Xenoblade 3 received me over

Noah looks at his sword with disbelief that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has yet to make him cringe.

Screenshots: Nintendo

I’ve been looking forward to Monolith Soft’s next game since the last game ended in 2017, though not without my fair share of reservations. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a tortuous JRPG with a bunch of systems and wildly uneven storytelling. I loved the series so much, I was worried Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will be the same. So far, it’s not. It’s a first-party Nintendo Switch blockbuster that can hang with the rest of the library.

Five hours later, it’s like the most lush and balanced game in the series. The environments are sprawling but filled. Combat has a ton of classes to experiment with but none of them seem too confusing or overbearing. Your party’s list is supplied with classic archetypes that are no longer cliché. And the music, responsible for maintaining momentum through the long and intense parts of a game like this, is as brilliant as ever.

Xenoblade 3 characters fight in a massive battle.

Screenshots: Nintendo

Bringing up discussions about Xenoblade 3huge run time of and the way it is still instructing 10 hours in, my number one concern is speed. However, the game hardly wastes any time to get started. You play as Noah, a member of the Keves nation, who, along with his comrades, are locked in an existential struggle against Agnus’ rival nation. Both sides are engaged in “fire clocks” inside giant mech bases known as Ferronis, which store life energy from those who have fallen in battle. People are born as children and live only 10 years, or less if they don’t take enough lives to feed the clock. It looks like Royal War by Philip K. Dick.

It all started with a massive battle before quickly moving on to otherworldly intrigue. Noah and his crew encounter rival warriors from an opposing nation while on a reconnaissance mission that plunges both sides into chaos after a mysterious old man tells them they are both. pawns in a larger conspiracy. Next thing you know, cyborgs are fighting, characters merge together and a party of six worms is in your hands to fight your way to the end. Xenoblade 3secrets of.

A chaotic battle screen showing Xenoblade 3's messy user interface.

Screenshots: Nintendo / Kotaku

All of this happens within the first few hours. I spent most of my time before and after fighting in the fields, rivers and passes. Despite the noisy premise and a talkative group, the heart of Xenoblade 3The gameplay of the game still retains the classic JRPG gameplay. Much of it can be done on autopilot. More intense battles against non-bosses are invoked with special fonts on top of enemies indicating their additional strength, better rewards, or both. And unlike in Xenoblade 2, the landscapes are once again generously equipped with collectible resources that you can pick up just by walking through them. No need to pause every five seconds to press the prompt button to discover more crafting pieces or cook mushrooms.

As for combat, I’m still unlocking some of the core features, but customizing special attacks (called “Arts”) in battle and changing character classes should open up pretty soon. It’s easy to see how these interlocking systems, including a certain degree of mixing and matching between active and passive abilities, can lead to plenty of satisfying boss battles between stages. fight. And while I was initially worried that having six party members at once would make battles unnecessarily chaotic, being able to swap between them at will adds an extra level. welcome micromanagement for Xenoblade 3 which I missed so much in previous games (the UI is still a nightmare).

The mysterious villains of Xenoblade 3 are shrouded in darkness.

Screenshots: Nintendo

My only real worry is that the heavy tutorial is sometimes too explanatory and impossible to skip. Do I need a step-by-step guide to equipping a new set of armor? Similarly, I don’t need characters to talk about different game systems to make them vaguely feel part of the sci-fi world building. People are combining bodies and becoming cyborgs. The magical costume changes and the young people wielding giant swords were the least of my worries.

Fortunately, none of this gets in the way too much. I spent the last few days really enjoying Xenoblade 3 while I’m playing it and constantly thinking about it when I’m not playing. That rarely happens to me these days. Especially when it comes to JRPGs. But now, Xenoblade 3 managed to incorporate some of my favorite elements from previous Monolith games (mechs, taxis, free fight) with what is working very well in others. Specifically, a group of students fights to praise, question, and snipe each other while trying to overthrow the powers that have been and are still in existence. keep shrinking to a minimum. It works in Persona 5, Fire symbol: Three housesand, now, it really works for me in Xenoblade 3. I have dozens of hours left to play before I know if the rest of the game plays out.

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