Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Game Review


Xenoblade Chronicles 3

(available for Nintendo Switch only)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has finally been released, making the entire trilogy now available on one console. It also has the distinction of coming out earlier than expected, it originally had a September release date when announced on the Nintendo Direct in February, but got pushed forwards to the July 29th release date, likely due to Splatoon 3 getting delayed as well as the physical release of Bayonetta 1- they may not have wanted to clutter the September releases. I wasn’t worried about the push forward. From what I heard, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was finished quite a while ago and Nintendo was sitting on the game waiting for the right time to release it. We definitely got a sense of that with some of the leaks that were coming out around the time, and I can discuss it now that the game is out.

Like the two other games, this is quite story driven and the trailer gave away that it was somehow linked to games 1 & 2, this will be a non-spoiler review. If it’s not been in a trailer or featured in the direct, I won’t be giving many details, particularly in regards to plot elements. That being said, I obviously have to discuss some aspects of the game and its story. I will state that you don’t really have to have played Xenoblade 1 & 2 to enjoy this one. Rather like those games, it follows the Final Fantasy model of starting out with a new cast and a new world, though it keeps some of the themes and character design aspects from previous games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is all about a long-term war going on between two nations- Keves and Agnus. On the Keves side we are introduced to three young soldiers- Noah, Eunie and Lanz. Each of which are in their eight term- which refers to how many years they have been soldiers. In this world the soldiers are only given ten terms, after that, they receive their homecoming, where they leave their physical bodies behind and re-join with their queen. After an encounter with a trio of Agnian soldiers, Mio, Taion, and Sena, they are exposed to a power from a mysterious individual who is much older than any of them and retain the power of something known as Ouroboros, which allows them to fuse with their counterpart from the other side. Noah fuses with Mio, Eunie with Taion, and Lanz with Sena. This power is the key to taking down these creatures called Moebius, who seem to have a stake in each of the colonies within the war. Now the six are hunted by both sides as traitors to the cause and are given a simple mission: head out the location known as Swordmarch where they will find something known as a city, from there they can truly change the outcome of the world, but the six are unsure why.

That’s as far into detail as I will go. Obviously the story is going to come up in the rest of the review, but as a whole, that’s the basic set up and you get all of this within a couple of hours into the game. We are introduced to the cast and what their role is as well as what the central conflict is, which means it’s now time to discuss what I thought about the game. In short, there’s a lot to discuss but this one is really good and I can explain in a lot of detail why, but I’ll have to hold some of my thoughts back.

PROS

  • Story and characters

I’ve already gone through the main premise, but what I like about this game’s story is how character-driven it is. It’s got a very likeable cast and we see relationships build over time, but it also doesn’t feel like any character is wasted. Say what you like about the first two games, there are a few characters in the party that felt a little underdeveloped, especially towards the end. I don’t think that that ever really happens because everyone is pretty well utilised.

The core strength of this game is on the main two characters, Noah and Mio. Mio has an interesting arc in this game because she is in the final few months of her life- (she’s coming to the end of her tenth term), which means she only has about three months to live. Where they go with that story is fascinating and is really told excellently. I also really like the relationship between her and Noah, which has also been thought out well. I initially thought that Noah was going to be a bit of a wet blanket as a protagonist, but he gets some great moments. He’s great in a leadership role for the group and gets a very good character arc within the story- in fact, everyone does.

If I had to complain about the character arcs it would be that some of them are tied to side quests when I don’t think that they necessarily should be, but that being said, it’s not as if they’re not there, and this game is so good and enjoyable that I ended up playing it for so long that I did almost the entire game. My total playtime before this review was 122 hours, so I did everyone’s side stories. In regards to the side stories, some of them are tied into the main plot- the main story does sometimes force you to do a side quest or a hero quest. The heroes being the seventh party member that you can alternate through the party and unlocking them, ties into certain quests (more on that later).

The character writing is what I thought was the strength of the story, and each of the heroes get great character arcs. This is something you kind of have to go out of your way for, but it’s really worth it. That being said, if you only want to do the main story, it’s not as if you’ll get something bad. I think that the main story functions really well, but unlike Xenoblade Chronicles 2, for example, it made me feel like the side quests were not as crucial to the story, so as a result, there were a few moments where I thought ‘this should not have been in a side quest’. There are other aspects in the narrative that I thought weren’t as great, but not enough that I would put it in a mixed or a negative category. Most of these, I believe, could be fixed with the add-on story next year with the DLC, but at this point, we don’t know what that will exactly entail.

At the end of the day, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also has very similar themes to 1 & 2. Even though this time it feels like they’ve added a few darker themes (like the soldier’s limited lifespan, for example) it also does keep some of the themes of controlling your own destiny and fighting for your future. In short, it’s possibly one of the best stories that I’ve seen all year. But I’m not sure if it’s the best story of the franchise- that may depend on how I feel after the end of the story with the expansion pass next year.

  • Battle system

One of the biggest issues that many people have had with Xenoblade Chronicles is that they can never agree which games had the better battle system. Some people like 1’s better, some people like 2. I liked both of the previous games, but I think that I prefer 2’s better, since I found the element system enjoyable and easy to understand. The biggest difference between the battle system this time is that from the point that the party comes together, you’re going to have 6 people on the battlefield at a bare minimum, you’ll unlock the seventh party member once you complete what’s known as hero’s quests, and the party is interchangeable. Despite the fact that they do give you a lot, they are entirely optional, with a couple of exceptions. Some of the hero’s do give you extra traversal abilities for the world, such as being able to climb, or doing the rail grinding segments, which will be necessary to travel to certain locations, so they’re tied into the main story that way. As a result, not only do you have these actor’s classes (which are essentially the job system from old Final Fantasy games or jobs in Bravely Default 2), but you also have to level them up as well. They’re known as class points, as well as experience points from levelling up your character. Classes are locked out at level 10, though you will eventually get the ability to break that rank and get it to level 20. As a result, even though Noah starts out as an attacker, you will end up changing him out to learn new techniques, which is worth doing as you’ll learn new types of attacks called Arts.

You want to do a bit of mixing and matching to make sure your party is balanced. For example, I always made sure that my team had two attackers, two defenders, and two healers, no matter what. Though, you’ll also need to have the unlocked heroes in the party to have classes learn that skill. For example, one of the early classes that you unlock is inherited by Noah, but he will be the only one who gets it initially. You have to wait for the rest of the team to unlock that class before you can train them up in it. You should try and do this as much as possible to get some variety. This is why you want to be doing all of the side quests, as it can put you at quite a disadvantage not doing so.

As for the battle system itself, it’s kind of a hybrid of the first two games’ battle systems. Because you’re now not equipping weapons, since each class comes with a specific weapon which is permanent, you’re more or less equipping gems to power up that particular class and choosing between different arts and sub-arts that you’ll gain from other classes that you’ve learnt. It’s good to pick good fusion abilities between the two, since they’ll come in very handy. Plus, you’ll have the Ouroboros powers which when used correctly and powered up using the interlink skill tree that you get in the menu, you can become ridiculously strong during boss fights.

Getting to learn each class makes for really good battling. I did not have any classes where I felt like I wasn’t enjoying having a go of it. Though I did personally prefer to play attackers and healers, for some reason I’m not very good as a defender.

And the battle system itself feels like it works very well. For one thing, they actually have an arrow this time so you know if you’re definitely facing sideways or behind the enemy for side and abc attacks which you’re going to need to know if you want to power up for a character’s ultimate attack. I also like the fact that they brought back the simple button inputs that Xenoblade 2 had in its battle system. I personally think that that suits me better than the menu that they had in Xenoblade 1.

But there’s also the fact that all of the party members were in the battle at one time so I wasn’t having to swap them out to train them up, which is brilliant. That gave me the sense that all of the party members were important throughout the entire game.

  • World Design

The world of Xenoblade 3 is really well thought out. There’s a big variety of locations, but unlike 1 & 2, you might come out feeling that this was a bit smaller than the others since there aren’t as many locations in theory.. In practice, it’s because while there are numerically less locations, they have actually expanded exponentially. These environments are a lot more open and there’s a lot more to explore. You’ll end up finding a lot of interesting locations just by exploration.

The environments are also very colourful, and they do match the tone. There’s a good variety like deserts, snowscapes, plainlands.

But I also felt that they gave the world a lot of character. It’s surprising how interconnected that it all was, and I genuinely had a lot of fun exploring it. I won’t spoil the surprises but believe me, it is worth going through the locations before you move on to the next story element.

  • Side quests

I’ve spoken a lot already about the side quests, about how they give you excellent extra plotlines and character arcs and of course unlock those extra heroes.. But as a whole, they were really fun to do as well! Some of them boil down to fetch quests but later on you do get some really cool plot lines. There’s a couple I particularly enjoyed, but since this is no spoilers, I will just leave it at that.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about how the side quests were handled in this game was that they weren’t as cryptic to figure out what you’re supposed to do. I know there’s a lot of ways that 1 & 2 help you, but 3 really does an excellent job with its map. It puts question mark icons on the map so you know exactly where to go during quests.

I enjoyed them so much that I ended up doing most if not all of them! However I will stress that a lot of them aren’t necessary, but they will make the main game relentlessly easier! Because I was doing all of the side quests I could before the main story, I was usually ridiculously overleveled for the story. To such an extent that by the time I got to the final boss I was 11 levels higher than the final boss and I even managed to take down a couple of the optional super bosses before I got to the final.

  • Soundtrack

It’s a Xenoblade Chronicles game, of course it’s going to have an amazing soundtrack. But this one might be the best one that I’ve heard all year. It’s fantastic! Particularly the use of the wooden flutes that have been used to create the authentic sound for Noah and Mio’s instruments- which ties into the plotline of them being Offseers: flute players who play music to guide the souls of the dead on the battlefield to the next life. The way that the soundtrack thematically plays in the story is excellently handled.

There’s also some vocal tracks in there, such as the one featured in the trailer named ‘A Step Away’ which is this games’ equivalent to ‘Drifting Souls’ from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Unlike that one, this one thematically fits in with the scene that it’s mainly used in brilliantly.

MIXED

  • Resolution in portable mode

Now, I will never complain about how the game looks when it’s docked. It’s the best looking Xenoblade game to date, since they took the engine that was used in 1&2 as well as the definitive edition, and really polished the game. Despite the fact of what was going on on screen, it had very few framerate drops, which staggered me considering that many times you can have 7 party members with tons of enemies on screen all at once.

As for the game when it’s being played portably, I actually had to go through an entire week of playing it this way when I went to Germany for a week, so I definitely tested this out extensively. While it’s way better in terms of resolution to the definitive edition and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which had serious issues in portable mode) it did occasionally have resolution drops and framerate issues, though it still did a decent job overall. I do think it might have helped that I played this on my Switch OLED, and I think that that model really suits the game well. Though obviously that can only affect the resolution so much- it won’t make the game look incredibly more amazing than if it was to be played on a Switch Lite or a base model.

I also won’t say that this is one of the best looking Switch games, but seeing how the team at Monolith Soft have improved the engine and made the game look better each time, I’m interested to see what they will do in the future if they decide to use this engine again.

  • Game length

I’ll preface this by saying that I think that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a perfectly well told story if you’re just following the main story- but it is the shortest game in the series. If you’re just doing the main story, you’re looking at an average play time of 55 hours, which will obviously go up if you want to do side quests and will go up even more if you want to do the 100% run.

However, I did come away from it thinking that if I hadn’t done the side quests I would have got less of a story than I would have liked. It definitely feels like most of the story and character arcs that I got were because I had done all of those side quests. The characters were a big reason as to why I didn’t want to put this game down and completed the side quests.. I do wonder if the game time could have been extended just a little more for people who only want to do the main story. Especially considering that Xenoblade Chronicles definitive edition has around a 60-70 hour run time for just the main story.

That being said, I think considering that people want to unlock most of the heroes, the average player won’t just stick to the main story- which I do suggest doing the side stuff since doing otherwise could leave you at a disadvantage. That’s a negative that I could bring up, if you are doing the main stuff alone, you may want to lower the difficulty to what you would normally have in a Xenoblade game. But considering the amount of side quests I did and how overleveled I was, I never had to turn it down from normal difficulty.

CONS

  • Crashes

Now, I didn’t get too many of these but I did get some and I’m aware of people who had a few of them. From what I know, Monolith Soft is trying to fix these. What I find interesting is that I couldn’t find an example of two similar types of crashes- for example, my colleague (whos review will be coming out after mine) had issues with the interlink menu to such an extent that when he told me this I was manually saving the game before I did it.

My issue came from fast travelling occasionally, though I only had about 4 crashes during my entire 122 hour playthrough, and luckily for me each time the autosave was very good to me- but it did encourage me to autosave a lot more.

They’re not too prevalent, but you are more than likely going to encounter them. Manually save as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

I won’t lie, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 might be a Game of the Year contender for me. I really loved it. It’s a great experience, a great RPG, the story works brilliantly, and it has a plethora of enjoyable side quests and a brilliant world to explore. The battle system is great, and I really enjoyed every moment of it- to such an extent that I was worried about getting to the ending! I don’t know how I’ll feel about it in a year’s time when the DLC comes out, but as it stands right now I really really like this game and I’ll be slightly horrified if it doesn’t get a Game of the Year nomination.

If you like good RPGs, this is the one for you. If you’re insistent that you want to play 1&2 before trying this one, they’re both available on Switch, just play them at Easy and you will breeze through them before playing this. This is a trilogy that you need to play now!

The only complaints I had was that the game may seem lacking to some people if they just want to play the main story, and there are some annoying crashes, but as a whole, I think that this game is excellent.

Final Score 9.6/10

Calvin
Nerd Consultant

And now Reece (our resident Xenoblade expert) gives his review

My experience with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 on Switch is that I have beaten the main story and all the postgame (Including the final superboss) and by the time of writing the DLC expansion pass has not yet been released so there is no more content for me after my finished 100 hours playthrough. I also played the game entirely with the English Dub so all my commentary on the audio for the game is through the lens of the English localised version and I also played it on the Nintendo Switch OLED gives me a brighter and wider screen.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the third game in the Xenoblade Chronicles trilogy that started on the Wii with the original game back in 2007. It is an open world JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) on the Nintendo Switch that sees the player control a party of 6 colourful characters as they explore a vast open world along with all the characters and the mysteries laden within and in typical JRPG fashion; is filled with many twists and turns that will keep any player engaged throughout.

I am also quite biased towards this series as Xenoblade Chronicles 1/Definitive Edition is my favourite game of all time and while I will try to be as objective as possible, I am just notifying any reader that I may be slightly softer on this game compared to my other more critical reviews.

Pro:

  • Story.

The Xenoblade Chronicles franchise has always prided itself on a great story to help carry and the game, and this time is no different with each prior game having a strong core theme (Xenoblade 1 was how revenge can blind a person as you should choose your own destiny, while 2 was about overcoming despair and the cycle of depression), so without spoilers I can safely say this time that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has its own core theme.

In also typical Xenoblade Chronicles fashion there is a lot of twist and turns along the way which will change how the player sees the world and the characters just like previously, but the pacing is great as there are not long swaths of gameplay without some kind of revelation so it doesn’t feel like there’s much padding during the playthrough, and while some questions are left unanswered or unresolved it does enough to make it have a very satisfying story by the time you finish.

  • Characters.

This game easily has my favourite ensemble out of any game for the main party as compared to previous entries in the game all the characters keep getting development during the story whereas in previous games there was always some party members that just faded into the background while the focus remained on the main characters with their love interest (Shulk & Fiora and Rex & Pyra/Mythra) and while that does happen in this game with probably the best couple pairing in the franchise it does not come at the expense of the other characters in the party..

This changed thankfully in this game as the main party still get their own personal side quests all the way up to the final chapter as each character has a more fleshed out backstory in this game and each has a specific side quest specific to them that leads to great lore and even some optional areas that are completely skippable otherwise.

Due to the new Ouroboros system it allows each character to have a partner that can keep giving them development or bringing them into conversations so they don’t get left behind (Like Reyn did in the original games for instance when Shulk and other characters took the focus). This means that the party feels very well balanced where during the game they all feel like they contribute to either the narrative or world building so there’s not really a wasted character in the roster, as even party members with less lines in cutscenes will get expanded upon greatly with side quests e.g. like Taion for instance who greats a great deal of character exploration in his own side quest.

Even the optional Heroes you can pick up add to the overall narrative due to being the leaders of their respective colonies and gives the player further insight to just how destructive the war between Keves and Agnus has been, then when they are not in the party as the 7th character you can find them back at their colony with the player able to talk to them and thus providing greater context as the heroes will comment on what the party has done in the game so far.

  • Voice acting.

Thankfully Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has gone now blended the voice acting talents of both previous games as we have the heavy and thick accents from Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and the voice acting being tolerable and follows the lip syncing compared to Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

It even kept up the trope from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 where all Gormotti characters (Characters with cat ears) all have Welsh accents, and the rest of the voice cast is fantastic in this game with the vocal highlight for me being the High Entia party member Eunie voiced by Kitty Price and the hero Ashera voiced by Cassie Layton.

Due to the strength of this game’s scripting, it really allows the voice actors to put much more emphasis into their work and has the best voice cast in totality compared to the two previous games. The only time they have been outdone is with Adam Howden who played Shulk in the original Xenoblade Chronicles due to his raw emotional performance that still has not been topped in the latter games, but the voice cast in this game all does a phenomenal job.

  • The world.

As the size of Aionios is roughly five times the size of Alrest, this means that the player will spend a long time on their travels navigating the world. Thankfully, the world of Aionios is extremely varied in its climates and locales.

The player will navigate all the extremes of the world from scorching deserts to temperate oceans while also freezing in artic like environments, so there is little repetition in the locals as the player journeys across and it really helps each part of the world feel distinct from the others and a great call back to the previous entries due to elements being brought over and remixed together.

The world is also rarely barren as there will always be something you can do when you visit each part, like the supply drops which will give you great items for that point in the game or if you are hunting the Unique Monsters since there is at least one in every area. So it really is a joy to take a break from the main story and complete some side quests as you explore the wide-open world with all its hidden secrets and seeing which creatures are hiding around every corner.

  • Combat.

The combat in this game does a fantastic job of blending together the combat mechanics of the two prior games as the characters from Keves use time based cooldown Arts while the Agnus characters use Auto Attack recovery based Arts to help recharge them. This is a great call back to those games and plays into the narrative and its interesting when you use Fusion Arts which is the combination of two separate Arts, and you can combine both Keves and Agnus arts together which ties into the themes of unity in this game and the Ouroboros.

Another new addition to this game is the Ouroboros mechanic where two specific Keves and Agnus party member can combine into one new character, this gives them a whole new move set and skills but also a time limit in response to the big increase of power for most of the game in the form of the Heat Gauge in that after a while the Ouroboros will overheat and automatically separate the two party members before putting them on a cooldown. Then later on through the character levelling up and receiving SP (Soul Points) the player can then spend them in the “Soul Tree” allowing players to upgrade their Arts and acquire new skills to help in combat, and eventually all Ouroboros can choose from a variety of Arts to equip allowing two separate players can have vastly different builds for their party members and Ouroboros.

Due to the Ouroboros mechanic and the 7th party member you can include, means you can have effectively 10 different characters in combat, so players have a great deal of choice with which to choose a character. Until the endgame where you can use all the same Arts across all the party members, most characters have different roles they excel at and classes they level up faster as (Attacker, Defender or Healer). So depending on how the player normally plays their roles in other JRPGs, then their playstyle will be different compared to other players, as for example I normally play the “Tank” role in other games, so I used the Defender classes a lot using Mio and Lanz.

  • Graphical Fidelity.

While the resolution can drop depending on the stress on the system, overall, the graphics have received a significant increase from Xenoblade 2 even though it is still running on the same game engine.

The biggest improvement is to the character models in this game as Monolith Soft have decided to go for a more realistic limb proportion size compared to previous games, so characters look more realistic due to pass games (As seen majorly with Rex & Pyra) as they would have overblown limb size as seen with Rex’s feet (which looks like they were brought over from Kingdom Hearts). With the better proportion size, they also redesigned how the character models interact with the environment compared to past games where before they would glide over terrain and have frequent times the character models would not adhere to the geometry and end up defying gravity while only having one foot on a rock or having climbs clipping into the terrain. Whereas now the character model changes, and game physics have been changed to reflect the different elevation of the terrain to seem more realistic with the foot placement of the characters more accurately tracking the terrain to help with immersion.

This is also most notable when compared to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, as when compared to that game you can see the resolution go down to as low as 360p for the image with the background being incredibly blurry at times. So now you can really enjoy the game even in portable mode as the image is notably sharper. Hopefully since Monolith Soft is working on Breath of the Wild 2 (Like they did with the first game) that they can carry this new anti-aliasing technology over to that game too.

So without a doubt these are the best character models in the franchise and are able to blend aspects of the previous games (Realistic aesthetic of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and the more Anime art style of Xenoblade Chronicles 2) to make for some great new and distinctive designs that will probably be very iconic moving forward, with special attention to the newly designed eyes of that character going more a more painted aesthetic while still having more range of movement compared to previous games as they can go from flat when looking straight on at a character model to appearing curved when the character turns away in cutscenes.

Then also the cutscenes have seen a big overhaul as now they are longer but also more frequent, while also increasing the scope of them as now they are much more elaborate with prolonged fight scenes and great choreography, making skilful use of the character models and the environment. These are probably my favourite cutscenes in the franchise just for how dynamic they are and help elevate the story and action, you can definitely tell that Monolith Soft are really pushing this game whenever the cutscenes can have frame rate drops in portable mode but they are always worth a rewatch due to being able to rewatch the cutscenes from the main menu, plus players also have the option to pause cutscenes and also skip them (I did have to skip a few when playing portably) but it’s incredibly easy to rewatch them after and I highly recommend every player watch all the cutscenes at least once as they are all phenomenal.

  • Music.

The music in this entry is just as great following in the tradition of the previous games, and while it may be slightly weaker than previous games it is still far above most other games released this year. My personal favourite is the boss battle music you encounter against the Moebius bosses.

Apart from the traditional battle music there is also great ambient music for all the zones that alternates at various times of the day to coincide with softer and quieter music during the night-time segments of the game. This was mostly heard with the softer string section of the orchestra being implemented as well as a female vocalist being used to create a more gentle and serene ambiance to the scene as you traverse across the vast open landscape of the world.

After a playthrough, I would recommend the player looking up the OST online and during the middle of the battle and cutscenes with loud bosses or attack sometimes the score gets lost in the chaos, which is a real shame as most of the OST is great and deserves the players attention for how it can elevate the scene when heard correctly.

  • Side Content.

This game is the shortest in the series (7 chapters compared to 17 chapters in the original game and 10 in Xenoblade Chronicles 2), it is made up for by the considerable amount of side content ranging from side quests or conversations you can have with the NPCs (Non-Player Characters), as throughout the world you will see NPCs walking around, engaging in activities or talking with others in pairs or groups with a yellow “?” or a yellow bubble with an Orange “i” mark above their heads.

This is also where most of the games characters and lore is fleshed out as all the main characters and heroes all get quests that expanded on their individual lore in the form of “Ascension Quests” which when done allows the character’s rank in their class to unlock from 10 to 20, so it’s very worthwhile for players to do these quests as it rewards the players with more lore but also benefits in combat by making their arts stronger and being able to use that class specific Art and Skill when you use another class.

It also rewards for the player for upgrading the affinity levels in the colonies as the high rank of affinity the more side quests unlock, and the more bonuses you get e.g. Summoning Nopon travellers to the colonies to sell better accessories, or make it so it’s harder for higher level enemies to detect you in the overworld making it easier to sneak past combat if you are under levelled.

Then side quests are also incredibly easy to track through the main menu so you will never feel completely lost when you start one as you can see the destination on the map using a button shortcut and can normally warp close to its location. Then if not the game gives you access to a handy GPS tracking line that goes in front of the player character and shows the player the shortest and most direct route to the destination and this also works on the main story, so it is very handy if you take a break from the game for a while as you can quickly get your bearing back and follow the GPS to the next destination.

So, after players clear the main story, I highly recommend they go back to clear up the remaining side quests and level up the colonies as your gameplay time can double if they have been avoiding them, and the world of Aionios and its people is such a rich world and on par with Monolith Soft’s previous worlds they created.

  • Fanservice.

Without spoilers, this game has a lot of locations and enemies in reference to the older game and it was a delight to explore the whole open world and see what has been brought over as for a person who has played the two previous games as there are plenty of easter eggs and nods to previous elements, this really is a great enjoyment for players who have played the earlier entries in the franchise as it helps gives back to the players who have spent so much time with the series and seeing it all culminate in this final game in the trilogy.

So, players can spend hours upon hours appreciating all the hidden nods and with the new screenshot feature that was handily featured by Nintendo themselves on Twitter allowing players to capture all the references to share with other players since the world is the largest made in a Xenoblade game, so there’s plenty to record and take screenshots of because even if you’re a diehard fan of the series there will at least be a couple of easter eggs that you will fail to notice.

Con:

  • Crashes.

While the game was very stable, I did find myself having 7 hard crashes during my playthrough and these all occurred in the same section which was the Soul Tree menu for the Ouroboros.

This would always send me back to the Switch’s main menu causing me to have to restart the game, and the only way to avoid too much progress loss (As there are 6 different Soul Trees to upgrade) was to manually save after upgrading each individual character because the first time this crash happened, I lost about 40 minutes of progress.

I had no other crashes throughout the rest of the game so it may have been a localised issue with a memory leak as a few other people have reported a similar issue, but the player interacts with the Soul Tree menu so rarely that it has negligible impact on overall gameplay.

  • Framerate drops (Portable mode). 

This is just an issue with the limitations of the console when in portable mode and not the game itself as these issues are not as prevalent when docked, as during graphically intensive areas with a lot of particle effects or with too many entities on screen then the framerate drops from its normal 30fps down to around 20fps in my experience.

While it was expected for the graphics to decrease in portable mode like with the previous games, and thankfully the graphical fidelity is much less of a drop and that does not impact gameplay as much as the framerate drop, because when severe framerate drops occur it can really disrupt the flow of combat. In this game, there is a much greater focus on perfectly timing your arts for more damage and thus if there are bad framerate drops then it can cause you to mess up this timing in turn dealing less damage during combat.

  • Characters lose identity.

With the current Class System, it means that any party member can use the class of any other characters or heroes when they have unlocked that class and levelled it up to Rank 20.

So, a fully maxed out character will have access to every Art possible will play the same as every other character in the game during normal gameplay meaning that they no longer feel unique anymore aside from their Ouroboros forms, but at the endgame the player will do more damage just using their usual Topple locking combo and Chain Attacks for the maximum amount of damage.

A workaround would have been to make certain classes exclusive to certain characters, but that also would have limited player freedom to make the team as much as they wanted so it’s understandable that Monolith Soft just let the player make the party as unbalanced as the player wanted meaning that if everyone is equally equipped than you essentially just have 6 versions of the same character.

  • Some side quests breaking.

During my playthrough I had a few side quests break on me and would not progress unless I restarted my Switch. This was most annoying when I was doing the final side quest where you must kill all the super bosses, as the quest wouldn’t progress when I killed one specific super boss until I restarted my Switch leading to me having to then re-kill that specific super boss.

Then a few other side quests had the odd bit of breaking where if you had to pick up a certain amount of collectibles but during my gameplay sometimes it wouldn’t count when I picked some up off the ground even though they had the side quest icon on them. Luckily, this was remedied after picking up another collectible as that would usually count towards the count.

  • Ease of combat.

I would highly recommend playing this game on Hard difficulty or avoiding most of the side quests until postgame, as when I reached the final boss, I was nearly 20 levels higher than them and had no trouble during the main story as it was too incredibly easy to over level if you are doing all the side quests as you go and not even considering the bonus exp mechanic from rest spots.

Due to this abnormal levelling curve, I never died in actual combat unless I strolled into a Unique Monster that was 40 levels higher than me, and with 6 core party members (with 1 extra hero who joins you) means you have 7 characters in each battle compared to the older games where you were limited to 3 characters in a battle, so fights also end a lot faster than in previous games just due to the fact that you have 7 characters all damaging a single enemy.

So it’s very easy to abuse enemies using Topple locking so the enemy is just constantly unable to do anything to your party or attack until they are killed, especially since the Class mechanic means every character can learn all the same Arts leading to every party member being the same and leading combat to being very easy even when the bosses have the health bars in the millions with only some bosses being too resistant to being Topple locked.

  • Removal of some combat mechanics.

When the combat styles of the previous 2 Xenoblade games were merged for this new game, it also featured the removal of certain aspects, and this was seen mostly due to the removal of the elemental system with the Blade & Fusion Combo system.

This does help streamline the mechanics and make it so there is less for the player to keep in mind, but it also reduces the complexity and thus the feeling of reward when you are able to master it. As the only holdover of this mechanic is that “Blaze” is still in the game and used in some Arts to inflict damage over time, but all the other elements have been removed like Earth, Wind and Water.

So, in the end most combat boils down to Xenoblade Chronicles 1 combat where you use the Driver Combo system of Topple locking the enemy using the Break, Topple, Launch and Smash Arts on repeat while sprinkling in the occasional use of Ouroboros mechanic.

  • Money.

This was only a minor issue, but I found myself with millions of gold even during the early game because unlike previous games where you could spend money on affection items for your party or Art upgrade books there is really nothing to spend your money on in game.

As even when you upgrade the colonies and get Nopon merchants into each colony all the items they are willing to sell are inferior quality accessories or collectibles that you easily have 20+ of by the time to merchant arrives. As you will also get higher rarity version of those accessories as they drop from enemies tens of hours before meeting the Nopon merchants, so money feels worthless in game without an effective use for it.

  • Villains.

Without spoilers a smaller problem to me is that these are the weakest bosses in the trilogy from a narrative point of view, as all the other villains in the series had a lot more personality with a bigger build-up. What does not help their case is that there is so many of them and many of them die in their first encounter with the party, so they have much less of an impact to the player and then the final boss feels quite disappointing in comparison to as we have great villains in previous games.

Conclusion:

A fitting conclusion to the trilogy that has spanned three separate Nintendo consoles, and a definite pickup for any JRPG fan while being an essential purchase if you are a fan of the Xenoblade franchise as this is the second-best game in the series while offering a game that truly pushes the Nintendo Switch to its limits to provide the best playing and performing Xenoblade Chronicles game.

While the ending does sequel bait hard for the upcoming DLC I will still say that at lunch it is still an amazing game and people should not worry about it being an incomplete product as it is still a complete package and as a fan of the series Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is easily worth it is price as I have spent 100 hours in the game.

Score: 9.4

Reece Imiolek
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
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