Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 182018
 

After loving both of the previous Xenoblade games, I recently finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has seen an odd reception. Some people love it, while other people hate it.

While it has some flaws, I think it’s a pretty fantastic game.

Like its predecessors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an action RPG with an almost MMO-like combat system where your characters auto-attack until you use special attacks on a cooldown system. This time, you have three special attacks at a time, based on which Blade you have active. You can switch between three different Blades during battle (technically four, as Rex), which gives you a nice variety of moves.

Blades also have elemental attacks, which you can chain together in a system that seems complicated at first but isn’t so bad once you get used to it. By the end of the game, I loved stacking as many elemental orbs on a boss as possible so I could break them with an Elemental Burst.

As you’d expect from a Xenoblade game, there are many vast areas to explore with secret locations to find and items to gather. This time, it is spread across several “Titans,” massive creatures that fly through the Cloud Sea with civilizations built upon them. That’s a cool setting.

To me, however, it felt a little different from the past Xenoblade games. That sense of exploration was strong at the start, but the more I played, the more it started feeling like a regular JRPG progress, just with some large areas.

But that’s okay! I love JRPGs, so feeling like a regular JRPG isn’t a bad thing.

For me, the most important part of a JRPG is its story. So how does Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s story hold up? I think people sell it short when they claim it’s simple or read too much into the director’s “boy-meets-girl” comment.

I mean, technically yes, the plot kicks off when Rex meets Pyra and agrees to go on a journey with her to find Elysium, but there’s so much more. The quest to reach Elysium itself is because the world is dying, there are numerous points where the story deals with discrimination (mainly anti-Blade sentiments) and other serious themes, and the antagonists are credible threats.

And while it might use some JRPG cliches, it also subverts some in ways I enjoyed.

Click for minor Xenoblade Chronicles 2 spoiler
For example, Mor Ardain is set up to be the typical JRPG “evil empire,” to the point where I assumed going into the game that they’d be at least secondary antagonists. A technologically advanced empire at war to expand its territory and it’s sending a “Special Inquisitor” after you?

But Mor Ardain isn’t evil at all, its expansion is because their own Titan is dying, and the Special Inquisitor turns out to be an awesome character who becomes an ally pretty early on while still remaining loyal to the empire.

Now, I would say the story is more personal. It had grand, world-changing stakes, but most of the protagonists and antagonists are driven by very personal reasons.

There are humorous moments, but also serious moments and tragic scenes. I loved the main cast, especially Mòrag, who might be my favorite Xenoblade character in general.

(Speaking of characters, the fanservice controversy is way overblown.)

Now would it really be a Xenoblade game without some crazy twists? Don’t worry, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 delivers! One of the biggest twists especially delighted me with the cleverness of how it works.

Click for major Xenoblade Chronicles 2 spoiler
While it was marketed as being completely unrelated to the first Xenoblade Chronicles, there is a direct connection.

Not only was that a shock, but I suspect it will work in reverse: if you play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 first and then play the original, you’ll realize the connection then.

But I did call it a flawed game, so let’s get into some of the negatives. There’s nothing major wrong with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but it has lots of little things that just made me ask, “Why did they think this was a good idea?”

You get new Blades essentially through a gacha system. Even though you don’t spend real money like in the dreaded mobile gacha games, it’s still annoying to use Core Crystal after Core Crystal and keep getting generic Blades, since it’s luck-based.

Then there are the side quests. Some side quests are great, especially since a lot of the fetch quests have been relegated to Mercenary Missions instead, and the Blade quests in particular have their own stories and cutscenes. But the ones that need you to gather tons of a particular type of item? Those annoyed me.

(Meanwhile, Ursula’s tedious quest falls into its own special category of “Why did they think this was a good idea?”)

Switching around Blades to get past field skill checks, sending out mercenary groups manually since there’s no “send again” option, and other minor things just added a bit of frustration to an otherwise excellent game.

Nevertheless, these flaws are just a minor strike against a fantastic journey across a beautiful world. It might drive completionists insane, but if you’re in it for the story, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 delivers.

Click for major Xenoblade Chronicles 2 spoiler
Except I’m not all that crazy about the post-credits scene of Pyra and Mythra returning as two separate people. It felt too deus ex machina.

Yes I know there are theories about how it technically fits with the lore. It still felt contrived to force a super-happy ending.

Although considering Pyra/Mythra/Pneuma is the “child” of the Architect and sacrificed herself to save everyone, I’m tempted to handwave the resurrection part as being because she’s basically Jesus.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 doesn’t feel as epic as the original Xenoblade Chronicles, but it still tells a solid story with great moments and excellent characters, with a beautiful world to explore. If you have a Switch and you’re looking for a good JRPG, this is one you shouldn’t miss.

What did you think of Xenoblade Chronicles 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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  One Response to “Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Was a Fantastic Journey”

  1. […] Torna is a DLC expansion to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which I played and enjoyed earlier this year. […]

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