|Dev: Monolith Soft|
|Release: December 1, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p||Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence|
by Jenni Lada
Nintendo has done its best to provide a solid launch library for the Switch. In a year, the system has received an action-RPG, a racer, fighters, third-person shooters, a puzzle game, and an open-world platformer. Now, before the year is out, it has received a JRPG. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the third such entry in the series, but don’t let that fool you. This is an accessible game for anyone to enjoy and, while it takes some time to build momentum, does a lot of things right.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is set in the world of Alrest. The Cloud Sea is everywhere, with people forced to live on the backs of gigantic creatures known as Titans to survive. However, the World Tree in the center is said to hold a land called Elysium where all can live. Rex is a young scavenger who salvages item from the depths of the Cloud Sea, ruins from prior people, to sell and support his home village. The planet is plagued by fighting, since Titans call every day and reduce available land to live on.
Rex is offered a job from Bana, head of the Argentum Trade Guild, that will give him a substantial amount of money. He would help a man named Jin and his allies recover a mysterious Blade in uncharted territory. He takes it without question. Once this Blade is found, Jin kills Rex. However, Rex touched the weapon in front of the Blade beforehand. He then meets Pyra, the Blade, in her memories and agrees to take her to Elysium in exchange for her sharing her lifeforce with him. The two then must evade capture from multiple forces who all want her and her power and attempt to reach this promised land.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s battle system is similar to both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is to say it plays similarly to a MMORPG. You have three Driver characters in your party, each with between one and three Blade characters connected to them. You control Rex, with the others acting independently. Drivers are physical attackers who get access to different kinds of attacks and special skills based on the Blades they have equipped and active. Blades support them and can trigger special abilities. Standard attacks happen automatically, with skills triggered by the player.
The downside is, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has battles that feel slow unless you are standing absolutely still. In previous games, you could attack while characters were moving. Here, you can’t. If you do try to move with a weapon drawn, it feels like your character is moving through gelatin. Waiting for skills to fill so they can be activated can take quite some time, unless you place items in your pouches that reduce wait times. This means a lot of the actual fighting is spent standing still, occasionally pressing the right buttons at the right times to switch Blades, trigger skills, pull off specials, and prepare combos. It isn’t necessarily bad, since it does allow people time to make strategic choices, but I felt it was a step back from the previous games.
While the battle can be hit or miss in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, finding and preparing for these fights can be pretty great. The game is set in a big, open world that feels alive. The Titans you are on each walk or fly through the Cloudsea, resulting in tides that give or take away access to different areas throughout the day. Different things happen or appear during the morning, afternoon, and evening. Monsters interact with you and one another, so you might see someone crash your fight, see animals with families, or watch a member of one species attack and eat another. There are collection and salvage points, where you can collect new items. Alrest is a big and beautiful place.
And making sure you are ready for anything Alrest might throw at you is quite an involved process. Rex is a scavenger, and this factors into accumulating funds for your Xenoblade Chronicles 2 excursions. If you purchase containers, you can perform a button-press minigame to drive down and pull up scrap, money, items, and maybe even Cores that could turn into potential Blades. Collection points are around the world, with more items. Enemies drop pieces of themselves after a fight. These can all be turned in at any town either separately or in sets for money.
The pouch system is another important element in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. In each town, you can buy items and place them in your pouch. Each one has a different effect. You might reduce wait time on skills. You could promote affinity between Blades and their Drivers. Health could be impacted. Critical rates can go up. There are a number of different ways to influence the game for different periods of time, each of which can benefit you in different situations. It requires you to be well-rounded.