Every so often you’ll come across the argument that some games are a little too long. Notwithstanding where one stands on the matter – personally, I was never fond of the idea that we should hope to get less for our money – it can be nice to find a game that completely throws caution to the wind and offers an endless spread of things to do. That’s what the Xenoblade series is all about, offering a seemingly endless spread of opportunities for players to dive into, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is no exception.
Forget about being thrifty with your time – let’s slam dozens of hours into this RPG just like the old days of staying up late after school!
In our world, wars are fought for any number of reasons – power, territory, money, resources, you know the deal. In the world of Aionios, though, the stakes are a little more high. The nations of Keves and Agnus are locked in an eternal conflict over the stuff of life itself, with the victor of each battle claiming the loser’s life force. The combatants on both sides are literally fighting to live, in other words, and that’s how it’s always been. Everything changes when a Kevesian soldier named Noah starts to reconsider this arrangement, though.
A chance encounter with the Agnusian soldier Mio, combined with the interference of some mysterious technology, allows Noah and his companions to break free of the cycle of life and death. The team – a combined force of Kevesian and Agnusian members – will try to survive in a world that’s both hungry for their lives and in desperate need of the change they’ll bring.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 continues the series’ tradition of giant, quest-filled RPG epics that players can sink dozens of hours into. Aionios is an intimidatingly big place, packed to the brim with goodies to collect, monsters to fight and treasure to discover. The game’s narrative gently encourages expanding your horizons as well, since following the plot will gradually lead you to new sections of the world with new things to do. That’s certainly no accident – the trials and travails of Noah’s group are interesting, but the real meat of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 lies in discovering the infinite wrinkles in the game’s worldbuilding via exploration and discovery.
There’s something magical about scouring the land, searching for a way to grab a hidden supply drop or repair a ruined mech while battling any monsters that dare to get in your way.
As with most RPGs of this nature, Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s combat ties everything together. It’s a real-time system with roots in MMORPGs that’s focused on managing your character’s skill cooldowns and positioning appropriately to use your strongest attacks to the utmost. This is pretty simple at first, since each character who joins the team comes with their own class and fits into a specific niche. Noah, for instance, is a swordfighter in the same vein as Shulk from the first Xenoblade Chronicles, gaining bonuses for attacking from the side or behind, while his friends Eunie and Lanz are a healer and tank respectively.
That gets upended as you proceed through the game, though. New characters like Mio and her Agnusian squad join, offering unusual takes on these concepts – an evasion-focused tank, debuff-focused healer and a damage-dealer that’s less interested in positional attacks as opposed to just smashing things in the face. It’s not long after they join before you unlock the ability to share classes between characters, of course, allowing you to combine abilities between them to customize your experience even further…and it’s not long after that until you start recruiting new, temporary characters called Heroes and using them to unlock new classes altogether that can mix up your strategy in even zanier ways.
You don’t know what power is until you’ve recruited the Yumsmith. Trust me on that one. Experimenting with all the options that you obtain between classes, accessories and stat-boosting gems can lead to hours of fun.
With so much to see, do and fight, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 probably could have gotten away with skimping a little on the presentation side of things. That’s especially true given this game is a Switch exclusive, and the hybrid console’s tech was kind of long in the tooth even when it initially launched a few years ago. Via the magic of dynamic resolution scaling and stylized character designs, though, it looks fantastic and runs just about as well. Sure, you’ll run into some spooky aliasing as the Switch desperately scales things down when there’s too much onscreen, but that’s a small price to pay for a reasonable framerate and some impressive characters and environments.
It’s a testament to Nintendo’s technical skill that they’re still able to make games look this good on a device that’s essentially an outdated iPad. Oh, and Xenoblade’s fascination with various English dialects is present and accounted for in the dub, so feel free to turn that on and experience a vocal journey across the pond.
RPG fans looking for somewhere to sink their next hundred hours or so will find that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 comes highly recommended. There’s an enormous amount of content to explore and systems to experiment with. All the hallmarks of the series are present – a huge world, interesting characters and a narrative that’s bound to resonate with players, and is a must-have for Switch owners that have even the tiniest bit of interest in the genre.