Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review: Deep, Complex RPG Done (Mostly) Right

8
  • Switch
  • Action
  • Action-Adventure
  • RPG
2017-12-01
xenoblade chronicles 2 rex pyra cut scene
Play as Rex and Pyra in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Nintendo/Monolith

The Nintendo Switch has had an amazing first year with some of its first-party games but Nintendo looks to cap off 2017 with one more title that can challenge Breath of the Wild in terms of scope.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the long-awaited sequel to the Wii title, follows the journey of a boy named Rex in a world where civilizations are exclusively on these giant flying beasts called Titans. These above-the-clouds worlds and environments really make the game shine.

As for the story of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the aforementioned Rex finds himself in the middle of a war to save humanity as he comes across the blade, Pyra who imbues Rex with the power to become a Driver, a warrior who is able to resonate with blades and the spirits within them.

Like any good JRPG, the story and dialogue are very anime-esque and takes a lot of charm from that genre. While there are numerous cutscenes and lull moments (especially in the first few hours) the action is top notch and looks like it was ripped straight from an anime.

xenoblade chronicles 2 rex cut scene
The cutscenes in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are great Photo: Nintendo/Monolith

But, no offense to the English voice actors, players will most certainly want to download the Japanese voice pack. The direction of the voice acting is questionable and the way it doesn’t match up with the model’s movements is distracting.

Every area you explore is vibrant, lush and alive. Various wildlife litter the fields, mountains and caves and players will get lost exploring these vast areas. There are multiple levels, secret passageways and everything RPG fans would love.

However, the exploration part may get frustrating, especially when you’re looking for a specific item or person. The mini map is garbage and doesn’t direct you in any way. Would it have hurt to include some waypoints? Insead, players will have to rely on the bar on the top of the screen that tells you how far away you are from your target but even that doesn’t tell you if your target is above or below you.

NintendoSwitch_XenobladeChronicles2_Presentation2017_scrn01
The worlds in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are vast and amazing. Photo: Nintendo/Monolith

I’ve often found myself opening up the Skip Travel function to open up a map to show me how far away I am and whether it’s on a level above or below me. With that said, the Skip Travel function is a very useful tool to not only cut down your travel time but as a way to backtrack if you happen to walk too far away from your target.

While the RPG and story elements are great, what may make or break this game for players (especially newcomers) is the battle system.

BATTLING/EXPLORATION

The one aspect of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that makes it stand out from other JRPGs is its deep and sometimes frustrating battle system.

While the “auto attacking” battle system isn’t anything new, what makes Xenoblade Chronicles 2 stand out are the various ways players can engage in battles. You can spend a lot of time changing up your team, blades, equip items and more.

xenoblade chronicles 2 battle system
The battle system in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can be overwhelming at first. Photo: Nintendo/Monolith

Players move around enemies, trying to take advantage of various openings until you can unleash Arts and specials. It may sound simple, but your Blade’s element, class, the area on the enemy you’re attacking and how close you are to your Blade all factor into your fights.

My first foray into the Xenoblade series was the exceptional Wii U title, Xenoblade Chronicles X. In that game, while the auto attacking and movements felt complicated at first they were simple enough for players who want to go in and take down beasts without too much thought. In this game, it’s not that simple, which brings in some of the frustration. The battle system is deep but it borders on being too deep. One of the most arduous parts of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the long beginning tutorial and the constant starts and stops additional tutorials create. Often these short tutorials took me out of the story or my journey just as it was getting good and I had to find room to cram more information on the battle system or some aspect of the overworld.

Would I rather have all the information dumped on me in the beginning or slowly but surely be given tutorials as I progressed? I don’t know if there is a right answer, but I do appreciate that Monolith understood how deep and complicated a lot of the features were and tried to ease players into it.

And I did get the hang of the fighting after putting a few hours in and it’s one of the most fulfilling feelings I’ve had gaming this year.

The battle system is one of the deepest I’ve ever seen in an RPG. It’s good for players who want to learn and make the most out of everything the games offer but anyone looking to just make it through the story may become a bit frustrated with it.

xenoblade chronicles 2 rex items
Items are just one aspect of battles you'll need to be mindful of. Photo: Nintendo/Monolith

The overall difficulty of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is just right. At first you’ll find yourself dying left and right as you begin to understand how to fight and actually use the items you pick up. Soon you’ll become accustomed to all aspects of the RPG and take down soldiers and wild animals with ease.

That doesn’t mean everything is so easy. Each boss battle teaches you a new aspect of battling and really makes you work to defeat them using these new techniques. Not to mention accidentally running into a Level 94 dinosaur while your team is at Level 18 is not very fun but all of that makes the game’s difficulty more rewarding.

The other RPG elements in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are really top-notch. Your character and Blade progression and ability trees are pretty standard  and affect not just battles but some of the exploration aspects of the game like lockpicking to reading ancient languages.

You’ll often find that these overworld abilities are needed to progress certain story points so don’t think you can just do the bare minimum in this game, there are side quests and certain items you’ll need to eventually pick up to get you to the finish line. But with the scope and size of each area, you’ll want to explore and complete other missions anyway.

There is also the fact that you'll come into possession of more than Pyra as a Blade. This opens up so many possibilities for building your team based on their classes, elements and so much more. 

xenoblade chronicles 2 blades party
You'll encounter a ton of different Blades on your journey. Photo: Nintendo/Monolith

VERDICT

The RPG elements and battle system found in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are some of the deepest I’ve experienced. While it borders on being too deep and not friendly to newcomers those who put in the time and effort will be rewarded with an awesome game.

While some aspects really bugged me, like crappy mini maps and the constant starts and stops in the story for a new tutorial, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story and gameplay.

With  more than 60 hours of game time and a ton to do, anyone looking for an entertaining timesink over any long break should pick this game up. 

REVIEW SUMMARY
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
8
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review: Awesome RPG, Not Without Its Frustrations
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 succeeds in bringing a fun but challenging adventure to the Nintendo Switch.
  • Battle system is very deep
  • Environments are gorgeous and huge
  • Fun JRPG shenanigans
  • Lot of playtime
  • Difficulty is challenging
  • Too much start and stopping
  • English voice acting
  • Battle system may be too much for newcomers
  • Mini map
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