Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review (Switch)

One of this year’s most eagerly anticipated Switch releases, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 certainly doesn’t disappoint. Ambitious and grand in scale, it’s one of this year’s must-play Switch titles, especially for fans of the genre.

Xenoblade Chronicles may not be as much of a household name as some of the other franchises that Nintendo publishes, but it’s a series that other console owners probably (and should) envy. The games have consistently delivered quality experiences with dozens of hours of gameplay, and the developers don’t seem to want to rest on their laurels and push out an easy sequel either.

In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you can already tell this from the setting, which shifts dramatically from a Greek mythology-inspired setting with titans to a sci-fi world called Aionios – although yes, that does sound Greek. Here, soldiers are grown in pods by two kingdoms, and only live for ten years. Other interesting elements are the Ferronis, which are essentially Mortal Engines-like city structures that also function as giant tanks on the battlefield, and the fact that the life force of these soldiers is used as a kind of currency that you claim when taking down the enemy.

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Six soldiers from these two kingdoms, Keves and Agnus, are suddenly paired up together, and while they were born as enemies they quickly learn there’s more to what is going on here and vie to work together in order to end this ever-lasting conflict. You’ll control this party of six, and as per the norm for the series there are some deep combat mechanics to master while doing so. Your soldiers can specialize along three different axes – defensive, offensive and healing, and you’ll learn the hard way that you’ll need to keep these three balanced among your team of six. Characters can easily and frequently change classes/styles though, and upgrades on one tree carry over to the others as well.

If that wasn’t multi-layered enough, then you can also chain together attacks for combos, perform special attacks and change into alien warriors called Ouroboros by linking party members together. It can get pretty overwhelming and the combat can visually reflect this as well, but luckily Xenoblade Chronicles 3 drip-feeds most of these mechanics over the course of its extremely lengthy campaign. At over 50 hours long, you certainly get value for money with this one.

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Outside of combat, the game lets you explore large game maps in order to find things like chests, supplies, fast travel locations and camping spots that let you rest and level up. Side quests often include a fair bit of travel, so you’ll see plenty of the world that way and if you get tired of it you can always try the fast travel option instead.

And while Xenoblade Chronicles 3 can easily be played as a standalone adventure, series veterans will no doubt see plenty of nods to the games that came before, both in the connections that the two kingdoms hold towards the first and second game and in the visual design of the world around you and the places you’ll visit. It’s a great example of fan service done well, in a way that doesn’t alienate newcomers while still bringing a smile to the faces of those who’ve been with these games for a while now.

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What’s also good to see is that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of the best looking games on the Switch yet, assuming you’re playing it in docked mode – the visuals take a pretty significant hit when you play in handheld mode, dropping to a 540p resolution. It’s perfectly playable in terms of its performance though, so if you want to play at least part of this massive campaign while on the go it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a wonderfully polished sequel in a long-running series. Its biggest ‘problem’ is that its mechanics and size might be too daunting for people to sink their teeth into, but once the game has its hooks in you it won’t let you go for a long time indeed. If you like your RPGs long and challenging, then this is one you can’t afford to miss this year.

Score: 8.8/10

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