Video Game

Xenoblade 3 Review

What’d you do if you only had ten years to live?

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10 mins
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Xenoblade 3
Xenoblade 3 異度神劍 3 by Monolith Soft

Xenoblade 3 is indeed one of the best JRPGs out there. It stands out from the prior titles and creates a fantastic gaming experience, which is better than before. The whole trilogy is available on Switch. To me, the story, exploration, and gameplay are no doubt where the game excels. After more than 130+ hours of adventuring, this epic journey finally comes to an end. I’ve enjoyed my time playing it. Here’s my review of the game.

Image Credit

Screenshots in this post were captured from Xenoblade 3 異度神劍 3 on Nintendo Switch.

Introduction

First and foremost, this is a vast and content-rich game. An RPG filled with tons of story and gameplay: ten of hours of lengthy cutscenes, more than a few dozens of side quests, all set in a massive multi-region open world with real time day-night cycle and dynamic weather system. A deep combat system and various classes and heroes allow players to challenge hundreds of enemies. The game offers so much content for players to explore. It took me more than two months to finally be able to complete the game.

In case you don’t know, I wrote a review of the game Persona 5 Royal a few months ago. I love RPGs and hope you appreciate games as much as I do. Without further ado, here’s my review of Xenoblade 3.

Spoilers ahead.

This post contains major spoilers. Some images or text are related to the late game content. I’d recommend don’t read if you haven’t finished the game.

Main Story

The story, in a nutshell, revolves around our six protagonists who are from Keves and Angus—two rival nations that have been at war for ages. Noah and Mio are Off-seers from opposite nations, and they’re both in a team with two other members from the same colony. When they first met during a mission, they quickly got into a fight and remained hostile for a while. Not long after, our main characters encounter a mysterious enemy who interferes. Then they eventually acquire the power of the Ouroboros. Noah and Mio learn each other's minds from the opposing nation via interlink, where they fuse their bodies into an Ouroboros.

Noah standing in the middle, Eunie and Lanz stand next to him while they all wielding weapons in their hands
Noah, Eunie and Lanz are from Keves
Mio standing in the middle, Sena and Taion standing next to her while they all hold their weapons in their hands
Mio, Sena and Taion are from Angus

The people of Keves and Angus lived a lifespan of ten years. They were all born from a artificial capsule and their life started at 10 years old. Everyone of them were soldiers who needed to join the war to kill off enemies in order to maintain the balance of the Flame Clock of Life 命の火時計(inochi no hitokei) of the colonies that they belonged to. When their life cycle comes to an end, they will have to take part in a ritual called the Homecoming Ceremony 成人の儀(Seijin no gi). After the ritual, their spirits will return to the Queen and then be reborned later while remains their previous from at a ten year old but the memories will be wiped out.

An Ouroboros
Noah and Mio fuse into an Ouroboros form. I bet the design took inspiration from Eva Unit-01
Noah crouching beside Guernica
The scene after Noah and Mio performed a ritual to Guernica Vandham who has just passed away

Many of those who couldn’t make it to their tenth term are those who have fallen from battle. Off-seers like Noah or Mio might bring peace to the lost souls on battlefields. People in the world of Aionios are trapped in an endless loop of wars, conflicts, and hatred where peace is absence.

The story unfolds, revealing that their true enemy is Moebius, a group of villains called the Consuls led by Z. Their sole purpose is to manipulate people from different nations to make the people in colonies kill each other, then harvest their souls and feed on them. Our protagonists try to uncover the truth behind their fate. They then embark on a grand journey towards the Great Sword to search for the answers. 

A group of Consuls
Consuls with different body type wearing armors in the same style
The Great Sword
The Great Sword is a place far away in the Cadensia Region

I was confused by the idea of the ten-year lifespan when I was at the beginning of the game. It felt strange and a bit forced at first, but it turned out much better than I thought. The plot becomes clear later on, and I think it made sense after I proceeded to later chapters. Some part of the concept is somewhat a little bit similar to the 1999 film The Matrix but with a twist. In my opinion, it was much better than Xenoblade 2 because they had a more grounded purpose—they all have a goal to fight for.

Characters

Our lead characters are Noah and Mio, they are Off-seers, they both carry a flute with them to perform rituals for people who have fallen in battles as a in-game mechanics. I like the idea of how the developers introduce a musical instrument into the game, which brings authenticity to our characters. This was a very nice detail that we don’t often see in RPGs. Here’s the piece A Life Sent On, a unforgettable and beautiful melody.

Noah on the left and Mio on his right are playing their flutes while they close their eyes
Mio and Noah play flutes to send off the dead and bring peace to the spirits
Mio exchanged her flutes with Noah’s and they decided to carry on their journey

Noah is a soldier from Keves of Colony 9 who has a brave heart, cares for his companions, and has the courage to protect the team. Mio is from Angus who is a kind-hearted girl with a determined mind who doesn’t want to be a burden to other members, hence she hides her feelings. It turns out, Mio is near to the end of her tenth term. She was worried that she might not be able to make it to the Great Sword. But her frustration was understood by Noah and he then encouraged her to carry on the journey and overcome together. As the story continues, I was surprised by the tipping point of Mio’s destiny when they finally face N and M. It was also one of the climax to the story, and it gets very emotional. After all the build up, I can tell you it was worth the wait.

Mio put a diary on her lap while holding a pen in her right hand
Mio kept a diary with her during the adventure, which also served as a countdown to her tenth term before Homecoming Ceremony
A close-up shot of the face of long-haired M
Long-haired M reveals her identity; she and N both acquired the power of Moebius to remain in the “present”

In my opinion, the romance between the Noah and Mio simply does not have enough chemistry. It seems to me they lack of memorable moments where they interacted. Most of the story is presented as a team discussion rather than highlighting a specific character. Not that it is bad, but I wish they could have more screen time for the relationship between the two. The love and bonding between N and M is very well done, while on the other hand, the younger pair are more like good friends than lovers. I think that might be intentional because their love story lasted for decades before this version of them existed. All in all, their tale was told very nicely.

Noah is holding Mio in his arm and her life starts to fade
The alternate versions of N and M both experienced uncountable times of either dying or being separated forever
Mio starts to fade into golden particles and she looks back
Mio looked back when she started to fade during the ritual, a final farewell to Noah and her friends

The story not only focuses on them, each of the members of the group has their own storyline and they all play their part during most of the cut scenes. Each one of them has a certain amount of involvement in the story. However, I personally like Monica and Ghondor as they have a better backstory than some of the main characters.

Speaking of other party members, Eunie and Taion have very different personalities. Taion is a calm and organized person, while Eunie is more outgoing and sometimes mean to others. They were quite a duo and compensated for each other very well. And as for Lanz and Sena, they share a similar interest in muscle training and like to workout together. Lanz is a straightforward but hot-headed person, and Sena is young and has a energetic personality. They were all childhood friends since they served in the same colonies.

A close-up shot of Eunie and Lanz standing behind her at a distance
Eunie has wings on her head which looks like Queen Melia; Lanz has a strong body full of muscles
Team Angus: Mio in the center, Taion to her right, and Sena to her left, all with their right hands on their chests
Taion is a strategist in the team, while Sena is a small looking girl with incredible strength

The story consist of a few heart-to-heart moments between each pair of the members. They soon became confidants, and they would die for each other in the blink of an eye. The character building was all there and more than good enough. Overall, I was satisfied with the large amount of story and was impressed by the quality of the cutscenes.

There were some parts of the story and characters that I didn’t like. The first person I want to mention is Joran, who was a childhood friend of Noah, Lanz, and Eunie. Joran's story involves a big part of the group when they served in Colony 14 and he eventually became a Consul named J after an incident. His past was told in flashbacks, and I simply couldn’t feel anything for him. The other character is Crys, who was the Off-seer instructor of Noah. This part of the plot was like an afterthought and was being added to Noah’s Side Story. I got a feeling that this can be skipped entirely, and I bet the players don’t even notice the difference.

Quests

In Xenoblade 3, there are more than a few dozen pieces of side content available. Some of them are character specific, some of them are Hero Quests, and a large portion of them are quests that are related to the people in different colonies. They can be acquired through NPCs when players progress through the story. A lot of side missions are optional, but it is suggested you complete them as much as you can because a certain number of quests will be unlocked once you clear the previous ones. Those quests not only add depth to the lore, but they also contribute to world building. I’d recommend that players complete Hero Quests, Side Stories, and Ascension Quests because they are all very high quality and well crafted. Additionally, once players have gathered enough information about a subject from people or Nopons in colonies, they can rest at the campfire and have a discussion on the subject.

Young Ethel appears in Noah’s flashback
Alexandria has a dark story before she became the commander of Colony Iota

The quest’s quality was good enough, but there was a huge issue that hindered the story’s progression as a whole. It was a bit drag between Chapter 5 and 6, because I was overwhelmed by the number of quests I had to complete in order to unlock Ascension Quests for a few heroes, and to gain affinity for Colonies.

Firstly, this game is massive, and there are plenty of quests distributed in different colonies at certain points alongside the main story. The player has to go back and forth to check on them to see if there are any new quests available. Secondly, when players push forward with the main storyline, a new region may open up, and, of course, new side quests will be available. If you decide to explore the new area, challenge new monsters, as well as finish off side quests, your characters will be over-leveled. Once you go back to proceed to the main story, you might not recall what the story was because you just put it aside for 30+ hours.

To be fair, this is a problem that exists in most modern open-world RPGs. As I see it, the developers should consider reducing the quantity of side quests to around 60% remaining and raising the overall quality by implementing full voice over. It will make the game less repetitive, fresh and engaging. Players can return to the main storyline without the feeling of doing chores, which makes their adventures much more enjoyable.

Gameplay

This game offers plenty of content for players to experience. I often find myself busy doing quests, collecting items, fighting unique monsters, locating Supply Drops, and exploring the beautiful landscape. I think I’ve probably spent over half of my gameplay time into exploration and taking screenshots.

At the moment I started the game, I already saw significant improvements as compared to Xenoblade 2. The game’s UI: menu arrangement and button layout in combat, easy to understand tutorials, and most importantly, a decent wayfinding feature was implemented.

Exploration

Aionios is an open world that consists of multiple regions for players to explore. It has beautiful scenery, various landscapes, and the day and night system make it even more outstanding. I can tell you the world is immersive and visually stunning on Switch. In spite of this game's being limited by the hardware constraints, Monolith Soft successfully delivered us a promising open world that players are willing to invest themselves into.

Stunning view of the Pentelas Region from higher ground
Night view in Colony Mu; looks good despite it’s a military camp

I would say the map is designed absolutely great for exploration. You can travel to places and discover dungeons, hidden caves, and secret locations, and I'm still looking for more. I very much appreciated that the developers had simplified the Field Skills in a much more sensible way. Another point I'd like to make is that collecting items scattered across the maps is one of the things that entices players to explore the world.

A screenshot of our characters are running alongside creatures towards a valley
I like to roam around the world, and I never get bored
Another shot of our characters running on water surface with a waterfall not far behind them
The waterfall in Pentelas Region is one of the places that I like the most

The gigantic map that is full of inhabitants is where Monster Hunter Stories 2 needs to be. Imagine being able to hop on a monster’s back and roam this world. I hope I can fulfill my dream in their next installment. I was disappointed by the design of the Ultimate Vessel was that it was kind of difficult to control and hard to make it turn around. I admit I was sad that the ship didn't have the ability to fly. Maybe we can tell Nopon master Samon to git gud next time.

However, this time in Xenoblade 3, the designs of the colonies’ camps are basically the same as each other. There are military camps that are no where near where a town should be. One might argue that they were at war times without the labour and resources to build their own place. The only place players can visit that looks completely different is the City. This compared to Xenoblade 2 is a huge let down for me.

Classes and Heroes

The Class System is introduced, and the game starts off by assigning a default class to our main characters. It can be classified into three types of classes: Attacker, Defender, and Healer. Each class can be ranked up by gaining Class EXP in battles. New Classes can be unlocked after recruiting Heroes to your team. Aside from the character who inherited the Class, other team members can also acquire the same Class after gaining enough CP where it can be obtained by fighting enemies at a higher level than your current. Each Class will cap at Rank 10, but it can be up to 20 after completing related Ascension Quests.

Overall, this is a fun mechanic that keeps players busy planning which characters’ class types they should adopt. Also, the outfit will be different if you change classes. I prefer sticking to the default outfits most of the time because it looks the best and feels more natural in cutscenes. One thing I didn’t like is the fact that some of the Classes were assigned to characters that didn’t fit. For instance, Lanz inherited Fiona’s Class as a Healer, which doesn’t feel right to me no matter how I think of it.

Amongst many Heroes, Silvercoat Ethel, Monica, and Ashera are my favorites. I tend to pick Defender Classes throughout my playthrough.

Battle System

This time around we have six party members and they are all controllable characters. With the seventh member which can be recruited along the main story or complete related Hero Quests. The combat is evolved from previous entries and some of the mechanics remained the same, such as Arts Canceling, Combos, and Chain Attack are all there. They introduced Fusion Arts and Interlink and it certainly makes the combat more entertaining.

The UI looks way better than before, it was improved and feels more user-friendly
The screen is filled with damage numbers and many effects going on during combat

The battle system is very MMORPG inspired. The normal attacks are automated and players can input Arts where the skill is mapped after the cooldown meter fills up. It is kind of important to assign different Arts for each character before engaging in battles. Character positioning in combat also needs players to pay attention. It will be indicated with an arrow to allow players to know which direction their controlled character is facing while fighting enemies to maximize the Arts effect.

The combat will be very chaotic when fighting multiple enemies with all the effects going on screen. In my opinion, the screen is too busy that I can’t tell who is fighting who most of the time. But I have to admit that it was very addictive and somewhat satisfying. One thing I didn’t like was fighting with large-scale enemies. We are talking about creatures or enemies that are Gundam-sized, which occupied half of the screen. I simply can’t see clearly what the combat was going on.

The battle system wasn’t that bad and it is good enough for players to be entertained and have fun. I think I like the battle system in Xenoblade 2: Torna–The Golden Country better. Because it feels so seamless and satisfying. I’m sorry to tell you that I enjoyed it more than in Xenoblade 3.

Music

In Xenoblade 3, quite many of the tracks incorporate the flutes melodies in it. I love the music overall and I kept listening to them for quite a while. Some of my favourites are: The Weight of Life, A Life Sent On, A Step Away, and Where We Belong.

If I had to compare the music with previous games, I’d say Xenoblade 2: Torna–The Golden Country have tracks that most memorable. Anyway, this is a great soundtrack.

All members of the group standing and looking into the sky; from left to right: Sena, Lanz, Mio, Noah, Taion, Eunie, Manana and Riku
This is a journey I will never forget

Final words

There will be some post-game content available for players after beating the game if they wish to continue their journeys. I have completed most of the quests, unlocking all Classes, I’ve also upgraded five weapons with all the Origin shards I’ve found (sorry Sena), and five-starred 6 colonies affinity. I’m not sure if I have the time or energy to start a new game plus. This sure was one hell of a journey.

This is a masterpiece in terms of the JRPG genre. Xenoblade 3 is the GOTY to me. To anyone who hasn’t played the game, or is still thinking over whether you should get this game or not; just buy the game and it will be worth every penny of yours. The adventure was amazing and unforgettable. In spite of its flaws, it will remain an experience that I don’t think I will ever have again in the near future.

Noah and Mio both looking at the sunrise while their back facing the audience
It’s time to say goodbye. Someday, we will meet again

To be honest, I think this post was more about recounting the experiences that I had when I played the game rather than a “review”. It took me quite a while to be able to finish this post. I enjoy writing about something that I truly like.

There are quite a lot of screenshots in this post, and considering the file sizes and load time of loading this page, I will probably share some sneak peeks of the Collector’s Edition in another post. In the meantime, I’m busy fixing my grammar, writing captions and alt text.

See you next time.

This is #Day70 of #100DaysToOffload.