Xenoblade Chronicles 3 for Nintendo Switch review: A massive tale with emotional depth
I first stumbled upon Monolith Soft’s unique sci-fi series in 2018, when I went to a closing Toy”R”Us and found Xenoblade Chronicles 2 selling for incredibly cheap. After popping the cartridge into my Switch, I was drawn into this strange-yet-fascinating adventure that took place on the backs of massive titans and included complex combat and party systems. Since then, I’ve played the original game as well as Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U. You could say I’ve become a really big fan of the series, so I was excited to check out the latest installment.
At the time of writing this, I’ve put over 25 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3. This feels like a decent amount, but according to several people who’ve had Xenoblade Chronicles 3 longer than me It can take over 100 hours to beat this game. As such, this is a review in progress showing my thoughts on the game at this point.
In the 25 hours I’ve played, I’ve been able to see that this is truly a satisfying game that provides an awe-inspiring world to explore alongside an intriguing plot and refined battle system. It’s a must-play for any JRPG fans.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: What you’ll like
This Nintendo Switch JRPG improves greatly upon previous titles by providing smoother combat and making leveling up a more simplified affair. On top of that, the strategic battles that require teammates to work together are incredibly satisfying while the compelling story effectively draws you in.
A gripping plot with excellent voice acting
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 begins by introducing an interesting world and pulls you in with a complex cast. The story starts by following Noah, Lanz, and Eunie — Keves soldiers who have been fighting as far back as they can remember. In their world, people come into being as children rather than babies with the help of machines and immediately get trained for battle, fighting for either Keves or the rival faction, Agnus.
|Category||Xenoblade Chronicles 3|
|Game size||15 GB|
|Play time||100+ hours|
|DLC||$30 for Expansion Pass|
The reason for fighting is that each colony of people is tied to a massive Ferronis machine, which has a Flame Clock that absorbs enemy life to stay alive. If the Ferronis’ Flame Clock runs out of power, the people in the colony associated with it automatically die. So colonies must continually kill their enemies to keep themselves alive.
As you can imagine, many people don’t survive long in this war-torn environment. Even if you prove yourself to be a survivor, your time on earth is limited. Those who make it to 10 years of life undergo a Homecoming ritual in front of their queen and have their life force absorbed anyway. This sits unwell with our main character, Noah, who is about to reach his 10th term.
After some unexpected events that result in them becoming outlaws, the Keves threesome finds itself combining with a trio of Agnus soldiers named Mio, Sena, and Taion. The group is hunted by both sides but makes it their mission to stop this brutal war and save people regardless of which faction they’re in. In the process, the characters come to terms with feelings of guilt, remorse, anger, and hope as they work through individual trauma from their pasts.
I won’t dive into specifics so as to not spoil anything, but I will say the story provokes a lot of thought while the talented voice actors do an excellent job of making this world feel real. The despair in the characters’ statements and the desires they hold come across in a very powerful way, making for an epic tale you’ll want to see through to the end.
Satisfying combat and leveling up system
I love Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but I will be the first to say that it had way too many skill trees within skill trees, making leveling up far too complex for its own good. But that’s something Xenoblade Chronicles 3 improves on. There are still several different menus that you must interact with in order to make your party more powerful, but these menus are more straightforward and easier to work with.
Characters automatically attack when close enough to an enemy, but you can make them perform Arts which are more powerful attacks when an Arts gauge fills up. Some Arts are more effective if used in certain places. For instance, Noah’s Sword Strike is more effective when hitting enemies from the side while his Edge Thrust is far more effective from behind an enemy. You’ll need to learn where to place each character and understand how they assist others to effectively end battles faster.
Additionally, a simple-yet-satisfying level of strategy presents itself since characters have one of three combat roles. Attackers hit hard, but can easily draw the attention of enemies who will defeat them quickly. Defenders have great defense and can protect their allies by drawing enemy attention to themselves. Meanwhile, Healers can temporarily increase the stats of allies, decrease the stats of enemies, replenish ally health, and even revive fallen friends. Depending on the character and class you’re playing as you’ll need to reach a battle differently.
Since characters can change classes at just about any time, players must be ready to adapt to various approaches for the three combat roles. It’s a fun way to shake things up without making things too complex.
When working together, your team can perform combos, transform into powerful creatures called Ouroboros to deal more damage, or do multiple chain attacks in a row that seriously lower the health points of huge enemies.
Satiating my wanderlust with locations and enemies
The world of Aionios has a unique way of making you feel incredibly small and yet extremely powerful at the same time. The land you walk on is actually the dead body of a massive titan with enormous landscapes and locations to traverse. It’s also home to beasts that can be more than 10 times your size, but you can still take them down if your team has enough experience and the right moves equipped.
Monsters in this world do not scale to your level. Some areas will have low-level monsters while others will have very high-level monsters who can take you out with one blow. The main plot more or less moves you along areas with monsters that should be at your level, but sometimes dangerous beasts lurk just off the path.
There are also several Containers hidden throughout the world that will give your party helpful items if discovered. Getting rewarded for my wayward exploration is always appreciated.
Ample side quests and play time
As I said before, several people who have played the game longer than I have revealed that it can take over 100 hours to beat Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Depending on who you are this can either be seen as a huge bang for your buck adventure or as a daunting time sink that will take way too long.
If you don’t take the time to track down side quests then you will be able to run through the story a lot faster, but I highly suggest you don’t do this. Firstly, side quests allow you to take on enemies and earn rewards that can really help you grow more powerful.
Secondly, some side quests can lead to you unlocking additional Heroes for your team. I’m happy to say that, there aren’t any gacha mechanics in the game for acquiring extra characters, which was something I hated about the previous entry in the series. Plus, there’s extra incentive for adding Heroes to your team since they allow your main characters to develop additional classes and skills, to make them more powerful in combat.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: What you won’t like
While Xenoblade Chronicles 3 excels in many places, it also has a few disappointments. While gameplay has proven to run very smoothly and the character design is gorgeous, the landscape visuals aren’t that great for a world that’s trying to awe you at every turn. Elements in the distance or sometimes details of characters pop in abruptly as the graphics load.
I played on my Switch OLED while alternating between both handheld and docked modes to see if this fixed the pixelation issue. In both modes, I felt like there were times that I was trying to squint in a slightly out-of-focus camera rather than getting a clear picture. Cutscenes were usually beautiful and had the most detail, but even then there were times when the extremely pixelated backgrounds pulled me out of the story.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Switch, but there’s no denying that this game’s visuals are being held back by the limitations of the hybrid console. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 yearns to be a stunning wander game and it does well considering what it’s working with, but it could be so much better.
Another thing to note is that while the story offers plenty of emotional conflict and drama to keep things interesting, the cutscenes sometimes take forever to get a point across, or worse, you’ll hear the same thing over and over again in multiple cutscenes until you just want to say, “Enough already. I get the concept!” It would be nice if the developers trusted the audience to pick up on things on their own rather than painstakingly taking the time to explain things.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Should you buy it?
If you’ve liked any of the previous Xenoblade Chronicles games before now then you definitely need to check this entry out. So many bumpy elements like combat and leveling up have been refined and simplified for a far better experience.
If you’ve never played a Xenoblade Chronicles game before I’d also suggest you give it a go. The overall story and emotional depth of the characters are very compelling. Additionally, battles are super satisfying and will keep you on your toes.
The only reason to stay away from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is if you aren’t a fan of JRPGs and don’t like the grinding necessary to make your team more powerful. Otherwise, this massive world and the evolving relationships between characters are definitely worth your time.