My experience with JRPGs is still fairly young, with Xenoblade being a series I’m even more inexperienced with. I played the start of the original, a lot of Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U, feeling like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would be an interesting fresh start to the series. And I definitely had a unique experience with it to say the least!
The part of a game that makes it a game, duh. And the gameplay is mostly the interesting combat system. It plays pretty much like an MMO, with auto attacks and cooldowns, and your party are all AI. Auto attacks just happen on their own, with Arts being your button activated cooldowns, each with different effects. Some will induce different effects, some do more damage if you’re behind/beside an enemy- it leads to an active battle every time.
Then each character in your party has an ultimate that you can power up, that you can combine with other characters’ ultimates to give yourself a powerful leg up. Very useful during boss battles, but it takes a lot of practise and re-reading the tutorials.
This is where one of the games many flaws, however minor, come into play. The tutorial system is incredibly intrusive, overly wordy, and throws so much at you at once before you have a chance to really use anything. There was one part where I was moving through a town, it gave me a long spiel about something- then I walked 2 steps and I was given another tutorial for something totally different. This might just be a me problem? I learn by doing things, so telling me something new before letting me actually do the previous thing means I’ll forget, or get annoyed that I remember half.
The other gripe I have, which seems to be a common thread in Xenoblade, is the super high level enemies in the open field areas. Yet again, some of them immediately gain agro and one hit you while you’re either trying to move through, or grind lower level enemies. At least death doesn’t have a huge impact on progress, but it doesn’t make it that much less tedious.
Character growth/skill trees are oddly satisfying as well, with the trees opening up not just on how many skills you’ve unlocked prior, but also in-game progress, like how close your character is to your blade, and certain feats accomplished in battle.
The world building and story in XC2 is very expansive, but in my humble opinion… the delivery isn’t great. The opening of the game is just a bunch of things that happen in sequence, with the main character, Rex, caught in it all.
The jist of the world, Alrest, is there’s no real land for people to live on. Instead, people live on the backs of gigantic Titans that move through the cloud sea below. Some of these Titans have enough space for something the size of a tiny village, some are continent size, while Gramps is big enough just for Rex to live on the back of.
Soon into the game, you meet a variety of characters that join you on your journey to Elysium, each with their own mismatched voice actor in the English dub. I’ll save my thoughts on the designs for some of these characters for the next section, but at the very least the dialogue works well enough to get you attached to the characters.
I’ve only played the first few chapters of the game, so my understanding of the plot as a whole is still in progress- so stay tuned!
Okay, some of these character designs creep me out. Pyra has a cool colour scheme and general design, then they… fantasy armour her. There doesn’t seem to be a need to do this, and her design sticks out amongst the world way more than it should.
Beyond that, though, the world itself is gorgeous. Huge fields and vistas, large monuments in the distance, and a dreamlike ocean of clouds everywhere. Night time is absolutely stunning to be in, where some objects glow and break up the scenery with a magical atmosphere.
BUT. This game does have some graphical issues as a result. Edges can be jagged, objects in the distance are blurry, and there’s a heck of a lot of pop-in. While I’m not enough of a graphics snob to hate on the game for it, it’s still very much noticeable. Especially in handheld, where it feels like somebody added too many Photoshop filters to the image for no reason. I can’t play it in handheld for that reason- it just looks terrible. (Compare the screenshot below to everything else!)
This is usually the part of the review I nerd out on, but… not to imply the soundtrack is bad, it’s really not! It’s just very Xenoblade, it’s what I expected, and not much (so far) has stood out to me. As I work through the game, I hope to be surprised and will update this section, but so far…
Overall, I don’t hate Xenoblade Chronicles 2. There’s a lot to enjoy here, with the combat being incredibly engaging, and the worlds are really gorgeous. But the issues I have with the game are substantial. Not enough to make the game unplayable for me, but enough for them to always be on my mind while playing.
I won’t give a definitive yes/no decision on this yet. As it stands, it’s a game I’m enjoying and would recommend if you like JRPGs, but with a lot of ‘however’s. If you’re a total JRPG newbie, you might have some trouble getting into it, unless you’re very open to reading tutorials as much as you are playing the game. If only it came with a manual…