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 #160 – Xenoblade Chronicles 3

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: JRPG
  • Platform: Switch

It says a lot about a JRPG that I still want to play it when I finish. It says a lot that despite playing 80 hours I never felt like I was grinding. It says a lot that I was doing side quests just for the sake of exploring the new spots that they would lead me that you would otherwise never see on the golden path. It says a lot that changing your party to other class types was so fun that I was actively trying to complete the roster. This is just a fantastically good game that is worth going out of your way to play.

There’s a lot to cover about this game but I want to start in a specific place. This game is incredibly streamlined for a Xenoblade title. I mentioned in my ramblings for XB2’s Torna expansion that it felt like they were starting to embrace a bit of a less is more notion and that feels like it’s continued here. In this game you’re down to three main forms of experience: XP for leveling, CP for leveling your classes, and SP for leveling a skill tree tied to a story thing that I’m not going to spoil. This also fell into a balance curve that felt fair the entire time. Xenoblade 2 and X both had really weird difficulty spikes at the end that felt more like unfair mechanics than any inherent difficulty. Xenoblade 3 on the other hand just generally felt like it was trying to be fair across the board and ramping difficulty as made sense, rather than throwing some BS one shot mechanics at you to finish the game.

What this gets me for XB3 is that I spent a whole lot less time in menus and a whole lot more time just playing the game. About the only time I was going into the menus was when I wanted to change the class setup of my team, either because I wanted to try something a bit differently or because someone hit the class level cap and I wanted to start leveling on something else. There’s some other mechanics like skill mastery and some light gearing (accessories and gems ONLY) but for the most part it’s incidental and I was only changing it at the same time as changing my classes, so it was all done in a single pass. In playing, this felt a lot more in line with the remake of XB1 than the over-complex XB2 set of systems. You’re rewarded for playing effectively, you’re rewarded for leveling up, and you just go.

And boy do you just want to go. Combat in this game felt like another high point in the series. The base combat has luckily brought over XB2‘s hot key selection where your attacks are simple button presses when ready on the d-pad and face buttons. It worked far better than XB1‘s scrolling menu and it’s good to see if return. However, that’s not the main point of interest. Without getting too spoilery, the core plot point of this game is that it’s smashed the two universes of the first two games together into one. What you end up with is some party members that use the time-based skill recharge of XB1 and some party members that use the attack-based skill recharge of XB2. This is where classes come into play.

Classes are earned by completing hero quests and using those classes starts to unlock the ability to equip that class’ arts while it isn’t actively being used. The main restriction is that you can only equip arts of the opposite universe. For example, if your active class is earned from a character in the XB2‘s world, you can only secondary equip skills from a class earned from an XB1 character. There are inherent power advantages to activating skills from BOTH at the same time, but because they are on different recharge mechanics you’ve got to be a little more patient with your timing that just hitting the button that is glowing and ready. There’s also some inherent advantages with mixing skills from different class archetypes to broaden what a member could do at any time. This gives XB3‘s combat its important feel.

What I started really getting in-tune with was seeing how many XB2 arts I could activate within a full XB1 art recharge period. If I could optimize my movement to get in three arts instead of two between dual-arts, then I just increased my power curve. If I could chain XB2 arts to cause them to recharge faster, then I just increased my power curve. Those all contributed to a really solid rhythmic feel of a fight as I found class combos that I really enjoyed. If I mixed some healing arts onto a tank, then I could go with fewer healers in my active party and power through with more damage. At the same time, I could use a DPS’s aggro reduction skill on a healer to reduce their incoming damage and give them more time to actively heal others, again allowing me to focus on more damage. It’s these types of things that let you to increase your power curve and ultimately your skill level that allowed them to get rid of all sorts of systems from XB2 and allow you to just be good at the game.

Luckily the streamlining also generally applied to combat. Chain attacks from XB2 are still there, and they’re still fun. However, elemental orbs are gone. The distinction between driver and blade arts is gone. Swapping blades is gone. What you’re doing is basically the following:

  • Apply your artes properly (ex: bonus for hitting a specific art from the back of the target).
  • Use the bonuses to charge up a chain attack meter.
  • Activate the chain attack.

That’s it. It takes the core fun of the big numbers and dramatic sequence from the XB2 chain attack system and gets rid of a bunch of complexity to just keep that part that worked the best while getting rid of some of the RNG nature of XB2’s orbs.

Story DLC aside, if this does end up being the end of the Xenoblade story they sure nailed it. This feels like a culmination of the story, but more importantly it feels like a culmination of the gameplay. It’s got things that worked from both of the previous mainline titles while getting rid of a whole bunch of extraneous nonsense. It results in a game that doesn’t get tiring despite its length. It’s one of those games that despite the Switch being old and underpowered compared to the current gen of consoles, it’s worth going out of your way to try out.

Game Ramblings #114 – Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: JRPG
  • Platform: Switch
  • Originally Available On: Wii, 3DS

So, this is admittedly the third time I’ve played this game. I knew I would enjoy it, I knew it would take a long time, and I knew what the experience would be like. However, it was interesting playing it after Xenoblade 2. It didn’t necessarily make the remake better or worse, but the big changes in combat for Xenoblade 2 are something that I think I now appreciate more having gone back to the older combat style. My ramblings here are generally going to reflect seeing the changes the series has gone through now that I’ve played the two book ends sort of back to back.

Combat in the remake is the same as it was in the original. Your artes are lined up in a row to be used. Some artes are attacks, some are buffs or debuffs, some are defensive maneuvers, etc. Some of them are based on positioning (ex: bonus damage if attacking from behind). Some are used in tandem to effect the enemy (ex: Break -> Topple -> Stun). The basics that are there are the same that have been in the Xenoblade series the whole time.

What surprised me going back now that I’ve played Xenoblade 2 is how much I wish they’d have applied that game’s combat system to the remake. Ignoring some of the features that are definitely tied to the Xeno 2 story, the core change to that combat is that instead of a bar of artes that you scroll through, each attack is tied to a hard button – either on the d-pad or on the face buttons. This would have made the combat in this remake so much more fluid. You’ve got 8 buttons that could be used, 8 artes that you can assign anyway, and then a center activation on each character that could easily be applied to one of the shoulder buttons. Instead, you’re stuck doing a scroll to get to the arte that you want to use, while at the same time trying to juggle movement.

It also caught me a bit off guard that I never hit a point where I really felt a need to grind. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m generally familiar with the game, or if they did a rebalance pass, but balance was almost always in line with my expectations. Bosses felt reasonably balanced for where I expected to be in the game. If I was hitting a point where I was feeling a bit pressured, there was generally enough side quests around to give me boosts. I was generally collecting enough general stuff to keep up with money needed to grab the relevant current set of gear. It was just kind of a nice level playing field for the bulk of the game. I admittedly dropped it down to easy at the end, but not because I was frustrated of the grind like 2 or X. I was simply at a point where I wanted to see the remastered finish and epilogue content, rather than go through a boss gauntlet I’d already been through before.

On the other hand, boy do I really not miss the complexity of the systems in place in Xenoblade 2. That’s not to say that this game was ever really that simple, but it still only has three real forms of progression – XP for levels, AP for leveling up artes, and SP for leveling up passive skills. This is a far simpler game than the Excel simulation that Xeno 2 ultimately became. If there’s anything that really is still a bit of a chore to manage, it’s the amount of side questing involved.

That said, the overall UX for this is much improved over the original game anyway. Getting to your quest list is super fast (d-pad down). The in-world indication of where quest items or quest kills are is significantly improved. Generally speaking, it’s a lot more obvious what I should be doing at any point, and far quicker for me to change my focus to a different side quest with a few clicks.

There’s also some bonus points for how easy it was for me to change the cosmetic look of the party in the remake. Buying a piece of gear once permanently allows you to equip its cosmetic look to the characters it applies to. This is a super nice change, since your party can very rapidly turn into a multicolor shit show with all the random gear you’ll end up finding. I set my party’s look pretty early on to be consistent with roughly where they started, with a few minor color variations that I preferred, and stuck with it. On the surface, this may seem like a small feature, but I was always more of a fan of the numbers behind gear in JRPGs, and typically less of a fan of the visual impact in games that supported it, so finding my look and sticking to it is one of those things I really appreciate.

However, the real reason I suspect most people will want to replay this is for the Future Connected epilogue. This one was interesting in that it’s substantial, but not nearly as substantial as the Torna expansion for 2. It provides some nice story closure specifically for Melia, but not much else for the rest of the gang. It adds an interesting mechanic with the Nopon Ponspector horde that replaces chain attacks, but also significantly scales back your party flexibility. I suppose ultimately, it was a nice way for me to wrap up my gameplay of the remake, but it left me wanting to see more of what happened to the rest of the party. There may be some potential for them to add more of these epilogues to the game if they need to stretch the schedule before whatever Xeno project comes next, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend playing through an entire long JRPG again unless you’re really as big a fan of the series as I am.

Remakes are always a tough one, but in cases like Xenoblade I’m pretty happy about it. Beyond exposing the game to a much different audience than the previous go arounds, it’s just nice to hop into a game I loved in a way that is significantly better looking. This has continued my sort of run of JRPG remakes that I’ve been doing lately, and this is probably the safest of my recent bunch, sticking to the original framework entirely – FF7R was a distinct explosion, and Trials of Mana was similar in gameplay, but much different in visual style. However, it being safer didn’t make it worse. The game largely still works great. Would I have liked to see them take some risks and make combat smoother with lessons learned from 2? Ya. Am I glad to see that they didn’t add heaps of new systems? Even larger ya. This game wasn’t accidentally a 92 metacritic its first go around, and that shows. This game has aged remarkably well, and with a fresh coat of paint it’s still going to be worth playing for newcomers, and returning players may just take it as an opportunity to revisit a game they loved.