Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NSw)

Title: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Rex is a salvager who dives into the Cloud Sea for ancient artifacts to sell. But when a contract with a huge paycheck goes sour, he finds himself in possession of a legendary Blade called the Aegis. Her name is Pyra, and much of the world is out to claim her for themselves. . .

This is the first Xenoblade game I’ve actually finished, so I’m not going to be able to speak to how it stacks up to either of the previous.

I enjoyed the plot. I went into this blind since I bought it on release and have been playing steadily since then. The cutscenes had dynamic shots and a lot of movement (and quite a lot of things that blow up, which is always fun). And the plot had a lot of interesting twists, especially early on (the Gramps scene at the beginning of chapter 2 was especially funny). I think Morag was my favorite character, for her dry professionalism and inability to make jokes.

That said, I tended to take the plot very, very, very slowly. The game rarely traps you in one place (even if technically you are stuck on a ship or something, the warp functionality still works and you can go back to buy stuff or explore), the maps are big and full of secrets, and once you unlock the ability to summon more blades, there’s always another rare to draw or level up. Even at 171 hours I didn’t get close to maxing out the affinity charts of all the rare blades (this wasn’t helped by needing 165+ hours to pull the last 2 randoms, and the last sidequest blade took forever to finish the prerequisites).

Much of what I spent all that time on is optional, however, and it’s perfectly possible to clear the plot using only story-provided blades and minimal grinding. One nice benefit to being over-leveled, though, is that enemies won’t notice you if you’re too strong for them, so by the end of the game I was walking through all the story dungeons without having to fight anything.

The dub was good. The European accents were a nice change of pace, and I liked most of the voice acting. I downloaded the Japanese voices but haven’t tried them yet (I like being able to tell what my teammates are yelling during battle, as they will often have a “need healing” or “death” quote that reminds me to pay attention to them).

The battle system is really boring at first, but as you progress the plot it does layer on subsystem after subsystem, so by the end of the game instead of waiting on your turn it’s more about juggling what you want to do right now. Using your pouch items well can also speed things up tremendously, as boosting the recharge rate of your arts and/or specials means you’re able to unleash high-powered attacks more often.

The game does have some small annoyances that add up over the course of the game. Some of them have been getting patched out, so it’s possible that by time all the patches are available a few more of these complaints will be addressed. But for now, here’s what really needs an update. It didn’t bother me much the first time, but I could probably have cut 20 hours from my playtime if some quality of life things had been different.

The blade menus need more sorting options, like bonded driver, boosted stat (like trying to find Luck or Agility boosting blades), ability (being able to sort for something like Salvage Mastery would be amazing), or in the Merc menu, “best suited” or something that could prioritize blades by the number of requirements they meet. Because right now it takes too much time trying to find a blade that has the specific characteristic I need. In the same vein, Merc Missions desperately need a “repeat with same blades” option to help grind out the repeatable missions for affinity chart completion. In addition, if the affinity chart nodes would actually fill out when the requirements were met, rather than when the chart is LOOKED AT, Merc Mission completion screens could be simplified considerably, and regular battles/quests unlocking nodes could apply the bonus without forcing me to go back into the menu, find the relevant blade(s), and open the chart to update.

The Accessories and Aux Core menu is similarly a mess that could use more sorting options, like by type so you can see everything that does the same boost together and pick the strongest. And I’m not clear why it won’t stack similarly-rated copies of the same accessory or Aux Core (unrefined aux cores stack, so why not the refined ones?). This means if you’re selling them to clear out room, you have to sell them ONE AT A TIME. Again, this may not be a lot of time individually but it makes managing things harder than it needs to be, especially if you’re swapping out accessories like luck boosters to increase the chance of rare blades and then going back to your old build.

The rare blade random pull mechanic was fine in the beginning, and if all you’re trying to do is get through the game you can probably get a good number of them just by cracking open a few cores every chapter or so. But the gatcha system doesn’t appear to have any stop logic that will say something like “okay you pulled 100 cores so here’s a rare.” This makes getting the last few blades really annoying as it can take hundreds of cores. You can’t release blades on the screen where you summon them, meaning every so often you have to go back to the Manage Blades menu and clear them out. And there’s no good way on Manage Blades to see the stats together in a way that would make it faster to figure out what to junk. Actually, I’d settle for a way to “lock” blades I intend to keep (for field skills or other abilities) and then it would be more obvious what wasn’t a keeper.

Compounding the problem of blades is the fact that transferring them between users is tied to an extremely difficult to obtain item, the Overdrive Protocol. So you just got a tank blade on the healer? Great, either spend your limited supply to move it to someone who wants aggro, or bench that blade for the duration. By end game it’s at least POSSIBLE to grind Overdrive Protocols, but this involves maxing out an affinity chart on the rarest 4 crown common, and then releasing that blade. So tweaking team setups is possible, but not easy once you’ve run through the initial stack of Overdrive Protocols that you can find in game.

And I would have liked more 5 crown blades with less individuality per blade. The game gives each of them a personality, a sidequest, heart-to-hearts, and unique dialogue from the driver, which adds up to a frustratingly limited selection of 5 crown commons. No weapon has full elemental coverage. For example, if you want an Ether Cannon that isn’t dark/light/water/electric, you’re going to have to use a common blade. Some blades have great skills but an element that doesn’t mesh well with the team. And the story blades have a lot of overlap—three fire blades (one can be swapped, but that takes some effort to grind out Tiger! Tiger! if you didn’t get the expansion pass and its ether crystals), three water, a wind blade and an electric blade that overlap with some of the better 5 crown rares. . .

And the game ties certain driver combo (Break/Topple/Launch/Smash) to certain arts on certain weapons for each character. So if you want Rex to use Smash, you’re stuck with his Wind story blade because he has no other weapon type with Smash, and it’s not possible to get duplicates of that weapon. Since battles are basically just trying to set combos on the enemy, whether elemental or driver, having these limited cuts down on the kinds of parties I can build.

As of this writing, there is still some future DLC promised. New Game+ is my most anticipated inclusion, as there should be additional blades available (and, hopefully, the ability to retain the rare blades I spent so much time maxing out in this playthrough).

In the end, most of what annoys me isn’t required to beat the game or even do well at it, but it does drag down the presentation. If the gatcha could be rebalanced, some of the menus adjusted, the maps could get an actual compass, and a few more arts qualified for driver combos, this would be a much better game. As it is, if you like JRPGs, this is still good game to try. I rate this game Recommended.

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