REVIEW: Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Friday, December 29th, 2017

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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Box Art
Title Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Developer Monolith Soft
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date December 1, 2017
Genre JRPG
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating ESRB T for Teen
Official Website

My history with the Xeno franchise has been a very long one, spanning almost 20 years now. In that time there have been 7 releases in the franchise: Xenogears, Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht, Xenosaga Episode 2: Jenseits von Gut und Böse , Xenosaga Episode 3: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and now Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I have played through each game in the series, and while there is something to love in every game, it has been a bit of a bumpy ride. That begs the question, why continue following the series so adamantly? Mostly it was because the first game in the series, Xenogears (the only one created while Takahashi was at Squaresoft), was such a pivotal game for me. It ties with Final Fantasy VI as possibly my favorite game of all time, and I still routinely go back through it again. However, there was some pretty low years during the Xenosaga period. Those games seemed to, on the surface, combine two of my favorite things, the Xeno series with Friedrich Nietzsche. Sadly I could never really get into them as much as I did the original game. So I was a bit lukewarm on my feelings towards the Operation Rainfall campaign to get Xenoblade Chronicles localized outside of Japan. Fortunately the campaign was successful (and our site exists as a result), because that game turned out to be a JRPG classic that almost lived up to the heights of the original game. Rocky times returned again with the next title, Xenoblade Chronicles X, which even beyond the censorship issues I had a very difficult time enjoying (mostly due to a serious lack of real story). And now here we are with the true sequel to my second favorite entry in the series, will it adhere more to the first game or was X a harbinger of things to come?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Open World

Xenoblade Chronicles was large. The sequel dwarfs it.

Even within the first hour or two, you can already tell that this game is the true sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles. If anything, the opening is even more story heavy than the first one was. So you might get to thinking that this would totally eschew the open world style of the previous two games. Once you reach Gormott proper, however, those concerns are more than allayed. Xenoblade Chronicles was rather notable for having two massive creatures that you could explore and find all sorts of side quests and secret areas that reward you for exploring their massive territories. Not only does this game return to that style, but it takes it to the next level. I don’t want to spoil exactly how many Titans there are to explore, but I can almost guarantee that it’s more than you think there are. This game is a lot larger than either of the previous two titles, but they are also able to avoid the Breath of the Wild problem of feeling empty. Not only are the regions massive and with a lot of secret areas, but there is also a very diverse array of flora and fauna to keep you interested.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Town

Nice looking town in the distance, but watch out for a giant ape.

The scope of the Titans and the diversity of their creatures works almost entirely for the benefit of the game at large. But there were a couple of early issues that I had and one issue that remained throughout the game. The first early issue I had was in trying to get to the first major town I kept on dying to creatures that were a higher level than I was, and in particular a massive level 90 gorilla. It seemed like I was blocked off at every turn by higher level enemies. But it turned out that they were just trying to teach you to explore more and that the straightest line path was not always the best. They just didn’t actually have any tutorial messages about that, requiring you instead to figure it out yourself. Eventually I went down onto a smaller island structure and found that the enemies there would not aggro onto me as I passed through. That was the second early issue that I had was that enemy aggro plays such a huge part in the game but they don’t take the step that most MMORPGs do by denoting on the enemy it’s aggro value (meaning whether it will attack on sight, attack when you are engaged with another of it’s same breed, or remain totally passive). That is another issue that slowly worked it’s way out since I just learned by experience which enemy types were aggressive.

The one issue that remained, and is really my only major problem with the entire game, is that the waypoint and pathing systems are atrocious. While this game was too far in development to be influenced by amazing map systems like Horizon: Zero Dawn, it still should have learned from previous games like The Witcher 3 or Final Fantasy XIV. The map has pretty poor detail, lacks in functionality (although there is a patch planned for this), and is almost useless in making your way to hidden areas or multiple vertical levels. That being said, it was still not frustrating enough to put me off of the game or to make exploring not worth it. There is almost always something special, usually a large treasure chest, waiting for you in all those hidden areas. And, with the hundreds of side quests, it will often pay dividends by knowing and visiting all those hard to reach areas.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Blades

Putting the Blade back into Xenoblade.

There are a lot of area specific side quests, but around 50% of the side quests in the game are about the Blades. Feasibly you could just main line path the game and ignore all the side quests and that would be a valid way to go through the game. Since the enemy experience scales with level differential, it’s even feasible that you would not have to do much grinding of levels if you wanted to just main line the game. However, it is very obvious that this is not really the intended way to play the game. The main story is really good, in fact is much stronger than almost any other open world game (more on that later), but the side missions and especially the ones that are Blade specific is where this game truly finds its identity. Each character has a Blade that is with them throughout their journey and is their companion through thick and thin. That particular Blade can take on various forms, for some of them (really avoiding spoilers here). But typically that character will always need to be equipped with that blade. Early on, however, your characters gain the ability to have more than one Blade equipped on them and eventually can equip 3 at a time. This is very useful for a diversity of roles (Tank, Damage, and Healer), if you so choose, but is especially useful for having a variety of elemental attacks. As you can see above; Pyra has Fire attacks, Floren has Earth attacks, and Finch has Wind attacks. You can combine these in specific ways to form elemental Blade Combos. But the way you gain new Blades can vary, some are obtained through very rare (and often, hard to find) side quests or secret areas, some come through major main story events, and then the rest of the 38 total Blades are gained by chance through Crystal Bonding. Unfortunately due to that RNG, I was unable to see every Blade in the game before writing the review, I finished with 30 out of the 38 (which is a lot more than you would typically expect for a standard run).

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Aegis

The Aegis is quite unique, but every Legendary Blade is special.

More Blades on Page 2 ->

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.

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  • I’m level 72 with 134 hours on my save, some of which is me leaving the game on, and I’m currently at the end, but it seems my team is not optimized to beat the final boss (I get wiped in one hit about halfway through). Probably one of the longest games I’ve ever played. I don’t know if I’d call this better than the first Xenoblade. The story is not quite as compelling, there’s too much cringe, and there are things in this game that waste too much of the player’s time, such as the merc missions menu.

    • William Haderlie

      Hopefully you aren’t still stuck on the final boss. But if you are, just know that his move is always supposed to one shot you at 50% health. When you see him start to cast it, you need to do a Chain Attack, and as long as you break at least 3 orbs, you should be able to take him down. This is good practice for the Superbosses that invade the world post-credits, since they all have enrage percentages and you will want to always chain attack finish them. Good luck. 🙂

    • I beat it now. After the mid-fight cutscene is when he used an attack that would kill Rex and Nia at full HP, and since he used it immediately after the scene, I couldn’t chain attack, or switch to another blade (such as a tank) before he used it because they were on cooldown. I was only level 69-70 when that happened though. I beat it at level 74 after doing some quests and fighting some uniques.

  • Wiseman-hunter

    What is it with this constant bashing over X here ?X is much more in line with xenogears than xenoblade ever was. Story is not just told via cutscenes, this is a game, not a movie. Story can be told through interactions and quests and here X outshine XC and even XC2. So much so that XC 2 is being criticized by its length cutscenes where there are better ways to do it. Also, XC 2 clearly takes a lot from X, and not from XC only. The field skills, the damage percent up on chain attacks (basically fusion of XC chain attacks AND overdrive from X), the full seamless titans, the use if different classes to customize each party member ( in X with the classes and in XC2 with the blade roles). The capability of standing and exploring almost all surfaces, the engine itself, it is all xenoblade x. In the end, although I was hoping XC2 to beat all previous instalments, it is kinda satisfactory to see it is actually below X on critics and USERS scores in all metas out there. Hopefully X port that Takahashi whats to do will come soon and eventually X direct actual sequel (which XC did not get) and proves that X Saga is a second attempt to re-tell perfect works. It will be funny to see what people like this reviewer here will have to say.

    • REVIEWButtdungeon USA

      I agree, I have good memories with X

    • Jeff Neuenschwander

      Yeah, it seems kind of odd, given that X was their GOTY in 2015.

    • It was probably a different reviewer. Also, I don’t remember there being many other standout games in 2015 anyway.

    • Steve Baltimore

      Some on staff loved X other didn’t care for it as much. Personally I think its the weakest game in franchise due to the lack of story focus. Yes, I know you get more story if you do all the sidequest, but I shouldn’t have to dig main story points out of sidequests.

    • Jeff Neuenschwander

      It’s kind of like 3D Sonic games, but with more quality. Each game has its strengths and weaknesses, but nobody can agree on what those are.

  • MusouTensei

    My GotY 2017

  • Panpopo

    I have been enjoying this game immensely like all the others in the series (I have not beat it yet, and probably won’t for a long while). My only gripe is that damn gacha system for rare blades. I hate this system – I just want kos-mos! They should have all been unlockable as secrets imo, like any other game.

    Nevertheless, I believe this game (and super mario odyssey) are worth the price of a switch by themselves.

    • madmofo145

      Yeah, there are a couple of iffy QoL choices, but the Gacha is the worst. Use it for normal blades sure, but every rare blade core should have been a quest (or other special collection method). That would have made a lot more of the quest meaningful, and allowed the blades to be doled out in line with their abilities (and distributed to the team better). There are a couple other things they could have done (some way to get really useful normal blades), but gacha is the worst.

  • neptuniafan

    This is the best game I have this year, and I fell in love with this game. I love the story, the gameplay, the characters, and surprisingly it is for the Switch, while less powerful than the PS4 and XBox One, but the game really does make up for it in various different areas.

    Also Nintendo have my respect for not censoring the game as well as giving the option to choose Japanese voices, and also keeping the script fairly accurate to the original script.

  • Andrew Arndt

    174 hours in and well only on chap 6 XD