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Grinding Never Felt So Good

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    Xenoblade Chronicles 2

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Grinding Never Felt So Good

    Since I hadn’t played the original Xenoblade Chronicles, I went into this game with few, if any, expectations or preconceived notions. I am glad this was the case, as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 blew me away with the depth of its fighting mechanics and battle system, and touched me with its quirky ( although oft-repeated ) story of a veritable nobody thrust into a world shaping conflict without any guidance other than his own convictions and moral compass. I will not be claiming though that the game is flawless, as there exist a couple of nagging gameplay issues that keep it just shy of perfection.

    STORY ( 4.5 out of 5 )

    I really enjoyed the main story in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (or XC2 as I’ll call it), even if it is very similar to many such titles in the past. The "hero" of the story begins as an average Joe, a salvager who is highly skilled in that profession, but in all other aspects, quite unremarkable. The people of this time live aboard Titans, massive creatures which house the World’s inhabitants on their backs. The problem is that these Titans can become fragile with age and/or (as you witness as the story progresses) had been destroyed in the past during a brutal conflict between BLADES, DRIVERS, and those who would see both eradicated from the World. The story can be confusing at times though, where motivations and actions become murky … and I can remember one particular character’s death which made little sense to me in the overall plot. Overall, however, I was really rooting for the "good guys" in this one, as the trials and tribulations they face seemed downright defeating and made you wonder if it all was really worth it. I also would have liked a little more exposition of the rulers of the countries upon the Titans. The leader of one of them is very well explained and his back story very well exposed, but the leaders of the other two main lands are poorly defined as far as back stories and motivations.

    GAMEPLAY ( 5 OUT OF 5 )

    The meat and potatoes of this type of game is its combat system and its development ( and grinding ) system. Well, feel no concern for XC2 in those regards, as the battle mechanics are stellar and deep, while the leveling up and grinding format definitely make this title shine. As for the combat system, there are several layers to explore. The first is that you have several characters ( starting out with two and then progressing up to as many as five, with three becoming your default team and the others as back-up.) who are known as DRIVERS who can then bond with numerous BLADES, who are nearly eternal beings who grant the drivers with different weapons (axes,swords,whips,etc.) which each can have their own effects such as knocking enemies back, sending them into the air, and then smashing them back down for even greater damage than normal. In addition, each particular weapon/blade gets particular blade arts and specials, which cause a variety of impressive attacks and effects in themselves. There are as well UNIQUE blades which can be garnered by either chance (in most cases) or utilizing special blade cores to bond with, which are very few and far between. These unique blades then each have an leveling up wheel, whereby they gain greater attributes and learn new abilities. This is where the love of grinding comes into play as each blade has certain tasks necessary to unlock further ascension upon their wheels. Some require killing certain enemies, finding certain items, or gaining trust with their Drivers by the consumption of certain pouch items which also raise particular stats and abilities. Trust me, this grinding can consume vast quantities of time ( as witnessed by my 200+ hours of play time ) and with almost 40 unique blades (and an infinite number of normal blades), this process may turn off those looking for a quicker leveling up system. This ain’t it !

    SOUND ( 3.5 OUT OF 5 )

    The theme music, voice acting, and sounds of the game were acceptable, but nothing really memorable. This seemed odd to me, given that the composer responsible, Yasunori Mitsuda, had done such great work in the past, including Chrono Trigger and Xenosaga. That does not mean the musical composition here is flawed, it’s just not that memorable ( especially since I still find myself whistling Frog’s Theme on occasion 20+ years later ! ) As for the voice acting, I didn’t particularly care for the Scottish/English twist at first, but it warmed on me after a while. But as is usually the case in video games, some phrases get repeated WAY too often ( … if I had to hear " I am Roc, always have been, always will be." one more time I would literally explode ! ), and other voices just begin to grate on you ( that’s right TORA … I’m looking at YOU ! ). Overall, not a major misstep, but not a bonus either.


    These were the issues I elaborated upon in my initial paragraph that keep the game from being a true masterpiece.

    (1) – The Directional Mapping Stinks. I found myself having to constantly click the L3 button to expand the on-screen HUD map to hopefully find small blue dots to show me the way to my objectives. The Directional arrows and distance tracker proved useless a good portion of the time. I would nearly get to my objective and then realize it was on a completely different level from me. This was combined with, when there existed more than one item I was searching for, the distances and arrows would OVERLAP on the screen, making it nearly impossible to discern between them ! I found myself staring at the ground and spinning around trying to get the numbers to separate so that I could read them. Maddening to say the least.

    (2) – Cheap hits and sudden deaths. There is nothing quite as frustrating as fighting an unique boss or enemy, and when they are nearing death, they all of sudden hit you with some attack that kills your character without you really knowing what the heck hit you. I never seemed to possess such an attack ( unless caused by some of your blades having the ability to instantly fell some types of enemies, but this never worked upon bosses or unique foes ) … but it seemed that all of my opposition did. In addition, when you are kicking some enemies butt, only to have some level 85 flying guy join the fray proved annoying and upsetting.

    OVERALL ( 4.5 OUT OF 5 )

    I really enjoyed my time playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and I believe it has a lot to offer. A superior combat system, a great storyline that mirrors events in our own world, and a cast of quirky and endearing characters all await you. Enjoy.

    Rating:   4.5 – Outstanding

    Product Release: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (US, 12/01/17)

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