At the time of its release in December 2017, we at Binfogamer.com let the latest Monolith Soft title slip through our fingers. However, it is never too late to get it back, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a real gem arrived at the end of the first and surprising year of Nintendo Switch.
After so many months, why should you get this epic jrpg? Will it live up to the very high standards set by its two predecessors, judged to be among the best titles of their kind ever?
A "titanic" climb
Alrest is the kingdom of Titans, immense creatures that dominate the boundless sea of clouds, orbiting around the World Tree. Numerous races populate the backs of these giants, which they are slowly dying, dragging with it the civilizations that inhabit them.
Rex, the protagonist of the adventure, is an idealistic and dreamy young boy. He he is sure that the answer to all the problems of his world lies in the Elysium, a kind of terrestrial paradise placed on top of the impassable tree in the center of Alrest.
So when it meets Pyra, an enchanting Gladius who asks him to accompany her up there, granting him the necessary power to face the journey, he enthusiastically accepts.
The plot, disconnected from the other chapters of the series if not for some reference and quotation, it continues following their journey from titan to titan. The different narrative themes are introduced in a simple way, but over time they acquire more and more weight and seriousness.
The world beyond the main campaign
To complete the characterization of the various characters, they do an excellent job i empathic dialogues, short optional cut-scenes that can be activated under certain conditions. On these occasions the various members of the party will interact with each other, giving us a way to discover various hidden sides of their personality.
Unfortunately, English dubbing often doesn't do them justice, between too marked regional accents that sometimes clash with the context of the scene and the neglected lip synchronization. On the other hand, it is present as a free dlc the ability to set the audio in Japanese.
Alongside the main story, there is a large number of side quests which further expand the game world. Very often they are trivial missions of collecting objects or killing certain targets, but they are supported by various subplots that will push us to want to see the conclusion.
Finally, there is a last type of secondary activity, mercenary missions. These missions will ask us to send some of our gladius around Alrest, and they will complete themselves after some time, rewarding us with experience, items and money.
A universe to be discovered step by step
Exploration plays a central role in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. With each titan Monolith Soft is committed to always providing a new unique “little” open world, with its own landscapes, music, biomes, cities, populations with different historical and cultural backgrounds to discover.
The various maps are full of enemies, points of interest and secrets to never leave the player the feeling of wandering in an empty and bare world, but instead constantly stimulate him to move in search of new places to discover. Some areas change in appearance depending on the time of day or under other particular conditions, releasing different hidden passages each time.
Finally, as per tradition for the series, from the first game area we will find enemies of various levels, from the closest to ours up to the huge optional bosses of level 100 or higher. At first they will discourage us from visiting their territories, but at the end of the game they will become our new objectives.
Navigating the world is facilitated by the presence of the fast travel, a way to instantly teleport to certain previously discovered points of interest.
From the map for quick travel it is possible to consult the location of collection points, areas where you can take advantage of the field skills of the gladius, the location of the empathic dialogues available that we lack to see and much more.
By contrast, the minimap at launch was extremely poor in information, but the latest free updates have helped make it a more valuable tool.
The Gladius, the living weapons
Fundamental element of the gameplay are I glad, artificial life forms born from the resonance between a nucleic crystal and a Ductor, the owner of the gladius. They they exist in all shapes and sizes, and possess a large number of active and passive skills useful both outside and inside combat.
Some of their skills will be needed while exploring, to create new passages or unleash events that clear the way to new play areas.
In battle they function like gods real living pieces of equipment, which can be upgraded both by assigning them special modification chips, and by completing various objectives that will enhance and expand their skill tree.
During the adventure we will be given some gladius, but most we'll have to find them ourselves, accumulating large numbers of nucleic crystals and hoping for good luck.
Because if some particularly powerful gladius, such as Pyra herself, feature unique design elements and skills, in most cases we will find "common" gladius, whose characteristics will be generated randomly.
The means to encourage the evocation of the desired gladius are very imprecise and limited, so collectors will be forced to engage in a long and tedious crystal farming.
A multi-faceted combat system
The fight takes place in real time, with various characters performing automatic attacks as soon as they are near the enemy.
The player is given full control over only one of the three active party members, but Companion AI is smart enough to understand what strategy you are trying to carry out and react promptly to help us in case of difficulty.
Through the D-pad it will be possible to instantly choose which of the three equipped blades to use, while with the b, x and y keys it will be possible to execute the ductor techniques. These special attacks have a cooldown to be used and have various side effects, from healing to applying altered status.
Using the a key it will be possible to execute the gladius techniques, the most powerful moves at our disposal. They have four different power levels, and they need ductor techniques to be loaded. Finally, by performing gladius techniques of different elements in succession, we will be able to obtain even more powerful effects.
Our allies will be key in this phase, thanks to the ability to order them to unleash their finishing moves via the triggers.
Knowing how to combine the different types of attacks and build a party that can support our strategy will therefore be essential to overcome the most heated clashes.
In these few lines however, we barely scratched the surface of the combat system, which continues to deepen with new mechanics well beyond half of the main campaign.
The eye wants its part, but ...
It is now necessary to analyze the major weakness of the work, the technical side.
In docked mode the game remains anchored to one resolution of just 720p, maintaining a mostly stable framerate at 30 fps. Unfortunately in portable mode the dynamic resolution drops further in the most frenetic scenes, without however bringing particular benefits to the framerate.
A rather serious shortcoming, especially considering that the game is an exclusive exclusive of the hybrid console, and which could therefore put the potential of the latter in a bad light.
In reverse, the game's soundtrack is amazing, alternating adrenaline rock songs with suggestive choral works. The environmental ost have different variations depending on the time of day, perfectly accompanying the exploration of the titan on duty.
Conclusions on Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Given the name it carries on its back, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 must take on a large number of responsibilities and expectations.
Having overcome the obstacle of graphics and, possibly, of the much discussed character design, you will find yourself enchanted by the universe that Monolith Soft has created to be explored in each of its smallest nooks and crannies, while a story full of emotions slowly meshes between one fierce clash and another.
For both veterans of the series and newcomers, this is a new beginning, a journey into a title that has been able to take its risks to further evolve a concept born seven years earlier on the Wii.
Find out more about the DLC Torna The Golden Country we invite you to read our review. If you are curious to know the origins of the series and the links between the various chapters, read ours guide to the "Xeno" series.