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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch) Hands-On Preview

by John Rairdin - November 15, 2017, 5:02 am PST
Total comments: 2

The final system seller of the year is almost here!

Whenever Nintendo releases a new system, I buy it. While I have no problem being critical of their games (I think Mario Odyssey is merely a good game and not an amazing game), I am nonetheless the perfect consumer that they have molded me to be. But in a universe where I am capable of exhibiting the self control necessary to not buy Nintendo systems on launch day, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would have likely been the game I’d have bought a Switch for. Don’t get me wrong: I think Breath of the Wild is one of the most important games of the past decade, but I could play it on Wii U. Splatoon 2, Arms, Mario + Rabbids, all fine games but not system sellers. Even Mario Odyssey is fun, but I wouldn’t have bought a system for it. The Xenoblade series however, that’ll do it. I consider the original Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X to be two of the finest JRPGs ever made. I bought a New 3DS XL purely to have a good excuse to play through the original Xenoblade again. What I’m trying to get across is that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a lot to live up to for me. While I feared that a shorter development time paired with a reused engine would result in more of a rehash than a full sequel, what I’ve seen so far is one of the freshest follow-ups I’ve played in a long time.

As expected the world itself is absolutely beautiful. Each continent is itself a giant creature roaming a sea of clouds. Moving from a leg to the back to the head of one of these colossal life forms certainly brings me back to playing the original Xenoblade. The first major Titan you explore is presumably, intentionally similar to the early sections of the Bionis from the first game. The difference being that unlike the Bionis, this Titan is very much alive. Seeing what at first looks like a mountain twist and turn leading to the realization that it is in fact a head is unlike any video game world I’ve ever experienced. Additionally as you explore the Titans, absolutely no loading occurs unless you fast travel. The game looks amazing on the TV with sharp visuals and gorgeous colors. In handheld mode, the game does take a noticeable hit to resolution, but draw distance remains seemingly endless. It’s here that you’re able to appreciate that the Xenoblade Chronicles X engine has not aged a day and still presents a remarkably unified world.

The real changes in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 however, come in actual gameplay. Combat may look similar at a glance, but in reality it has been completely overhauled. Gone is the giant bar full of moves that filled the bottom of the screen in previous titles. Replacing it are two diamond shiped pallets on each side of the screen. These correspond to the directional buttons and face buttons. Your Blades are displayed on the left and your arts on the right. The upshot of this is that all of your options are only a button press away. You’ll never have to frantically scroll across a screen full of icons to hit the art that will take advantage of whatever brief debuff a teammate put on your enemy. On the other hand, this also gives the impression of very limited options. At any given time you’ll have no more than four arts available. Switching Blades allows you to bring in a different set of arts, but a cooldown is required between switching.

All of that flows into the overarching change in focus for Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s combat: it requires commitment. Unlike previous titles, your character will only attack while standing still. In addition, your basic auto attacks are grouped in three-part combos, which grow stronger with each successive hit. However, many of your arts receive a bonus from attacking from a certain position. This means that getting into position to use an art now requires you to not only stop attacking, but reset any auto attack sequence you may be in the middle of. Being deliberate in not only movement but when to move has a huge effect on the feel and flow of battle.

While at first I was quickly clicking through tutorial messages, I soon found many more new ideas than I had anticipated. The changes I spoke of are far from the only ones, but they clearly represent the new direction Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes as compared to its predecessors. Despite having spent many hundreds of hours deeply engaged in this franchise, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 feels like a very new game with lots for me to learn and master. I won’t speak on the story in this preview as I have no interest in potentially ruining anything for anyone. Suffice it to say that building up the will to hold off on moving on to the next story quest for long enough to write this preview was a serious challenge. With that being said I leave you now as I still have so much Xenoblade Chronicles 2 left to play.

A review copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was provided by Nintendo

Talkback

Link LinkNovember 15, 2017

I have to admit that, due to my game buying nature, this is a title I'd buy pretty much on name / franchise alone at this point even though I don't have that much experience or attachment to the series. I've yet to play the first XC (due to the time I know it can take I keep putting it off for other shorter titles and XCX that I was really excited for a stopped playing after a month or so because the game was getting complicated and so I wanted to start reading through the online manual to get a better understanding of what was going on but never got back into it and started playing some other stuff instead. I never even got a Skell yet in that game. I'll rectify it one of these days.

With XC2, the trailers I'd seen in previous directs showing different beast worlds and warring factions were enough to sell me on the game but I just don't feel the same interest in the scenario of this game compared to XCX. I have yet to watch the XC2 focused Direct either since I'm sold enough on the game and don't need to spoil much more about it. That said, reading these impressions is the most hyped I've been about the game. I get that there is obviously still some intricacies to the combat but it sounds a bit more streamlined which is good. I think one of the reasons why I succeeded in putting so much time into BotW compared to XCX is the simpler combat mechanics. But also hearing from someone who has played both of the first two games but seemed to have some fears about or wasn't fully warmed up to this sequel either and yet has been blown away has now got me more interested in this game than anything else that has been released about it so far.

Thanks for the impressions. Look forward to seeing the final review.

Mop it upNovember 15, 2017

As someone who did complete both previous games (not 100% but still takes a long time without), it's good to hear this one offers something a little different. While there may just be two games, with the amount I played them it would feel a bit stale if this were exactly the same as XCX.

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Switch

Game Profile

Xenoblade 2 Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Monolith Software Inc.
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Release Dec 01, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: Xenoblade 2
Release TBA
eu: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Release Dec 01, 2017
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
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