Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Already Looks Like An Improvement In Every Single Way

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 looks incredible. It will probably remain an acquired taste with its combination of melodramatic anime bullshit and complicated battle system, but Monolith Soft always manages to combine these tenets into something masterful despite their shortcomings.

All three games in the series thus far – four if we’re counting Xenoblade Chronicles X – take place in vastly different worlds, but operate on similar themes and logic when it comes to how their mythology is explored. It’s all nonsense filled with ancient monsters, cute cat girls, and weird political systems that branch out into a much wider narrative playground. I know exactly what I’m signing up for.

Today’s Nintendo Direct provided us with 25 minutes of new gameplay that revealed so much on the characters, battle system, exploration, customisation, progression, and loads more. The game is just over a month away, so it makes sense for the company to finally spill the beans and show us what this sequel is all about. To me, it feels like a mix of Xenoblade Chronicles 1&2, combining their aesthetic flavour and combat mechanics together in order to create something that feels like the best of both worlds.

It’s less weirdly horny on the surface too, doing away with character designs from guest artists and those that were far from tasteful in XC2. The gacha system also appears much less pronounced, with Monolith opting for a greater focus on expanding the main cast alongside playable guest heroes instead of having us roll for heroes in a system that has no place in a full priced product. I will admit the narrative hook of all of the game’s characters only living for a decade brings up a lot of weird questions. Are they born fully formed or do they just have accelerated ageing, and how do they go about forming relationships and finding their place in this world when time is such a fleeting construct? It’s very weird.

We’ll get into that can of worms at a later date. Even from a distance, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels like a far more confident game. Movement no longer appears floaty, each character having a pronounced weight as they bound across the massive overworld. The same seems true of combat, which in past games felt like you were fighting invisible creatures because the responsiveness was so dire. Here, likely thanks to a tighter camera and greater variety of weapons and character classes, there’s a more noticeable crunch to each strike. A more streamlined user interface and upgrade paths feel like direct improvements do, set to provide a sense of achievement that was often lost in past games in a sea of pointless side quests and confusing menus. Of course, it’s still a daunting RPG, so keep that in mind.

This is a Xenoblade game, so the world is going to be massive. Unless you loved hunting for crafting materials or partaking in random battles there was never much of a reason to abandon the narrative road in past entries. Here it seems different, with the player earning experience points whenever they stumble upon a new area, alongside fast travel nodes that will make navigating the region a breeze. Once again, a small change that will go a long way in the grand scheme of things.

Character interactions like campfire chats also seem more involved, no longer just stoic exchanges through text boxes broken up by the occasional animation. Given how much the series relies on emotional investment to draw us in, this can only be a good thing. That and the cast looks amazing, and perhaps more cohesive than any of the previous games’ ensembles. We have a new Welsh cat girl so I’m happy.

I didn’t expect a Xenoblade Chronicles 3, nor did I think it would be arriving so soon, but to see Monolith Soft building upon all of its existing games in so many effective ways warms my heart, and prepares me to lose myself in a JRPG that will take dozens of hours to conquer.

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