Monolith Soft has a long history of crafting memorable and epic stories contained within the complex worlds of their Xeno series. This latest title is their most lighthearted tale so far but does it stand tall and shake the heavens?
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 follows the story of a salvager named Rex whose optimism and kindness drives him to be the best he can be while helping out as many people he can. However, his simple life quickly becomes one of desperation when he finds himself tangled in a tricky situation. Throughout his long journey ahead, he'll meet plenty of friends and foes but he still seems to love them all. It's refreshing to see a character as kind-hearted as Rex and I can't remember anyone quite like him in the decades of RPGs that I've played in my life. Anyway, the cast of characters is full of unique personalities which provides a lot of variety to the storytelling. Whether it's Tora's humorous shenanigans, Nia's straightforward yet often sarcastic attitude, or Mòrag's dutiful nature; you're bound to enjoy your time with this collection of chums. Thankfully, the voice actors do a great job of fleshing out their distinct personalities.
Of course, the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Alrest) is massive and memorable. You'll explore vast and frequently complex landscapes with loads of gorgeous scenery to accompany your travels and a variety of dastardly foes to fight along the way. Meanwhile, a fantastic orchestral score with cohesive musical themes provides a layer of wonder to the world. When you combine the incredible cast, beautifully vast world, and amazing musical score; Xenoblade Chronicles 2 surely does not disappoint.
The two best components of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's gameplay are the combat and exploration. First, let's discuss combat. Considering it slowly ramps up throughout the lengthy campaign, it's easy to not think much of it at first. However, I found myself on the edge of my seat while fighting enemies later in the story. In other words, it feels like it plays itself for the first few chapters but once you start to take advantage of the cleverly implemented systems, it becomes an involving and extremely satisfying dynamic. Working together as a team in order to unleash elemental attacks that generate orbs around your opponent then performing a chain attack to make those orbs burst in the hopes of causing maximum damage is simply one of the greatest feelings that I've ever had during an RPG battle.
When it comes to exploration, there are so many things to uncover in the world of Alrest. For starters, you can collect found objects at certain points which is nothing new but you can also take advantage of Rex's skills as a salvager to uncover more meaningful treasure. While you're at it, you can complete dozens upon dozens of side-quests offered to you by NPCs, some of which are even their own self-contained stories complete with cutscenes. As you travel the world, you'll amass a collection of Core Crystals and other goodies that you can utilize to upgrade your party. These Core Crystals contain beings known as Blades that you can assign to party members in order to assist you in battle. There are tons of them to unlock and trying to catch 'em all is a fruitful endeavor indeed.
Considering there is so much to see and do in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the replay value is through the roof. It took me more than 80 hours merely to complete the main story and I still have oodles of content just waiting to be discovered. It's the sort of game that you can easily get lost in and spend all day simply working through a succession of optional content.
Although Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an amazing experience, it does have its downsides. For starters, the menus are incredibly clunky. For example, seeing as you eventually acquire hundreds upon hundreds of accessories, you'd think that you could easily organize them so you can optimize your party efficiently. However, unless you memorize every accessory's name and browse alphabetically, it proves to be a needlessly convoluted task. Finally, a few parts of the campaign can be downright frustrating. The two main kinds of scenarios that come to mind are being lost due to the unintuitive map and not knowing how to take down certain bosses. The former forces you to aimlessly wander around and the latter will have you reattempting specific tricky bosses again and again until you realise how to defeat them. It's undeniably irritating stuff but once you work past these annoying segments, it feels great to go right back to your journey.
If I were to rank the Xenoblade games then I would say Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a step below the original yet a more rewarding experience than Xenoblade Chronicles X. Either way you look at it, what's here is a memorable and impressively epic tale filled with optimism and that's just what the world needs now.
- + Massive and memorable world, awesome music, and charming characters
- + Satisfying combat and exploration
- + Incredible amount of replay value
- - Clunky menus require lots of fumbling around
- - A few downright frustrating moments