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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – A game worth your time

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    Xenoblade Chronicles 2

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – A game worth your time

    Having played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and completing it in December, I can say that I enjoyed playing the game very much. Out of all the games I bought on the Switch, this is the game that had me coming back for more. It was hard to put the game down and completed the game just before the 100 hour mark, while going through many optional sidequests. There is a lot to love in the game, and while there are areas I think the game could improve, this is a game worth checking out. If you are a fan of JRPGs, you do not want to pass up Xenoblade Chronicles 2. If you want to see some of the best the Switch has to offer, pick this up as well.

    What I thought was great:

    Story – I really enjoyed the story of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It is a longer story than the first Xenoblade Chronicles and X, and I think it was well put together. While there are treats for those who have played the first game, the stories aren’t connected which allows you to play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 without worrying that you will miss out on anything.

    You play as Rex, a salvager who makes a living finding treasure in an ocean known as the Cloud Sea. Humans are living on beings known as Titans in a world known as Alrest, but Titans are dying which means conflicts are being fought over limited resources. Rex meets a girl named Pyra, who wants to go to Elysium. Elysium supposedly holds the answer to creating a better world where people can live in harmony without worrying about resources running out, which drives Rex to take her there.

    The story pacing is good, with good plot twists thrown in every now and then. The characters are relatable, the story addresses some good themes and you travel all over Everything is wrapped up nicely and while a few lingering questions may remain, they can be wrapped up later. I found myself wanting to know what would happen next, and there are nice breaks in the story in the form of sidequests. All sidequests are optional, but doing even a few of the sidequests provides a nice break from the main story. You get to learn more about the setting of Alrest and some moments are genuinely funny.

    I did think there were some parts of the story could be improved upon, all of which are personal preference but I did think some parts of the story weren’t as thought out as they could be, but overall I thought the story had its shining moments.

    Music – The soundtrack for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is nothing short of impressive. The battle music is amazing, and I listen to it almost every day. The music for the cities is soothing and whenever you are exploring the uninhabited lands of Alrest, you walk into music that matches the atmosphere and environment. Everything is done so well that it is hard to find any faults in the soundtrack. A great effort by Monolith Soft.

    Combat – Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a lot like the previous games, where you control 3 characters during combat. You also get the benefit of 3 Blades, which act as your weapons and support. You have a wide variety of Blades available to you, allowing for many different strategies and styles. You can also exploit tactics like Blade and Driver combos to increase your damage output. The combat is fast paced and you need to keep track of what is going on at all times, but that adds to the challenge.

    Each character has their own set of skills called Arts, which can change depending on the weapon you are using (or the Blade you have equipped). You can use these Arts to inflict more damage, inflict a status effect or heal. You can only control one character during combat, but you can coordinate your attacks to some extent with the rest of your team. This allows you to use Blade and Driver combos that form the key to dealing a lot of damage in combat. I won’t write too much here because it is something you have to experience in the moment in order to learn, but it is very fun and paired with the combat music, is a delight.

    Blade System – This is the biggest change that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 brings, as you manage your Blades here. There are Common and Rare Blades, and you obtain Blades by finding Core Crystals in the world. You can find Common, Rare and Legendary Core Crystals, which give you better quality Blades the higher you go.

    The ability to customize your Blades and manage them is essential to the game, and you can customize them with Auxillary Cores and Core Chips. Core Chips work like buying weapons for your characters, in that they give your Blades (which act as your weapons) greater strength and properties. Auxillary Cores work like weapon add-ons, giving your Blades extra bonuses in battle.

    Each Blade has their own set of abilities which help them grow as you use them in battle. You can also help them grow through sidequests that become available later in the game. If you have Rare Blades, they each have their own unique quests which are quite fun to do if you can fulfill the requirements.

    It’s a very unique system that brings a lot of customization and you will spend a lot of time here arranging Blades to get the most out of your combat.

    Design – Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has impressive environments that are wonderful to look at. You will be walking through a variety of environments (which I won’t list to avoid spoilers) but everything looks great. The character design is great, and you can see that the impressive art isn’t limited to unique characters. While some people have commented on graphics being rather poor, I never noticed this or thought it was a big problem.

    What I thought could be improved:

    Obtaining Blades – Collecting Blades seems really nice at the beginning. You open a few Core Crystals and build a Blade collection. The best Blades in the game, however, are the Rare Blades. And this is where the game can be quite frustrating.

    It’s all up to chance what Blade you will get out of a Core Crystal. There are Common, Rare and Legendary Core Crystals. The rank indicates the likelihood you will pull a Rare Blade from the Crystal, however that probability is not seen and it can be quite low. While you can get Rare Blades from any level of Crystal, getting all of them from Common Cores is going to frustrate you, while Rare and Legendary Crystals are rare enough that you will have to put in effort to grind them. Thankfully there isn’t a limited supply so you can get as many as you want, but it is hard.

    There are also Blades that are only obtained through sidequests and hidden areas, which you will mostly likely need a guide to find. If I hadn’t checked a guide, I would have wasted many Crystals trying to get a Rare Blade when I already got all of them from opening Crystals. Even now, there are some players who have opened hundreds of Crystals and haven’t completed their collection. I’m fortunate to have obtained all 38 Rare Blades apparently, but this is still not great for those who want to play a NG+ in the future as I highly doubt anyone would do this to themselves again.

    Blade Trust - To get the most out of your Blade, you want to increase their Trust so you can unlock new tiers of their abilities. You can increase this by using them in combat, completing sidequests or giving them items. This process can be painfully slow however, which can be tough for people who want to get the most out of their Blades. You don’t get much Trust from combat or giving items which means you will spend a long time trying to max out a Blade’s innate abilities.

    Some Blade abilities are unlocked by using their special skills in battle, fighting certain enemies or fulfilling special requirements. You need to check these constantly and I don’t think there’s a convenient way to view them.

    Menu - You do a lot in your menu, like manage your Blades, characters, check your map, monitor sidequests and all that fun stuff. It’s a functional menu but it can be hard to find things. Scrolling through items can be a chore, and sorting is rather limited. Sometimes navigating to find what I want can be hard. In some cases, I’m only able to sell one thing at a time, which can be very frustrating if I am trying to earn money.

    Map – The map has been improved, but your navigation isn’t the most helpful. You often can’t tell if there are giant walls or gaps on the way to your destination, which doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the journey but not knowing how much higher or lower you have to go can make traveling a bit of a chore at times. While exploration is one of the strengths of this game, getting lost is one of the negatives, and that will happen.

    What I thought was alright:

    Character design - Earlier I mentioned I loved the character designs and I don’t take that statement back. But I do see how the design of some characters is not only unrealistic but sexualized as well.

    Voice acting – I went through the game with full English VA and have heard the Japanese VA as well. I love the Japanese VA but I don’t mind the English VA. There were some standout moments and great accents, but there were some moments in the English VA that made me wince. Overall it was a decent job but you can choose the voices you prefer. I suggest doing this before you start a game though, because changing midway can sound weird.

    Animations – The fight scenes were a big treat in my opinion. The movements and skills in battle are great, and even outside of battle the animations of the cutscenes and characters really makes everything feel realistic. Seeing the characters have a short selection of animations did annoy me though (ie. Rex seems to have only one animation if he’s excited, trying to persuade something or angry).

    Conclusion:

    If it was up to me, I’d tell everyone who owned a Switch to get Xenoblade Chronicles 2 because it is the best game I have played on that platform, and I’ve played Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But I know it’s a JRPG and it’s not necessarily everyone’s game of choice.

    That being said, if you’re looking for a game to play that brings something new to the Switch, you’re in the right place. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 may have its issues, but hey, even a game like Zelda had its downsides. This is a great game that I have enjoyed thoroughly, and even writing this review doesn’t cover all of my thoughts because there are so many. This game was well worth the wait from a fan like me, and if you are willing to give the game some time to grow on you, I promise that it will be an experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

    Rating:   5.0 – Flawless

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

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