You could be forgiven if you’re not familiar with Monoliftsoft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X, which came out during the Wii U’s lifespan. While critically praised, due to the lack of popularity of its native console in the west, it’s likely you never played it. If you did, congrats! You played one of the Wii U’s best titles and the best new JRPG series in ages. The original Xenoblade Chronicles came out on the Wii, and was just as excellent. Now, in just a couple short weeks, Nintendo and Monolithsoft will be launching its true sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2. We’ve been playing the heck out of it, and this is what we think so far. Here are our Xenoblade Chronicles 2 impressions.
A Whole New Adventure
No need to worry if you haven’t played the first game. Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s story is entirely its own self-contained thing. While there are ties to the first game, think of it like Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy or something along those lines. Same general universe, entirely new story. It starts with Rex, a salvager who dives into the Cloud Sea of Alrest to get scrap and sell it. Before he long, he’s summoned by the local trade commission to go on a salvage mission with a group of Drivers and Blades.
What are Blades and what are Drivers? Blades are living weapons, brought to life by people with the aptitude to awaken them (drivers). As you can guess, without spoiling too much, before long Rex awakens his own Blade, the Aegis known as Pyra – a beautiful, mysterious fire-wielding woman. All hell breaks loose from there, and soon Rex finds himself at the plot of something far more complicated than being a salvager in the Cloud Sea.
The voice acting is really quite good in English, though at launch a free DLC for Japanese language voice will be available too. I like Rex’s Irish sounding accent, and while Tora can be kind of annoying, the “mehs” general craziness of him as the comic relief is welcome. It all plays out like a high-quality anime, with some of the best in-game cutscenes I’ve seen since FFXV’s launch. While the visuals are more cartoon than realistic, the power of the Switch is used really well here.
An Open Floating World
Alrest is a series of massive islands, or living islands known as Titans, floating in an endless sea of clouds. Though the beginning of the game is fairly restrictive in travel, before the first couple of chapters are done you’ll get a sense of just how large the landmasses can be. There are tons of side quests, all varying degrees of difficulty and rewards, hidden treasures, special rare Blades to discover, world boss mobs, and so forth.
Travelling can be a chore at times, at least when you’re looking for a specific quest objective because the map doesn’t always give a good hint of where you’re really supposed to be going. But overall, there are plenty of quick travel points. I only wish there was a simple button press to pull up the map without diving into the greater menus first.
Strategic, Real-time, Combat
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 isn’t a traditionally turn-based affair, nor is it a button-mashing action RPG. It’s somewhere in the middle playing more like Final Fantasy XII. You directly control Rex and Pyra (as well as any other Blades you unlock), and the rest of your party behaves on their own (with you issuing orders when you want them to perform special attacks). Your main goal is to keep your positioning right, time your special skills right, and keep your party healed with skills that drop potions on the ground.
At first, combat seems almost passive, but in time there’s a certain flow and almost rhythm to it that makes fighting in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a real joy. It’s even better when you’re taking on some of the unique world boss mobs that litter the map.
I could go on for ages about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and I will in the final review and other articles coming up. But for now, know that if you’ve been longing for a huge RPG to sink your teeth into since Zelda ended, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has you covered. Stay tuned for our final review closer to launch, and articles on the combat, world, and characters coming soon.