The Xenoblade Chronicles series is easily one of my all-time favorites and recently I got my hands on the third installment of the trilogy. Now as we’ve heard from multiple sources this is the coming together of the first two games to make for one grand conclusion of the end game events that made this whole universe possible. Just as a side note: I also really loved X but it seems to exist separate from the trilogy so it’s not that I’m leaving it out intentionally I just don’t think it really fits here.
The story in this game is truly unbelievable. It features two kingdoms at war Keves and Agnus who fight and those who have fallen have their life force taken and used as fuel for more fighting. On the surface, this seems like a fairly simple and commonly used setting, but as you dive deeper into the game you learn that why the war is taking place and what exactly is going on with each nation has a lot of surprises. Now I’m not going to go into those surprises at all here but I will say that my theories of what was going on kept changing frequently as I played through the game and none of them were right. However, not only did I love the twists but I just loved the sheer emotional kick this story has to offer. It explores a lot of deep topics like how to find meaning in your life, the struggle of trying to stay in a moment that’s safe versus moving towards an unknown future, the impact of death, and the importance of family and loved ones. I could go on and on about the topics this game addresses but what I want you to understand is that when these moments are addressed they are truly amazing and incredible. I found myself laughing, crying, angry, sad, and happy I mean these moments are just so well done that even if I was willing to provide spoilers there would be no way I could do them justice to invoke those same feelings.
What I also loved are the side quests. Now I tend to harp on side quests a bit because I find in so many instances they are pretty simple and one note. Grab this item, beat this monster, talk to this person, etc. Actions with no real substance, but that’s not the case here. Side quests in this game are miniature stories that have multiple parts and build upon the world as you know it. As you do side quests the world in the game literally changes for the better as you resolve problems that plague the people and the stories in the side quests can be really emotionally gripping as well. I know in the first game I wasn’t too fond of these quests and while the second one was better in this area it still fell into the same problems for a lot of them. The third game has no such problem as I have spent days glued to the game and some of those days were spent doing nothing but side quests.
The characters are very likable. I honestly didn’t even bother to pick a favorite as they are all so well done and fun to watch. The banter is well done and even the NPCs are interesting. This game is full of characters that clearly have main character energy and so it’s a wonderful experience when you get to explore the wide map of the game and find them.
As far as gameplay is concerned if you’ve played either of the first two games it’s not hard to get into the gameplay mechanics here. It’s just like the first two with some modifications that the game does a great job at explaining. For those who are new to the series, it features a real-time strategy gameplay where your basic attacks auto hit and you have special moves that charge up as you battle that you can use when they are available that you trigger manually. You really get a lot of customization options here too as the game features over 20 classes and over time each character can access each class but you can also mix and match attacks and skills from these classes once you’ve mastered them for an incredible number of combinations that will leave you constantly experimenting.
I suppose the next thing I should talk about is the fact that it’s clear that this game has at least some degree of dependency on the first two games as evident from the trailers. So it begs the question, do you need to play the first two games to understand this one? The short answer is kind of. For the most part, the game does function as its own thing for an overwhelming majority of the time; however, the events that lead up to the game are caused by the events of the first two games. It doesn’t really go into much detail which is why I say kind of but I think it will be easier to follow if you’ve played the first two. Plus there are a lot of subtle nods to both games all over the story with names, character design influences, and even decor. Plus moments that feature characters from the previous games, while understandable if you haven’t played them, will have more impact if you are already invested in these characters. So while I think you will get an incredible experience even if this is your first venture into Xenoblade Chronicles I honestly don’t recommend it.
Now for the only area that I consider to be the game’s only weak point and that’s the villains. In both of the first two games, the main boss is a complicated character with an incredible story and powerful conviction but in comparison, the final boss here is this mysterious entity that in my opinion has no real story behind him. Sure the whole enigma element was cool and it was interesting but when you are in the third game and the first two final bosses were incredible, a final boss that’s just pretty good is something you quickly notice. The game does feature several other bosses that do have complicated stories and motivations which made them really enjoyable and far better than the regular bosses of the first two games. So it’s interesting how they traded a very complicated final boss for several fairly complicated pre-endgame bosses. As a whole, it really does do wonders for the story as you get several different back stories from the villains but I also can’t help but miss how amazing the final encounter was in the first two games and how this one wasn’t quite as impactful.
So overall this game was truly amazing. It’s a game that features a story with a wide variety of emotional topics that are all done with jaw-dropping execution. The characters, the story, the dialogue, the side quests all of it was an experience that far exceeded my already ridiculously high expectations. The only real downside is that this game trades its normally deep and impactful final boss for a series of more well-designed bosses to face along the way. Overall this does still make for a wonderful story but the final boss, as a character, is the only element that I found to be noticeably weaker than both of the other two games.