Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Review – Aionios’ Finest

Game Info
Xenoblade Chronicles 3

July 29th, 2022

Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the series I have held close to my heart since the first game was released on the Wii. Monolith Soft has always made some excellent RPGs, but everyone nowadays knows them for this series. Now, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 aims to be the finale of sorts that ties everything together with a unique story.

What defined Xenoblade Chronicles 3 through its marketing is how it would bring back many elements that the first two games used. For example, the combat mechanics looked somewhat similar to the ones seen in Xenoblade 2. Still, we’d have the appearance of a more gritty and dark story like in Xenoblade 1, with a reappearance of the class system we saw in Xenoblade X.

As we came closer to Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s release, the hints of it being less of a crossover and more of a celebration of everything that made the series stand out were starting to show. And yes, this would be the perfect way to describe the game for me. It’s a celebration of everything that has made every entry in the 5-game series (Yes, that counts X and Torna) unique and wonderful.

I’m pretty sure that, by this description, you already know how much this game has managed to do for me. After all, I never really hide how I feel about certain games from the beginning of my reviews. But, I think that this time, I will have to be more thorough than I usually have been. So, let’s not waste time and start running through the world of Aionios.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 starts in the middle of a conflict in the world of Aionios. A world where time is of the essence as people fight in countless wars, seeking to kill each other for the sake of sustenance to survive throughout a 10-year period known as a Term. Completing a Term sees the soldier return to heaven through what’s known as the Homecoming.

It’s pretty simple, right? I mean, this story, unlike other JRPGs like it, has a reasonably straightforward connotation, reducing the number of what’s pretty much ‘JRPG pronouns’ and words. You have two nations going at war with each other, and they are fighting each other to essentially feed their Flame Clocks and fulfill a 10-year existence.

The war is waged between two opposing nations: Keves and Agnus. Kevesi troops handle technological advancements, deploying combat vehicles and mobile artillery, while Agnian troops use Ether machines to fight with autonomous weapons that use energy. Each of those nations travels under Colonies across the world of Aionios and fight an endless war.

In the game’s introduction, we take the role of three soldiers from the nation of Keves: Eunie, Noah, and Lanz. These three soldiers from Colony 9 manage to fend off a newly established Colony known as Colony Sigma and are then assigned a special mission that involves intercepting a mysterious airship. Of course, since they do not have much choice in the matter, the trio agrees to take on this mission.

However, when they reach the airship, they find out that Agnian forces were sent to the battle, with Noah and his team clashing swords with an Agnus squad consisting of fellow soldiers Mio, Sena, and Taion. This battle is interrupted by one of the airship’s crew members, Guernica Vandham, who claims that the soldiers have no idea who the ‘true enemy’ is. Before Guernica can divulge more information about this, he is shot by a di- I mean, a Consul known as “D” who then attacks Noah and Mio’s teams.

Vandham, barely surviving the shooting, activates what’s known as an Ouroboros Stone, which imbues Noah, Mio, Sena, Lanz, Taion, and Eunie with its powers. Noah and Mio then subsequently have a taste of these powers once they manage to Interlink and fuse together to attain an Ouroboros form. They fend off D for the time being and then hear a long overdue explanation from Guernica.

A mortally wounded Guernica explains that D and subsequently the Consuls are part of an organization known as Moebius, considered the ‘real enemy.’ Guernica then tells the kids something that we, the players, know well. There’s life beyond war, and people are supposed to live more than ten years. Before drawing his final breath, Guernica instructs the soldiers to find the City located in a region called Swordmarch, where they’ll find their answers.

However, this information (realistically) flies by the soldiers who go back to their Colonies only to find out that their homes have turned against them, and now they have essentially become fugitives thanks to what they initially think is a curse. So, now that they are forced back together, Noah and company must make their way through the world of Aionios and get the answers they are seeing about Ouroboros, Moebius, and the truth about the world itself.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 presents a very grim and dark story that only becomes more depressing as the game’s chapters pass. The game doesn’t pull its punches when it tries to be more emotionally moving, and, as you’d expect, you’ll be met with a lot of swerves and curve balls in the narrative. Of course, this is all to build an exceptional plot that masterfully manages to invest me into its main characters.

The characterization in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of its most unique aspects as it has managed to make every character relatable. The character that deserves special attention in this regard is Eunie, who becomes the game’s closest link to the player as she essentially provides the more natural reactions to the plot’s swerves out of all of the members of the 6-member cast.

Of course, this isn’t without mentioning how much she channels her own turbo trash energy where she spits all kinds of lines such as “Get Rekt” or “YUS, Eunie’s the Boss.” However, unlike other JRPGs, these things are part of Eunie’s overall personality. She’s essentially a rowdy punk girl who is sincere and tough to the core, and the aforementioned voice lines aren’t spammed ad nauseam.

This characterization can be found in every character in the main cast, with Noah and Mio taking center stage throughout most of the game. Lanz is one of my favorite characters in this regard because he essentially evolves from this “Meathead face tank” personality to a more complex character that heavily cares about the lives of others. He still is a relatively simple character, but his struggle to adapt to the new life he’s been given is palpable and beautifully executed.

But as I said before, this game will make you cry. At least I know that it did with me. The reason behind this is that the game knows how to use the flaws of the main cast to the fullest extent and put them in losing situations quite frequently. There’s one situation where the party essentially loses the fight entirely, and we see their descent into a state of hopelessness as we, the players, expect them to pull off a miracle that would turn things around… Only for it to never come to fruition.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has hit me profoundly and emotionally with its themes. It’s not just about the anti-war message that it fosters. More so, a deep dive into the concepts of regret, obsession, and hope. In a later article, I will address how this game tackles some of these themes. However, it shows that this game will provide a lot of emotional payoff for better and worse.

Of course, the world you explore will also be the home of many stories that aren’t told in the main game. The number of side quests available in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has lowered substantially compared to the previous entries. But this is more than made up for quality and production values.

No joke, some of the side quests you have access to can become more engaging than the main story itself. Some of my favorite side quest stories get into deep emotional territory as you familiarize yourself with the many different Colonies from different nations and eventually become involved in their affairs. Stories of loss, choice, freedom, and tragedy, alongside many other themes, become common as you explore the world.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t any flaws in the story. No, Xenoblade 3 has some curve balls you can see coming a mile away. We see the reveal of two mysterious characters known as N and M, and the story plays their eventual reveal as something of a big deal that you would’ve never guessed, but I feel that would’ve worked if you were blind and never paid attention to the game’s story thus far.

Some side quests also have flaws like this, where the payoff isn’t as good as the sidequest leads you to believe. Sometimes, I felt like I was being jibbed while completing these sidequests, and in others, I wasted my time. However, at the very least, most of the side quests have a deeper meaning and will organically contribute to something more significant.

That said, it’s time to engage with the world in a different way. Let’s talk about combat. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 retains its MMO-like system where players have to essentially attack the enemy while inputting commands that have different cooldowns. Your position matters the most in this game, as certain positions will influence how effective some attacks can be.

Xenoblade 3 brings a particular focus to this fact by having some field effects that can provide buffs; Enemies have attack ranges that you can dodge by basically standing out of the way of the attack; some of your input commands (known as Arts) can do more damage if you attack from the front, side, or rear. Overall, it would help if you always kept your position in mind as you tore through the enemies.

The game uses a Class system that comes straight from Xenoblade Chronicles X. This class system has been reworked to be more interesting while providing very intricate team-building mechanics. See, it’s not just about whether the classes are Attackers, Healers, or Defenders. But now, it’s about how they synergize with moves from other classes in their arsenal.

What I mean by this is that the moves a class can perform depends on which nation they come from. For example, Kevesi roles will work under the Xenoblade 1 Cooldown system, where actions become available after a set amount of time. Meanwhile, Agnian actions charge up with auto attacks, much like in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Each class will have access to moves from the opposite nation classes. So if you play a class like Zephyr, you can equip actions from Swordfighter, Heavy Guard, etc.

This approach opens up many possibilities for team building, making for some very versatile compositions where characters don’t have to stick to their roles. Sure, Healer classes are given the shaft on the higher levels, but at least they don’t get punished as hard as they have in other games. Not only that, but they can also contribute to the battle in ways that weren’t possible in previous entries.

For example, you can have a Healer Class that has attacks from an Attacker, allowing you to contribute to Xenoblade’s predilect Break > Topple > Daze/Launch combo that we know and love. Speaking of which, I should also note that enemies don’t have a counter Spike anymore, which means that you won’t get punished for doing a thing that the game spent countless hours teaching you. I’m looking at you, Xenoblade 1.

Instead, they have opted to increase enemies’ resistance to debuffs and Reaction effects. This isn’t necessarily a great compromise, but some classes circumvent these issues. Thanks to how the Class system works, there are easier ways to bypass the high resistances and still get away with doing the combo.

I’m not going to mince words here, this game is broken. Once you figure out the right strategies and team synergies with abilities, you’ll deal cosmic damage in no time. The community has already demonstrated that super bosses can go down in literal seconds with the right combination of abilities and damage scaling and additions.

While this is cool when showing off big numbers on victory screens (right now, at the time of publishing, I can deal up to 10 million in a single chain attack), it can also be a major turnoff for people looking for a proper challenge that isn’t self-made (like restricting your Class choices to the inheritors of said classes). I am of the opinion that a good game is a game that the player can break through freedom and creativity, so in this regard, the game stands out.

It’s wonderful to experiment with the game’s subclasses and find new combos that would let me deal insane damage. But unfortunately, even this Class system has its evident flaws. The first of the drawbacks is that outside of Zephyr, most of the starting Classes are basic and become irrelevant compared to other classes. Zephyr is the exception because it’s a pure dodge tank, and those are pretty much part of the Xenoblade meta over anything face tank.

And speaking of which, Healer classes pretty much get outdone by each other. Medic Gunner is the class that gets shafted the most as War Medic beats it to a pulp. But then comes Strategos to beat War Medic to the ground. Then we have Signifer being the best class in the game as it can essentially buff the entire party with every buff available in less than 10 seconds (including Regen, of course).

This imbalance problem also shows up in the class distribution. I don’t know why Monolith Soft has a hardon for Attacker classes, as most of the available Classes will be filling an Attacker role (and trust me, they suck at it with a few exceptions). But an 11 Attacker, 5 Defender, and 8 Healer class distribution will not be fun to work around, especially when you have to grind CP so you can master the classes.

Additionally, most of these classes are locked behind sidequests. While I praise the way these sidequests are implemented over others in the genre, it still can be aggravating for users who simply want to get the story done. The game encourages you to open up and explore while figuring out how the classes work. But doing that will essentially overlevel you and make you tear through the main story content.

There is a way to level yourself down and be on par with what the game expects you to do. Still, that system is locked behind New Game+, which is the most baffling decision considering that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition already solved this problem by implementing Expert Mode, which is available from the outset. Why go back on this and lock Expert Mode behind the game completion? I have no idea. But the first runs of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will be mixed in terms of the challenge because you can either trivialize it by completing every side quest and collecting all 900 pine cones or make it more challenging but unfun. After all, you don’t have the tools the other classes have.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of post-game content to warrant more than one playthrough of the game, allowing you to essentially take the story and other such events at your own pace while also gathering enough experience with your preferred classes. Of course, once you get into super boss territory, you’ll have to stick to certain metas, but other than those, you’ll be able to freely exploit the class system to your advantage.

The presentation of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 deserves its own section. Never have I been so taken by the scale of a game like this. Monolith Soft has pulled out all the stops to make a fantastic game that looks highly detailed, expands its environments, and creates beautiful vistas that players will never forget about.

Sure, the game starts you off with a generic grass plain section and then goes off into a desert. But as you progress through the game, you’ll be met with more beautiful locales that emphasize the atmosphere the game wants to go for. By the time you reach the halfway point of the game, you’ll be surprised at the amount of tech-heavy locations you will encounter that shower your screen with beautiful Neon colors.

The soundtrack of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has managed to surpass many legendary soundtracks that have become my favorites. Plenty of tracks compliment the game’s ambiance and theming, and other tracks that subsequently reach out for your emotions on a broader scale. Everyone knows about You Will Know Our Names ~ Finale. But I also want to highlight the VS. Boss battle theme becomes more climactic the more you approach the final parts of the battle.

And yes, most climactic fights have dynamic soundtracks that essentially trigger at certain HP % thresholds during the battle. In my opinion, this is a perfect choice as they bring a refreshing air to battles that is hard to replicate for many other RPGs. It helps every encounter feel unique as the player’s performance dictates the pace.

The voice-acting performances are also pretty top-notch. The main cast adapts to their roles and knows when to emote properly. It’s a step up from Xenoblade 2’s godawful voice acting. This extends to the extras, which can deliver outstanding performances. Chief among them is the voice actor for Triton, who entirely sticks to his character motif of being a pirate.

Unfortunately, this is where my compliments are starting to falter as the graphical and performance aspects of the game begin to lack. Monolith Soft has made Xenoblade 3 look fantastic, but at the end of the day, it is still a game being developed on the Nintendo Switch. This system, in my opinion, drags Xenoblade Chronicles 3 back massively.

While the game runs at 30 FPS consistently, it still has the memory leak issue that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 suffered from. This means that players who constantly go through multiple landmarks or play the game extensively will be punished for doing so and rewarded with either black screens of death or face crashes.

This happened six times throughout my playthrough, by the way. I think I lost ~30 hours of progress out of the 140 I spent completing the game before transitioning into post-game content because of these issues. Then again, you could chalk this up to the faulty engine (as far as I know, it’s the same engine that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Definitive Edition use).

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of my best video games of all time. While the game has issues, those issues are by far minimized with the game’s production values and gameplay mechanics. The fact that I was so obsessed with playing the game to the point where I was so engaged with its characters and world that I completed nearly every sidequest and even did some of the more demanding game-long ones (like the Dorrick redeployment quest, which has 10 phases) says more than enough about how genuinely fantastic this game is.

The story is one of the most beautiful and engaging game stories I have ever seen in a video game, easily trouncing Xenoblade Chronicles 1’s story. At the same time, its characters are deeply layered and complex. While the story can get a little bit predictable, most twists and turns are downright guaranteed to catch you off guard and even reach deep into your emotions. I was moved by the more dramatic moments in the game; that means a lot to me.

The combat is one of the most fun RPG experiences I’ve ever had. Its easy-to-learn but hard-to-master nature, alongside its versatility, is a noteworthy highlight that shows how great the game can be when you start diving deep into your character’s customization. Paired with unique boss battles that mixed up their game to make every encounter feel like it was its climactic battle, you will be surprised at how long you’ll spend battling, feeling like fights are going too fast.

I could delve deeper into aspects like the reworked Chain Attacks, the game’s themes, and how smoothly it implements mechanics and qualities found in previous entries in the series, and even then, I would feel like I wouldn’t be able to do the fantastic attributes of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 any justice. Again, while it may have flaws, it still is a worthy adventure to be remembered, and because of it, it deserves my highest recommendation and score.

Products mentioned in this post

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has its flaws like any other game. However, its qualities more than make up for them, bringing a beautiful JRPG experience like none other before seen in the series. The Class system is varied and fun to experiment with, the story is one of the best in the series history, and the aesthetic and production values are incredibly high. This game offers tons of content that will keep you glued to your Nintendo Switch and last a long time.

Pros
  • Incredible production values
  • Deep and intricate class system with tons of variety
  • Climactic boss fights with pacing dictated by the player’s skill
  • Wonderfully written characters with outstanding voice performances to match
  • Engaging side quests that will make you care for the inhabitants of the world
Cons
  • It’s held back by the Nintendo Switch hardware
  • The Class distribution is a bit unbalanced

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Ule Lopez