boss fights in the game are pretty challenging and for the most part it does not use the same boss for almost every fight. Overall the complex combat is very customizable towards whatever your play style is and its pretty fun once you get the hang of it. 

As you are a salvager, you are able to find and collect items to help you throughout the journey. Certain points in the world are marked for salvaging where you can find useful objects and treasures. The cylinder you have also influences the types of objects you find. The rarer the cylinder, the more likely you will find objects of higher value.

Collection points are another very important aspect to the game as well as Rex is going to have to find various objects in order to create items that could become useful later on. The dynamic weather and the day and night cycle are things to note on throughout each day. Each day new locations would open while others closed off depending on the tides in the sky. This also affects the world around as certain items become available and others unavailable. Enemies can become stronger or weaker and since quests can depend on the prevailing conditions, the game encourages you to plan ahead.

There is a large selection of enemies to fight in the game and sometimes throughout your journey you can encounter rare enemies. After defeating rare enemies, you can visit their tombstone to fight them again and go for a new time limit that you can beat them at. 

The designs for each enemy you encounter is pretty creative. There is a lot of lighthearted humor in this game but it does not work all the time, especially during the more dramatic moments. Heart to heart moments appear in certain moments of the game where you bond with your party members about various different things and you can choose certain responses to see how your characters in your party react. Moments like these are interesting and it gives off a good amount of character development to it as well and the dynamic chemistry between characters grows along the way and indicates just how strong the team is. The backstories for each of the characters you encounter are interesting and you learn more about them as the game progress. I also found many moments of fan service such as closeups of female characters genetalia but this was mainly to appeal to anime and JRPG fans.

The musical score in the game is pretty good and it does add a sense of drama to the combat and story. Voice acting in the game is generally good for the most part. Much of the cast speaks in a regional accents to represent what part of the world they come from.  Nia who is the area of Gormotti speaks in a Welsh accent. It does help with the authenticity of the world and make each character sound distinct from each other. 

You could purchase a free Japanese language dlc if you are interested in sub instead of English dub. 

The game has a huge amount of extra content in it as well. You can customize the difficulty in the game to make it easier or harder in the latest version. There is an in game retro styled video game called Tiger Tiger! that is used to get new materials to upgrade one of your blade.You can unlock costumes for yourself and your party members to wear and you are able to rewatch cutscenes at anytime. 

Merc quests and side quests are missions to do outside of the main story. Side quests can be protecting shipments to menial labor. You can send your blades to go on certain missions and as a result their xp and affinity will go up once a mission is successful. New game plus is available for you to play with once you finish the game where you can carry over your progress from your previous playthrough so it provide you with more replay value.  

Despite Xenoblade 2 being a pretty good game I found some pretty odd design choices. Lip synching can be a little bit off at times and the frame rate drops at times. Slowdowns often occur during heavily dense areas.  Sometimes the textures take a short amount of time to fully load up whenever you fast travel to certain locations in the game.  Another common glitch was one of the characters calling out the enemies weaknesses. He often calls the wrong elemental weakness than what is displayed on the enemy health bar. 

I have had mixed feelings for the characters. On one hand Rex is helpful, kind and always willing to take on any challenge but he can be pretty naïve, overly eager and too cocky with himself at times. He never seems to question things whenever he is offered a job to do initially and he just goes along with things not assuming anything is wrong and these actions would often bring more harm than good because of how overly optimistic he is. Nia is a common Tsundere you could see in other anime and JRPGS. 

Some of the other characters are cardboard cookie cutter ones you could see in other anime or JRPG games. The main villains are evil just for the sake of being evil beyond their goals. The dialogue can be cheesy at times to and repeat itself often during combat.  

Performing certain tasks in the game can be pretty tedious and time consuming too. Many of the quests in the game are fetch quests that have you going back and forth often just to complete the objectives. 

Some of the quests and objectives in the main game as well are used for padding and filler and this often gets the main characters side tracked in the way. 

Enemies often respawned even after clearing them. The most annoying instance was when after finishing a heart to heart moment, you immediately had to refight them again when you would least wanted to and sometimes you would get yourself into fights when you are not in the mood for battle. Especially during random encounters where sometimes enemies that are at a way higher level immediately can kill you even when you just want to avoid them. Some enemies spam the same attacks again and again.  One playthrough, I found an enemy frozen in mid air but it wasn’t until later on it finally moved.   

The compass and mini map in the game doesn’t properly tell the player where to go exactly. The user interface on the other hand was easy to use in case you are new to the JRPG genre. 

This was my first time ever playing a game from a Xeno series and it was fun and highly entertaining. I enjoyed it immensely. I am going to give it 4 stars. 

Xeno fans and also fans of JRPG games would enjoy this game a lot like I have.

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