Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is, despite what the title suggests, the third entry into Monolith Soft’s RPG series that began on the Nintendo Wii. Its announcement during the Switch presentation at the beginning of the year came as quite the surprise as it has been less than two years since the release of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but it would later be revealed that this title has been in the works since before the release of X. Monolith Soft has created many memorable RPGs and Xenoblade 2 appears to be shaping up as quite the entry into the series.
The story follows Rex, a young boy who works as a salvager before finding himself involved with a blade by the name of Pyra. He decides to become a driver and aid Pyra in her journey to Elysium after she saves his life following an encounter with mysterious enemies. With the help of friends and various blades along along the way, they set off to face foes and uncover the many secrets in the world of titans they live on and everything else that stands in their way to get to Elysium. Although not a sequel in terms of story, it is a spiritual successor when it comes to general gameplay and the overlapping species returning from previous entries. While X took on a more open-world approach to the series with not quite as much focus on a grander story, Xenoblade 2 goes back to the original’s setup of a world that slowly opens as the player steadily progresses in the story. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to explore right off the bat both high and low. The only thing that will keep the player from exploring every inch of the world is the fiercely high leveled enemies that will chase them down if they get too close, keeping them from progressing where they aren’t quite ready to take on.
Aside from the main story, the Xenoblade series is known for its many side quests. Players will run into various NPCs along their journey in need of aid whether it’s fighting an enemy, finding items or delivering a message. Xenoblade 2 helps streamline looking for missions by making them pop up as an icon on the compass. Many items are scattered around randomly which can be collected during the journey, while some are only available through salving. Exclusive to Rex, he dons his full salvaging outfit and after a few quick button prompts dives down into the clouds below in order to gather treasures hiding below. These also require canisters in order to pull off, and will frequently bring up more than just treasures. Enemies will pop up along side any items discovered and have to be defeated in order to claim rewards.
Combat in Xenoblade is action with a turn-based twist to it. After initiating a fight, the currently-controlled character will automatically attack, with enemies also attacking at regular intervals. Every automatic attack will charge up the character’s special ARTS, which are determined by the blade they currently have equipped. Three blades can be chosen to take into battle and changed before or during battle. This changes the ARTS and weapons a character uses, with each blade having a natural affinity and elemental type so choosing these for each battle is key to making an ideal party. Once a special attack is charged it can be executed, and this is where the ability to freely roam in battle kicks in. Some attacks do more damage or have special affects attached to them depending on where the character attacks from. Often attacks will deal more damage from behind or by combining special effects a monster can be toppled to the ground in order to deal damage while the monster is downed. Xenoblade 2 also brings in combo bonuses, which can deal more damage depending on how a regular attack is canceled in order to execute one of their ARTS.
Having been in the works for quite a while, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is looking like it’s ready to launch Rex and friends into a brand new world filled to the brim with life all waiting to be discovered. Players can expect a title even larger than the original, with tons to complete for those who really want to max out every last inch of their characters. Those eager to hop into a huge RPG for Nintendo Switch with a world of titans, blades and a grand story to be told should be sure to check out Xenoblade Chronicles 2 when it launches in just a few weeks on December 1.