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Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Switch) Preview

by John Rairdin - July 7, 2022, 9:02 am EDT
Total comments: 6

Our thoughts after the first few hours.

Ever since the original Xenoblade on Nintendo Wii, Monolith has been providing Nintendo fans with one of the most inventive and stunning open-world action JRPGs on the market. Whether the giant, long dead husks of Bionis and Mechonis in Xenoblade Chronicles, the much more lively titans of its sequel, or the seamless alien world of Mira in Xenoblade Chronicles X, each of these games felt distinct and somewhat isolated from each other. While yes, the original Xenoblade and Xenoblade 2 would ultimately prove to be connected by more than just numeric succession, each existed largely independently. That’s part of what makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 so exciting. It represents the first direct follow up to two incredible games.

I won’t go deep into the story, partially because I’m simply not allowed to at this time, but also because I hold the stories of these games in high regard and have no interest in spoiling them. Rest assured that any story details I do mention are covered in what you’d essentially consider the tutorial. By Xenoblade standards, what I’ll mention in this preview correlates roughly to the events before you even leave Colony 9 at the start of the original Xenoblade.

What struck me immediately is the huge shift in tone for Xenoblade 3 versus the prior two mainline entries. There is no innocent youth who is pulled away from his home by the desire to do right. From the moment Xenoblade 3 begins, Noah, your primary character, is already a trained and capable soldier. He has been for his entire life. Rather than an archetypal call to action to send him out into the world, Noah is forced into an alliance with his enemies in order to flee for their lives. Their own nations pursue them after Noah and his party gain the power of the Oroburos somewhat against their will, allowing them to fuse into powerful beings. The world of Xenoblade 3 is one of turmoil and war, subverting any expectations you may have had based on the endings on Xenoblade or Xenoblade 2.

This is not to say that Xenoblade 3 feels unlike any other game in the series. The real-time, menu-based combat is here, built on the back of changes made in both Xenoblade 2 and its expansion, Torna ~ The Golden Country. While there are no sentient blades to accompany you on your journey, the new class system serves much the same purpose without the tedious gacha mechanics. Each character can learn the class of every other member of the party. While classes are separated into three basic categories—tank, attacker, and healer—each class has its own entirely unique moveset. The more you use a class, the more you’ll rank it up. Mastering a class by reaching rank ten then allows you to carry select skills and arts from that class over to another. This allows for a lot of freedom in how you ultimately build out each character.

The world is unified but separated into loading zones much like the original Xenoblade. That being said, the size of each zone is comparable to several of the original’s areas combined. The world looks beautiful too, just as you’d expect from a Xenoblade game. My initial impression is that Monolith has reigned in some small elements of their technical ambition as compared to Xenoblade 2 in exchange for performance and image quality. The grass doesn’t draw out quite as far but is significantly more 3D in appearance. To my eye the materials feel slightly pulled back as well. The result, however, is an overall higher rendering resolution in both docked and handheld mode. The opening areas also run significantly better than the prior game, rarely straying from their 30 frames-per-second target. I will say however that the culling distance on grass near to the camera is a bit too far out. It's fine if the camera is high in the air, but if you play with a lower camera or occasionally like to explore in first-person, like me, you may notice grass disappearing in a circle around the camera. Finally, I’ve noticed that at times, environment textures appear slightly unstable. This may be a result of image upscaling. I’ve spotted some edge flicker in select situations that could be a sign of this. It could also be the result of tessellation, as at times it almost appears as if the geometry itself is morphing slightly. All that being said, the environment textures aren’t a constant issue, and they’re likely one most players will never even notice. Taken all together, Xenoblade 3’s presentation resolves a significantly cleaner image on average than the prior Xenoblade entries on Switch. This applies both to docked and handheld play.

We’ve still got a while before I can provide my full formal review, which is good, because I still have plenty of game left to play. For now, suffice it to say that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 seems to be doing an excellent job at moving the series forward in new and interesting ways. Mechanically, they’ve taken what worked and re-imagined what didn’t, and it is a noticeable improvement. On the technical front, Monolith continues to push hard against the outermost limits of the Switch’s capabilities, while turning in a more appealing overall level of performance than their previous efforts. As for the story, well, I don’t want to ruin that for you. Plus the ninjas would be after me if I did.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo


EnnerJuly 08, 2022

Good to hear that the technical fidelity of the game has approved from Xenoblade 2.

Eager to get my copy of the game and see what's what!

broodwarsJuly 08, 2022

It's good to hear that the perfornance is significantly better than what we saw with Xenoblade 2, which frequently chugged. After SMT 5 turned out to perform so poorly recently on Switch, I didn't think Xeno 3 would fare much better.

Luigi DudeJuly 08, 2022

Xenoblade 2's performance was the result of it being rushed like crazy to reach the end of 2017 since Nintendo wanted to make sure the Switch first year was as stacked as possible.  Xenoblade 3 on the other hand has had a lot more time to be polished so I'd have been more surprised if it wasn't running better then the 2nd game. 

It's too bad I finished just finish Xenoblade: Definitive Edition last month and still have to do the Torna DLC for Xenoblade 2.  The original September release would have been perfect, but I'll get burnout if I play it at the end of this month.  I mean I don't mind waiting a few more month to buy it, but it's going to make avoiding spoilers much harder.  Need to basically stay off Youtube the next 3 months.

broodwarsJuly 10, 2022

Quote from: Luigi

It's too bad I finished just finish Xenoblade: Definitive Edition last month and still have to do the Torna DLC for Xenoblade 2.  The original September release would have been perfect, but I'll get burnout if I play it at the end of this month.  I mean I don't mind waiting a few more month to buy it, but it's going to make avoiding spoilers much harder.  Need to basically stay off Youtube the next 3 months.

Same boat here. I played through Xeno DE across the pandemic years. Tried to get back into Xeno 2 last year, and that game still hits me cold. I'm determined to force myself through at least Torna before trying Xeno 3, since I've heard Torna addresses most of my issues with 2 by ditching the Gacha mechanics.

I'd say the internet is going to be an annoying place for the next 6 months, I didn't see people ever really spoil Xeno 2.

KhushrenadaJuly 12, 2022

Gotta say, since the reveal of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I just haven't been that intrigued by this game like I have the other Xenoblade games. X was the one that most grabbed my attention from its first reveal. XC took more time as it really took word of mouth to learn about various things that made me realize it was a game I'd want to check out. Eventually seeing some video of it helped too.

XC2 was less exciting to me for a couple reasons. First, the look of it seemed a step down from X and the fact that it had 2 in the name implying it was a sequel to the first one which I still had not played at that point. I was surprised it was a sequel since I'd heard non-spoiler talk that XC ended in a way that a sequel would seem hard to do and there had also been discussion of the Xenoblade series being like Final Fantasy and having separate stories that stand alone. However, I did like the "twist" or spin that instead of taking place on two large dead bodies or beings, XC2 took place on many smaller differing living creatures. It seemed like a smart way to take a sequel despite really not knowing about the story in any of the games.

At this point in time, I finally did play XC and did so with the Definitive Edition on Switch. I finally was able to dig in way more on XCX although I need to get back to it and finish it already. It's now been over a year since I dropped off from it and still have a 3 story chapters to go and a lot more questing to do. I know XC2 has been divisive but after playing XC:DE, I'm more eager to play it and I'm somewhat optimistic I'll enjoy it as I don't have as lofty expectations for it as some may have. Plus, I'd want to play it now before XC3 as it sort of seems like playing one could spoil the other and I'd rather playing XC2 before it's worlds get sort of spoiled by XC3.

With XC3's reveal, it seemed like more of a return to XC1 as it seemed to be re-iterating on the Homs vs Mechons fight. I think that's been the biggest hurdle of keeping from being that excited about the game as it just doesn't seem that fresh compared to others. None of the characters or their looks really stood out or have seemed that memorable from the first couple trailers shown. Instead, there's been a lot of talk about how they could be another version of this character or that character from the previous games which again adds to the feeling of diminishing expectations. Like getting lesser or knockoff versions of a more popular past character. I'd also seen a couple images of a couple environments of an area that was using a lot of the Gaur Plain make-up and another of a Makna Forest like area. I know there's supposed to be some mash-up of an XC1 area with an XC2 area or so it seems but I can't really tell the XC2 elements having not played it yet. (Hence my comment that playing XC2 or XC3 first will likely spoil the other). Because of this mash-up, it's further reduced one of the big selling points of an XC game (that of exploring huge new worlds) and replaced with a vibe of been there and done that.

The story better be pretty strong to make up for this blending of elements and vibe of sameness. Unfortunately, there also XC3 has faltered in the trailers. The premise of worlds locked in war was sort of done with XC1 and the twist of only living 10 years just hasn't added an extra layer of intrigue. All I really know about XC2 is that Rex and Pyra's lives get entwined when she helps save his life and they end up forming a party of people to look for a fabled land of Elysium to make their lives better (or fix them...?) But even that simple hook of journey across worlds to find a legendary place is enough to make me want to play XC2 over what I've seen of XC3 which I don't think has prevented a great story hook which I've stored in my brain as people from both of the worlds band together when they discover a shared special power and are now hunted by both sides while they try and end the struggle of war and extend their lives. Again, that summery gives me a feeling of a lot of ground already covered in XC3 and doesn't really suggest any agency on the player's part. It feels more like you'll be going along for the ride rather than doing the driving. I'm sure that feeling could change when playing but XC was pretty clear that as Shulk (the main character) you'll be leading others to fight back against the Mechons with a weapon of great power that could end the war. XC2 gives the sense that as Rex/Pyra, you'll be leading the band of characters you meet through the challenging journey ahead to explore and find Elysium. XCX was all about player agency as it made your created character the sort of main character and left you to explore the world and help humanity survive. XC3 has come off more as a watch how this story unfolds vibe.

KhushrenadaJuly 12, 2022

Why have I finally got around to posting my un-enthused feelings for the game? Because these early impressions in this preview are the first time I've started to feel any excitement for the game. And, if I'm going to play a game that's likely over 100 hours, I want it to be more than just the fact that I played the first two games so I might as well see how the story wraps up in the third one. (Provided it does wrap up. Maybe there'll be a XC4.) It's probably why I wasn't that disappointed about missing out on the Special Edition pre-orders. The Special Edition bonuses left me feeling as apathetic as the trailers have been. Thanks for posting these impressions even though it will likely be years before I get around to playing the game myself.

Looking forward to the review now. I know it is Nintendo's job and not NWR's to sell me on a title but this is one review that will hold more weight for me than most other titles.

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Game Profile

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Box Art

Developer Monolith Software Inc.

Worldwide Releases

na: Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Release Jul 29, 2022
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