Game Ramblings #160.1 – Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: JRPG
  • Platform: Switch

Original Ramblings

This expansion is by all definitions for the fans. It’s got returning important story characters from past entries in Rex and Shulk. It’s got import returning locations like Colony 9 from the original Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s got the ancestors of some of Chronicles 3’s cast. Basically, it’s there to be a trip specifically for fans of the series, but in that way it feels like the perfect way to cap the series.

This is every bit an extension of the gameplay from XC3, with a few things that feel really tailored towards an expansion experience. The obvious thing is that you power level like crazy to the point that I finished the game around level 60 and maybe had about 20 hours of gameplay. This is all taking place within a single connected world with a single map that you can get through pretty quickly. There’s some environmental things that allow you to basically zipline through the regions, and by the end of the game you’ll have unlocked so many of them that you can get end to end through the entire world in a matter of a couple of minutes without fast travel. I’d actually like to see this explored more in a future Xeno title, as being able to get around between regions quickly without a map feels way more engaging and connected to the world than a typical fast travel system.

Besides that stuff, the big thing added was an affinity system where you earn points for doing normal things (exploring, collecting, etc) to get points to purchase upgrades. There’s been variations on this in the past, but it all feels very directly do thing -> get cool stuff that powers you up. XC3 was already a game that was light on gearing as a power curve, and this feels like it leans further into simplifying away from XC2’s mess of stats as it combines stats, ability purchasing, and ability upgrading into a single source of selection. It obviously benefits the speed of power curve for an expansion experience, but it also feels like it would benefit a larger game as a whole.

However, there’s also a bit of an ending thing that gets into the potential future of the series, and that’s where I’m going to hide behind spoiler tags.


The core plot of XC3 within the overarching series was that Earth had previously been split in two, becoming the worlds of XC1 and XC2. By the time of XC3, the worlds had drifted back towards each other in an attempt to recombine. The plot of XC3 then ends with the worlds re-separating. The end boss sequence and post credits scene shows this process, but it adds a few additional things that seem to imply the Chronicles series is more tied to the rest of the Xeno games than we’ve been led to believe.

One of the first things that catches your attention is a series of radio broadcasts while the cast is being led through a virtual Earth. The radio broadcasts mention a few things of note. One is humans being sent to Sagittarius, where Xenogears ends up taking place. One is Project Exodus – the process of sending humans away to other planets. This is directly the same name as a project from Xenoblade Chronicles X, as well as a similar project from Xenosaga. During these broadcasts Dmitri Yuriev is also name dropped, and he is directly one of the antagonists in the Xenosaga series.

The final set of things comes during the post credits scene. During this scene, you see the two earths recombining. However, they also are seen coming out of some sort of cloaking. I assume this was hinting at the plot of Xenosaga, where Earth is lost due to cloaking. This is then followed up by a blue object of some sort crashing towards Earth, which again to me seems to imply it’s KOS-MOS from the end of Xenosaga III falling to Earth.

All that is to say that this expansion really is for the fans. It adds more context to the Xenoblade series, but also seems to imply ties to the rest of the overarching Xeno series, even if Nintendo doesn’t own those IPs. It also puts us in a place where they’ve given a number of jumping off points for whatever comes next, whether that’s an XC4 or an entirely new branch of the Xeno games.


If you at all enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles 3, this expansion probably isn’t going to change that opinion. It’s still the same great core gameplay. As something that is simply more of a good thing, it’s enough to be worthwhile. As something for fans of the series, it’s even better. It clearly is there to both be a thanks to fans, as well as a nod towards what might come next and really puts an end cap on what I assume is the end of this set of Xeno titles.

Game Ramblings #62.1 – Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country

More Info from Nintendo

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a fairly enjoyable game overall. It had a great universe, enjoyable story, fun characters, and a ton of depth. However, it wasn’t without its issues. The game, like its predecessors was somewhat grindy. The UI was often in the way of streamlined leveling. Overall, despite its depth, the game often felt like it was pushing for more for the sake of more.

Torna however feels like they really embraced the idea of less is more, and the experience is much better as a result. This is an entirely standalone experience, billed as an expansion. It’s a much shorter experience with a significantly streamlined story, rips outs a whole bunch of extraneous systems to focus the leveling aspect, and narrows you onto two main titans. Some clever changes to the battle system really finish up the tweaks, and the total package ends up being much better than the base game, despite the reduction in bullet point features.

Welcome to Torna. After hearing so much about this land in the original game, it’s nice to finally be able to run around on it.

The most obvious immediate change is that almost all of the blade collecting, and therefore a lot of the metagame leveling is gone. You only get blades that are important to the story, and each party member ends up having two blades of different types. By the end of the expansion, you’ve basically got exactly what you need to finish the game with the full suite of ability types. There’s also no longer any special blades, no multi form blades, any robot blade replacements, and no mercenary guild to level up. This all sounds like a lot of removal, but that also meant that a lot of the tedious grind simply went away. It’s entirely addition by subtraction.

The rest of the leveling setup is maintained. You get XP from kills and quests, weapon points from kills, skill points from kills, and various things can be activated in each blade’s affinity chart. As a core set this ends up playing a nice balance between having a nice range of systems without having too many, and also gives you some specific subgoals to focus on, particularly with respect to the blade affinities.

Combat should feel extremely familiar to XC2 fans, though it has some tweaks.

The battle system has also been tweaked to generally feel more streamlined, as well as a fair bit quicker paced. For the most part, people familiar with XC2 will drop in quickly and feel right at home, and I suspect they will like the changes in place.

The first big change is that blade swapping is used as a way to switch the active passive attacker, and swapping between the blades and the driver activate an attack on swap. This is used to inflict a number of status effects, particularly things like topple or smash, as well as providing a full recharge of the blade artes. In practice, it basically means that you can do a combo as follows:

  • Activate Break on one character while using all of their artes.
  • Swap to another character to inflict Topple and quickly use the full suite of artes.
  • While this is happening, the AI will typically inflict Launch
  • Swap to the third character to inflict Smash, finishing a full chain combo.

This pattern is done way faster than any similar combo would have been done in the original release. In also having the blades be the primary attacker, there’s a much more direct feel to the swap, instead of it simply being the blade out of frame swapping out.

The elemental orb / chain attack setup has also been tweaked a bit to reduce clutter. There are still orbs applied on successful blade artes, elemental orbs can be broken in a final combo attack, etc. However, the elemental chaining no longer is used to seal attacks, so a big UI element that I generally ignored is no longer there, and honestly I didn’t miss it at all.

This is still a spectacularly gorgeous game, especially for an open-world Switch experience.

So in the end, this is both a great expansion on the XC2 universe, as well as a way to generally improve on the overall gameplay at the same time. As a prequel, this covers a bunch of story that was hinted at throughout the original game in a way that only improves the universe. On its own that’s enough for me to recommend it to fans of the original. However, the gameplay improvements definitely clinch it for me. This is a much better experience than XC2, and it’s clear that the dev team is learning some lessons from their past releases. Here’s to hoping whatever comes next continues that improvement.

Game Ramblings #62 – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: JRPG
  • Platform: Switch


  • Visually spectacular JRPG filled with large monsters and even larger environments
  • Overly complicated level and gearing systems that could have worked much better if the UI wasn’t so frustrating
  • Solid battle system that has been smartly streamlined since the previous titles, but still has late-game issues with overuse of one-hit mechanics

I’m going to open with what nearly had me shelving the game, because it was the same type of weird late-game design pattern that plagued both Xenoblade and Xenoblade X.  For reference, I was at 84 hours in and on the final sort of boss run before the end of the game.  That late into the game is not the kind of place you want to turn the design on its head.

Throughout the game, I had basically setup my party to where I was a DPS/off heal, one of my characters was a full time tank, and my third was rotating between pure DPS and mixed tank/heal, depending on my needs.  Basically, the main character was in no way setup to actually BE a tank, but that’s what the end game expects of you.

The TL;DR without spoilers is that your entire party gets taken away, and two of the main blades that you develop through the story get taken away, leaving the main character on his own to fight a chain of 1v1 boss battles, without the two blades I’d built my gameplay style around, and needing me to scrounge together what blades I had to try and bullshit my way through the boss fights.  Looking on Gamefaqs and looking at my roster I barely had what I needed leaving me with one choice; bullshit around mechanics to get through it.

I threw on two hammer tanks that have a shield move containing major block percentage and health regen, swapped between the two of them only attacking while the shield was down and the other blade was recharging, and made the fight trivial.  Was it fun? No.  Was it doable? Yes.  That right there is the main problem.  And that’s to say nothing of the final boss, which had some fairly RNG-heavy mechanics that made an otherwise easy fight into a dance of potential instant death.

So with that said, if I’d have known 20 hours ago what to prepare for to avoid having to do that, is this a good game?  More or less, but it’s definitely not without its issues.

Xenoblade 2 follows the pattern from the previous titles where it looks way better than most games on the platform, even in portable mode.

Like its predecessors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a large scale JRPG with huge environments, too many different systems that go into the character’s power, and a somewhat shoddy UI.  It uses the same battle system as the others where it’s technically in real-time, but more or less plays like a turn-based RPG in practice.  However, it’s streamlined a few things for better overall flow.  The biggest problem that it has is that it doesn’t really attempt to fix the problems with its predecessors, instead adding more systems that didn’t feel needed.

While not everything is this large, the scale of the top enemies continues to impress.

Since it is the core of the game, the battle system is the thing that made XC2 last as long as it did, despite some of the problems I mentioned in the opening.  The battle system in place is very much a JRPG-style one, but more in the vain of Final Fantasy 12.  The player has real-time movement, but doesn’t attack while in active movement.  Each player character (driver) is joined by a passive character (blade) and work as a pair in battle.  However, it is a deep system, and I’d argue very nearly too complicated for most players.  I’m bolding a few things here for reference of how many things are in place.  Basic attacks happen automatically, charging up driver artes.  Successful driver artes charge up blade arts.  Successful blade artes can be chained to apply elemental orbs that can then be used to extend the length of a chain attack.  Driver and blade artes are tied to swapping out blades, which can be done in real-time.  If this all sounds complicated, it is, but it’s all very easy to activate thanks to some smart changes to the battle system.

Previous Xenoblade titles used a scrolling list to activate artes, so there was always a bit of a fight of scrolling around in menus to activate things.  XC2 changes this to be much easier.  Blade swapping is on the d-pad.  Driver artes are on B/X/Y face buttons.  Blade artes are activated with A for the player character, and LZ/RZ for party members, then use small quick time events for success chance.  Chain attacks are activated with the Start button, and then use the blade artes for damage.  Basically, if there’s a button around, it’s used for an attack.  There’s no scrolling, no in and out of menus, no looking around to figure out what’s going on.  It’s all extremely fluid, so even with the huge amount of things going on, it’s easy to do what you need to do.

This is backed by continued fantastic variety in what can be done with artes.  There’s a whole mix of artes based around damage bonuses for hitting at certain angles.  Heals can be either direct for healer blades, or incidental potion spawners for attackers.  Tanks have a variety of threat-generation and damage mitigation for good back and forth timing play.  Reaching into blades, a wide range of elemental types means that running a wide variety in your party will benefit your ability to maximize damage in any situation.

Despite everything going on, the rhythm of the fights always feels really good.  Swapping between blades is fast and used often.  Both driver and blade artes charge quickly and always feel impactful.  Chain attacks offer a nice way to interrupt the enemy flow, and also offer the player a fun dance in trying to burst elemental orbs and extend the chain attack.  Basically, the act of fighting is the best part of the game and will keep you coming back to do all the little side things that can be found.

Blades come in a large variety, though they do have some hilarious outfits.

However, when you start getting into the rest of the game systems, XC2 starts to feel like a game that has added systems just for the sake of adding them.  This is best illustrated by all of the different forms of experience-based things that have to be gained to truly increase your party’s power.

  • There’s core XP from kills that goes into the character levels like most JRPGs.  However, there’s also rested XP earned by completing quests and other side items that can only be earned by resting at an inn.
  • Killing enemies also earns SP, which is a currency for drivers to apply to passive skills, such as core stat boosts, ability to use certain abilities at the start of battle, etc.
  • Killing enemies ALSO earns WP, which is a currency earned per-blade to increase the level of the driver artes tied to individual blade types.
  • Every single blade has a unique affinity chart that has to be leveled up.  This can be done in any number of ways, whether it be kills on specific enemies, collecting things in the environment, completing blade-unique side quests, and more.  However, you have to go into the affinity chart of the blade to activate things they earn; it isn’t automatically activated when earning is complete.
  • Trust can be earned by completing quests and battling with blades.  For most blades, trust is used to unlock new tiers in their affinity charts.
  • Some blades have multiple forms, which each need to be leveled separately.
  • For those who don’t care about spoilers, there is a unique leveling scheme:

    One driver can also be a blade, but can only level one of those forms at a time.

  • One of the main characters also uses an artificial Blade, which as all the normal leveling systems, but also has a unique minigame that has to be completed in order to earn a unique currency that goes into core upgrades specific to these blade forms.
  • Part way through the game, the player inherits a mercenary guild, opening an option to send out unused blades on missions to earn XP, rewards, and affinity chart leveling.  It basically becomes mandatory for leveling more than just your core set of blades.

If all of this doesn’t make your head spin, then you’re probably as much of a JRPG fan as I am.  However, the problem is that these systems are all in separate menus found in separate places, and often interrupted by multi-second loads.  At best it can be described as clunky, and really adds a lot of unnecessary hassle to a bunch of systems that probably could have been largely combined into passive earning through battle.

It’s a good thing the banter is fun, because some comedy breaks are needed after dealing with endless menus.

That said, the story kept me coming back, even when I wanted to shelve the game near the end.  Although playing the first title isn’t necessary, the end of XC2 does tie the two games together nicely.  The game’s overarching story is also fairly cliche as far as JRPGs go (boy finds girl, wants to help her achieve her goal, drama, betrayal, etc), but the interplay between characters is generally entertaining enough to rise above it.  This is further extended in the return of the Heart-to-Heart segments, where specific drivers and blades act out little skits to the side of the story.  It’s a lot like the Tales of series in that regard, but it’s always a nice little break from the rest of the game.

In general, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a tough game for me to place.  I enjoyed the hell out of a lot of it, but the last 10 hours of the game were frustrating as hell for no good reason.  I enjoyed the depth of the systems in place, but they make it hard for me to recommend to anyone but core JRPG fans, and the menu systems backing them were clunky as hell.  If there’s any single thing I can point at that anyone would enjoy, it’d be the soundtrack.  It’s phenomenal.  If nothing else, this is another point that Nintendo had one hell of a 2017, giving us one of the best JRPGs of the year, warts and all.