REVIEW: Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Friday, December 29th, 2017

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The lions share of Blades you will obtain through attunement will be 1 through 4 star quality Blades that you would only really ever want to use in combat during an emergency. They typically have limited growth and very limited power. But when you do manage to get a Legendary 5 Star Blade, you will want to work very hard on their development. Each of those Legendary Blades has their own character voice, their own set of side quests, and Heart-to-Heart moments (a return from the first game). Most of them have weapons that set them apart slightly from the lower class Blades and they also have very fancy finishers and exclusive Level IV attacks (1-4 Star Blades have no Level IV). Thankfully you can still find uses for the lower ranked Blades once you reach your 2nd major Titan and unlock the ability to send them out for Merc (Mercenary) Missions. They will earn bonus XP (which you can cash in by sleeping at an Inn) and gold for the party as well as completing some side quests and filling in parts of their development trees. When you complete the development tree of any Blade you will be rewarded with very exclusive items that pay dividends with developing the power of your human party members.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Combat

Combat is fairly simple in the beginning but gets super complicated and fun.

It is going to be frankly impossible for me to accurately describe combat in this game very well. I made a few honest attempts and to even begin to wrap the readers’ minds accurately around the combat takes at least a minimum of another 2000 words. Instead, I’m going to recommend that you watch one of the tutorial videos out there on Youtube or consult an online strategy guide if you want to know what it’s really like. This game has some of the most complex combat in any JRPG I’ve ever played. Granted, it doesn’t start out quite the complicated, but they add systems on top of systems on top of systems. But this is in no way a complaint, it is in fact a huge compliment. This game has some of my favorite combat in the history of JRPGs. There were a lot of creatures that I did not have to fight, but I did just because it was so fun. There were situations where new enemies just kept on wandering by and joining in on the fun, or were called in by Scouts, and I never felt bored or frustrated by having new ones join. Because all abilities are cooldown based and not MP based, you can effectively fight as long as you want, if you are using your abilities correctly. Of course, if an enemy is too far out of your league, they will smash you. But you will often surprise yourself at what you can take on and how many levels over your own you can still defeat if you learn to use all the systems correctly. They did learn some things with Xenoblade Chronicles X, but the combat is mostly an extremely evolved version of the combat found in the first Xenoblade Chronicles, only with a lot of elemental effects and chain attacks and such added on with the Break/Topple/Launch system. I just cannot recommend this combat enough, it wasn’t quite enough to push this game over the edge for taking out Persona 5 for my game of the year, but it made that a genuinely difficult decision.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Story

The story varies widely in tone, often serious and even heartbreaking, but also sometimes hilarious.

There is really not much that I can, or want to, say about the main story of this game. You really should want to know as little information as possible going into it. Even what you are expecting from the trailers (and the first couple hours of the game) are quickly flipped on their head after very little time. The antagonists in this game are truly memorable and at several points you will have to strongly consider whether you are on the right side or not. As you can imagine from the previous titles in the series, the story can be extremely serious and very heartbreaking at times. But even more-so than Xenoblade Chronicles, there are also some extremely lighthearted and funny sequences in the story as well. All around they found a really good balance. What I found to be most shocking though, is the latter part of the game actually tied back into the greater Xeno universe far more than the previous two Xenoblade games have. So, not only is this the sequel that we were waiting for with Xenoblade, this was also the Xeno universe game that I was really looking for. And as such, this turned out to be a better game, for me personally, than Xenoblade Chronicles was.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Music

I thought that Persona 5 had the best soundtrack of the year, until I played this game.

Another shocking improvement over the first game, and drastic improvement over X, is the soundtrack. Yasunori Mitsuda is responsible for many of my favorite game soundtracks of all time (Xenogears, Xenoblade Chronicles, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross), and he has definitely outdone himself with this one. I wouldn’t put it quite up there with Xenogears, but it is a definite improvement over Xenoblade Chronicles. Unfortunately the English voice work didn’t receive quite the attention to detail, and therefore I was glad that the Japanese language patch was available on Day 1 and was available for free. I quickly switched to that track and was thankful for it. But to be fair to the localization team, they didn’t have nearly the same amount of time with the game as you normally would with a worldwide simultaneous release. Less understandable was the last issue and that is game crashes. Through my time with the game, the game crashed to the Home screen 4 times. Now, given the amount of time I played that is not all that much, and was actually less than the first Xenoblade. But that is still an issue that really does need to be corrected. It makes matters worse that the only auto-saving mechanism is when you Bond to a new Crystal. So after I lost 10 hours of a gaming session once, I learned to manually save quite often. Also, if you play extremely long sessions you will start to see some performance drop and slowdown, so I would advise that you exit out of the game and restart it. The load times are not bad at all, so it’s not that much of an issue.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Bonding

I’m still trying to unlock my last 8 Legendary Blades, especially KOS-MOS.

These issues are annoying, particularly when you combine it with a terrible map system, but they did not greatly impact my enjoyment of the game. There is just too much to love about it, for me personally. It’s quite difficult for me to estimate how much time it would be for a standard player to go through this game, because I’m such an abnormal player. I tried to do as much as possible before writing the review, that way I could get a better sense of every facet and what even the hardcore players would experience. Ideally I would have loved to delay the review until the first major patch so that there will be New Game+ and also some bug fixes. But it’s already a 5.0 game for me even before the additions, so I decided to complete the main story at around 250 hours and write this review at 350 hours of gameplay. Granted, some of that is just letting the game run while my Merc teams are off doing missions, but the lions share of that is just doing all the various side quests in the game. So, at a guess, if you were just to main line the game and totally ignore the sidequests and Merc Missions, I would say that the game would take around 70-80 hours to complete, a ton of game for the standard $59.99 price tag of AAA games. It is simply massive, and it’s a huge step in the right direction for the series. This is unequivocally my Nintendo Switch game of the year, and that’s even in a year with a major Mario and major Zelda game. I wish that I could say even more about so many things with the story, particularly how it ties into the overall meta-narrative, but the hardcore fans will just have to play it for themselves and see how it ties in. This game is more than worth your time.

Review Score

Review Copy Self Purchased

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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