REVIEW: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is Made Perfect by Small Moments (Switch)

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the latest game in the Xenoblade Chronicles series made by Monolith Soft and is out now on the Nintendo Switch. Each previous release in the action Japanese role-playing game franchise has received both critical fame and fan adoration. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 continues that tradition while improving an already excellent series.

The story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place in the future after the events of the first two Xenoblade Chronicles games, although the setting is in a different world called Aionios. The story “ties together the futures of the worlds depicted in Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2”, according to Monolith. Without spoiling the major plot points towards the end of the story, as soon as I rolled credits on Xenoblade Chronicles 3 I immediately started pouring back over the stories from the first two games to make the connections. There are some really interesting overarching plot points that will be really enticing for fans of the first games, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does still function well as a standalone game for those who want to try out the series for the first time.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 presents players with a world torn apart by war, with the nations of Keves and Agnus constantly at war that has left much of the world in tatters. While the main setup for the story may be a world at war, the real shining moment is how they tie the nations together through the main characters. The main party that players have the chance to journey with consists of three members of the Keves nation – Noah, Lanz, and Eunie – as well as three from Agnus – Mio, Taion, and Sena.

The concept of bringing characters from opposing factions together isn’t unique to Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but as soon as they come together the emotions connecting them are palpable. There is tension at the start, but their shared experiences and goals help create lasting relationships that had a profound emotional impact on me as I progressed through the story. Very few games have been able to make me want to seek out every side quest I can find, but the little interactions between the party have me already planning a second playthrough so that I can dive as deep as I can into the world and the way the characters interact with the smallest parts of it.

The best part of having a party with six main characters is that, for the first time in the Xenoblade series, you actually get to play as all six of them in battle. Each character has a class option, each fitting into either an attack, defense, or healing role. New classes are discovered by meeting new hero characters in the world, and you are also able to add a hero to your party to reach a total of seven characters engaged in combat on the side of the player.

Each class has unique arts that, once the class is mastered, can be used while a different class is active. This leads to a plethora of party composition options, something that I was always tweaking in order to try to get the most out of my team. Don’t worry though, perfect party composition is not going to be something new players have to stress too much about especially on a lower difficulty. It is nice to have the options to get creative while still remaining relatively stress-free for the players.

That system allows for really interesting synergy between the characters in combat, especially when it comes to the Interlink and Chain Attack options. Interlink is something that combines two partner characters, with each Keves party member matching up with one from Agnus. Once the characters combine, they can use their different skill moves, known as “arts”, to deal massive amounts of damage as well as heal and buff teammates.

The Chain Attack is something that is earned after landing a certain amount of hits on a target enemy in order to fill up the Chain Attack bar. This special attack gives players chances to use special moves to cause an increased amount of damage. Or, if you are me, play around with the “overkill” experience bonus to reach an x1000 experience combination that felt like it almost broke my Switch because of how hard it had to work to keep up with all of the moving parts on screen. That alone was extremely satisfying, but the way the characters took their relationships outside of battle and helped them grow in battle too was such a fantastic experience that just works so well.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

The story and combat of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 are absolutely top-tier, but the beautiful world design takes it to a whole new level. There are the usual graphical limitations of the Switch that become obvious when playing in docked mode that detracted a bit from the experience, specifically massive frame drops when there was too much going on on-screen, but in handheld mode, the environments and character design really pop. Traveling through environments ranging from rivers to deserts and even snowy mountains, the sheer diversity of locations helps make the impact of the massive world that much more interesting. As someone typically burnt out by open-world games, I was really surprised at how much joy I found in discovering new locations as I made my way through the different regions. It is a massive testament to the incredible art direction, just an absolutely incredible job all around.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the immaculate soundtrack in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The soundtrack is the love child of Yasunori Mitsuda, Manami Kiyota, ACE (Tomori Kudo and Hiroyo “CHiCO” Yamanaka), and Kenji Hiramatsu, with help from Mariam Abounnasr as well. The sheer volume of different songs had to have taken a herculean effort, but it absolutely pays off by taking an already excellent game to the next level. The more emotional moments of the game are supported by slower, softer tracks that drive home the emotional impact, and the frantic battles are made even more frantic by fast-paced battle themes. There are over 250 different tracks on the soundtrack, and I will absolutely be listening through every single one of them over the next few weeks and months.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a massive undertaking that hits some extremely high points while only presenting a few issues like the performance struggles at times due to the Switch’s limitations. I fell in love with the cast almost immediately, and I can’t wait to see their stories progress in future DLC. This is a game that is going to sit with me for years and is a very serious Game of the Year contender.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is out now on the Nintendo Switch.


Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a massive undertaking that hits some extremely high points while only presenting a few issues like the performance struggles at times due to the Switch’s limitations. I fell in love with the cast almost immediately, and I can’t wait to see their stories progress in future DLC. This is a game that is going to sit with me for years and is a very serious Game of the Year contender.

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