Time played: 70 hours
Platform: Nintendo Switch
It was when the Welsh cat girl punched a mutant in the face, broke off their vicious monologue, and started a spectacular boss battle that I realized Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was my new favorite RPG.
Before then, however, I had my suspicions — as the story explored Taion’s background and presented him as a complex, interesting character rather than the stereotype usually applied to black people in video games, for example.
I wrote earlier this month that developer Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a leap forward in storytelling for the series, and spending more time on it just made me feel like this is one of the best RPGs of all time. the past generations.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Price and Release Date
- What is it? A massive JRPG with real-time battles and open but interconnected regions
- Publication date: July 29, 2022
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99 / AU$79.95
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
The other side
Shortly after the opening scene of the prologue, a major incident forces a team of Kevesi soldiers and an Agnian Special Ops team to band together after their respective countries label them traitors. It’s bad that your former friends want to kill you, but on the plus side, the party gains the opportunity to blend in with mecha monsters, which has an unexpected side effect. Merging mind and body, the interconnected characters gain a fractured look at their partner’s life, their fears, sorrows, and desires, and wonder if the truths they were told about “the other side” might be were not so true.
At this point, I thought Xenoblade 3 would make empathy its main theme, and I half expected it not to go any deeper. The first two games are mostly happy to define themselves by one concept – freedom of choice, or the power of friendship – and explore this in a limited, sometimes paralyzed way, leaving the plot to the slack.
So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 wanted to be much more than its predecessors. It’s thematically ambitious in a way that the first two games, and most other RPGs, aren’t – managing to fulfill and even exceed those ambitions.
After the two squads join forces, the main goal for a long time is to arrive at a distant place called Swordmarch, where a city supposedly thrives under a giant sword that looks like it fell straight from the first Xenoblade sky, tip first. . The problem is, this path takes the party past Keves Castle, ruled by a rather familiar-looking masked queen who is determined to take down the band of rebels and anyone who helps them.
Rebellion plays a key role in the wider story as your group, and ultimately the colonies they liberate, resist the cycle of war and death their rulers force them into. At its core, however, Xenoblade 3 is about grief, loss and suffering.
At best, Xenoblade’s soldiers only live a decade—called a “term.” And so survivors struggle to understand their loss, both in the wars and after the ten years of their friends’ lives are over. They struggle with guilt and the responsibility of making sure they create a lasting legacy for those who came before, while realizing that they may never even fulfill their own most basic dreams. There just isn’t enough time – and then they die.
Some of the most touching moments come when the playable character Mio tries, often unsuccessfully, to reconcile with the fact that she only has three months left to live. There’s seemingly no way to change her destiny, no elysium to make things better – just decline, absence, and the inevitable wondering what it was all for.
Before protagonists Noah and Mio broke out of this loop, the only way to channel their feelings was through fighting. And once both Kevesi and Agnian have been given their freedom, they are all faced with the same question: what is the point of their existence?
Xenoblade 3 isn’t all sad. It’s about giving meaning to life through the sadness and hardship, creating meaning and hope, even when it seems like there isn’t one. During a conversation, about halfway through the story, Mio even directly asks Aristotle’s classic question: what? is the good life?
This can easily seem pretentious in another context, but after musings on the practical function of spiritual beliefs and speculations about past life experiences, it seems completely natural. That’s exactly what Xenoblade 3 is.
The answer it suggests for its heavier questions is that: there is no answer. All Noah and the rest can do is try to understand each other, offer help through their friends’ darkest struggles, and work towards a better world for themselves and everyone else, despite having little idea what that world should be like. .
It is rare to find such a boldly ambiguous central theme in the media. It’s even less common in video games, which are so often made to make players feel good by solving problems.
arts and crafts
Xenoblade 3 also rises above its predecessors in combat. MMO-style fighting was already one of the series’ distinguishing features, with its skill cooldowns and skill hotbar, but Xenoblade 3 really makes something of that feature. While in Xenoblade 2, your Blade combinations dictated the role that best suits your character, the third entry streamlines that system. Each class has an assigned role – attacker, healer, defender – with some unique features not seen in the previous two games that will change the way you think about positioning and character synergy.
A class’s strongest skill is called Talent Art and the way they work is fascinating. You start a battle with no charge in the Talent Meter. It only gets populated when you complete roll actions, but these aren’t as easy as you might imagine. A healer’s role action is to place status improvement zones on the field. Healing doesn’t really contribute to the meter, so if you want to use their Talent Art – and you usually do – you need to think about what skills you equip so you don’t die.
You’ll probably end up… dead. At least a few times. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is up for a challenge and will test your JRPG prowess. While you have some degree of control over the difficulty, you get a head start by inviting a Hero NPC to your party and using bonus experience points to take the level of the party well above the standard for a given area.
Class in session
The class system is where Xenoblade 3’s combat really shines, although it takes a few chapters for its value to become apparent. Each group member can equip each class and learn some of the most important skills as you move up the ranks. The tutorial suggests that Fusion Arts is the biggest advantage here, allowing you to use two charged skills at once and set up some powerful combos at the same time.
However, the main draw for me is how flexible this system allows for character customization. If you want to stack your defender with evasion and high-aggro skills, it’s totally doable. Thanks to equipable, stat-boosting gems and accessories, you can also give them healing abilities to jump out in no time, or debuffs to speed up the fight. There is just so much to experiment with. While the skill load time and the auto-attacks in between are a little slower than I would have liked, this is easily one of the most enjoyable and satisfying combat systems in recent years.
Monolith has filled Xenoblade 3 with ideas and mechanics, and while most of them work very well, a few feel rather redundant and underdeveloped. Manana, one of your adorable Nopon companions, can cook different kinds of meals when you rest at camp, though none of them seem necessary, except perhaps in Hard mode. The random encounter system also seems a bit pointless, as it has no effect on anything.
There’s also a rather clunky bugging system, where you can catch bits of conversation in the colonies, then head back to a campsite and discuss what you’ve heard to unlock a new quest or an extra bit of world-building. It’s a smart concept, but it’s a bit tedious to have to navigate back to a campsite to process the information.
These issues are especially noticeable because everything else goes together so well and isn’t really worth dwelling on. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a beautiful story, expertly told, with a combat system that finally delivers on the promise of innovation that the original game made over a decade – more than a lifetime – ago.
RPGs so often claim to be about finding light in the darkness, but few manage to explore the darkest and most vulnerable parts of the human experience in a recognizable, valuable way. It is a great credit that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does that.