The first Xenoblade Chronicles appeared on Wii around eleven years ago. Five years after Part 2, Benjamin went to Aionios for you and experienced the best part of the JRPG series so far.
All screenshots and video scenes are from GamersGlobal
to Xenoblade Chronicles i have a special relationship The review of the first part, released in Europe in 2011, was one of my first reviews for GamersGlobal. Also the disappointing WiiU offshoot in a different setting Xenoblade Chronicles X (in the test: grade 7.0) as well Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (in the test: Note 8.0), the first series iteration for Switch, I was allowed to test. Now it goes with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 back into the familiar universe again – and there is a whole range of innovations that make the sequel more attractive even for players who have only warmed to a limited extent with the predecessors. You can find out what these are and why Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the new highlight of the series for me in this article and in the review video embedded above.
|New are, among other things, attack chains, in which you ignite combos in a kind of slow-motion mode. Only here does the seventh party member come into play, who otherwise fights completely autonomously and only reacts to your general commands.|
Seven into battle
Probably the most striking difference to the previous parts of the series is the grown party. Instead of three heroes, you control six in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 most of the time. Later, a seventh hero (or character duo) can even be taken into the field from various companion NPCs. Such a companion is the scrap collector and tinkerer Valdi, who certainly not coincidentally more than subtly reminds of Shulk, the main hero from the first part of the series. In addition, unlike in most previous offshoots, you can switch between party members at any time in battle. The currently not controlled heroes fight autonomously as usual. You influence their behavior with general commands. For example, you let everyone attack a marked target or give the order to primarily use one of the combos known from the predecessors, for example to knock over the opponent.
Your abilities, each with a cooldown period, must come from a specific direction to be effective, such as from the side or from behind. Initially, you only have four skills that depend on your class, like your main weapon. You can freely adjust them for each of the six main heroes in the course of the game. More are added by the candidates for the seventh party place.
Each class is assigned either the Attacker, Defender, or Healer role. Only defenders bind the opponents from attacking the more vulnerable warriors, while only healers revive knocked out heroes. A party with all the roles is not only important, but essential. The classes can be mastered in a manageable time frame, which means that not only are their skills available even after a class change, you even “merge” them with those of your current class to create particularly strong attacks. Up to this point, it’s still essentially the same as in the predecessors, but since you have a lot more influence on your party members, but there’s also a lot more going on on the battlefield, the fights still feel more direct and more diverse. However, this is also due to two other fresh mechanics.
|Technically, the series was never outstanding, but stylistically strong. This also applies to Xenoblade Chronicles 3, where the developers can’t avoid making compromises, but in my opinion don’t cut corners in the wrong places.|
Transformers-like with attack chains
Ouroboros Shift and Chain Attack are two other additions to combat mechanics. The former gives you the option early in the game to morph into a creature vaguely reminiscent of the Transformers’ robot form at the touch of a button. Specifically, not only one of the party of six turns into an Ouroboros, but always two of the heroes. The shape change can only be activated for a short time, since you overheat relatively quickly. But in this form you deal properly with special attacks and are practically invulnerable. The only bad thing is that the Ouroboros steer relatively sluggishly. That’s one of the reasons I almost never used them outside of boss fights.
The same applies to the attack chains, but this is due to the fact that the time it takes to charge the energy bar required for normal fights is too long. If said quiet is full, the game switches to a kind of slow motion or tactical mode. The currently targeted opponent (unfortunately you cannot change the target) is then defenseless while you launch attacks in several stages, but also restore lost hit points with healers. The goal is to keep the chain of attacks alive for as long as possible, unleashing a previously selected special attack at the end of each “turn”. It does not necessarily have to cause massive damage, but can primarily trigger noticeable bonus effects, for example a reduction in ether defense, an increase in shield penetration and the like.
This only speeds up the boss fights to a limited extent. As usual in the series (and in the genre), the strongest story opponents are extremely tough, so that even chain attacks with 100,000 damage points and more only empty a small part of the enemy’s TP bar. As always in Xenoblade Chronicles, new features or expansions sometimes only become available for the first time hours into the campaign. It will therefore take some time before you can also weave attack chains into particularly violent Ouroboros attacks, which are all the more spectacular.
|With six party members (here plus Valdi as the seventh AI companion) and multiple enemies, there’s a lot going on on screen. Although it may seem different here, the overview doesn’t really suffer in comparison to the predecessors.|
In the JRPG genre in particular, grinding constraints are no exception. I didn’t think Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was bad in this regard, but developer Monolith Soft has managed to improve this with the new part. I’m almost always at eye level with the bosses or at most one or two levels above them. I’ve never had to go back to an old save to level up to have any chance of winning. But the rank of normal opponents fits my level better than in previous parts of the series. So I don’t constantly encounter totally underpowered enemies with which my team wipes the floor within two seconds, nor overpowered opponents that I can’t handle yet. In principle, both still exist – so some chunks act as gatekeepers at passages to areas that I am obviously not supposed to reach yet. But you don’t inevitably encounter such, so that I never had the problem of not getting any further on the main story path.
There are a few reasons why the game balance (played exclusively on “normal”) works very well. In part it certainly has to do with a good scaling system. Likewise, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 tempted me to just the right degree to complete side missions or motivated me to voluntarily turn off the path to the next story destination, for example to knock out one of the elite opponents. The elites (which can be identified as such from a greater distance thanks to the blue marking) are stronger and often significantly larger versions of normal enemies that yield significantly more regular XP and also give bonus experience that you can get at the rest points can invest in additional level ups – you don’t have to!
There are also lucky opponents, who can be used primarily for the production and improvement of crystals (which grant permanent bonuses to hit points, healing, agility and a lot more when they are equipped), but also for the rather lame and sometimes quite aimless collection missions. Finally, as the last stronger opponent variant, isolated unique enemies can be encountered. Essentially, these are optional bosses that can be quite tough – especially when other nearby enemies join the fight. I’ve slayed some special enemy types and gained progress that others have to “grind” if they stubbornly follow the main path. But as I said: For me, the JRPG was a very successful incentive to explore the world outside of it.
Author: Benjamin Braun, editors: Dennis Hilla, Hagen Gehritz (GamersGlobal)
Opinion: Benjamin Brown
The first part of Xenoblade Chronicles was one of my first big tests for GamersGlobal at the time. However, that wasn’t the reason why I fell in love with the series right away, which even the weak WiiU sequel couldn’t change. I really like the visual style, and unlike Final Fantasy, I really like the playable characters throughout. This is also the most important reason why the story appeals to me and less the action itself, which, as is so often the case in Japanese role-playing games, loses more dramaturgy due to its lengthy narrative style than it could gain through finesse such as flashbacks to the protagonists’ childhood and youth.
Why I like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a bit better than its predecessors is not so much because the numerous innovations significantly increase the depth of the game, but because almost all of them improve the gaming experience. This applies to the larger party as well as the possibility of changing classes, the Ouroboros form or the often spectacularly staged chains of attacks. Last but not least, for me it’s the absolutely successful game balance. If there’s one thing I hate about JRPGs, it’s the constraints of grinding. And I didn’t experience that in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, which is due to another advantage: In no series before have I voluntarily taken so much on the side as here!
If you’re fans, you have to strike anyway. And if the combat system in particular should have put you off, Monolith conceals the weaknesses at least as skillfully as graphically in relation to the manageable hardware performance of the switch. Not everything is perfect. Nonetheless, for me, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the best part of the series so far!
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
- Helpful, well-tiered tutorials
- Three levels of difficulty (adjustable at any time)
- Occasionally confusing in combat
- Good staged story…
- Mostly varied side and heroic missions…
- Consistently sympathetic group of heroes
- Lush, free class system enormously increases variety and tactical depth
- Spectacular “Attack Chains”
- Generally very good balance without real grinding constraints
- Worth exploring the world
- … but it also has its lengths
- … but also some, often aimless collecting tasks
- Despite the innovations, the combat system is not entirely suitable for general use
- Stylishly appealing, partly beautiful game world
- Mostly great effects in the fights
- Largely good character animations
- High foresight (by Switch standards)
- Environment textures often faint
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Good voice acting
- Mostly good effects
- Sometimes hardly any ambient sounds in cutscenes and within camps
- Sayings of the heroes are often repeated
- Mouse keyboard
- steering wheel
- Oculus Rift
- HTC Vive
- PlayStation VR
- Copy protection-free GoG version
- Epic Games Store
- Manufacturer Account Connection
- Constant internet connection
- Internet connection at startup