I’ve always been a fan of JRPG’s, but taking the time to sit and play them has grown more and more difficult as I’ve grown older. This has kept me from enjoying games that I know I would love, such as the Xenoblade Chronicles series that has been a mainstay on Nintendo platforms for the past few years. Despite not having much experience in the franchise, I’ve taken on the task of reviewing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, hoping to offer a bit of an outsider’s perspective on the game. Here’s my thoughts so far, keeping in mind that I’ve only dipped my toes into the first couple of chapters.
And what an intro set of experiences these were, with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 not sparing any time before tossing players into its fascinating world. Our intro to the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is at times jarring, but always intriguing, delivering explanations when necessary, and letting the world just be when that is more appropriate.
The story is, so far, pretty boilerplate JRPG, but only in the larger sense. You’re Rex, a plucky hero who comes from nowhere to become “The One” who can save the world. There’s ancient civilizations, giant creatures, vast swarms of monsters, and special swords. I won’t try to break this all down, because I’m still wrapping my head around it.
Thankfully, not having much experience with the Xenoblade Chronicles series is so far not holding me back. I’ve researched the past games to prep for this review, and it’s clear that the connections are tangential at most. Maybe some stuff will come up later in the game, but as it stands, players who have yet to experience any Xenoblade games can pick this one up without much worry.
Chronicles 2 also does hold your hand in the beginning, with a kind tutorial helper that will chime in whenever anything new comes up. This tutorial is interesting in that it acts like a character, though it’s not clear that it really is one. This helps though because he can say things like “don’t worry about X, we’ll get to that later”, and you can relax a bit about all the crazy stuff being thrown your way.
The real star of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has so far been its world
And new, crazy stuff will come up quite often. Combat has continued to expand during my time with the game. It began as a simple affair, with your character attacking automatically, allowing you to just sit and wait for your Arts, special attacks, to charge up. Further into the game though it expands greatly, crafting a unique and strategic bit of JRPG fighting. I’m fascinated to see how deep this rabbit hole goes.
But the real star of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has so far been its world. Covered in a giant Cloud Sea, people and other creatures all live on the backs of Titans, which are slowly dying off. This means that this world is on the slow path to Armageddon, as the literal ground beneath their feet dies and falls away. Below the clouds seems to be the remnants of an older society, though it could just be fallen debris from above. Rex dives down to find treasure, and this sets up some cool ideas that could be fleshed out later.
What’s not working for me so far is the voice acting, which will thankfully be fixed via a Day-1 update. It was recently announced that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would feature dual-audio, and I can’t wait for that to arrive so I can flip the switch. It’s not that the voices are outright bad in English, and I don’t want to disparage the immense work the team likely put in, but the voices aren’t matching the characters for me, and there’s some repetitive dialogue, especially in combat, that I’d prefer to tone down.
So far my trip into Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has went about as expected. I’m confused, bewildered, and intrigued, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Does it lean a little too heavily on JRPG tropes at times? Sure. Are the cutscenes long and intrusive? Yep. Yet I enjoy all the cutscenes, and I have fun with the tropes, and it seems like the game could be preparing to mess with those tropes in interesting ways. If you were worried about diving into the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 without any past experience, my recommendation is to do like Rex looking for treasure under the Cloud Sea, and just jump in head first.