Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the latest instalment in the action RPG series, with a new grandiose story that I’m eager to see more of. Combat has been updated with new mechanics such as larger parties and swappable character classes, and while I have some early reservations about the new tweaks, I’m nevertheless excited to jump back into this immersive world and continue the epic adventure.
- UKRRP: £49.99
- Genre: Action RPG
- Platforms:Nintendo Switch
- Release date:29th July 2022
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 looks to include every Japenese RPG trope going, from amusingly oversized swords and chatterbox monster sidekicks, to massive mecha suits that provide some welcome Pacific Rim nostalgia.
Despite all of the cliches and grandiose action set pieces, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 still promises a unique story premise and a likable roster of intriguing characters that don’t conform to cookie-cutter stereotypes.
Those who have never played a Xenoblade game before needn’t worry, since this latest instalment features an all-new story and cast, with Chronicles 3 only sharing the same universe, open-world exploration and real-time combat as its predecessors.
That isn’t to say developer Monolith Soft hasn’t made numerous tweaks to the combat, with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 introducing seven-player battle parties, swappable character classes, and a fusion system that delivers serious Power Ranger vibes.
Nintendo granted me access to the first few hours of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to see the result of all of these new additions. Here are my thoughts.
- A unique and intriguing story premise
- Focuses on six main characters
- Abundance of cutscenes can be jarring
The story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 revolves around two nations locked in a perpetual war for no clear reason. Soldiers are forced to fight non-stop during their artificially limited 10-year lifespan, or risk their colony being wiped out.
We view this war-ravaged world through the eyes of Noah and his two friends, who are forced to become fugitives. In order to survive, they reluctantly team up with a trio from a rival nation, who find themselves in a similar predicament.
Such a story could easily get caught up with the various action set pieces and grandiose story, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has instead decided to double down on the personal stories of each of the six playable characters, and how they’ve been scarred by the horrors of war.
This involves a lot of cutscenes in the game’s opening hours, including flashbacks to flesh out the backstory, alongside short, intimate conversations between each character. The abundance of cutscenes can be jarring, sometimes feeling like I’m watching an anime rather than playing a game. But, then again, I’ve been completely captivated by the story, and it’s the aspect I’m most excited to see more of beyond this preview.
The English voice acting is superb for the main six characters, although can be questionable with one of the early villains. Dialogue can also be very corny, especially from the two Pokémon-esque Nopon characters that travel with the main party.
- Similar combat system as predecessors
- Parties can now have up to seven characters in combat
- Can unlock ability to switch character classes
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 uses a similar combat system to its predecessors, with characters automatically attacking enemies when close enough. You then have the option to use a number of special attacks called Arts. These will multiply the damage of your attacks, and can also be boosted by other factors.
For example, Noah’s Edge Thrust move will deal more damage if used behind an enemy, while the Air Slash skill will be strengthened when triggered, just as you land your previous attack. I enjoyed this aspect of combat, since it encourages you to perfect your timing and be aware of a character’s position. Every Art has its own charge-up time, too, preventing you from spamming the most powerful attack repeatedly.
Each character in your roster has a main role, too. Attackers deal the most damage; Tanks draw enemy attention while blocking incoming attacks; and Healers can both restore health and apply buffs to the team. This kind of system usually works well in MMO games, since it requires you to coordinate with other players. But Xenoblade is a single-player experience and the AI is so clever here that it takes away that challenge. On the bright side, you’re able to swap between any of these characters during the middle of battle, so you don’t have to rely on the AI completely.
It may sound complicated on paper, but the combat is actually very simple and easy to understand. I’d even argue that combat was a little too easy at the start, with my automatic attacks proving powerful enough for most enemies. That said, I’m right at the start of the adventure, and Monolith Soft doesn’t seem to have finished introducing new features and battle mechanics.
Previous entries in the Xenoblade Chronicles series have limited party sizes to three, but the latest entry pushes that all the way up to seven. Six of those characters will be playable and ever-present in your party, while the final slot is reserved for special hero characters that can be unlocked throughout the game.
I haven’t yet had a chance the opportunity to see what the hero characters play like, but I’ve experienced a few enemy encounters with a six-character party – right now, I have some early reservations. With so many characters fighting simultaneously, it can quickly look chaotic on your screen. And with five other AI-controlled allies, it can sometimes feel like your contribution is relatively minimal. But I’m eager to see how these large-scale fights turn out with more boss battles and larger beasts.
Right at the end of the preview, I unlocked the ability to alter a character’s class. I’m not quite sure of the benefit of swapping around the starting six classes, but it seems like you’ll be able to unlock more character classes later in the game, so this is something I’m going to have to judge in my final review.
Exploration and Side Activities
- Open-world environment looks fantastic
- Not much to do besides looking for items
- Nintendo promises a variety of environments
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 features open-world exploration, with various monsters peacefully wandering around the environment. Aggressive beasts will start a combat encounter as soon as they spot you, while more placid animals will leave you alone unless you strike first.
While you have the freedom to journey down any route, it isn’t quite as open as the likes of Breath of the Wild or Elden Ring. There’s usually a set path you need to follow, with the environment subtly funneling you towards the entrance to the next hub world.
So far I’ve explored a forest and a meadow, but Nintendo has already teased that you’ll also be able to venture through the likes of canyons, caves and tundras further into the adventure.
Beyond picking up items – which can be sold to merchants or crafted into stat-boosting gems – there isn’t really a huge amount you can do in the world. But, again, it’s worth stressing that I’m still very early into the adventure, having only played a couple of hours of a game that could potentially take upwards of 60 hours to complete.
Graphics and Presentation
- Technical marvel on Nintendo Switch
- Cutscenes look incredible
- Very minor performance issues
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a technical marvel on the Nintendo Switch. With such a large map and a lot of chaotic action during combat, you’d assume that Nintendo’s portable would struggle to sustain smooth performance. However, I’ve only noticed minor frame rate drops so far.
Of course, the graphics are nowhere near as detailed as games such Final Fantasy 7 Remake on more powerful consoles, but I’m still impressed with Xenoblade Chronicles 3. There’s a great variety in the designs of the monsters that inhabit the world, while the environments are wonderfully detailed.
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