Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Preview — Welcome to the World of Alrest
Ahead of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's launch on Nintendo Switch, DualShockers gives some early impressions on the wonderful fantasy title.
With Xenoblade Chronicles 2‘s release date quickly approaching, many fans are excited to get their hands one of Nintendo’s most beloved RPG series. However, perhaps you’re still on the fence about it. If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered. There’s so much about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that could and should be discussed, but we’re here to give you an idea of what you can expect to find in the world of Alrest — without spoiling the story, of course.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the sequel to 2010’s Xenoblade Chronicles for Nintendo Wii. The game hosts a new world as well as an original main cast of characters for players to discover throughout the story. This is where Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is going to differ from the standalone Wii U title Xenoblade Chronicles X — the story isn’t shaped by completing missions in an enormous world, but instead we find the game focuses on character and world building along with creating a strong bond between characters and their missions.
For instance, in Chapter 2 the player will find themselves in the continent of Gormott, an enormous Titan, and home to many beasts and humans alike. The events that bring the cast here can only be described as a gesture of true friendship, one that is a theme that continues to play a massive role during each cinematic scene. As entertaining as it is fighting monsters with Rex, his blade, Pyra, and the rest of the party, I don’t think it would be as fun without the bond that Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s story creates between the player and this world.
Rex is not the strongest or smartest protagonist, but he does have a strong sense of will power and a genuine love for the people in his life. Furthermore, this allows the player to be on the same level of understanding about Alrest and its many layers of inner workings as Rex. You see, as a scavenger, Rex doesn’t understand much of what it takes to be a driver and, over time with the player, he learns the ins and outs of the part.
Interestingly, the tutorial prompts are presented to the player in small waves as more systems are introduced. Gameplay in battles will dramatically change depending on how large your party is or what blade you have equipped; it’s possible to equip up to three blades after a certain point in the game. Blades are created by using core items that, when used, will randomly roll the stats of a brand new blade party member with their unique skills and attacks.
In battle, it’s possible to switch between the three equipped blades depending on the enemy that you’re fighting — don’t worry, Pyra won’t get jealous. These blades will change the element type of Rex’s attacks as well as his special skill. Each blade has its unique ability list and equipment to ensure that they are all unique depending on how the player customizes them, the four that we can reveal are: Common Female Blade, Common Male Blade, Common Brute Blade, and Common Beast Blade.
On the subject of battles, the battle system is relatively easy to learn, but requires some close attention against higher level enemies. When entering battle, the first thing Rex will begin doing is attacking. Each time Rex lands a hit, a skill gauge will start to fill up. After a skill is used, the special attack meter will fill up, which needs a total of four bars to use the most powerful attack, but can be used after one bar is full for a more simple move.
The player doesn’t always need to fight — most enemies running around won’t even try to initiate a battle. However, like past Xenoblade titles, high-level enemies roam the lands as well and can quickly destroy you if you get too close. Running away in battle isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish and often if a high-level enemy gets their sites on Rex, he will more often than not be killed in one attack.
Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen in Xenoblade Chronicles 2; after death the game just brings the player back to the beginning of an area. Being an offensive player, I found myself facing off against high-level beasts when I know I probably shouldn’t have, but these fights would quickly put me in my place as Rex’s HP hit 0. That being said, it is possible to fight off enemies that are higher level than the player, they just require a closer watch on all the skill gauges.
Besides the main quest, there is a lot to do in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Whether it’s looking for rare items to craft or putting time and money into scavenging at select spots, this game can easily distract the player from their responsibilities to the story. However, as side quests are accepted, the game doesn’t put a time limit or pressure for the player to finish it right away. It’s possible just to take all the quests and come back to them when you feel like.
During chapter 2, I decided to spend time doing a handful of the sidequest, which varied from finding specific items to searching for vandals. Each had some exciting parts, and some even had multiple ways to complete them, but I felt like the reward for a few of the side quests weren’t worth the money and time that I put into them. Still, these quests did offer things like a recipe or unique item… but I really just wanted money at that point.
Regarding graphics, the Nintendo Switch runs the cinematic scenes wonderfully. I couldn’t have been happier with the visually stunning character models and world creation, albeit while the system is docked. In handheld mode, you’re going to see a dip in resolution while running in the field as well as when facing multiple opponents in battle.
In both modes, I experience some framerate issues during battle, but this was also because I purposely gathered about 8 or 9 enemies to one area with a full party and unleashed a wave of attacks. With that said, this only happened once — but it was clearly struggling. However, it’s entirely possible to just face off against the 2-3 enemy packs that are roaming the lands and not run into any significant framerate issues.
Everything about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is turning out to be a testament to the fans. Every scene between this new cast of characters during their time on Gormott shows that Monolith Soft knows how to tell an engaging story — something that was missing from the less story-centric Xenoblade Chronicles X. We can now experience a depth of emotion with the cast; humor, anger, determination, it’s all there for the fans that loved the powerful narrative of the original Xenoblade Chronicles.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is attempting to balance story with a profoundly customizable battle experience. So far it’s working for me and I’m eagerly pushing on through unknown areas while facing unknown enemies. However, with characters like Rex and Pyra leading the charge, I don’t think anything can stand in the way of the adventure that lies ahead.