Over four years since the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Monolith Soft is finally back with the sequel. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 releases on July 29th for Nintendo Switch, having been pushed forward from its initial September release date. A lot has changed, especially in the tone, but there’s plenty familiar for series fans. Take a look at 15 things you should know before picking it up.
Set on Aionios, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 features two nations – Keves and Agnus – that are at war. The former specializes in technology, using vehicles and the like to fight. The latter is all about magic, using Ether and autonomous weapons. The people of the world all have one thing in common – they each have ten years (known as Terms) to live.
If they somehow survive and complete their Terms, their respective Queens send them into the afterlife. Most aren’t so lucky (if you can call it that) and end up falling in battle, with their lives feeding the Flame Clock of the Ferronis, which are mobile bases capable of mass destruction. In the midst of all this are the mysterious Consuls, masked individuals who follow the Queens’ orders but seem to have their motivations as well.
Noah of Keves and Mio of Agnus are the protagonists of the story. Both are “off-seers” – soldiers who play special flutes for the souls of the fallen. After being assigned to a mission, the two enter conflict. After somehow becoming fugitives, they begin the journey to Sword March, a mysterious region pierced by a familiar-looking giant sword, to find answers. Accompanying Noah are Lanz, a heavy brawler, and Eunie, a feisty yet responsible healer. Mio has the tactful Taion and Sena, a small but powerful fighter, on her side. How the group coexists and what awaits them at Sword March remains to be seen.
Both English and Japanese voices are available. More importantly, the lip-syncing for characters will now accurately match the language selected.
Connection to Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2
Despite the world setting and groups, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a direct follow-up to Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2. We won’t spoil either of those games, but there is a connection between this world and the previous ones. Some beloved characters also return, though their purpose and overall role in the story remains to be seen. Suffice to say that if you want to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3, then you should at least read up on the first two games’ events.
One key appeal of the Xenoblade Chronicles series is the exploration. There’s an impressive amount of freedom as you take in the sights, meet different NPCs, encounter Supply Drops which provide useful items, collect materials and encounter indigenous wildlife. You may even spot the soldiers of Keves and Agnus in battle with one another. Thus far, we’ve seen environments ranging from rocky deserts with ancient ruins and structures to wide open fields, snow-covered landscapes and enormous mountainsides. And it all looks incredibly gorgeous.
As you explore the world, there are different Landmarks to discover, which provide EXP and Spirit Points. They also work as fast travel points for quickly getting around. Quest routes can also be used to find your next destination without much hassle. Like in previous games, you can set the time of day. This changes which monsters will appear, which is useful for quests requiring slaying certain foes or gathering specific materials.
Colonies and Rest Spots
As you explore Aionios, you’ll come across various Colonies. Along with housing a Ferronis, they also feature several NPCs, vendors that will sell new gear, food places for meals that provide buffs and more. There are also Rest Spots in the wild where you can view different story events between party members. Any ingredients collected can be used to cook dishes that provide buffs to EXP, Collectible drop rate, and more. You can also discuss details from different residents to open up new side quests.
Helping to keep track of all of the different NPCs and characters is the Affinity Chart. It appears closer to that of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 in terms of design. Completing quests for various NPCs would alter how NPCs perceived you while also opening up new story sequences. Whether Xenoblade Chronicles 3 follows a similar system remains to be seen. It’s also worth noting that you can view the Terms of different NPCs, and learn how long each has left to live.
Gem crafting from Xenoblade Chronicles 1 returns and appears to be more streamlined. Gems offer benefits like increased attributes, though bonuses like increased duration of status effects should also be obtainable. Along with materials, they can be crafted with coins. They’re also only four color types – Blue, Red, Green and Orange. Other mechanics have yet to be detailed but crafting seems way more straightforward than in the first game.
Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles is different from the average real-time or turn-based RPG. There are no random encounters – all enemies are visible on the field, with some being docile and leaving you alone and others attacking immediately. Upon entering combat, you can freely move your character around and basic attacks are automatic. Arts are your special moves and abilities that have different effects and benefits depending on the class and role. For instance, as a Zephyr, Mio is an evasion tank of sorts, generating aggro with Arts like Air Fang and Butterfly Blade, then evading to execute counter-attacks.
Other features from previous games like Break, Topple, Launch and Smash for inflicting massive damage also return. Chain Attacks, which allow for performing Arts one after another, are further expanded with Chain Orders. These confer benefits like Chain Attacks gaining a 70 percent chance to bypass defense, increased defender aggro by 35 percent, Attack Up for all allies, and so on. You can also switch between party members instantly during battles. One new mechanic is Quick Move, which allows for retracting one’s weapon and quickly dashing forward, allowing for quick repositioning.
Roles and Classes
There are three core roles – Attacker, Defender and Healer, a trinity which should be familiar to any MMO player. Attackers deal damage; Defenders tank; and Healers heal while also providing buffs. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also has various classes in these roles. Swordfighters are well-balanced attackers who can cancel attacks and inflict more damage when attacking from behind. Zephyrs, as mentioned previously, specialize in being evasion-based defenders. The Medic Gunner is a Healer that can cast area-of-effect heals, daze enemies and raise attack power. You also have classes like Tactician, Heavy Guard and Ogre with differing skills in their roles. Each character’s class can be changed and ranked up separately. You can don a unique outfit for a class or mix and match your gear.
Fusion Art Attacks and Master Arts
Ranking up a class unlocks Master Arts. They allow for mixing techniques from other classes with your own. So if you want a Swordsman to learn the Ogre’s Giant Swing or the Zephyr’s Wide Slash to evade attacks at the cost of a lower Critical Rate, go for it. Master Arts can then be combined with normal Arts to form Fusion Arts, which confers the benefits of both Arts when used.
Heroes are a spin on the Blades from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. They’re characters separate from the main party who can be recruited as a seventh combatant. Only one can be active in the party at any given time, but they each have their unique classes. Valdi is a War Medic who heals allies and also buffs them. Juniper is a Stalker, dealing ranged damage with a bow and attacking blind spots. Twelve heroes have been confirmed thus far, and your core six party members can take on these Hero classes for even more variety.
As if Fusion Arts, Master Arts, Heroes and whatnot weren’t enough, players can also interlink two characters to form Ouroboros. This powerful figure has unique Arts and can dish out some serious damage for a limited time. There are three fixed pairings for an Ouroboros form – Mio and Noah, Lainz and Sena, and Taion and Eunie. However, you can change the person in control of the form to change its abilities and arts. For instance, when Lainz is the controller, the Ouroboros can inflict damage that generates high aggro. Switch to Sena and you gain knockback and launch skills. By earning Soul Points in battle, Ouroboros can be upgraded to learn new Arts and passive skills.
15 GB in Size
Each of the Xenoblade Chronicles titles is massive in size and scale. In terms of installation size, however, they’re fairly manageable. Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was 13.7 GB and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 took up 13.2 GB of space. However, as revealed by its official listing, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is going to be even bigger at, believe it or not, 15 GB. Of course, this is without accounting for any day-one updates so make sure you have the space on hand.
In addition to the base game, an Expansion Pass is also available for $30. It provides four DLC waves – the first arrives on July 29th and adds “helpful items” and new outfit color variants. The second is due on December 31st and adds a new Challenge Battle, Hero Character and Quests, and new outfits. The third wave is similar with its new Hero, Challenge Battle and outfits, and releases on April 30th, 2023. On December 31st, 2023, the fourth and final DLC wave arrives, adding a brand-new story scenario. Unfortunately, you need to purchase the Expansion Pass to access any of the DLC since there are no standalone purchases.