Community Review: Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Jason Schreier may not have been a fan of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 but that shouldn't stop any of you from enjoying this giant JRPG.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: The Kotaku Review

Inelegant and tedious, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the anti-Nintendo game. In a year full of triumphs for the spunky Switch, this massive role-playing game is a disappointment.

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I have to confess, JRPGs just aren't my thing. My teenage years were thoroughly wasted thanks to an obsession with Ragnarok Online. The incredibly grindy and incredibly cute Korean MMORPG has soured me to a lot of games. For whatever reason, I can't unlink Ragnarok from JRPGs despite there being absolute no logical connection between the two.

I'm weird. Let's move on.

Everything I've seen about the Xenoblade games makes me think that they tick all the right boxes for JRPG fans and this holds true for Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The combat looks solid, the music sounds good and the world seems interesting.

But what would I know?

Tell us what you think of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in the comments and be kind to Jason, people are allowed to dislike things you like.


Comments

    So far Xenoblade 2 has been a pleasant experience of minmaxing characters and exploiting the battle mechanics at hand. I put 200 hours into the first game so its probably going to take me some time to finish off this one.

    If you liked the first this is for you, if you don't like spending just as much time in menus tweaking your party as you do in combat I would suggest staying away ;)

    Looks and runs real nice, not sure the combat style is for me, at least early game so far its boring as hell and kinda clunky... seems a strange mechanic to have your primary attack being an auto attack, while you just wait to power up and use your arts. (almost MMO-esque).

    The Japanese language pack makes the dialogue pacing much nicer, but i think you then miss out of a bit of the smaller world interactions as the NPC (Audio) dialogue while running around is also in Japanese.

    As someone that hasn't played the first one am i to understand there is mech suits at some point?

      The Mech's were in Xenoblade Chronicles X, which was a Wii U spin-off of the first game that almost entirely has nothing to do with the original game.

      Unless there's a big surprise in this game, no Mech suits unfortunately.

      And the Faux-MMO battle design is sort of what they are going for, seems clunky but once you wrap your head around it it's extremely rewarding.

      Last edited 04/12/17 12:15 pm

    Been playing over the weekend for a good 20h+. So far music and combat has been awesome, I like how they went around assigning arts to a specific button rather than having to cycle through them like on the first one. It limits the number of arts but you're on top of them more easily.

    The story so far has been good, it does have an awful amount of cutscenes, dialogue, tutorials at the beginning. It feels like the game takes a while to start.

    There are a lot of menus and settings to figure out and grinding is mostly required, but I like it.

    Characters so far are likeable enough, I wasn't expecting to like Pyra, it seemed she would be either a generic robot or Japanese younger sister type. Not a big fan of the voice acting for Rex.

    It feels the whole game is slower paced than Xenoblade Chronicles, which is not necessarily a bad thing for some, but it's hard to wrap your head around it when you're used to the previous games. Moving around in battles is painfully slow and auto attack stops if you're moving; seem to remember Shulk moving and attacking but it's been a few years now so could be mistaken.

    It feels like there are less quests than the previous, but run longer now. Previously it would be collect X, Y, Z. Now you tend to get asked for another thing or it branches up from the start.

    About 15 hours in currently - I wanted to be further in but it got held up in shipping and didn't get it until Saturday afternoon.

    It's very much a JRPG. Very solid so far, but it's nowhere near as good as the original game IMO. That said, Xenoblade was the best JRPG of its generation, so that's pretty hard to follow up at the best of times.

    The plot is fairly solid JRPG fare. Maybe a little childish and anime-like, though this might change after a while. It got started much quicker but I'm not really feeling caught up by the plot the way I was by the first game. The setting is quite interesting, adding a bit of Skies of Arcadia while still definitely being a Xenoblade game.

    Combat system changes so far I don't like much. Part of this is that my brain just breaks whenever I see the A/B/X/Y prompts due to having not really spent a lot of time on Nintendo hardware and so much more time with Sega and Microsoft controllers which have the buttons flipped. Starting to adjust but the game has a lot of timed button press stuff. That said I'll probably get used to it.

    The actual combat itself, I'm not really into. The systems all work and are quite cool but the in-game tutorials do a rubbish job explaining everything. this guide on RPG Site explains the system much better and I think is an excellent read. I'm still finding I struggle to execute the Special Attack combos properly though, it takes so long to build one up that the first one's window drops off before I can get a second tier off. There's probably something I'm missing still. It looks like every character basically plays the same based off the blades they use which is a bit disappointing - I really liked the way that each character in Xenoblade was kind of unique and I really miss the system they built for Melia, I don't think I've seen anything quite like the way she played before or since. But XC2's combat is perfectly fine for what it is, has decent depth and it's fairly fun.

    The UI is real lacking. The biggest issues are the quest tracking - only one quest at a time so you can walk right past the objective for another quest and then have to backtrack after. The bigger issue though is that there's no map. The game world is vast, but the best map you can get is to expand the mini-map over the top of the game. This is a huge miss for a giant open-world RPG IMO. At least there's fast travel I guess (and that sort of has a map?). The first game had a map. It was a bit crap but it existed, so this is a feature regression that's fairly unwelcome.

    The targeting UI is a mess too. You hit the right shoulder to target but sometimes it doesn't work and sometimes it does. Then to cycle targets it's hold the shoulder and hit X or A buttons, rather than the more intuitive left & right arrows, if you hit those it'll display a massive diagram explaining all the buttons you can press over the top of the screen, hiding what's going on but not pausing. Thankfully I'm now only doing that about 5% of the time instead of all the time like when I started playing, but it's incredibly annoying.

    The game design feels at times like it really disrespects your time as well. There's nothing quite like wandering out in the wilderness and while mid-combat a roving level 80+ mob just comes up behind you and one-shots you from 100m away, causing you to re-load at whatever landmark you most recently visited. I had one case where it kept sending me back to a spot where I was repeatedly killed by the same impossibly high level monster while trying to leave and I had to fast travel to escape, so that's not great. To be fair, I feel like the previous games in this franchise have done the same thing.

    I am really, really iffy on the gacha system they've built into the game. You open 'crystals' to get 'blade' characters you can equip to your characters. Basically they're weapons and kind of support characters at the same time. It's a cool idea, but I question whether the way they've implemented it is actually adding much to the game. There's a ton of samey robots that I assume are 'normal' Blades and then a chance to get a 'Rare' blade that is more interesting. I feel like it'd be more interesting if you just had those 30 or so Rare Blades available and unlocked them throughout the game and only used one at a time. The way they have it now is just so random, and the game already has randomized loot and so much other random stuff to grind for, like quests that require gathering a number of random item drops and so on. This helps extend the game, but at the same time if all you're doing is grinding to get a 1% chance drop that grind will get old and frustrating quite fast.

    The localization so far is very good. Characters have well-defined voice in the writing, nothing feels like it's overly literally translated and everything flows properly and has good grammar. You would think this isn't anything special but recent high-profile JRPG releases have been incredibly bad at doing this well. The dub is absolutely dire IMO, so very happy to have the Japanese voices available as a downloadable addon. My main gripes at this point are that they don't bother translating any of the incidental post-combat banter at all (I understand spoken Japanese well enough that I don't really mind this but many will) and that listening to it in Japanese makes you realize that for some reason they've re-named half the cast. In some cases the changes are minor or they're preserving some kind of meaning (eg Homura -> Pyra preserves the 'flame' implication in her name) but in other cases it is just baffling. Nintendo has a long history of doing this - half the cast of each Fire Emblem game has different names in English - but normally it's because the name sounds stupid in western languages or has an untranslatable pun. Some of these just feel like they were attempting to hide the fact that the game is Japanese to begin with which seems a bit backward given that the core audience for the game is JRPG players.

    The music is very good. It feels overall more consistent than the first game and as much as I like Hiroyuki Sawano's style, I'll take Yasunori Mitsuda & ACE+ over his stuff any day. Especially since the battle theme doesn't have distracting vocals. However while it's good and more consistent, I have yet to hit anything that sticks in my mind the way that the best music from the first games eg Gaur Plains did. The first big open area you visit clearly has music that calls out the Gaur Plains theme, but it ends up making me feel nostalgic for the 'proper' version instead. Hope all the areas don't do this.

    Overall, though, I'm quite enjoying it. I don't know that I'll be spending 150+ hours on it like the original but I'm definitely going to be looking to give it a fair shake. It's the first game on the Switch to have actually drawn me in and I was pretty skeptical that they could pull off a decent sequel going in (especially since XCX was a failure) and there's every chance it'll improve later on too.

      That... is quite the extensive review

        Well considering that Kotaku's actual review was by a guy that hated the game and the franchise, it didn't seem unwarranted.

      Whilst playing yesterday, i noted that the quick travel menu can also be used as a full map, allowing you to zoom in and examine the map. It has a filter built in to start with that shows all collection points and locations that require field skills. The map was also one of my major issues when i started playing.

        I figured this out yesterday too, but it's still a pretty poor map IMO. I spent my entire play session yesterday completely lost, due to a combination of misleading markers, poor world design (there should really not be stupidly high level monsters on the critical path, I didn't realize I just needed to run past it) and generally bad map.

        Original Xenoblade's map was much more functional.

    I mark my 'comment review'as coming from a Nintendo thoroughbred and supporter of Switch.
    XenoChron2 flow factor for the first 15 hours is shot. Sadly, I commend the depth, but this factor alone will render anything less than the upmost dedicated players from joining, and sales will take a hit as such too.
    Initially more time will be spent struggling through stacks of menu's, stats, learning the combat technique, being continuously executed off-guard by 'god-level' uninvited enemies, and understanding the map/quest/navigation systems.
    I lost 2 hours play due to a crash (save often).

    If you can punch through all that, I forsee a gorgeous long adventure story to unfold with a joyous amount of brightly animated attack sequences against monsterous beasts and lots of personality in the games characters...

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