Review: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Grand Gesture Falls Short

Brainchild of Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the recent addition in Role-Playing Games. It sets itself apart in a lot of different areas specially being a game that doesn’t challenge you with time constraints and offers a vast world of adventure to explore. Set in a world which will remind you of Skies of Arcadia, Xenoblade 2 consists of numerous living creatures known as Titans. Moreover, each Titan has a distinctive outlook and roams freely in a complex organic geographical land.

The makers of Xenoblade 2 didn’t stop themselves from going all-out on the creativity. You’ll see all kinds of stuff from combat lingerie to goofy character intros inspired by Sentai clichés to come up to the anime standards. Filled with tropes and clichés to such an extent that you will find Xenoblade 2 to be unlike any other. You can see the effort and detailing that went in to the making of fully modeled & voice-acted lengthy scenes featured in the game. To the extent that it takes you back to the era of big budget cutting-edge PlayStation Role Playing games.

The story revolves around the young protagonist Rex and his allies who end up in an unfamiliar land after a crash. This land is inhabited by plethora of crazy monsters. However, despite this much going on in the midst of a perfectly timed background score given by Yasunori Mitsuda, Xenoblade 2 unfortunately made us feel claustrophobic. There is definitely depth and complexity to it but it comes off as chaotic rather than smooth as if we’re stuck in a cramped corridor with haphazardly distributed monsters. What makes it even more infuriating is the lousy tutorial system and a poorly designed map.

Such a vast landscape requires a coherent map which Xenoblade 2 unfortunately lacks. The map of the world is not easily accessible and you might think of it as a mundane issue but with the need of referring to the map again and again, we can safely say that we end up having something equivalent to a migraine. What doesn’t help in this intricate landscape are the vague quest markers. And to top it all off, while you’re figuring your way, the wandering monsters distract you from fighting the more serious battles sending you back to your most recently saved check point.

I wish as much as you do that this was enough of flaws that were hard to ignore but what’s unavoidable is the peculiar visual design of its character which in no way is appealing to the eye. Major characters have faces larger than their body that is wrapped in anime-styled costumes and what makes us crack every time we are in the midst of a dramatic scene are those cartoon like over-detailed eyes. You might be tempted to argue here that why focus so much on the looks of the character, the combat is the main deal right? Well, when the combat system is more messed up, you tend to automatically focus on the features of the characters.

The sense of control during combat is tenuous as the designated protagonist hits a three-combo strike automatically. You barely have any input. Sure, you can “break” enemies. That sounds like fun! Only if this idea wasn’t borrowed from Final Fantasy 13 trilogy. We would have been fine with the lack of originality if at least it was done with efficiency. FF13’s combat system at least kept the players focused even in the most overwhelming battles but in Xenoblade 2 there’s so much noise from the characters that it makes the whole thing chaotic and irritating. With so much confusion any player would be tempted to look at the tutorial or basic gameplay details. In case of Xenoblade 2, those things that are supposed to be helpful pop up spontaneously and then are never discussed again. Unbelievable, yes but you have to buy them.

The elements just don’t fit together and fail to provide us with an experience of flow which we might expect from a game as vast as this. But instead of being completely immersed in it, we find ourselves struggling to understand it for the most part. As much as we would like to embrace Xenoblade 2 as a traditional narrative driven Japanese role-playing game trying to hold on to being a modern role-playing game, it fails at being either completely. Nevertheless, it does remind us of the good ol’ days in terms of its narrative format, visual style and overall presentation. It does offer something special outside the space of indie gaming and that’s something we should cherish irrespective of the flaws.

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