Preview Xenoblade Chronicles 3: The great adventure not to be missed this summer on Nintendo Switch? First impressions!
Announced as the ultimate surprise in February’s Nintendo Direct, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the latest in Nintendo’s great role-playing game saga. While the title was originally scheduled for September, the game saw its release date brought forward to finally be launched at the end of July. On this occasion, we were able to play the first hours of this third episode and we give you our impressions.
- A dark and mature scenario
- Gameplay more dynamic than ever
- Halftone graphics
Since the release of the first episode in 2011 on Wii, the saga Xenoblade Chronicles has gradually managed to establish itself as one of Nintendo’s essential role-playing game series. As proof, after the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was one of the titles to be available from the first year of existence of the Switch, while the first episode was entitled to a remaster on Nintendo’s hybrid console in 2020 with Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
Thus, over the years, Monolith Soft, the studio behind the series, has made an increasingly important place for itself within Nintendo’s teams, to the point of helping to develop The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, given their open-world experience. It is therefore without too much surprise that the Kyoto firm has renewed its confidence in them so that they can develop a third numbered episode of Xenoblade Chronicles which is in question today.
A dark and mature scenario
If you have never played an episode of the saga before and this opus tempts you, rest assured, you can still embark on the adventure and enjoy its story. However, the title is not disconnected from its predecessors since it is presented as “set in the common future of these two other titles in the series“, which does not surprise anyone given some familiar faces that we could have guessed in the trailers released so far. That being said, the action of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place in the world of Aionios in which two nations, Keves and Agnus, engage in endless conflict which has already claimed the lives of countless soldiers.
In this context, we embody Noah and his companions Lanz and Eunie who arrive at the end of their “period”, that is to say their ten years of service at the end of which they are rewarded by a ceremony called Great Return. But before getting there, our heroes will participate in a mission that will change their destiny. During the latter, they will face a squad of Keves, the rival nation, led by Mio and his comrades Sena and Taion. At the end of this tense fight, these six characters will find themselves bound together by a combination of circumstances that will lead their respective nations to chase them to the death. Despite their past and their opposing camps, Noah, Mio and their companions will have to cooperate to survive against the world and reach a land called the March of the Sword.
If you have played the previous episodes, you have surely noticed that the tone of the game here is much darker and more mature than that of the second opus which had repelled more than one by its lightness and its clichés from anime. In reality, we find ourselves closer to the serious side of the first opus which also staged a war and where mourning played a fairly important role in the adventure. It’s the same thing here since Noah and Mio are both “Passers of souls” who guide the dead with their flutes, which gives rise to moments of great poetry. This is particularly helped by a still excellent soundtrack, which offers both magnificent themes during important sequences and dynamic pieces for the fights. In general, the characters are calm and thoughtful, which gives a certain gravity to the events. In addition, the cinematics, relatively numerous, also take their time to develop the psyche of the protagonists and the universe, which is always easier to introduce into titles with a long lifespan such as Xenoblade.
Gameplay more dynamic than ever
In terms of gameplay, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is in line with its predecessors, while certainly importing a number of subtleties that further energize the clashes. As usual, we therefore walk through huge environments in which we encounter monsters and resources to harvest.. When a fight starts, the character you control will automatically attack its target. However, the player does not remain passive since several capacities are at his disposal. Where the Xenoblade experience can feel like a form of “off-line MMORPG” is that some of these skills are more effective depending on the position of the character, whether behind or to the sides of the enemy. In addition, by chaining these abilities in a specific order, you can put an end to your opponent, even throw him into the air, and thus take advantage of this state of vulnerability in order to inflict maximum damage on him. Finally, the MMORPG aspect is also felt through the fact that each character has a very specific role in combat, with the tanks who take damage for others, the DPS who take care of attacking and the supports who heal and boost their allies.
From this common basis with previous games in the series, this third opus brings a certain number of subtleties to energize the gameplay even more. For example, the feint system makes it possible to reinforce the power of the abilities if they are executed exactly when an auto-attack hits its target. Then, the player can also change characters on the fly, with a view to embodying a more useful role depending on the situation. Always with the aim of making the fights more punchy, a button to perform a side step has also been added. Beyond these new features, one of the great central features of this Xenoblade Chronicles 3 that we have only been able to experience once during this preview is the mechanics of transformation into Ouroboros. Concretely, each of the three duos on your team can metamorphose into some kind of giant creature whose design is furiously reminiscent of the mechas of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In this form, your characters are particularly powerful, and it is clear that this transformation should be reserved against bosses. Finally, the last feature that we were able to try during this preview is the fact of being able to exchange classes between the characters in order to acquire new skills. Thanks to this, it is possible to combine two abilities at the same time with the fusion mechanic to produce even more powerful attacks.
You understood it from reading these lines, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 therefore offers solid, rich and complex role-playing game mechanics that will surely allow it to remain relevant during the expected dozens of hours of play.. Thanks to all these many new subtleties, the player is more active than ever during clashes, which offers an ever more dynamic approach. But beyond these qualities, it must be recognized that the title retains certain defects of its elders, like its concerns for readability. With six characters fighting at the same time and often giant monsters, it is sometimes difficult to find your way in the middle of it all, especially with a pretty basic loaded interface. If this can be a problem in a game where positioning is very important, the title has the good idea to offer the possibility of displaying an arrow which allows you to understand where you are facing the enemy. And then, we always find the zoom and zoom out of the camera that we can use at any time to move away and see more clearly, which is appreciable.
If during our session we noted that the game shone by its scenario and its gameplay, difficult to say as much in terms of technique and graphics. On the one hand, it must be recognized that the title offers cutscenes with very successful rendering and effective staging that allow you to follow the scenario in good conditions. But on the other hand, when you walk around in the open world or fight, the situation is not the same. In general, the overall resolution of the title is quite low which makes the image look quite blurry as a whole. On closer inspection, some decor element textures also have a fairly low resolution, while others suffer from aliasing (this famous “staircase effect” found around 3D models).
In defense of the title, it must be recognized that the first zone of the adventure is an arid setting and with yellow hues which does not help to highlight its technique. In other environments such as large green plains that the series used to offer, the game still does a little better. And then, it must be understood that these shortcomings are the price to pay to be able to display such vast spaces on a console like the Nintendo Switch, especially when the game allows you to zoom in and out at will. Next to that, the frame rate manages to be stable, and this despite clashes with six characters against several monsters.
At the end of our play session, it seems clear that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has all the cards in hand to give the Nintendo Switch a great new adventure. Far from the lightness of tone of the previous episode, this third installment depicts a darker and more mature story that holds many mysteries, all told with the help of effective cutscenes and an ever so bewitching soundtrack. However, the title does not turn its back on its predecessors in terms of gameplay by taking up all their good ideas, while adding a little more dynamism through various new mechanics. Despite these qualities, it’s more at the level of the visual part that the shoe pinches, with a fairly low display resolution which gives a blurry aspect to the image. In any case, see you on July 29 for the final release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the proposal of which promises to be exciting.
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