Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Developer: Monolith Soft
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Role Playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 29/7/22
A code was provided for review purposes
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the culmination to over twelve years of storytelling that was started back in 2010 with Xenoblade Chronicles. Part of the wider ‘Xeno’ series of RPGs, this relatively unknown series has since gone from obscurity to becoming one of Nintendo’s big-hitters. With the premise of another massive world to explore – and a story that aims to tie-up the loose ends of Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Xenoblade Chronicles 3 already had an air of anticipation around its release.
But, does it live up to its reputation? Find out in this Rapid Review…
Much like its predecessors, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 kicks off with the onset of a pretty destructive battle. It’s here where we’re introduced to two sides locked in an eternal battle. For generations the technology driven Keves and the ether-orientated Agnus have waged war over the land of Aionos. As the war rumbled on, each nation resorts to utalising swaths of expendable genetically engineers soldiers who each have a lifespan of roughly ten years – or terms. It’s these soldiers who fuel the war economy for the Keves and Agnus, as the heart of each colony features a Flame Clock whose continued ticking is fuelled by the life-force of the dead. It’s an endless struggle without any sign of either side backing down.
When a group of Kavesi soldiers are sent on a seemingly ordinary mission to investigate the wreckage of a crashed airship, they soon encounter a “world changing event” that could lead to then end of the war. Now forced to team up with their Agnian counterparts, the two squads have to put their differences aside and work together to stop the eon-spanning machinations of the “Moebius” – a group operating behind the war’s facade.
Signs of Life in Never-ending Death
To say that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 pulls its punches with its narrative is a massive understatement. From its opening, your thrust into this world of perpetual violence as each side struggles to maintain its place. Throughout, we’re shown a world where compassion and basic humanity has all been wiped out, and has been replaced with complete devotion to keeping the Flame Clock ticking.
Yet, it also doesn’t shy away from its deeper meaning which aims to highlight just how fragile life is – and that it can end without any given notice. It’s a notion that its primary cast comes to realise through the 100+ hours you’ll spend with them. While war and the deeper meaning of life is what drives Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it never becomes too overwhelming. Exposition and world building come from the cast’s own interactions as they learn about their own roles in this universe. It’s presented in an organic way that showcases the depth of each character, while keeping the plot moving.
Hear That Noah?
While the narrative features six main characters and a wealth of side characters, Noah is who we spend the most time with. Along with Shulk and Rex (from the previous games), Noah is the pillar of humanity in a world that seems devoid of it. While he is a soldier, at heart he understands that life is precious and that taking it away should never be an option. As such, his role within the Kevesi is that of an Off-Seer which sees him ferrying the dead via a ritual played out with a special flute.
It’s this that makes Noah quite an interesting character. His reasonings to protect life, whether it be friend of foe, does at times place him at odds within the group. Yet even under pressure he remains steadfast and aims to see the good in everyone. This reasoning is also seen within Noah’s Agnian counterpart Mio, who also happens to be an Off-Seer. While both characters are essentially the stars of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the rest of the cast have their own roles to play and have their own time in the spotlight.
It’s hard to go into both the characters and the story without major spoilers. But what I will say is that while some of the cast are more likeable than others, each pulls their weight. It’s ultimately this bond that ties the whole experience together and has you cheering one minute, to becoming an emotional wreck the next.
When Worlds Collide
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place on the world of Aionios. Taking inspiration from both the Mechonis, Bionis, and Alrest, Aionios is a mash-up of all three. Again, it’s hard to describe Aionios without going into spoilers, but its presentation is that of someone forcing all three games together into one. It certainly makes for some striking vistas and unique environments!
While Aionios is a vast and very lived-in world, its creation is never really delved into. As the main quest line rumbles on, there are some slight murmurings as to why things look and feel how they do, yet it’s never fully explained. Granted Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the concluding act to the story – it’s sadly not told through its world. You could certainly play this title without visiting the previous two and just treat it as a standalone, rather than a direct sequel.
Much like that seen within the past games, each area offers a vast amount of things to see and do. Those who step away from the confines of the main quest line will find plenty of secret areas, and countless paths – each with their own discoveries and quests to complete. However, even though it takes inspiration from the previous entries the execution is very different.
This all falls down to the clever way Monolith Soft have incorporated a somewhat ‘Metroidvania’ into their world. This is achieved by dividing each of the vast locations into areas that are then accessed based on your current field skill or combat prowess. Personally I found this a great way to break up the constant exploration. While I love discovering hidden nooks and crannies, it can distract from the task at hand. With Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it’s almost saying that while you can explore, you also need to break this up by continuing the story. As such, it keeps both the story and your own journey on an equal level.
The way you open more of this enchanting world up is via ‘Field Skills’. These special skills work not too dissimilar to those seen within Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – athough they have had a big revamp. Within Xenoblade Chronicles 3 the field skills act as quasi-power-ups for your team that will then allow you to climb that cliff, or cross that ravine. While these skills don’t add anything to the games robust combat, it does give you the keys to the door when it comes to exploration of its locations. Who knows what you might find just off the beaten path!?
For those who prefer to stay on the path, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has you covered. The map system is a complete re-work of what was good about the previous two games – with plenty of refinements. Regardless of where you are in the world, a simple yellow line will always point you in the direction to your selected quest. For RPG veterans, this extra handholding can be turned off. But for those who may feel overwhelmed by the vast expanse of Aionos – it’s the perfect accompaniment.
Much like its world, story, and characters, Xenoblade Chronicles 3‘s combat is a mixture of that seen in 1 and 2. As such you’ll fight with plenty of familiar techniques and a few new ones. Like previous entries, combat takes place in real-time with you taking charge of one character and the A.I. controlling the rest. What makes XC3 different is that part composition and positioning plays a key part in how battles play out.
Like that of tradional RPGs each party member has their role to play whether it be damage, tank, healer, or support. Basic combat moves also fall into these categories with each class having a unique set of “Arts” at their disposal. Buffs and debuffs also play a vital part in combat, as does the inclusion of aggro. You’ll always want to concentrate on the Arts that play into that role and have team synergy, rather than just dealing damage. Perform well within your role and you’ll power up special “Talent Arts” which will then allow you to do some pretty flashy moves that’ll deal heavy damage, or apply substantial stat changes.
Master those Arts!
What makes XC3 unique is that each of the six characters can change their class at will. There’s no right or wrong way as to how you set your team up and anyone can perform in any role. In fact, with the inclusion of “Master Arts”, the game even encourages you to switch and change your classes between the characters.
Being able to unlock Master Arts comes once you’ve reached a certain level of affinity within that class. This then allows you to unlock that class’s unique Art, to then equip it as another class. This then allows for greater customisation of your team as you can dive into hybrid classes such as damage/healer, or my favourite damage/aggro.
If this wasn’t enough you can also unlock special hero characters too. These heroes act outside of your party with each giving your party a certain stat boost. Much like Master Arts, each hero has its own strengths which, combined with everything else, gives you a lot of scope to experiment.
Wait… There’s More!
Oh yes there is! If you thought just doing basic attacks was enough, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also gives you chain attacks AND interlink attacks too!
Anyone who’s played the previous Xenoblade outings will already know how integral chain attacks are to the game’s fundamentals. Basically chain attacks are a devastating chain of attacks that allows your party to dish out a fair whack of damage to a single target. The difference here is there’s the added introduction to additional buffs, and debuffs that each attack inflicts. Paying close attention to these buffs to then attack with another skill that plays off of it, will then increase the chain – and more importantly the damage dealt. If done correctly you can literally continue to attack a target long after its health bar has been diminished.
When it comes to Interlink, it’s a whole new ball game. The trouble here is that its going to be tough to talk about this move set without totally avoiding spoilers. As such I’ll try to keep it brief.
Interlink attacks aren’t introduced straight away, but their inclusion soon becomes the force that drives the story’s narrative. Basically these special attacks allow two interlinked characters to combine power for a short period of time. This then allows for more damaging attacks, with some added extras. For example, accessing this ability before a boss fight will give you the opening advantage. And even on some occasions, if used correctly you’ll negate damage from an enemy’s attack. It’s certainly a great inclusion and while it ties tightly into the narrative, it makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3‘s combat much more expressive than it already is.
Did I Mention Heroes?
Much like its predecessors, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has a ridiculous amount of side quests to complete. Across each location you’ll stumble across characters, to complete settlements who are awaiting to send you off on some grand adventure. Whether it be locating missing family members, hunting a certain enemy type, or just exploring the local area, there’s always someone waiting for a good Samaritan to help them out.
While it’s perfectly fine to ignore these quests, they are worth doing. Not only do they net you with a wealth of XP and items, you could also stumble upon a new hero in the process. These “hero” characters are essentially the big-hitters of the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 world, and as you can imagine – they have some pretty powerful skills. Thankfully, upon completing a hero’s quest you not only get them added to your party, you also get to utilise their class too.
Also, completing both side quests and hero quests will raise the affinity you have within that location. Raise this to a certain level and you’ll then be granted additional benefits for your trouble.
Theres no doubt that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a gorgeous game. Everything from the wide world of the Aionios, to its smaller colonies and battlefields, has a quaility to it that really drags you into it. Character design is also eye-catching with great attention paid to making the cast look good whilst filling each with a unique personality to match.
Another noticeable highlight is the game’s many cutscenes. These cutscenes flesh out the game’s more cinematic moments with plenty of cinema flair. Whether we’re in a vast battlefield with mechs stomping around and lasers flying, or even following two characters as weapon crashes against weapon, everything flows incredibly well and is a pure joy to behold.
While Xenoblade Chronicles 3 looks amazing, it’s somewhat hampered by the Switch hardware. This results in a few moments where the console can’t handle what the game is asking from it which results in the odd drop in frame rate. However it is just a small issue and shouldn’t detract from any enjoyment that the title offers.
Sounds of Silent Rapture
Along with its great looks, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 sounds the part too. Series composer Yasunori Mitsuda has crafted a soundtrack of slow and masterful pieces that reflect the world around you. The orchestral tones also act as a hidden companion as they ferry you from pillar to post with their sombre and embracing melodies.
While the soft tones work for exploration, and the game’s atmospheric moments, they soon head into familiar terrain when the action demands. When in combat or during particularly heightened scenes the soft acoustics are replaced with loud, and quite rambunctious crescendo that work to build the tension.
Rounding the soundtrack off is the game’s many vocal talents. As with any RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has a lot of dialogue. While some of the story is given as plain text, the vast majority is acted out by the game’s voice cast. Thankfully, voice acting is spot on with each actor playing their part well. It really benefits the story as the characters’ inner turmoil and questions come across well in their vocal lines. It’s also worth noting that the English dub is a vast improvement from Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a game that I’d find hard not to recommend every Switch owner experiences. Monolith Soft have taken the best bits of their past titles and refined them, whilst ensuring that they’ve paid attention to past criticism. While it does have its weaker moments, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the developer’s magnum opus. It’s a journey that’s filled with an incredible amount of story and gameplay that will take hundreds of hours to discover everything that it offers. Throw in a great soundtrack and the promise of future DLC, then Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is shaping up to be another must-play game in the Nintendo Switch library.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is available now and can be purchased via the Nintendo Switch eShop by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.