Xenoblade Chronicles 2 lands on the Nintendo Switch with a lush gorgeous open world that screams for exploring, travelling and…did I mention exploring?
First of all, a bit of a spoiler free introduction to this latest instalment in the Xenoblade series. The story revolves around lead protagonist, Rex, who sets off on a journey to save decipher the mysterious past of the land known as Alrest. He meets up with Pyra, a young girl with her own clouded past and secrets as they travel together to Elysium, the fabled land which also serves as Pyra’s home. To be completely honest, the story is full of side quests and invites you to explore this stunning open world, that I found myself forgetting to actually drive the story forward and kept indulging in quests to help out in game characters.
Now this might be an unpopular opinion here but I much preferred the lush visuals of Alrest and found exploring the land much more enjoyable than doing the same thing in Breath Of The Wild. I think it’s just how green everything is but my eyes found it a definitely much prettier colour palette. Speaking of the side quests, they’re a great way to explore and learn about your surrounding while getting rewards that will come in handy during your adventure. There is a handy fast travel feature that you can use to zip around previously discovered locales but I found it much more fun to run around and see what else I could uncover.
Some of the quests will have you going mad trying to complete them but they never come across forced or leave you feeling frustrated for too long. Sometimes you just can’t complete as you don’t have the abilities yet, you can always leave them and complete them later on for you purists out there who love completing each and everything to find in a game. Levelling up is where the game really comes alive and finds its feet as there’s a ton of customisation options to be found. You can add different accessories to your character to grant new powers or enhance existing capabilities. As you win random battles, you can WP and SP which is used to power up Rex using an Affinity Chart which outlines everything you’ll eventually be able to unlock. And believe me when I say there’s loads to unlock which will probably take you the majority of the game to unlock.
Another unique part of the game are your Blades. Blades are beings that you bond with and act as a fighting partner of sorts. There are Fighters, Healers and Tanks and each of them have their own powers, strengths and weaknesses. Blades can be created using a Core Crystal which are littered all across the land. The Core Crystals also determine what kind of abilities you Blade will have. It’s almost like finding and catching Pokemon but with a way different slant and it’s definitely a very fun part of the game. You can choose different Blades on the fly so if you’re having a hard time beating a foe, it could be possible that you’re just using the wrong Blade or a Blade that isn’t suited to that particular enemy.
Speaking of Blades, you also be meeting characters along the way who join your party, bringing their own Blades to the fray. Nia is a feisty young cat girl with a gorgeous fluffy Blade called Dromarch. You don’t need to always stay in control of Rex by the way, you can also take control of Nia which allows you to travel faster across the land. Dromarch is a healing Blade so you can always opt to stay back in battles and allow Rex to use the powers at his disposal in the best way while you heal without getting injured too much. There were a few times when I couldn’t beat an enemy for hours so I changed to healing and while it was still difficult and took a few goes, it still resulted in a positive outcome.
The characters have a beautiful design to them and really stand out among other characters in RPG’s. One of the things I didn’t really like initially is the fact that most of the characters have been voiced with British accents. I found that quite jarring and kept turning the sound down during dialogue moments however I’ve since warmed up to the voices. I’ve also just found out that there will be a day one free download which will give the characters Japanese voices which wasn’t available to me during the review period. And while we’re speaking of sounds, the music in this game is beyond amazing and needs to be played with a pair of headphones. The soundtrack duties were handled by Yasunori Mitsuda and anyone familiar with his work will instantly fall in love with the aural treats in this game. After all, this is the man behind Xenogears and Chrono Trigger, both great soundtracks in their own right.
I’ve sunk over 20 hours into this game so far and haven’t even scratched the surface. Make no mistake, this game will take you hours, I’m talking 100+ to complete. But each and every step of the way is an absolute delight and will have you wanting more from this Xenoblade Universe.Ok, so really quickly, the negatives? The voice acting but I’m a sucker and purist for Japanese in JRPG’s. Sometimes one of the biggest strengths, the customisation system and upgrading system, can be confusing for newer players unfamiliar to Xenoblade.
After the stunning Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, this is a welcome debut for the Nintendo Switch and continues the fine tradition of the Xenoblade saga while being familiar to veterans and easy enough to slide into for newcomers. I don’t know if I’ll finish this game but damn if I’m not having one of the best times ever trying to find out.
Final score: 9/10