Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the first major RPG to come out for the Nintendo Switch. It is the continuation of Tetsuya Takahashi’s longstanding Xeno series, which has spanned seven games and three consoles. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has all the trademarks of a Xeno game with religious and philosophical undertones. While the game has quite a few anime tropes and is more of a shounen action-adventure coming of age story, this doesn’t detract from the experience. It actually enhances it. The lore is deep and incredibly fascinating, and the characters have depth and a lot of development.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

Boy meets Girl

At its core, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a story about a boy from humble beginnings growing up and coming into his own in order to protect the people he loves (sound familiar?). Once again, Takahashi proves that he’s both an elite storyteller and a master video game developer. The Xeno brand is stronger than ever before.

Story

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

Girl meets Boy

The story for Xenoblade 2 is one of the best of any RPG in recent memory, although it may seem cliche at first. You take control of Rex, a salvager who gathers treasure from beneath the clouds of Alrest, where humanity resides living on Titans. As the story unfolds Rex meets a blade, Pyra, who saves his life by giving her some of her life force. She is an Aegis and the most powerful blade in existence, almost destroying the world 500 years ago in a massive war. Humans use blades for combat and resonate with them, which is a key part of Xenoblade 2‘s story and combat system.

Rex and Pyra start their journey together in search of Elysium, which is a paradise where the Architect resides (he’s called Sōsei no kami in Japanese, which means “God of Creation”). Interestingly enough, in Japanese, they call Elysium Rakuen, which is a word used for Eden in the Japanese translation of the bible. Pyra is referred to as a Ten no seihai in Japanese, which literally translates as “heavenly holy grail”, which is another religious reference in the game lost in translation.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

The initial party

As Pyra and Rex grow closer, they meet companions along the way and fight their way through enemies who seek to use Pyra’s power for their own evil machinations. This may seem a bit simple, but there is so much more depth to the story than this, including a deep lore and incredible character development. The characters go through tremendous growth throughout the story and it’s truly a delight to see it unfold. The game contains roughly 14 hours of cutscenes, which can be viewed in a theater mode after it’s completed in-game, but there is a good balance between story and gameplay.

Gameplay

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

Pyra uses a blade special

The combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is very unique. It combines the combat of the previous two games and perfects it. The combat in this game is not only incredibly fun but makes it the best RPG of the modern era. Of the five party members you eventually obtain, three can be used in battle. On top of that, each driver can be assigned three blades that they can switch between during battle. Like previous Xenoblade games, characters use auto attacks. These auto attacks charge driver arts, which are special moves designated to drivers depending on which Blade they are fighting with. Driver arts charge Blade specials, which range from levels I-IV.

Blade specials initiate Blade combos. An ultimate Blade combo will initiate an ultimate attack and cause an elemental orb to circle around the enemy. Elemental orbs can cause massive damage during a chain attack. All of this is a bit intricate, but once you master the combat system, which is introduced to you incrementally, it’s incredibly rewarding.

The combat also features break and topple, like the previous games. Now enemies can also be launched and then smashed. All of these are initiated by specific driver arts. Smashing an enemy causes a great deal of damage. Combining this with a Blade combo creates even more damage. In my experience, I would have one character break the enemy, I would topple them, another character would launch them, and then I would switch to a different blade to smash. This is one of many reasons why it is important to choose your blades wisely.

There are a lot of sidequests in the game, and some don’t unlock until the last chapter or until you beat the game. It gives Xenoblade Chronicles 2 an infinite replayability value and at 170 hours in I still feel like I have so much to do in the game, especially since some sidequests cannot be completed until you’ve reached a very high level (for reference, the final boss is level 70; I was roughly level 68 when I beat the game).

Blades

KOS-MOS from Xenosaga is a Blade in Xenoblade 2. Could this be a sign of a Xenosaga game on the Switch?

Each Blade is equipped with field skills, and these are used to remove obstacles and reach otherwise unreachable locations. They are sometimes even required to open treasure chests and a variety of other things. Field skills can be leveled up by clearing certain conditions and leveling up your affinity with the Blade.

There are rare blades and there are common blades. Common blades are rather bland, but they can be sent out on mercenary missions and they can help clear obstacles with their field skills. The rare blades have magnificent designs and each rare blade has a unique blade quest. The RNG in the game is completely random, so even rare and legendary core crystals can still give you common blades, which is very frustrating for someone trying to collect all the blades. 170 hours in I am missing about five rare blades, although I’ve focused more on quests than grinding for core crystals.

Choosing your blades for each character is very important. As mentioned earlier, characters are able to perform Blade combos that can create elemental orbs, dealing massive damage during chain attacks. To keep these Blade combos going it’s important to have a variety of different elements, as each blade has a different element: ground, water, ice, fire, wind, light, and darkness. Having a variety of elements allows you to keep the Blade combo going so you can create an elemental orb.

All of this is a lot to sink in, but, these mechanics are introduced over seven chapters in the game, roughly. The pacing is perfect.

Exploration

The world of Alrest is divided into 13 different sections, with one becoming inaccessible after an event late in the game, not so different than the original Xenoblade Chronicles. The Titans you travel to range in size, but some are enormous and rife with exploration. The story’s path is linear so each area is gradually introduced, but, you can stop the main quest at any time and fast travel to any location. There is no point of “no return” until you literally enter to fight the final boss. Even the area you become unable to visit late in the game only has a small number of quests, so you don’t miss much.

There are tons of hidden secrets and unique monsters to fight that you could get lost exploring for hours. This, coupled with the excellent combat, makes for a very rewarding experience, even if you aren’t completing any quests.

Music

This has to be mentioned. The music in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is some of the best in any video game. It features several tracks that are remixes from the original game, but each area of the game is given its own unique theme. In the last few areas of the game, the music is taken to an elite level of quality. The music was composed by the same collection of composers who did the music for Xenoblade Chronicles, and the results are nothing short of magnificent.

Bottom Line

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the best RPG in the modern era. It has excellent pacing, incredible characters with wonderful growth, wonderful combat, and a superb story. While no game is perfect, and Xenoblade 2 is not without its flaws (the map system was improved with a patch, but it can still be difficult to navigate), it’s still one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch. Monolith Soft has put together one of the best RPG series’ of all time, and quality wise, it is even better than Final Fantasy XV and other modern Final Fantasy games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a must-have for all Switch owners. It is a long game if you take the time to complete sidequests and try to collect rare blades, but it never feels like a chore. It is disappointing that some of the religious subtexts were changed in the English localization, but it doesn’t hinder the game in the slightest (this is just a personal gripe as a long-time Xeno fan).

Xenoblade 2 is the most enjoyable experience I’ve had playing a video game in years. If you don’t have it already, buy it. You won’t regret it.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Nintendo Switch)
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the best RPG in the modern era. It has excellent pacing, incredible characters with wonderful growth, wonderful combat, and a superb story. Monolith Soft has put together one of the best RPG series' of all time, and quality wise, it is even better than Final Fantasy XV and other modern Final Fantasy games.
Overall Score9.5
Pros
  • An excellent story with fascinating characters and wonderful character growth
  • The best combat system in any modern RPG
  • A fascinating world rife with secrets and exploration along with superb music
Cons
  • The map can be confusing to read at times
  • The game's tutorials cannot be revisited
9.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
9.0

About The Author

Founder/Owner/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and is the Founder, Owner, and Editor-in-Chief of VG Culture HQ. He has been writing about games for over four years and has written over 1,500 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six and is the guywazeldatatt. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture and Tetsuya Takahashi games. He is also a huge anime and Star Wars fan.

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