To compare Breath of the Wild to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 seems unfair. Despite sharing the same genre, the two experiences couldn’t be more different.
But if Zelda gave you a taste for a massive world, with an abundance of content and a gripping story, then this sprawling universe from Monolith Soft could be right up your street.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 sees humans and animals living somewhat harmoniously together alongside god-like titans in a magic meets sci-fi world. The main character, Rex, is a male scavenger who plunders sea beds for scraps to feed his family.
When he’s offered an opportunity by some unsavoury types to make more money than he’s ever seen, Rex, his titan friend Gramps, and a whole host of other characters are thrust together for a long, sometimes conflicted, occasionally confused, but mostly entertaining adventure.
Blades of glory
The world of Alrest is enormous, all-consuming, and epic. Quest chains can take you from one edge of the map to the other and areas can keep you busy for hours at a time. There’s at least 70 hours of content here. Maybe closer to 100.
The dynamic combat also ensures the action is ever-flowing, giving you the ability to swap out characters for different attacks and combining them together for all-powerful strikes.
You’ll even find that things evolve as you get deeper into the game. Things are kept fresh with new chain attacks and combinations.
Even the nature of your adventures change. There are dig-sites, unique battles, puzzles, mini-games, and collectibles littering your path throughout.
But while there’s so much content to digest, it’s frustrating to find that Xenoblade 2 often stays a bit too faithful to its rich heritage, repeating the design mistakes of its predecessors.
For example, when pursuing low level quests, you’ll often bump into enemies five times stronger than you.
You’ll probably find yourself returning to a lot of the side quests at a later point. The irony being you’ll need to grind to actually make progress in the story and win in some of the tougher boss battles.
Then there’s the disjointed mini map interface, which can be off-putting and difficult to use. Maps are broken up into tiers through a fast travel menu, and then areas split up into regions you’ll have to scroll through to find your destination.
At times, it feels counterintuitive, and it can disrupt the flow of play.
What I do appreciate and admire about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, is that it doesn’t spell everything out for you. Often quest markers are absent, and descriptions are vague enough to encourage exploration.
You’ll need to take some risks, venturing near dangerous mobs and exploring hidden caves. If you allow it, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will naturally immerse you into its world.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a complex and deep RPG, but that also means it’s heavily rewarding in clutch situations. When you complete a quest you’ve been struggling to finish, or when you find an effective blade customisation, it feels like you’ve actually achieved something.
Understanding everything will take time and experimentation, even though this is a game that suits drop-in and drop-out action.
If Xenoblade Chronicles 2 doesn’t win you over with the intricate details, it’ll dazzle you with it’s beautiful environments. From exotic flora and fauna, to fantastical fountains and arid sand dunes.
Unquestionably, it looks best when docked, but for a game of this size and scale, its performance is genuinely impressive in the palm of your hands.
Some textures and character models do look a bit rough up close, but you can’t help but feel a little bit in awe at what Monolift Soft and Nintendo have accomplished.
If you can get past some of the plot cliches, rough-around-the-edges mechanics, and occasionally cringeworthy voice acting, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a very special game. Not perfect, but undoubtedly the cherry on top of a remarkable first year for Switch.