Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the third mainline game in the Xenoblade series. The story is entirely self-contained, and doesn't require any knowledge of the previous games. However, there are plenty of callbacks and references to the previous titles. Not only is the game’s story approachable for newcomers, but it will reward series veterans for their lore knowledge.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 29, 2022
What's more, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has one of the most emotional, heart-wrenching and deeply moving stories in an RPG this year. There are also many side quests to sink your time into, which add to the game's substantial worldbuilding. The combat is exhilarating as well, making the game an even more worthwhile experience. Read on for our full Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Story and characters
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place in a world called Aionios. The game follows two nations, Keves and Agnus, as they engage in a never-ending war. Noah, Lanz and Eunie of Keves, along with Mio, Taion and Sena of Agnus meet each other during a chance encounter on the battlefield. After being forced to work together to overcome a new threat, the warriors discover that both Keves and Agnus have turned against them.
From there, they journey to a new city called Swordmarch — aptly named, as it has a gigantic sword pierced straight through its center. There, the party hopes to find salvation and learn more about their new enemy.
The game’s story has many anti-war themes, including the use of child soldiers and how to treat prisoners of war. Additionally, the narrative touches on ideas of forgiveness and regret, as it explores how certain characters could have turned out if they had chosen different paths. The game delves into these themes in both its main narrative and its side quests.
While Xenoblade Chronicles 3 doesn’t have any relationship or sim elements, which you’d see in a series like Persona, the game develops its main cast of characters throughout the entire story. Players can also learn more about each character's backstory by completing side quests. Even if you don't complete the side quests, though, the main cast feels fully developed by the time the story ends. The extra missions are just icing on the cake. You can also read our detailed Xenoblade Chronicles 3 character guide to meet the main characters.
The game has so many twists and turns, and my eyes glued to the screen as I wondered what would happen next. While some of the story developments are predictable, the ones that aren’t hit hard, and provide a lot of emotional payoff. It's an incredible adventure from start to finish, and one with plenty of surprises.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Gameplay and battle system
Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s battle system plays similarly to that of a massively multiplayer online RPG, where characters auto-attack. Players are also free to move around and select skills to activate during battle. There’s a class system in play, similar to Final Fantasy’s. Characters can swap around among different classes such as the Swordfighter, War Medic and Defender in order to learn a variety of different skills. Because some skills carry over between classes, mixing and matching different skills can be fun.
There’s even more customization when it comes to gear. You can equip different kinds of gems and accessories to boost stats and abilities. For example, you could give a character 20% extra attack power, or increase your aggro meter, drawing an enemy’s attention away from a teammate and onto yourself. As your characters level up, you’ll unlock additional slots to equip more items. The progression here feels satisfying and steady.
The main issue with the game’s combat is that it can be hard to tell where your characters are amidst all the chaos of battle. Battles can become a visually overwhelming mess because of the game's cluttered UI. You have to keep track of your characters’ health, the cooldown period on your skills, the chain attack gauge and your Interlink meter. It’s all too much sometimes.
In spite of this, the real-time nature of the combat makes the game exhilarating to play, especially considering that you can oversee six main characters at once. Surprisingly, I didn’t encounter any performance issues during battles, even with all the attacks flying around onscreen.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Worldbuilding
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 features a big, open world filled with creatures and robots. The landscapes are vast, and there are many landmarks to discover and biomes to explore. You’ve got luscious grasslands, beautiful snowfields and blazing deserts. One of the best features in the game is its quest route marker. It’s a red line that shows you the path towards your next objective, and even accounts for terrain. You’ll never get lost again.
The game also does an incredible job with worldbuilding through its side quests. Every mission has a degree of storytelling and thoughtfulness to it. Even simple fetch quests have backstories, so completing them feels worthwhile.
The most important side missions in the game are the Hero quests. These involve important side characters that, while not integral to the main plot, play some sort of significant role in a main character’s back story. Completing a Hero quest not only allows the side character to join as a seventh party member in battle, but also unlocks a new class for the main cast.
Veteran composer Yasunori Mitsuda returns to the series for Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The franchise’s music has always been stellar, and this entry is no exception. The flute plays an important part in the game’s story, as Noah and Mio are overseers, playing melodies on the instrument to send off fallen soldiers in battle.
One of the battle themes incorporates a flute, which is a nice touch. Small details like this one help elevate the entire game experience. The electrifying guitars from the previous games make a roaring return as well, providing your ears with some thrilling, heart-thumping music.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Verdict
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is easily the best JRPG of 2022, (you can also check out the best JRPGs on Nintendo Switch) at least so far, and one of the best games of the year. It’s a buffet, with the main story easily lasting about 40 hours. Add in the side content, and you could potentially sink more than 100 hours into this game.
It’s hard to imagine any other game this year topping the sheer scope of Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The world of Aionios is vast, rich and beautiful. The incredible story alone makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a worthwhile purchase, but the fun gameplay and likable characters make the game an unforgettable experience.