Only a few weeks ago, on these same pages, we anticipated how much we enjoyed the first few hours in the company of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, with a mixture of a pleasant familiar flavor and the novelties that it was legitimate to expect from a narratively fundamental chapter for the universe. created by Monolith Software.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
July 29, 2022
Developer Monolithroad covered in tens and tens of hours on Aionios: Noah and his companions have become almost friends, as often happens with such epic and well-written adventures, and before we leave them, we are ready to tell you about the wonderful adventures lived together.
Welcome to our review for Nintendo Switch.
An endless cycle
Keves and Agnus are two nations that have always fought, in a world that has made war its daily life and where no one knows the meaning of words like “peace”, motherhood “,” love “,” old age “.
This is because the soldiers are artificially created, with a life cycle of only ten years and with the sole purpose of fighting until the last of their days, at the end of which their vital essence reunites with all the others in the flow. of souls, raw material for the creation of other soldiers who will take their place on one of the infinite battlefields.
An intensive breeding of meat for slaughter, instigated to hate from the first day and to put the destruction of the other before one’s own survival, in the name of a mostly absent queen and a homeland that, in fact, no one really lives, too busy to train and then go to die in a meaningless skirmish.
An aberrant world, in which the same beauty of nature fades with every mortar shot, with every green lawn transformed into a battlefield on which lifeless bodies are left to rot, in the vain wait for a legacy.
In this context, three soldiers of Keves move, Noah, Lanz and Yunie, and three of Agnus, Miyo, Taion and Sena, ready to put an end to each other’s lives before a mysterious soldier brings them the flame as Prometheus did with humanity.
The seed of doubt, which slowly germinates in the hearts of the six protagonists, to then flourish in the absolute certainty that the real enemy is not represented by the other faction, which is in reality only one more victim, but by mysterious puppeteers who keep the ranks from the shadows, laughing and hiding behind the scenes.
And then that cycle in which ours have always lived, in which each of them bore the mark with their expiration date, like beef in jelly, becomes a chain to be destroyed, a yoke to which none of them want to submit anymore. , but it will not be easy to eradicate from the minds and hearts of so many oppressed like them.
Fortunately, they will not be alone on their long journey, and the relationships they develop during it will help them fight as one, to free the rest of the population from a terrible fate.
You will never tire of certain views.
If Takahashi and his team surpassed each other in the drafting of the plot, which is linked to those of the previous titles but still manages to be enjoyable even for those who approached the franchise only starting from this episode, it is in the characterization of the six main characters that Monolith reaches its peak in almost twenty-three years of career.
Each of the six aforementioned soldiers stands out for their vision of the world, their flaws and the way they approach others and the extraordinary and shocking discoveries they will make during the journey, drawing more than a smile and even a tear from the players. more sensitive.
Also complicit in the length of the journey and the many moments of psychological introspection that Takahashi grants to the group, it will be impossible to get to the credits without feeling a strong empathy for the cast of characters, and even more not to miss them once the console is turned off. .
The bonds that are created between soldiers who were originally called to kill each other, the slow discovery of feelings and values that the cruelty of the status quo in which they live has deprived them, the daily struggle between what they thought they knew and what they is really, they result in a group never so human, albeit in its heterogeneity, and in dialogues and relationships that manage to keep the player’s attention high even in the central part of the adventure, when the main plot slows down and seems to quiet down, before the final crackling.
In the face of enemies , with some deviations in the real anime specks, the six heroes that we will be called to lead will remain etched in the memory of all those who will take care not to skip the dialogues and to pay attention also to the not said in every cutscene.
The sad duty of the inheritors.
Starting from the solid base represented by the two episodes previously published on Switch (three, if we count Torna – The Golden Country which was almost a game in itself for the amount of content), the Monolith Soft team was able to allow themselves the luxury of working fine, adding and improving instead of upsetting what was already good.
For this reason, longtime fans of the franchise will immediately feel at home, and newbies can get lost in a boundless universe and test themselves with one of the best fighting systems we’ve come across in recent years.
The latter represents the focal point of the entire gaming experience: initially accused of being a bit too passive, given the use of MMO-style automatic attacks, over the years the combat system has been refined and improved, up to to the current version, which, as far as we are concerned, represents the best possible, at least until Monolith denies us with the forthcoming fourth episode of the series.
Each of the six (actually seven, but we’ll be back) members of the party can choose a class from three macro-categories, also taken in weight by MMORPGs: attacker, or the one who has a high DPS coefficient, defender, or the tank that attracts enemy attacks on itself while protecting other party members, and healers, or fundamental healers to heal the party and revive fallen comrades.
Despite the large number of variants introduced by the heroes in this chapter, each of the available classes can be traced back to one of these categories, and at any time (except in the middle of the fight) you can change class and rearrange, accordingly, the own party.
The aforementioned heroes represent one of the novelties of this third episode: secondary characters who still play a role of a certain importance within the narrated events, who can be enlisted as the seventh member of the party under certain conditions, which are generally represented by bringing completed one or more special missions dedicated to them.
The presence of a seventh member greatly expands the variables in strategic terms, allowing you to fight with asymmetrical parties, which, from time to time, can count on more shock force, more defense or a greater number of healers.
As in the previous chapters, identifying and implementing a correct strategy is much more important, in battle, than the mere leveling of your units: most of the time, the defeat comes not from the gap in terms of brute strength from the opponent rather, from the use of a party that is not suitable for the occasion.
A sponge enemy with a lot of hit points needs at least three attackers to keep the fight too long, just as a particularly aggressive one might require three tanks to keep it busy and allow the rest of the group to survive.
With a couple of significant exceptions, in fundamental points of the campaign, it was never necessary to grind experience around Aionios (playing on the Hard level, however): it was almost always enough to change the attack and strategy scheme to see notable changes in the flow of the battle and earn a hard-earned victory.
Could they lack some rather hateful antagonists?
One of the most positive sides of this combat system is represented precisely by the chorality, by teamwork, without which it is impossible to emerge victorious: the balance of the party, the ability of the group to absorb damage and inflict it and the speed with which the fallen are revived are fundamental elements of the war strategy in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and therefore the battles are actually much deeper and more strategic than you might think at first glance, seeing the chaos that breaks out on the screen when even the group of enemies is particularly fed.
The great novelty of this episode is represented by the possibility of switching from one fighter to another in real time during the battles, so as to have an increasingly active influence on the outcomes of the same or on the tactics used.
To be fair, the excellent artificial intelligence of the teammates driven by the Switch’s CPU did not make us resort to this feature too much, if not in certain situations, but we believe that the development team has included it to allow an increasing control of the battlefield by the player, and as such, it must be evaluated positively.
Between Uroboros attacks, in which two characters merge to give life to a form of great power for a short time, positional techniques, which inflict malus depending on where they hit, and the spectacular Group Assaults, the combat system of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 enters the Olympus of those seen so far on Nintendo’s hybrid machine, so much so as to leave the crumbs to the other aspects of the gameplay, which are equally well developed.
We refer to the exploration of Aionios, always airy and which preserves intact the sense of discovery typical of the franchise, or to the crafting systems of wearable gems or the preparation of delicacies, which infuse the party with beneficial effects of various kinds.
We have a confession to make: Lanz is one of our favorites.
More than any other aspect, what is impressive is the overall balance of the various game elements throughout the gigantic duration of the campaign, which never accuses moments of tiredness and always manages to reserve surprises for the player, whether from a playful or narrative point of view.
If we really wanted to try to find something that we did not like like everything else, we would mention the management of many of the secondary contents, placed in regions already visited and which therefore no longer have direct links with the rest of the story.
We happened to return by pure chance to colonies liberated tens of hours earlier only to find several secondary missions (some even of some importance for the overall narrative) buried there, waiting for someone to complete them.
Considering the quantity and in some cases also the quality of these optional quests, we believe that tying them to a backtracking not justified by narrative needs is a badly calculated risk because, realistically, many players will run the risk of losing them along the way.
So follow our advice and remember to visit the already liberated colonies from time to time: you may find pleasant surprises waiting for you.
Compromises to be accepted in order to get lost in Aionios
As the old adage goes (“the devil is in the details”), it is often the maniacal care infused into the little things that reveals the goodness and grandeur of a project.
Taking into consideration the sound accompaniment, for example, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 leaves nothing to chance: upstream of an exceptional dubbing for the choice of voices and acting skills of the actors, net of the pronounced British accent, we also point out two other positive aspects of the audio sector, that is the double and improved lip sync and the absence of additional downloads for the secondary audio track.
Whatever vocal track you choose (English or Japanese), the lip sync of the characters, while not perfect as in certain triple A mega-productions, will adapt to the spoken word, making the numerous interlude scenes that punctuate the progression along the plot more credible. principal.
As if that were not enough, and contrary to the bad habit that spreads among the publishers for Switch, there is no need for any additional download to download the other audio track (often on cartridge there is only one present) or the subtitle packs. .
The excellent Italian adaptation, which marries very well the alternation of production registers, from very serious to very Japanese teenage anime, is therefore present on the cartridge as well as included in the initial download of the file if you opt for the digital copy of the game.
This same attention to detail then explodes in the sound accompaniment, which has always been one of the strong points of Monolith Soft productions: if the curriculum vitae of Yasunori Mitsuda speaks for itself (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Final Fantasy XV and both previous games of the franchise Xenoblade are just some of the works of the Japanese composer), here also the contribution of other artists – such as ACE and Manami Kiyota – helps to create an unforgettable unicum, which gracefully navigates between moments of great solemnity, woven by Gregorian choirs, and others much lighter, with pressing yet lighthearted motifs.
Impossible not to recommend good quality headphones or earphones to fully enjoy such magnificence.
Miyo is a woman with a pretty good temper …
Regarding thegraphic impact itself and the performance of the game we were fought for a long time before writing this piece, because, while, on the one hand, a great job was done to put in a tiny cartridge such a big world, on the other we were surprised to wonder what they would be able to do in Monolith Soft if their vision were not constrained by the technical limitations of mom Nintendo’s hybrid console.
But let’s go in order: using many of the small tricks now widespread among the teams that deal with apparently “impossible” ports for Nintendo Switch, the Japanese software house has managed to maintain an otherwise unthinkable balance between the grandeur of Aionios and the reduced technical skills host machine.
The frame rate, despite having played before the inevitable patch day one, has proved almost always stable at 30 fps, with sporadic and in any case contained drops during the most heated battles or views crowded with many models (such as in the city, at advanced game), but this comes at the price of a substantial lowering of the overall level of detail, with objects and characters that scale in resolution as soon as they leave the field of vision of the virtual direction, or move away from the foreground, sometimes somewhat brutal.
Similarly, as seen recently in the latest game dedicated to Kirby and in the excellent port of Dying Light, the models of the most distant enemies move at a speed almost halved compared to the 30 fps of the main cast, so as not to further burden the Switch CPU, already burdened by calculations related to a boundless world and rather complex geometries.
Among the prices to pay there is also a drop in resolution rather evident in certain situations, when, even in docked mode, it falls below the physiological threshold of 720p, as had happened for another world teeming with life like that of Geralt. of Rivia in The Witcher 3.
Don’t get us wrong: the optimization work done, as in the aforementioned circumstance, is of excellent workmanship, but to curb the ambitions of the development team is more than anything else the limited Nintendo hardware. And here we come to the one, small regret we mentioned above: what would the talented developers of Monolith Soft be capable of free from the reins that the technical limitations of Switch impose?
A Hamletic question, to which we will probably not have an answer until the fourth episode of the series, which we hope to see running on hardware more capable of the versatile and compact current flagship of the Kyoto house (Switch 2 or Pro?).
Final comment on the disproportionate longevity of the product: to complete the main campaign alone, leaving out the myriad of optional contents, it will hardly take you less than seventy hours of play, which can easily become a hundred or even more if, instead, you decide to explore each unhurried corner of Aionios – as we advise you to do.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is out on July 29 on Nintendo Switch. If interested, find the game on Amazon.