Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Game review on
Kris Godwin / Tue 16th Jan 2018
34 views / 0 bites
The direct sequel to Wii's JRPG classic, Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 rounded off an incredible first year for the Nintendo Switch - but can it match the masterpieces of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, let alone its predecessor?
A fantasy tale, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is set upon the world of Alrest; an endless sea of clouds that are inhabited by titans. These creatures come in all shapes and sizes, with the biggest of them serving as the nations of the world's people. In the very center of Alrest is Elysium, a massive world tree that supposedly holds the key to the mysteries of humanity's past... and its future.
The main character of the game is Rex, a teenager who makes his living as a salvager; a treasure hunter who lives on his own mobile titan, affectionately called 'Gramps'. Taking a lucrative job from the Argentum Trade Guild, Rex teams with a mysterious group called Torna, who require people to haul up an ancient sunken ship. Upon entering said ship, things quickly go awry - and soon, Rex becomes spiritually tied to a mysterious woman named Pyra.
You see, in Alrest, there are special people called 'Drivers', who are able to create sentient beings known as 'Blades'. Like Titans, Blades vary wildly in species, and form a life-long bond with their Driver. Blades aid their partners in battle, by providing an energy weapon, as well as numerous elemental magics. However, Rex soon learns that Pyra is a special kind of Blade - one that is being hunted for her power.
As expected from a Monolith Soft game, the plot of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is incredibly deep, and delves into philosophical themes that ponder the meanings of life, death and religion. I don't want to spoil too much, but I was gripped from beginning to end, with truly likable characters and numerous twists and turns.
At its core, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 plays the same as its forbear (and its Wii U spin-off). A JRPG with huge, open vistas - there are the requisite tropes that come with the genre; questing, battling, errands, relationship-building, etc.
Combat is like an MMO, with real-time movement combined with turn-based attacking. Unique to this game is the emphasis on Drivers and Blades. During your journeys, every one of your heroes will be able to equip three blades in the field, and you can switch between them on the fly during fights. Each Blade dictates the type of weapon you use, as well as elements and skills. This creates an absurdly deep system, especially when combined with enemy placements, stats and weather effects.
You can create Blades by bonding with 'core crystals', and most resulting Blades (bar unique crystals) is totally random. This creates a deep, Pokemon-style of collecting, especially considering that Blades can also open new pathways and find treasures in the world depending on their abilities.
Eventually, you'll be able to send your Blades on mercenary missions, so by the end you'll have created quite an army!
The world of Alrest itself is huge, and each continent's economy can be built up by buying, selling, completing quests, finding new areas and completing merc missions. Exploration is super fun, and avoids many of the frustrating JRPG tropes. Dying only causes you to warp back to the nearest discovered landmark, with all of your items and experience in tact. However, I do dislike the fact that their is no autosaving whatsoever (aside from when you bond with a crystal), so be sure to remember to save frequently.
I've only touched upon the game's features, because this is an utterly massive game. Doing everything can easily take over 200 hours, and Nintendo will release new DLC content!
Built upon the Xenoblade Chronicles X engine, the performance of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is amazing.
Utilizing a quasi-anime style, the game is utterly gorgeous to look at, and I cannot fathom how the designers at Monolith have so much imagination.
Each titan is an utter marvel in their immensity, and the environments are positively packed with detail. Characters and creatures are lovely to look at, and the advancements made to the lighting make their models pop. Again, like the previous Xenoblade games, everything loads incredibly quickly. You can instantaneously transport to anywhere in the world, and the instances of detail taking a few seconds to load in is a perfectly welcome trade-off, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, there is one big caveat. Playing the game in portable mode is remarkably ugly, with sub-HD resolution (even though the game runs at 720p on TV) that can go as low as 360p. Here's hoping they issue a patch sooner than later!
Audio is improved dramatically from Xenoblade Chronicles X, which goes back to the sweeping fantasy scores of the Wii game, and not the obnoxious rapping of the Wii U one. I've found myself continuously humming the tear-jerking main theme of, the high energy of Mor Ardain, or the blood-pumping adventure of Gormott.
Performances too are much better, perhaps owing to the translation of Nintendo of Europe (rather than Nintendo of America for X). Characters cover a wide array of accents, from the Geordie slang of Rex, to Welsh, Scottish, Irish, American, and even Australian. Of course, being a Japanese game, lip-synching is often hilariously out of tune, but the energetic prose of the voice actors more than makes up for it.
Some of it can grate though. Battle speech is incredibly repetitive (but can be turned off), and a lot of the comedy scenes had me cringing (though Zeke is my man).
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is another resounding success for Nintendo.
Though perhaps a bit too niche for the mainstream appeal of Mario and Zelda, it nevertheless proves itself to be a worthy franchise for the Big N. Monolith Soft have once again illustrated why they are perhaps the best RPG studio in the world today, pumping out a fully-fledged Xenoblade game within the first year of the Switch's lifespan, whilst offering genuinely clever twists on their patented formula.
I cannot recommend this game enough.