Chronicles of Xennic
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the indirect sequel to the critically acclaimed first entry which released for the Nintendo Wii. Released on December 1, 2017 Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was developed by Monolith Software and published by the good folks over at Nintendo. Featuring an entirely new cast and world to explore, the action RPG takes place in a universe where the world is an endless ocean of clouds and civilizations live on the backs of colossal titans. Does this game have what it takes to stand alongside other great Action RPGs released this year?
[Reviewed entirely in handheld mode only.]
Right out the gate, Xenoblade Chronicles looks like a Wii U game ported to Switch. Standing alongside the current generation of consoles it’s very clear that the Switch was never intended to perform at the scale of the competitive boxes. With that said, it is very easy to give a pass on the intensity of the graphics, especially because the game never felt like it was designed to be photorealistic. There are some pretty grandiose moments that are let down by the noticeable pixelation on screen. The environments look vibrant and colorful but also lack the necessary depth to bring the desire to explore out. A lot of grassy plains, straw huts, and gray scale mountains make up the majority of the settings. The cloud sea looks beautifully white in some instances and then super choppy in others. It’s easy to chalk up as a mobile game and compare it to others in that category, which is part of what makes Switch games hard to classify, but even then it isn’t doing anything mind blowing with its visuals. Even Character design seems very cliche and basic. There isn’t anything inherently bad about the graphics but there isn’t anything great either. It’s just acceptable. Rather, expected graphic performance at this point.
Xenoblade Chronicles is heavily driven by a story based in mystery surrounding the world inhabited by the characters. Questions seem to never stop popping up, which at first is very exciting. As the progression continues, very rarely do they seem to tie up the story it began. The game continues to throw interesting plot details in the mix, but 18hours in most of those elements haven’t been addressed. The concept of the cloud sea was hands down the most interesting part of the experience to that point, but even that mystery seemed to become a back story. Ultimately, Xenoblade felt like a collection of short background stories that never really turned to much. It’s very possible all the plot lines come to a concrete and hopefully good ending, however 15hours with little to know threads arriving at an impactful end isn’t very good.
After 5 minutes of playing, the game was on mute. Nothing more to say. MUTE. This game is preferable without sound on this portable console.
The combat system was absolutely terrible and unexciting. The end. However let’s look at it a little further. For some awful reason the battle system is automatic. Just get close to the enemy that’s being targeted and the character fires away building up a special meter that’s activated by pressing one of the face buttons. But wait, every special move is a quick time event that determines how much damage you do. Seriously! That’s how it works. Awful. The rest of the game plays like any standard rpg. All of those elements are executed perfectly but good lord was the combat terrible. It was pretty cool to be able to unlock new blades, which are Pokémon/Persona like battle buddies, by finding cores in the field or after beating monsters. There were also a lot of crafting and item menus and mechanics to get a grasp of, so much so that 18hours definitely felt like just scratching the surface. The one thing that’s definite, the combat system was really bad. Did we go over that yet?
Crazy thing about this whole experience: it was a ton of fun. There was nothing that really stood out to explain what made the game fun, but it was absolutely a challenge to put the game down. Completing side quest and main quest just felt like a daily task that could really be enjoyed. There isn’t really much to help justify how much fun playing the game was despite all its flaws. Perhaps it was the simplicity of drop in drop out or maybe the convenience of playing anytime any place, either way there was something inexplicable about the way Xenoblade Chronicles called for my attention. This will probably go down as the worst paragraph ever written in a review, but there are no words to use to explain why this game was so fun it was hard to put down. Best bet? Blame the plot.
Xenoblade Chronicles has this magical hook that makes it inexplicably hard to put down. For some reason, despite all of its flaws, it just keeps pulling you back to play more and more each time. With bad combat, terrible audio, mediocre visuals, and a series of plots that fly around with no direction the expectation would be to stop playing pretty fast. Truthfully though, the urge to keep playing the game still creeps up here and there. Diehard Nintendo fans will never let this review stand but unfortunately Xenoblade Chronicles just isn’t a good game.