After dozens of hours, I came back from Aionios to announce that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 could be one of the greatest Nintendo Switch games, not only because of its story and its size, but also because it’s one of the most technically impressive games for Nintendo’s hybrid platform to date. And it’s true that a few weeks ago I said that the gameplay was a bit flat. Well, I have to admit I was just talking about a very small percentage of the game, and nothing to do with the fundamentals of the systems. But for your peace of mind, I can already assure you that: you will love Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
To summarize the preview (which I suggest reading to get every detail), Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place in Aionios, a world where two nations (Keves and Agnus) are at war. Locals rarely reach 10 years of service, as they usually die in battle. While exploring an unknown energy source Noah, Lanz and Eunie (of Keves) must join Mio, Taion and Sena (of Agnus) to face a new threat: a Moebius. These monsters feed on human life energy, and they get it from the flame clocks that are protected by each nation. During the battle, Noah and Mio reunite and are transformed into a huge robot named Uroboros, which is controlled by the two minds. After the merge, they go in search of answers and eventually find Fendespada (none other than the Sword of Mekonis from the first Xenoblade Chronicles), where they hope to uncover ways to end the ceaseless fight between the two nations. And that’s as far as I’m going to dive into the story.
I’m not going to focus on the story itself in this review for two main reasons. First of all, because it’s the main point of the game, so I don’t want to spoil anything. And second, because sometimes it can be confusing (expect some typical Japanese shōnen genre elements and plot twists). The characters, and their stories and relationships, are a bit traditional, but they have enough depth and progression for everyone to be a protagonist at some point in the story, though the main burden falls on Noah and Mio.
This is an announcement:
Besides this story, each of the six regular characters (we’re also joined by a pair of helpers Pon, Riku and Manana, who deal with weapons and food) have his own classweapons, arts and personal clothing… that others can also impact. Each member of the group can learn and exchange the class of their peers, even control them. The important aspect to consider when looking at the types of exchange is that it opens up possibilities to land special moves or dominate arts “borrowed” from the main class. This adds a new level to a real-time combat that already seemed difficult to overcome. It is also very similar to the latest DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country.
There are bonuses for accessories, gems that improve attributes and the combination with your partner to become Urobóros. If we add to this the fact of being able to combine in the same class arts (special attacks), the whole thing almost pushes the development of abilities and customization beyond unmanageable. And that’s why I think there’s no quick way to skip fights (although even as a main menu option, I honestly believe there should be). In Xenoblade Chronicles 3 we switch from one team member to another simply by pressing a button, and in the most important fights it is essential to be able to use the movements at the exact moment. They also solved Chain Attacks adding combos and modifiers to chain together thousands of points that can be the difference between victory or defeat. It certainly doesn’t look flat at all.
This is an announcement:
The world of Aionios is both beautiful and huge. Waterfalls, valleys, mountains, lakes, winding roads that end at a distant peak… if it weren’t for the fast travel that was introduced at save points or when entering large areas (after having defeated some unique enemies, they will leave a travel mark, which will be a great help when traversing the world), moving from one place to another would take hours. And not only is it huge, it’s densely populated. We find different monsters, materials and collectibles in each location. You can lose track of time before continuing the active mission (although side missions are always the big improvement point in the series) simply by wandering around each area and using that time to collect materials which could be very useful for preparing the party for a battle, in addition to changing gear, leveling up, and saving the game. Remember, this is all on a Switch, which takes things a step further in terms of terrain and background-heavy textures. In handheld mode, you might notice sacrifices being made in certain areas, or enemies spawning at a certain distance, but in what concerns the world, I think that it’s a new technical ceiling.
Everyone is interconnected. But you won’t get the skills (like climbing or sliding down the thick cables of fallen titans) to take certain paths until the end of the game. You can waste time investigating each area to reach loot-filled containers special or to give soldiers a rest. My best advice would be to enjoy the adventure. This game is a traditional JRPG, and you will need hours and hours to complete the story, and twice as many hours to reveal all its secrets. At first the battle may seem boring and easy, but quickly the level of difficulty will increase and in the clashes (especially if it is against a group of enemies) you will have to think quickly to create a strategy, waiting for the charge of a certain attack or your ally uses their healing power. The music of Yasunori Mitsuda’s soundtrack is fantastic: melodies to which they introduced more flute elements like those worn by Noah and Mio that make you feel the soul of the series. However, repeating the same dialogue at the end of the fight ends up being exhausting. A little variety would have been welcome.
I thought my lack of prior Xenoblade knowledge would be a dangerous burden to play XC3, but the truth is, I didn’t feel lost at all. Technically, it’s the best of the series, and I think it can be a good opportunity if someone is ready to step into this vast, complex and titanic world. Its combat system, without being anything authentic or new, permeates enough to give a sense of power when it comes to ending a major confrontation with victory. And Aionios is a world that every RPG and adventure lover should visit. Monolith Soft has really refined its formula, and I loved taking this trip.