Archives by Day

April 2024

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: July 29, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Xenoblade Chronicles 3'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 8, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

A vast world awaits in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the next game in the acclaimed RPG series, featuring a brand-new cast of characters.

Buy Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 1 is probably one of my favorite JRPGs. I've purchased in multiple times for multiple systems and have completed it each time, despite it being a ridiculously lengthy game. While I enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles X and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, neither was as thrilling as the first game.

That's why Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is such a delight. It's the first game since the original to capture what made it work, and it has enough improvements and additions that it's now my favorite Xenoblade game in the franchise. That's darn impressive when going up against a title that I have multiple copies of.

Xenoblade 3 is set in the world of Aionis, which is a hellscape populated by warring factions. The nations of Keves and Agnus are engaged in an eternal unstoppable war. The young soldiers are born from vats and only live for 10 years — if they're lucky. Their goal is to murder the opposing side and take their vital life energy so that they may live. Their hope is to live enough for a "homecoming," which is a death overseen by the queen of their respective nations. In short, it's not a great place to live. The people are broken and powerless, and even the kindest souls are forced to participate in battle.

Xenoblade 3 follows six individuals: three soldiers from Keves and three from Agnus. Mio, Sena and Taion are from Keves, and Eunie, Noah and Lanz are from Agnus. During a battle, a man from neither nation claims to be from a place where people live longer than 10 years and don't need to kill to survive. To save them from a monster, he gifts them with the power of Oroborus, which allows them to fuse with one another and wield immense strength. Unfortunately, this gift also makes them pariahs who are now the enemies of both sides. The six unlucky allies must work together to figure out why they were given this power and if there is a world that survives without murder.

The plot is a mix of stand-alone and a direct sequel to the other games. Xenoblade 3 is a sequel in a much more direct sense than Xenoblade 2 was. The world setting has a lot of elements that only make sense if you've played both titles, and although the game tries to keep things somewhat generic, there are several big reveals that only really ring true if you know what they are referencing.

One thing that makes Xenoblade 3 stand out are the characters. A lot of JRPGs tend to fall into the trap of being about the protagonists, so the other characters take a backseat except in a handful of scenes. Xenoblade 3 threads a difficult needle in having six main characters, and pretty much all of them are treated equally and given focus. Noah is the protagonist, but he doesn't overshadow the rest of the cast, and it goes a long way toward making him work as a character. The banter among the cast is fun, with bird-haired Eunie being an absolute standout who carries some dark moments with ease.

The core plot is mostly interesting, with a solid mix of mystery and twists and turns that keep the game engaging despite its incredibly long runtime. It feels a lot more in line with the darkest tones of Xenoblade 1 rather than the peppy anime styling of Xenoblade 2. The game revels in theatrical excess, but it does so with enough flair to not detract from the whole. Toward the end, it feels like a more generic JRPG, but by the time it has reached that point, it feels like it's earned a few Power Of Friendships Speeches.

Xenoblade 3's combat system is at once very simple and absurdly complex. If you write out how it works, it sounds impenetrable because there are tons of overlapping interactions between different mechanics.

The core combat system is similar to the standard Xenoblade gameplay loop, with characters having a selection of Arts that they can equip and use. The first major difference is that the character's place of origin determines how their arts function. Those from Agnus function on Xenoblade 1-style cooldown meters, while those from Keves use the Xenoblade 2 "hit to recharge" style. Your character class determines whether you're using Keves or Agnus style.

Each character can now swap classes. Classes come in three self-explanatory types: Attacker, Defender or Healer. Each class comes with a selection of Arts; you can equip up to three Arts at a time, and each Art comes with passive skills. Once you level up a class to a certain level, you permanently unlock one of its Arts or skills, and you can use up to three of them on other classes. Once you have a few skills built up, you'll always have access to three Agnus Arts and three Keves Arts. If both arts are charged at the same time, you can also use a Fusion Art that causes them both to go off at the same time and can have useful benefits, such as skipping an animation or automatically combining two skills.

Xenoblade 3's six main cast members are always in your party. The seventh party slot goes to Heroes, who are recruitable characters with their own side-quests. Recruit a Hero, and they fill that slot, and you can swap at almost any time between them. On top of that, recruiting a Hero also gives you access to their class. Unlike the rest of the cast, Heroes can't be directly controlled, but they are worth their weight in combat capabilities.

Then there's the Oroborus. The six main cast members can merge with someone from the rival nation to create an Oroborus, a biomechanical super form that is immune to damage and immensely powerful. Each of the six main cast members has their own Oroborus form, and you can transform into them with the tap of a button. While in Oroborus form, you get a different set of skills and Arts and can change between a character and their partner's Oroborus forms. The downside is that Oroborus can be used for a limited time, and once it runs out, your characters split apart and can't fuse for a while. The longer you fight outside of Oroborus, the more time you get inside of it by raising your Interlink level, so it's a balance between immediate, raw power or saving up for something big later.

But wait, there's more! You can initiate powerful chain attacks that do absurd amounts of damage. Each character has different TP ratings that determine how effective they are, and each Hero has unique skills. There is Art Canceling, which involves timed button presses to cancel attack animations for faster attacks. There is an entire Blue Mage-style class that gains permanent attacks from defeating monsters and is fully customizable There's a ton of nuance that you can get into, and I could probably spend this whole review discussing the nitty-gritty of combat.

For the most part, it works. It sounds absurdly complex, but everything meshes really well, and the level of customization means you can decide what to prioritize. You can focus a team on knocking down enemies so they can be launched and smashed into the ground for bonus damage. You can make one that applies tons of debuffs, so certain attackers can gain more power. You can make one that focuses on defense and healing, so you can rapidly build up your Oroborus link energy and use those for damage. There's a ton of options, and I had fun finding the best builds possible.

There is one big thing that may drag it down: leveling. This has been a problem with Xenoblade before, and it is here too, though to a lesser extent. Completing side-quests unlocks Bonus EXP, which can be used to level up your characters. Defeating enemies with chain attacks "Overkills" them to increase the rewards, including upward of a 400% bonus to EXP. If you take full advantage of this, you can over-level everything in the game incredibly easily. Not only does it potentially make things too easy, but you need to be around five levels above or below an enemy for it to count for leveling and unlocking classes.

Xenoblade 3 is obviously aware that this is an issue, so it makes both of these things optional. You don't have to spend Bonus EXP, and you can turn off Overkills in the options menu. Doing so kept me at the level that I needed to be for every area without any real grinding. The problem is that there is another solution: Xenoblade 1 Definitive Edition allowed you to manually adjust your levels down at rest spots. Xenoblade 3 does this as well — but only after you finish the game. There's no reason for this feature to be locked to the postgame, and it would go a long way toward making things more fun if it was unlocked from the start. There is a Hard mode that can potentially alleviate it, but it comes with a series of nerfs to your characters, which might be extreme for someone who doesn't want to win fights only because they completed side content.

And wow, is there a lot of side content in Xenoblade 3. The world is divided into several massive, wide-open areas that are filled with secrets. You can find colonies to liberate, Heroes to recruit, bosses with hide rare treasures (and skills), collectible items, and even voiced subplots that involve many of the characters. Like Xenoblade 1, you need to complete side-quests to level up colonies and unlock everything, but thankfully, that has been trimmed down from an absurd amount of grinding to completing some of the plot-related side-quests for each colony. There is a ton to do, and it was fun to explore the world and see what I could find. Some areas aren't accessible until you unlock travel skills, but you get most of those early on.

Xenoblade 3 is a beast of a game. The main story and minimal side-questing will take about 80 hours. Doing everything in the game easily bumps that to triple digits. It is to the game's credit that it feels well paced, and despite being absurdly long, there were only a few places where it felt like it was dragging. Be prepared to set aside a whole lot of time if you want to see the main story and recruit all the characters. There are even characters you can't recruit until the postgame!

Xenoblade 3 is one of the best-looking games on the Nintendo Switch. The character model work is a huge improvement from Xenoblade 2, and some of the cut scenes are genuinely breathtaking, which is darn impressive on the Switch. It also runs shockingly smoothly, and I only noticed significant slowdown in a few areas. It does have some weak points, including some awful texture work that the game decides to focus on from time to time. For the most part, it's a showcase of what the Switch can do with a dedicated team working.

The soundtrack is also top-notch, mixing slow and melancholy flute solos with pulse-pounding rock music. The voice acting continues the franchise's habit of using European voice actors and accents instead of American ones, and it works to its benefit. There are a few flubbed lines or weak actors, but Xenoblade is a franchise where everyone is British (or occasionally Welsh or Australian), and that helps it stand out.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was a huge delight to me, easily taking the top spot in my favorite Xenoblade games. It hits so many marks: The cast is likeable, the gameplay is fun and engaging, the world is great to explore, and it is one of the best JRPGs I've ever played. While not flawless, the flaws it does have are forgivable or potentially patched, and you certainly get your money's worth. JRPG fans should absolutely give Xenoblade 3 a try, as it's a pure delight.

Score: 9.5/10

More articles about Xenoblade Chronicles 3
blog comments powered by Disqus