Has there ever been a game in a video game series that, despite several entries, had the best installment being the first one? Well, that was me with the Xenoblade Chronicles series at the start of the year. Xenoblade Chronicles is an open-world RPG series created by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo. There are currently four games in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2, and spin-off Xenoblade Chronicles X. This past July, though, a fourth game in the series Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was released. As someone who has Xenoblade 1 has one of their favorite games of all time, and while I did enjoy X and 2, I never thought Monolith Soft could make a better game than Xenoblade 1, but by the time I reached Xenoblade 3’s credits, I was proven wrong. Here’s why Xenoblade 3 is not only my favorite game of the series but easily my favorite game of 2022.
Xenoblade 3’s story tells the tale of its world Aionios and its two nations, Keves and Agnus. These two nations are at war, a war that has gone on for an eternity and shows no signs of ending. In Aionios, all human life is artificial, and people begin their life at the age of 10 and end it at age 20. During those ten years of life, the soldiers of both nations fought against each other. We start the game following Keves soldiers, Noah, Eunie, and Lanz. They follow orders and retrieve an item of importance to Keves known as the Ouroboros Stone. Still, once they find it, they face three Agnus soldiers, Mio, Taion, and Sena, who are also after the Ouroboros Stone. However, during the battle, both parties learn there is more to their world than meets the eye. As the action is interrupted by a powerful being known as Moebius, the Ouroboros Stone activates, giving both parties the power of Ouroboros. This allows a member of Keves and Aguns to interlink and become a being known as Ouroboros, which grants them immense power to take on Moebius, but doing so results in them becoming the world’s ending. From there on, Noah, Mio, Eunie, Taion, Lanz, and Sena must work together to uncover the truth of the war. They have been fighting in the reality of their world. But they are pressed for time, as Mio only has three months to live.
As for the gameplay of Xenoblade 3, it heavily expands on the MMO-style combat system of the first two games by mixing in various elements of them. Since the story focuses on six different characters, you can have up to 7 characters in battle. Now there are the six main characters of the tale: Noah, Mio, Eunie, Taion, Lanz, and Sena. All these can be playable with their class, and now you can change the playable character mid-battle. Then there is the 7th character, a guest spot known as the hero. Hero characters are a dozen or so characters you will meet throughout the story and side quests. While they may not be Ouroboros, they will gladly assist the party throughout their adventure. If a hero character stays in the party long enough, the primary six can change their class to that of one of the hero characters.
The classes split among attackers, tanks, and healers. The tank’s job is to get the enemy’s attention away from the other two. While attacks will focus on dealing as much damage to the enemy as possible, and healers will focus on buffing and healing the party. All these come about through combat arts; with combat arts, classes’ nationality comes into play. Keves art’s work, like arts in Xenoblade 1, when used, will recharge over time and varies on the skill, while arts that belong to Agnus classes will recharge by auto-attacking enemies, much like arts did in Xenoblade 2. Then you have two other major gameplay mechanics, Ouroboros and chain attacks. Ouroboros is a mechanic that has two characters interlinking to become Ouroboros. In this form, you are granted access to more powerful arts and are immune to damage. However, your party will be down a member during the duration. It’s also limited to specific pairs. For example, Noah and Milo have their Ouroboros forms, but Noah can’t interlink with Sena, while Sena can interlink with Lanez. The final mechanic worth talking about is chain attacks. On the right to the screen during battle, you will see a gage building over time to commence a chain attack; during chain attacks, the party builds up a chain combo of arts and strategies depending on what you pick during the chain to deal an insane amount of damage to enemies.
Now, this wouldn’t be a review of a Xenoblade game without talking about the music and art direction. The music across the entire Xenoblade series has been stellar, and Xenoblade 3 is no exception. While I prefer the soundtracks of Xenoblade 1 and 2, Xenoblade 3 still has many great tracks, even if some of my favorites are not used often, such as the track “The Weight of Life”. Which is only used twice during the whole game, and “Where We Belong”, the track that plays during the game’s ending. In addition, the themes you will often hear, like the Moebius theme, the chain attack theme, and various other battle themes, are all great. As I was writing this review, I listened to some soundtracks. In terms of the rest of the game’s presentation, Xenoblade 3 continues another series tradition, giving the world an impressive sense of scale and very creative locations, you will explore throughout the game. Also, while I wasn’t bothered by the sexualization of Xenoblade 2’s character designs, if you were someone that was, then I can say that Xenoblade 3 not only toned it down but also found an outstanding balance between the character designs of Xenoblade 1 and 2.
Speaking of mixing Xenoblade 1 and 2, now is an excellent time to address something I’ve often encouter people who are interested in the series. Can you play Xenoblade 3 without playing Xenoblade 1 and 2? Well, the answer is a bit complicated; when Xenoblade 3’s announcement, Nintendo stated this game would depict the world’s future. Described in Xenoblade 1 and 2 as they have now come together; This is something Xenoblade 3 does; its world of Aionos is the world of Xenoblade combined into one, with Keves being Xenoblade 1’s world and Agnus being Xenoblade 2’s world. As a fan of the series, I was already hooked by this premise, especially after Xenoblade 2’s mind-blowing ending set this all up. However, if you are a newcomer to the series, I can say that Xenoblade 3 is a fine starting point. There are only a few returning characters from the previous two games in Xenoblade 3, and the events of Xenoblade 3 itself work fine as its own standalone story. That said, if you play 1 and 2 prior, Xenoblade 3 has loads of references and ties up some loose ends from those games. Plus, with Xenoblade 1 and 2 already on Switch, you can access the whole trilogy on one system.
In conclusion, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an incredible game. As a fan of the series, I was immediately hooked and will remain. All this is because of the fantastic story and the best cast of characters in a Xenoblade game. In terms of gameplay, Xenoblade 3 was just a game I couldn’t put down, and I loved exploring the world of Aionos and doing all the sidequests, which both side questing and exploration have never been this good in a Xenoblade game. By the time I finished Xenoblade 3, I had reached the 115-hour mark according to my save file and still had plenty to do by the time the credits rolled. I think Xenoblade 3 is an incredible game that is not only my 2022 game of the year but even more so than Elden Ring, which I also loved. But right up with Fire Emblem Three Houses and The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild for my favorite Nintendo game on the Switch.