Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Table of Contents
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a video game developed by Monolith Software and published by Nintendo, released on July 2022 on Nintendo Switch. It’s the fourth installment of the Xenoblade series. The game setting explore the future of the first and second entries of the series, while the gameplay is mostly based on Xenoblade 2 ’s. The Xenoblade games have usually long term development and took time to be released, but this one had a pleasant surprise of being released earlier than the expected schedule.
This article will be spoiler-free about the story, so don't worry !
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is set in a world called Aionios, where two factions, Keves and Agnus, are fighting in a perpetual war. Their soldiers are born from maturity chambers managed by the Queen of each nations, aged around ten years old, and having a lifespan of ten years, called their “terms”. When they’re ready for the battle, they’re assigned to a Colony and have to fight their opposite Colonies in order to harvest the life of the soldiers that felt in battle to fill their Flame Clock, a device that keep them alive. If a soldier arrive to their tenth and final term, they receive a “Homecoming” funeral ceremony performed by the Queen who send them “home”.
Noah is a Kevesis soldier who fights with his two childhood friends, Lanz, Eunie and their Nopon support Riku for the Colony 9. One day, after they won over an Agnus Colony, they’re sent to investigate about a strange Ether signature. In place, they notice that Agnus was also investigating the place and they start to engage an enemy squadron. However, from the strange ship in the middle of their battlefield, a man named Guernica emerges and force them to stop fighting, telling them he knows their “true enemy”. Guernica is suddenly attacked and shot by a tall demonic-like creature named Moebius. Noah’s team and Mio’s, their Agnus counterpart composed of Taion, Sena and their Nopon support Manana, attack the strange creature meanwhile Guernica uses his last forces to activate the device he was transporting : the Ourobouros Stone. Both of Noah’s and Mio’s team get imbued by a strange new power that allowed them to merge with each other into a powerful form and force the Moebius to retreat. A dying Guernica told the two teams to cooperate with each other and set a journey to the giant Sword in the horizon and find the “City” where they’ll learn about the truth of their world.
When you take the pad and start the first gameplay session, you clearly have a déjà vu because the combat system is an evolution of Xenoblade 2. In this opus, you play all of the 6 main characters who are paired by the story and each of them has a specific class. After a step of the beginning of the story, the combat system unlock the class switch feature allowing the player to change the character’s classes and adapting their role. The roles are the basic tank, heal, melee and ranged DPS, represented by a total of 6 plus 19 Heroes classes. The Heroes classes are a specific job for a seventh team member which is a special character unlocked during the story or side quest that’ll grant its own class to the roster. This is basically a Job system like we knew in a lot of RPG or Tactical games allowing the player to customize the characters classes and being not obligated to choose between a character they like or a class.
The combat system is an extension of the gameplay we had in Xenoblade 2 : Torna ~ the Golden Country where we could switch between the character and the Blade. In battle, you can switch of character at will, the others remain piloted by the computer. Another new addition in the combat system is the possibility to enable the auto-battle mode for long farm sessions. As I’ve written a couple of months ago, I’m getting more and more lazy in video games and coupled to the Story difficulty, this feature is welcomed for me ! To finish with the combat system, the chain attack is still present in a new way, where you choose a character that will perform the big attack, and select others until the attack level gets to 100% or more. Then, they unleash a powerful attack and you can repeat it until the gauge is emptied. The chain order is well made because healing classes are capped to 99%, so you can use them as a 1st or 2nd choice and use an attack class to gain more power. The main features of the combat system are also the Fusion Skills which are attacks performed together with the basic skills of the character, and the Interlink which can transform the couple into their Ourobouros form for a limited time to perform powerful attacks.
After starting Xenoblade 3, my first question was : “how does this game is connected to the others ?”. Because I haven’t followed a lot the news about it. For Xenoblade 2, they did too much explanation of the game before its release, and this one had the same treatment. I wanted to keep a little surprise. The game box cover gives some first clues with the Mechonis Sword from Xenoblade and the Urayan Titan from Xenoblade 2. So the story is clearly installed after these two games and a connection is evident. I won’t spoil anything here, so don’t worry. Also, we knew that Future Connected was supposed to introduce some elements for Xenoblade 3. Some elements we can notice at the beginning is that Keves use the mecha design of the Faced Mechon while Agnus are using more animal and humanoid like units. The mechas are called Levnis and the Colonies are basically camps constructed around a more gigantic mecha, the Ferronis, which hold the Colony’s Flame Clock. Also the Queens we see at the beginning of the game give some clues to this world setting.
The story revolves around the height main characters, Noah, Mio, Lanz, Sena, Taion, Eunie, and the two Nopons Riku and Manana. Their first challenge is to move from enemies to allies, and later friends, while they discover the new Ourobouros power that has been granted to them and starting to fight against their true enemy : the Moebius and their representative, the Consuls. Their main goal is to find the “City”, a place where all the truth about this world should be revealed to them. During their journey across the world, they’ll meet other Colonies of the two faction and deliver them from the Flame Clock and the Consuls tyranny.
Just like Xenoblade 2, the story is very inspired by the anime narration codes and the characters are also in these stereotypes. Noah and Mio are the classic anime protagonists while Eunie is the trash-mouth girl paired in the game with Taion, the always serious over-confident strategist of their former Agnus squadron. Lanz is the hot headed tall muscle guy hiding a lot of personal insecurity (reminding Reyn from the first game) while his counterpart in the team is Sena, a lolicon absent-minded with an incredible force. Their Nopon friends, Riku and Manana have also very opposite personalities, Riku being a serious confident mechanic while Manana is a joyful field cook. One good thing about the two Nopons is unlike the previous games, they don’t have an horrible kiddish voice and Manana is more talking like a very sophisticated person, very funny actually ! But still with a Nopon voice, but not as terrible as the Nopons in Future Connected. The Heroes characters are also very different and have their own story line.
About the heroes classes, they’re really versatile and made to exploit the possible combos between their specific skills. The most interesting one is the Soul Hacker, unlocked at a late game state, which is able to learn skills from the Elite enemies. This is a quite common class in the RPG (for example, it’s the Blue Mage in the Final Fantasy series) but the idea is nice to set a character with a very rich skill list.
You can’t talk about a Xenoblade game without talking about their gigantic maps and their endless exploration. The maps are big … very big ! Far more than the previous games. Honestly, the exploration feels to be endless in this game because you’ll cross vast areas, and while you think you’ve seen all of it, you will discover a cave or a hidden path that gives access to another big area. The various Xenoblade gameplay utilities are here : fast travel points, saving at any moment. The auto save that has been introduced in Xenoblace Chronicles : Definitive Edition is still here and there is also a quick save available in the main menu. The maps exploration still needs to check every details in order to find the hidden way or path to access a secret area. There are special area effects like quicksands or climbing vines that require a specific skill unlocked during the story. During the exploration, you will encounter the Rest area where the characters can discuss about a topic, use the bonus experience acquired during the fights, craft gemstones and cook to gain some buff.
The Discussion feature is a new thing for the series. This is the way the game add its numerous side quests to the team’s journal. In the various populated places, the characters will see some people with a big exclamation mark. They’ll hear the conversation between two person and unlock clues that could end up to a side quest or just some bonus xp. As the quests are unlocking progressively in the story evolution, the player will have to revisit regularly the various places to find the new quests. Also, they’ll have to often change their Hero character because it could trigger a Hero Quest that will unveil some background of the character and also extend the class level from 10 to 20 max.
There is no more the annoying field actions of Xenoblade 2, this feature has been replaced by a more conventional one with containers available on the map and also some Ether tap from which you can collect this essential resource to craft gemstones and reactivate the decayed Ferronis Hulks available on the maps. There is also a lot of Soldier’s Husk on which Noah or Mio can use their Off-seer ability to “send” them.
To accompany the exploration, the game musics are again made by the same composition team as the previous one (excepted Cross) : Yasunori Mitsuda, Manami Kiyota, ACE, and Kenji Hiramatsu. Some themes are directly took back from Xenoblade and Xenoblade 2 with a remixed or reorchestrated versions and are merged with new musics. Just like the previous games, the soundtrack is awesome and give more deepness to the story and the exploration sequences. The fight themes are also varying depending of the zone where the team is located. The musics Noah and Mio perform during their off-seering action has been composed by Mitsuda and was expected at the beginning to being merged together in order to form a consistent music. Some custom flutes at the game’s scale were made to be closer to the expected sound.
Visually speaking, the game is pretty nice and can run at a decent FPS despite the Switch limitations and the big area to load. I’ve noticed some frame drop but not that often, the game runs pretty smooth. I’ve seen some criticisms against the graphical part but for me it was nice. The characters are well rendered and the artistic direction is now very consistent between the various episodes. Of course, because of the Switch hardware, you clearly notice that the game is rendered in a low res and is upscaled on screen. I’ve noticed a better mastery of the Switch by Monolith, because unlike Xenoblade 2, the mobile render is still correct while the previous opus became quickly ugly.
So, if I could summarize this review about Xenoblade 3… A great sequel to both the previous games with a story using the freedom of choices and the fear of uncertainty and future as main themes. I must admit I’ve not been completely satisfied by the post-credits scene, but its also very consistent with the whole game plot. The season pass will brought soon the second batch with new challenges and a new Hero. The third batch will also add new challenges, characters outfits and quests, and the fourth will be a new scenario, just like Xenoblade 2. I’ve already had my idea about what would be the expansion, and I hope the next game will continue to explore this very rich universe.
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