Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Review
Follow Genre: Open world ARPG
Developer: Monolith Software Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Review

Site Score
9.7
Good: A fantastically immersive emotional story
Bad: Awkward moments where there is no voice acting
User Score
10.0
(2 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

The way Xenoblade Chronicles 3 made it to everyone’s grubby mitts is a bit of an oddity. The game was actually pushed forward by two months, releasing in late July rather than September -to the point where Nintendo wasn’t able to get the Collector’s Edition published in time in Europe. Players in the affected region could sign up on the Nintendo website for a chance to buy the Collector’s Edition goodies in September instead, so that they could already purchase the base game and start playing. This unprecedented move just highlights how eager publisher Monolith Soft was to get their game in the hands of the public. With good reason too, as you’ll find out: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (XC3) easily ranks among the best the Switch has to offer.

Story

While the Xenoblade Chronicles series has always been very story-driven, XC3 is perhaps the entry where the story focus is the largest. It certainly is the game with the biggest emotional impact and as anyone that has played the original can attest, that is a very high bar to clear. However, much of the emotional impact of XC3’s story comes from going in blind, as the story twists, turns, and delivers unexpected emotional gut punches. As such, while we’re going to refrain from posting spoilers as much as possible, we can’t explain XC3’s premise without giving some of the early game twists away. If you wish to avoid these, then we highly suggest skipping the next paragraph -read on at your own risk!

Set in the world of Aionios, XC3 introduces us to the warring nations of Keves and Agnus, who have been engaged in a never-ending conflict. In this world, humanoids have a lifespan of exactly 10 years, as indicated by a mark on their body -although when they are “born” they are already around what we’d consider ten-year-old children. The only purpose of these humanoids is to fight the opposing nation, gathering their life essence to power their respective colony’s flame clock. If they can survive for their entire ten years, they are then sent to the afterlife in a so-called homecoming ceremony. The main protagonists of the game, Mio and Noah, hail from opposing nations. Their paths cross when they are sent on a mission to recover a source of ether from a crashed ship. As it turns out, that ether force turns out to be the Ouroboros stone, an item that allows our heroes and their friends to merge and turn into enormous creatures known as Ouroboros. Mio, Noah, and their friends are forced into an uneasy alliance when the mysterious Moebius shows up to claim the stone as well. As it turns out, the stone is the key to stopping the never-ending conflict between Keves and Agnus and letting humanoids live beyond their allotted ten years. It’s now up to our protagonists to free their nations from the war, the flame clocks, and the consuls, a shadowy organization that has their own reasons to keep the Kevesi-Agnean conflict going.

Graphics

When looking at XC3 in a vacuum, it’s among the best-looking games on the Switch. Aionios is a joy to explore, with an expansive world, amazing creatures, and outlandish characters. The game is consistent with the visual style we’ve come to know and love from previous entries, and falls somewhere in between the exaggerated anime aesthetics we’ve seen in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and the more realistic approach seen in Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition. This means that you can look forward to jaw-dropping vistas that emphasize the scale of this world -supposedly five times as large as the previous game- and gorgeous designs for both the enemies and the cast. Despite being this taxing on the Switch, performance was surprisingly stable. Of course, a game of this scale was never going to reach 60 fps on this hardware, but it runs at a smooth 30 fps for the majority of the time. The only issue we had with XC3’s visuals was that facial animations often lack emotion during cutscenes, but this is made up for by the powerful voice acting performances. Of course, the game looks underwhelming by modern PlayStation or Xbox standards, but with the limitations of the hardware in mind, XC3 can stand proudly among titles like Monster Hunter Rise or New Pokémon Snap, two visual benchmarks on the Switch.

Sound

Whenever a new entry in the Xenoblade series is announced, the first thing that pops into our excited heads is that we’re getting a new OST. Every soundtrack in the series has been a masterpiece with standout tracks from Gaur Plain in the original Xenoblade Chronicles to tracks like 亡KEI却KOKU心 from the highly underrated Wii U exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles X. XC3 continues that tradition with a soundtrack that is a joy to listen to and although there weren’t any specific tracks that really stood out to us as much as the aforementioned examples, the game’s OST is fantastic as a whole. Then there’s the voice acting: while there is a Japanese voice track available, we couldn’t imagine playing a Xenoblade Chronicles title without hearing the thick Southern English accents that are present in the English versions of the game. The voice cast does their best to bring these characters to life, with success. Our only two gripes with XC3’s soundscape are that the game isn’t *fully* voiced, with large snippets of dialogue delivered through speech bubbles only, and that the post-combat voice lines could have used a little more variety as they are often repeated ad infinitum.

Gameplay

To an onlooker unfamiliar with Xenoblade Chronicles’ gameplay, it can be difficult to grasp what is going on as the game throws a lot of information at you and seemingly keeps piling new mechanics on top of what’s already been established. At its core lies a classical open-world ARPG that will take between sixty and one hundred hours to play through. Make no mistake: taking on XC3 takes some commitment, but the game is incredibly satisfying and fun. Unlike Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which introduced gacha-esque mechanics with its Blade system, XC3 doesn’t aim to completely reinvent itself and instead sticks rather close to the first game in terms of mechanics, with the notable exception of the new Ouroboros system. Instead, the focus lies mostly on delivering a fantastic story and an immersive world, and the majority of gameplay changes focus on improving QoL and accessibility. This is perhaps the most newcomer-friendly Xenoblade title yet, and the story stands on its own, so it’s the perfect entry point, although anyone that has played Xenoblade Chronicles 1 & 2 will get more out of it.

The combat system we’ve come to know and love makes a return here and it’s more streamlined and accessible than ever, although we know it remains divisive among genre fans. For those unfamiliar, XC3’s combat relies on players assigning a specific role to each of the six or seven characters in your party, either attacking, defending, or healing. Basic attacks are performed automatically and charge up your special attacks, which you’ll need to perform manually. Positioning your units around an enemy is key as is performing actions in accordance with your battlefield role. This charges up a meter which allows you to perform a chain attack with your team, which lets you deal massive damage. Of note here is the inclusion of an auto-attack feature, which lets you deal with most grunts without having to worry about strategy. This makes it a lot easier to grind for experience and items, although you’ll still need to take the reins against bosses and other specific enemies. The aforementioned Ouroboros system allows a pair of characters to turn into a mech of sorts for a limited time, opening up new combinations and strategies as well.

The introduction of various difficulty levels and specific training stages to try out certain strategies add even more options for newcomers to find their footing. The obvious keyword is accessibility, making sure that everyone can have a worry-free experience with XC3. That said, the game does suffer from early-game pacing issues, especially when it comes to mandatory tutorials. We would’ve loved an option to indicate that you’re already familiar with specific mechanics, either as a returning player from previous entries in the series or simply when you’re replaying the game at a higher difficulty level. It already feels somewhat odd that you’re only able to climb certain cliffs after about a dozen hours into the game, but it’s even weirder that the game insists on holding your hand and telling you *how* to climb said cliff.

Despite these pacing issues, XC3 cements itself as an incredibly compelling and immersive title on the Switch. There is nothing original about the game but Monolith Soft knows what it’s doing and plays to its strengths rather than tacking on gimmicks. There is not an ounce of fat here: XC3 is a streamlined experience designed to make veterans of the series, as well as newcomers, feel welcome and despite the overload of information the game throws at you, it’s surprisingly easy to find your footing. With an expansion pass present and a new story expansion already looming on the horizon, you’re also certain that XC3 is going to keep you occupied for quite some time. With several dozen hours under our belt already, we feel like we’ve only barely scratched the surface too. Not just in terms of the story either, as we could go on for hours about the various finer gameplay elements, such as the affinity system, cooking and crafting, using amiibo figures, etc., but then this review might rival the game itself in length.

Conclusion

If you had any doubts left, let us simply state it outright: XC3 is an essential addition to your Switch library. It’s not perfect, but the shortcomings are easily overlooked, and what the game does right more than makes up for the minor issues we encountered. We’d be surprised if this game doesn’t end up as the highest-scoring Switch game of 2022 on our site -and that’s with Bayonetta 3 still on the way. What you’re getting here is more than just another ARPG. It’s a piece of art, a world to get immersed in, and dozens, if not hundreds of hours worth of content. Now if only Monolith Soft could finally get on that Xenoblade Chronicles X port that we’ve been clamoring for for years now.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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