"Time to save world with potatoes is *now*!"
As someone who is a relatively fledgling fan of the Xenoblade Chronicles series, I was encouraged to play the three previous titles on my own personal Twitch stream. Between the comedic nature of XC2, the epic adventure of the Definitive Edition of the first game, plus the under-appreciated Wii U title Xenoblade Chronicles X, I was eagerly anticipating the release of the third game in the trilogy.
I streamed Xenoblade Chronicles 2 back in 2021 and I quite enjoyed it. My viewers encouraged me to go back and play the first game, so I bought and played the Definitive Edition. Again, I rather enjoyed it. Then I decided to check out Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U; an ambitious game, yet cursed to be on one of the least popular home consoles in decades. My point is that unlike long term fans of Monolith Soft’s action RPG series, I haven’t had as much time to absorb and digest the collective experiences each game provides. Hopefully if nothing else, I can provide a fresh perspective on the newest addition to the Xenoblade family.
The game stars three childhood friends; Noah, Eunie and Lanz. Everyone in their colony, including themselves, have a very limited lifespan and in order to preserve themselves, they must take life force from opposing forces and add it to their colony’s Flame Clock. This clock stores and represents the amount of life remaining for the colony’s community. However, all that life cannot prevent each person from meeting their untimely demise at only ten years, or "terms" as the game refers to it. You can understand the motivation and sense of desperation our protagonists feel trying to survive.
Like previous Xenoblade games, our three heroes fit into the tropes of Attacker, Defender and Support. Lanz, the defender, will draw enemy agro, Eunie will provide status buffs and healing, while Noah uses sword based offensive attacks to deal damage to enemies. Battles are an interesting mix of both Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2’s systems, respectively. Every character will auto-attack and you can freely move around the battlefield, however, characters will only attack once they are stationary.. This is similar to Xenoblade 1’s auto-attack, as Xenoblade 2’s auto-attack animation could be interrupted with movement to increase the rate of attacks.
The now-familiar Arts system returns from Xenoblade Chronicles 2.. These are manoeuvres that can be executed once their bars fill up from Auto-Attacks. Arts can take the form of attacks, heals or buffs depending on your playable character. Using an Art when landing an Auto-Attack is referred to as a Cancel, and can amplify an Art’s effects. Player position also matters, where arts effects can increase depending on a hit from the front, side or back; as it will tell you next to the Art’s name. Once enough Arts have been used, a special heavy attack is unlocked for dealing increased damage, as well as causing effects similar to Arts. The Combo system makes a return, where you can temporarily incapacitate enemies using a series of Art effects. Knocking an enemy off balance and taking advantage of their fall can feel extremely satisfying.
For the first time in the series, you are able to switch between characters on the fly during battle and whilst exploring the overworld. No longer do you have to go into the menus to change your playable character. Further into the game, you will meet another party of three that start off as enemies, however after finding out you have a common goal, you join forces with them. And thus, as another first for the series, you can choose between 6 different playable characters during battles. Additionally, you unlock the ability to exchange classes so that different characters can use each other’s weapons and abilities; similar to swapping Blades in Xenoblade 2. All these features plus more keep the battles fresh, varied and interesting.
The voice acting in this game is stellar and uses a lot of wonderful British talent, which is something of an established tradition in the Xenoblade series. You won’t hear any awkward line deliveries here. The voice over quality is about on par with the first Xenoblade Chronicles which I am very happy with. I also enjoy how the dialogue has been written with British voices in mind, using a lot of local slang peppered with some creative made-up swear words. My only complaint is that the battle voice clips can get awfully repetitive and irritating, especially post-battle where each character only has a few lines that play.
The music is unlike any I’ve heard in an RPG in recent years. The main soundtrack is orchestral in style, but what sets it apart is the beautiful traditional Japanese instruments you can hear in the melodies that are like icing on a cake. The character Noah is described as an Off-Seer, which is a role given to someone to send off the spirits trapped in the husks of fallen soldiers. By playing a beautiful Japanese-style melody on his oriental flute, Noah frees the trapped souls and lays them to rest. You will find Solider Husks scattered around the game world; sending them off will reward you with bonuses. Intense battles are soundtracked by a wonderful mix of orchestra, choir, heavy rock and metal-style music, which will move you in a plethora of different ways.
In terms of visuals, the game does an impressive job of maintaining a solid 30 FPS whilst rendering long draw distances with many different objects on screen at once. The Switch is being pushed to its absolute limits, maintaining a constant frame-rate even during the most intense of battles. The game’s artstyle goes back to the more realistic, though still inherently anime style prominent in the first Xenoblade. Long gone are the big anime eyes of the protagonists of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which could be considered a good or bad thing depending on your preference. My favourite thing about the new artstyle is that everyone’s hair has a sort of paintbrush style texture. It seems to have a lighting property that differs from the rest of the game and does a great job hiding the limitations of the Switch’s hair rendering capabilities. These styles always age the best when it comes to surviving the tests of time, so they are wonderful to see.
There is still so much of this game that I have yet to see. Even with my 15+ hours of play time, I feel like I have only begun to scratch the surface of this wonderful adventure. From what I have seen, the game is gorgeous, especially on a Switch OLED. The music is phenomenal and the best I’ve heard in an RPG is a long, long time. The characters are really likeable and the voice talent is superb, and the battle system is a fantastic combination of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2 with brand new and updated systems. It’s also welcoming to newcomers, as it doesn’t require you to have any experience of previous titles in the series to understand the story.
There is little to no reference to previous storylines during the beginning of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, so you can totally dive into the series with this game. Whatever problems were present in previous entries, I feel that they have been completely ironed out with this entry and this is shaping up to be the best Xenoblade game yet.
If you’re looking for a new game to sink dozens upon dozens of hours into, look no further. Not only does this game satisfy your RPG needs, it is also a rare and fantastic showcase of British acting talent in Japanese media; something we don’t get nearly enough of. I do hope you will enjoy exploring the new world of Aionios with your new best mates.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is out in stores and the Nintendo eShop now. An Expansion Pass is available to purchase now, with the Vol.2 content dropping on Friday 14th October 2022.
Where to Buy
My Nintendo Store
My Nintendo Store
Review Written by Kyle Rhys Marsh
Edited by Mark McAllister, Jen Griffiths and Paul L. Russel
Article Graphic by Paul L. Russell