After spending most of my weekend, and bits of the last week, playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I’ve finally decided it’s time to come to the review. Was this game the JRPG that I wanted on my portable baby or did it leave a bad taste in my mouth that only a decent “Tales of” game could remove? Let’s find out!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the latest game in the Xenoblade series from Monolith Soft. The game’s plot focuses on a world in the Cloud Sea where people live on the backs of Titans: massive creatures that range from smaller whale sized creatures to living moving sentient continents.
The game focuses on Rex, a young salvager and his Blade (sentient weapons with bodies, this one is a hot redhead) called Pyra, who calls herself the Aegis. In this unlikely meeting, Rex becomes the Aegis Driver (someone who uses and can attune to a blade) in her goal to reach Elysium – the land of plenty where humanity once lived with the Architect.
Other than this brief synopsis this review will be largely spoiler-free.
Right off the bat this game’s story spoke to me; this was obviously a world that was dyed deep in a rich lore and for where I am in the game at the moment, this is largely true. The game boasts a huge world and each Titan is not only a place for you explore but also a rich tapestry of subtle plot and information. Truly this game is brimming with life.
As a Xenoblade game, this world is huge and expansive, it offers a huge variety of environments with many creatures and monsters. You’ll often walk among level 18 monsters and as you stroll past a level 90 you hope doesn’t spot you. This concept is something that’s so Xenoblade I often forget it until it happens, this is also the case with the game’s world.
Prior to going into this game, I forgot what was so encapsulating about Xenoblade Chronicles X. But once you reach your first big open area and you’re looking around for weaker enemies whilst dodging the level-30’s and bosses, I suddenly remembered the sense of thrill this series is so good with. Xenoblade games often offer a rich experience in that thrill of being under-levelled in these huge environments and their dino-styled designs in certain monsters just make for an all the more interesting and occasionally terrifying experience.
Of course, a huge selling point of a JRPG is its combat system and Xenoblade has also never failed to be unique in that department as well. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offers an improved and overhauled experience from XCX in which players don’t have to navigate a menu with the DPad, but rather you can now activate abilities on specific buttons which swap between weapons that change on the DPad.
The combat system offers an experience where no button – aside from the A-Button – has multiple functions in combat. Each button just does what you expect with no in-combat menu shifting, which actually leaves a generally enjoyable experience. Players auto attack a selected in-range enemy as well, so you don’t even have to hit a button for normal attacks – in an MMO style experience the attacks just engage. The game’s combat also doesn’t work on direct hits, again in a move similar to an MMO and, much like it’s predecessors, attacks are mostly calculated on stats.
However, this does not mean position in the screen isn’t important, depending on what direction you are facing, an enemy changes it’s damage so you have to be constantly moving around your enemy. This makes for a rather strategic experience. This game also has items called HP-Potions which drop as you use certain attacks, adding healing as a part of the combat system. All in all this game offers a very MMO like experience in a single player game and if that’s something you enjoy is up to you, I personally enjoyed it thoroughly.
Yet this game does have its drawbacks. Whilst the game looks gorgeous, the image quality can often dip and so can the frame rate, especially in a portable mode where the pixelation can often leave the game feeling like a PS2-era graphical experience on the go. The game’s combat, whilst fantastic, also has some aggravating features such as a blowdown mechanic in which enemies can throw you across the screen. More than once that’s ended up with me off a ledge whilst I’m still taking damage running back up.
Another minor complaint would be that the game, with it’s change to the anime aesthetic, has also managed to add on some aspects of that genre that I would rather had been left behind. Occasional fanservice ended up with me rolling my eyes in situations that perhaps didn’t call for it, with characters occasionally having such moments that weren’t in character. Other minor things such as the occasional questionable camera angle and animation didn’t help this case. Despite this, other than the graphical issues in portable many of these grievances are minor issues – but issues nonetheless.
All in all Xenoblade Chronicles is a rather fantastic JRPG with a good story and brilliant gameplay. It improves on much of what made Xenoblade Chronicles X The JRPG experience on Wii U. Yet it still manages to have it’s own individuality; little “quality of life” add-ons such as a Japanese voice option; sound management, and UI improvements; as well as simple but not intrusive tutorials – all this has made for a rather unique experience. Other small things like the game’s amazing soundtrack and interesting story, plus characters that – for the most part – I rather enjoyed my time with. This game is getting an 8.5/10 from me for offering an enriching and exciting experience on the road to Elysium.
Thank you very much for reading and I hope you have a good week, remember to tweet us on Twitter!