With the recent Nintendo Direct and just under three weeks to go until the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the hype for this game is approaching its climax. Even though Nintendo has been happy to share tons of information with the public, there’s plenty more that’s new and familiar for fans of the franchise to dig into.
First off, the battle system in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will look unsurprisingly familiar to those who have played past titles. You can run around with the left stick, approach an enemy to start auto-attacking it, and use special attacks called Arts with the face buttons. But it’s the additions to this system that help to keep the experience feeling fresh.
Attack canceling returns from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to help give a relatively passive battle system a bit more interactivity. Canceling auto attacks with Arts can boost the efficacy of these special moves. The margin of error for timing the attack cancel isn’t massive, but it’s narrow enough to assure that the player is actually paying attention instead of just spamming Arts as soon as their cooldown ends.
On top of that, the class change system returns from Xenoblade Chronicles X and this time it lets you completely customize every member in your party. Leveling up certain classes also lets characters new arts and skills that they can carry over even if their class is changed back at a later point.
But one of the biggest changes to the battle system is certainly the Interlinking mechanic. Interlinking is a special ability that allows two characters in your party to temporarily fuse together into their powerful Ouroburous form. In this mode, they look like a mech and gain all-new Ouroburous Arts that can deal massive damage. Fortunately, these super-powerful forms are limited by the heat gauge so it’s harder to abuse their raw power.
While Interlinking is a big addition to a familiar battle system, the darker story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 gives it a much more serious tone compared to past titles. There’s an endless war that the characters treat like a sport with different ranks like Dirt and Silver. Body markings that show a predetermined date of death for each person is commonplace. And then there are soldier corpses scattered around the world as a constant reminder of the horrible toll exacted by the endless wars.
It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the story unfolds. But it certainly starts out intensely grim which gives the player a constant feeling of hopelessness. There are sprinkles of comic relief, but they’re few and far between compared to past titles. For example, the Nopons are often a source of comedy in past titles whereas they seem a bit more down-to-earth and serious in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 — despite their still playful syntax.
Nopons still sound a bit funny too, but the voice acting overall is solid in this game. The same goes for the rest of the characters in the game. The many accents of the British Isles are back in full force. It just wouldn’t be a Xenoblade game without them. And while the voice acting in past games has been the source of many memes, it’s still solid when you look beyond that.
What’s more, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also carries over the tradition of having a spectacular soundtrack. The overworld music is memorable and catchy enough without being distracting from the experience as a whole. And then the battle themes, as always, are some of the best tracks that you’ll hear in the game.
Unfortunately, this game continues the streak of not looking great in handheld mode. The frame drops — if any — are certainly more noticeable in docked mode on a larger screen. Still, playing on a TV is going to be the best way to experience Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
It’s important to note that this experience is based on playing the game with a Switch that has an LCD screen. However, the visual issues of squished-looking models and overall blurriness are unlikely to be resolved by playing on a Switch with an OLED display.
Despite these issues, it’s safe to say that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is starting off on the right foot. This highly-anticipated Switch game is looking like it’s going to deliver exactly what fans of the series are looking for. Expect a full breakdown and scored review later this month. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launches for Nintendo Switch on July 29.