Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review: A JRPG Masterpiece


My biggest regret about playing Xenoblade Chronicles is that half-way through the game I realized that I probably missed out on the same wonderful adventure by not playing the first game. While this was a reality to me, at least Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does not relate to the first game so I could put that regret aside and focus on the task at hand.


Welcome to the world of Alrest

Set across giant titans, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 follows the story of Rex, a Salvager who gets caught up in the reawakening of the Aegis, a powerful being who almost destroyed the world 500 years ago. The Aegis takes on the form of Pyra, a beautiful lady bound to Rex through what is known as Drivers and Blades in the universe of Xenoblade. A Driver is a being that lives in the world, and a Blade is a weaponized life form born from a Core Crystal that seeds its power to its Driver. Together the combination is a fighting machine. There are various Blades in the world that control specific elements and weapons and the method to obtain them through these Core Crystals can lead to the death of the Driver if they are not deemed worthy.


Lucky for the characters you meet in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 they all are and they all have their set Blade that accompanies them throughout the game. Xenoblade Chronicles 2's story is simple enough that you never need to dive too much into the lore of the game. There are a group of people called to Torna that are on a mission to take control of the Aegis, and then there are the rebels made up of Rex, Nia, and Tora who built his own Blade after being rejected by a Core Crystal a few years back. 


The Aegis awakens and in an attempt to save Rex's life she imbues half of her life crystal in him that binds her to him making her his Blade. Pyra and Rex are a formidable team and throughout the game, they grow together. She did save his life so it is natural. Pyra is after one thing and that is Elysium. According to legend, it is the only thing capable of saving the world of Alrest from doom. You see, the Titans which are these massive creatures that host bustling cities and forests on them are dying and Rex believes that Elysium holds the key to save them. The issue is the Torg, the group of bad guys who want Pyra for their own war gain, will not stop until they have her. 


Alrest is huge and the Titans that roam the clouds make up all the locations in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. As Rex tries to reach Elysium he always finds something preventing him from making it there, thus he lands upon another Titan to find another route. While the Titans act as just locations in the game and they have their own climate too. The Empire of Mor Ardain is a dry and sandy location with giant beast roaming the rocky mountains. The Kingdom of Uraya is inside a Titan that looks like a fish. It is always raining and the huge glowing trees fill the distance. Every new location is filled with a living and breathing exosystem that truly pulls you into the game. 


Free lands to explore

Enemies range from different levels, some which you can kill and some that are massive and you would rather avoid as they would hit you once and kill you. The sheer amount of exploration makes every Titan worth exploring but these harder enemies do lock you back until you have reached a higher level to beat them. This drives you to carry on as the post-game content is filled with huge boss fights where you can finally take on the monsters that stood towering over you. I virtually went I wished and along the way, open treasure chests, looked for resources and could perhaps start a fight with an enemy a few levels higher than me in hopes that I could kill it.


Often the game would annoy me though. I would happily be fighting an enemy and then some flying creature that was clearly made for end-game content would see me fighting and decide that it wants in on the fight too. I am sure you can envision what came next but often it would be a disaster. These moments happened quite often and even the ability to toss a stone at an enemy to draw them out of its pack would end with some high-levelled creature walking past and trying to get in on the fun. I suppose it is the joy of the game where Monolith Studios created a world without limits where everything lives together. They did just that, only thing is that most of the time these things will try and kill you. 


Classic JRPG combat

Combat in the game is slow, slower than I like but I got used to it. You always control Rex in battle but his weapons all depend on the Blade he has equipped during the fight. You can equip up to three Blades but at first, it is restricted to one. Your party is the same as they can also swap around between three Blades each with their own unique element, weapons, and role. Healers, tanks, and damage roles are the primary ones in the game. As you enter battle you will attack in a series of auto-attacks. Each hit does more damage and then it goes back to normal again, building up to the third hit again. Blade Arts act as the abilities in the game where you need to attack for a set amount before you can use one. They then need to recharge again which is done by attacking with your primary weapon. 


Drive Arts all depend on the Blade. Different blades will have different arts to use and they are bonded to them when you summon them for the first time. They can spawn health potions, break enemy's defences, and even topple an enemy with the break effect. Chaining different attacks depending on your Blade and the Blades of your party members is where the game gets tactical. Rex learns to topple any enemy with a Break effect on them so when this happens you can quickly throw in a sand ability from Tora to combo with that and deal even more damage. Chaining these attacks help the battles go faster and they feel more fluid. It also pushed me to experiment with new Blades I gathered along the way to try and come up with new strategies to fight faster and more efficient. The only problem is that you cannot directly control a teammate so you just need to hope they follow up their chain attack after you start it. 


Kind of like Monster Rancher

But it is the Blades that shine the most in the game and without them, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would just be another boring JRPG. Blades come in all shapes and sizes. While the rarer ones are the only ones worth investing in, the common ones help by teaching you new ways of battle. Back to the rare ones. While I don't want to spoil anything, the game features some pretty cool Blades to collect that are great in battle. They also look so cool and they are rare, so you want them in your party. Each common blade is equipped with a set weapon that ranges from a hammer, ball, scythe and sword, and each one determines its attack style. The rare ones also have these set weapons but much cooler-looking, because they are rare, we have been through this. 


Common Blades can be sent off to be useful for a change while you explore the world and play the game with the only ones that matter, the rare ones. These Merc Missions reward you with XP and items and they take a set amount of real-world time to complete.

I spent the game collecting Core Crystals and by its end, I had four rare Blades. They immediately went to my party so I could test them out and use all their arts and super attacks. They also added some much-needed variety to the combat dialogue as it gets very loud and repetitive after a while. The mercenaries are the worst. They keep shouting “THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME” “YOU WILL NEVER FORGET ME!!!!”. It is very loud and annoying and often I had to turn the sound off to avoid it. 


Blades are also upgradable with the game's deep loot system. Shards can be equipped with slots to buff their damage to specific enemy types, and traits are unlocked by doing specific things in the game's world like killing a set enemy or collecting a specific item. These traits are done automatically at least but if you feel that Blade is weak then chances are you have missed a node, so keep your eye on this menu. The Blades would be nothing without their Drivers and they too feature a decent skill tree and upgrade system. Using skill points to level up arts and experience to unlock new nodes, each Driver specializes in his or her role in the game and it is vital you keep working on them to make the most of it.


The exception is Poppy, Tora's artificial Blade he created. She does not upgrade as other blades do, rather she uses ether shards and upgrade nodes to do so. These are obtained in an awesome 16-bit mini-game that sees you drop Tora down a water shaft while he avoids crocodiles, collects chests and ether shards all in hopes of making it out alive. All the collectables then go towards Poppy's upgrades. It is a refreshing side activity that lets you escape from the world for a bit. 


Tear-jerking story led by great cast

Besides the main story, there are also some rather boring side quests to take on that are as basic as they come. Go here, do this, come back and get XP. There are some jewels in between them though, but the sides quests are littered with the boring ones so much so that you never remember the good ones. Luckily the main game's story is simply a masterpiece. From its tear-jerking scenes to its real-time rendered cutscenes that are like watching a good anime, the game truly has a great narrative to follow. Every character is layered in personality and the comedy is fantastic too and made me chuckle every now and then. The way the characters grow on each other and the emotional connections you make with them along the way is rare these days and I was so happy to know them. 


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a fantastic JRPG that delivers everything you would expect from a follow up to one of the industry's greatest games. It shines in its exploration and the world you explore throughout the journey and the great cast is an added bonus. This is yet another masterpiece on the Switch not to miss.

This review was done on a review copy of the game provided to us by Nintendo

Available On: Switch |  Release Date: 1 December 2017 | RRP: R749

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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