Gaming Noir

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XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 3: 10 INITIAL THOUGHTS AS I WADE INTO THE WORLD OF AIONIOS

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a sequel that I’ve been kind of hedging on simply because I wasn’t a huge fan of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Many may disagree, but I thought it was quite jarring coming from the polished yet divisive Xenoblade Chronicles X to the somewhat buggy (initially) numbered sequel.

The second numbered entry also suffered from a very anime trope laden presentation, which was not as prevalent in Xenoblade Chronicles 1 or X. Not that it’s a huge problem, but I just wasn’t ready for the drastic change in tone. But I digress, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 seems to have really taken the criticism of 2 to heart and created something special with the third entry.

1. THE TONE IS MORE SERIOUS

The third numbered entry in the series does not pull any punches from the outset and throws you right into the battle reminiscent of the first entry. The warring factions, the seriousness of events, and the generally darker tone from the beginning sets this one apart.

2. THE STORY IS ENGAGING FROM THE OUTSET

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes a bit to get going, and it almost lost me before I ran into Morag. In XC3, the war between the factions leaves many dead from the opening scenes and it really draws you in because you want to know why the two sides are fighting. The way enemies evaporate also puts an immediate question in your mind. Really, it just engages you from the intro tutorials.

3. NOT A FAN OF THE NARRATIVE PREVENTING THE PLAYER FROM EXPLORING

Right at the beginning after the initial battle I wanted to explore the area behind me, but wasn’t allowed due to the game telling me I had to venture to the city — I wasn’t a fan of that. The reason why Xenoblade Chronicles X is my favorite in the series is precisely because you can explore the entirety of Primordia from the outset with elevation being the only real roadblock. You are prevented from visiting Oblivia or Noctilum initially, but the first area is completely open. As someone who likes to complete his maps and over-level early, I was a bit disappointed.

4. THE TUTORIALS ARE A BIT OUT OF HAND

Perhaps there is an option to turn them off, but I feel like simply letting the player know the tutorial is there would have cut the annoyance factor drastically. I appreciate that there are quite a few systems to master, but stopping every other minute to teach is rather tiresome.

5. THE MUSIC IS GREAT, BUT I HAVEN’T HEARD SOMETHING THAT TRULY DEFINES THE GAME

Gaur Plains, Black Tar, You Will Know Our Names, The Key We’ve Lost — all iconic and excellent music from the first few Xenoblade games. There are some banger composers that made music for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 including the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda and A.C.E, but I haven’t heard a signature sound for XC3…(yet! )

6. I REALLY LIKE THE CLASS CHANGE SYSTEM

Showing those Squaresoft roots, eh Monolithsoft? I really like the flexibility afforded to the player when it comes to character customization here. I hadn’t spoiled myself on the game before I started, so this was a nice surprise when it was unlocked. The fact that the clothes change really let me know that much more time and thought was put into this game than XC2.

7. ITEM ACQUISITION AND SELLING ARE FAIRLY INEFFICIENT

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but the constant notification of item acquisition is annoying. Please just let me know how many I obtained instead of counting them one by one. And selling items should allow me to sell a bunch at once instead of one at a time. Automatically selling “sell only” items alleviated this a bit, but I still was shocked at how this was handled. I had similar issues with Xenoblade Chronicles X for the same reason.

8. THE MAIN CHARACTER IS WELL-DESIGNED

No offense to Rex, but Noah’s design is an improvement by leaps and bounds. Rex was a real shock after having Shulk and Elma as protagonists, and Noah represents a return to form both metaphorically and literally. His somewhat introspective and thoughtful temperament really sets the tone for this adventure.

9. IT STILL MISSES THE BAR THAT THE SPINOFF SET IN TERMS OF BATTLE

While the battle system is much improved in XC3, it still doesn’t have the speed of Xenoblade Chronicles X. That game played fast and that’s something that is still missing here…also giant mechs for traversal and a run button.

10. OVERALL PRODUCTION SEEMS TO BE BACK TO WHAT IT WAS

The production budget and time given to complete XC3 shines through. It’s not often that you find that your characters clothes get dirty progressively, but little details like that tell you that there was more time and consideration given to the bones of the game. Monolithsoft definitely put the time and money into this game that wasn’t given to XC2 since that was probably rushed out the door to get it as close to the launch of the Switch as possible. However, given time, this developer will work magic as we see here.

So these are my initial thoughts. When I get closer to the end, I may write some updated impressions, but until then see you next time.

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