Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – A Rough Start

It’s not a secret that games like Xenoblade Chronicles are of the “slow-burn” variety. That is, really getting into the meat of the game and getting to an established point where the game lets you take over can sometimes take many hours. More hours than a lot of games are from start to finish, that is. The latest culprit to test my patience has been Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Now, as I write this, I do feel a bit foolish and perhaps a little naive, following a post written last damn week trying to convince everyone to buy this game. That being said, in case you don’t finish reading this now – I still recommend fans of RPGs to buy this game. Read on for more detail on that judgement call.

My core issue is that I approached Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with the same perspective that I had on the original Xenoblade. In reality, these games are massively different. While they may be lengthy games that take a while to open up, the core mechanics of the games are entirely different.

The primary focus of my article praising Xenoblade Chronicles was that of the battle system and how darn fun it was. I went into the sequel expecting to carry over that knowledge and experience, and essentially move through it with relative ease. This turned out to not be the case at all – while XC1 focused on chaining together Arts, or special moves, to continuously weaken your foe and rendering them unable to attack, XC2 is far more focused on the timing of Arts, and executing combos. While the two battle styles are similar in the sense that they are “cooldown-based,” wherein you must wait for Arts to charge up, they are actually quite different in execution. Simply put, 80 hours of experience in XC1 means absolutely jack for the Switch sequel.

This was probably my first hang-up with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It definitely proved to be a little frustrating. I felt like I was spending entire battles waiting for Arts to charge up, and then by the time I actually got to use them, the enemy was already about dead. The battles were taking far too long and I was spending a great deal of time tapping my fingers, waiting for the animations to finish.

xenoblade-2-wtf.png

At this point I was still a mere 4 hours into the game, which is honestly not a whole lot for a game whose name begins with “Xenoblade,” so I pressed onward.

There is also the issue of figuring out where the heck you are in the world. The map is really not good – the mini-map is either too small, takes up the entire screen and isn’t transparent enough to prevent you from running straight into enemies, and opening the fast-travel screen doesn’t zero-in to where you currently are. Using quest markers is very tough initially, as you simply don’t know where to go, particularly in the first city which seems to have ~6 different floors, making the quest markers virtually useless.

Between getting constantly lost, getting inundated with fetch quests, and barely having a grip on the combat, I was having a tough time.

I took to Twitter and Discord and voiced my concerns, which were only echoed by some folks who were also in the midst of navigating the first dozen hours of the game.

As it turns out, around 8 hours is where Xenoblade 2 finally turned around for me.

Consider this post a PSA – if you’re currently trying to get into Xenoblade 2 and having some trouble, around the middle point of Chapter 2, the combat should start to become much more fun.

While Xenoblade Chronicles focused solely on the order and the attack patterns and the positioning, Xenoblade 2 seems to have a large focus on chaining together Arts, using not only your active Blade, but your inactive blades and your two companions. Once you get a third companion, you will find that the battle system is a lot more engaging, and there is far more to do. I just hit 12 hours on my save game, and another component to battles will reveal itself that will make it even more complex.

Those moments where you’re waiting for your Arts to charge with seemingly nothing to do? I started to appreciate those moments, because they gave me time to think and strategize for a moment.

xenoblade-2-combat.jpg

See that flow chart in the top right? You need to activate an art of each type to navigate through the chart, eventually landing on Self Self-Destruct, Self Affinity Down, Seal Self-Destruct (again), or Seal Shackle Blade. In this example, Fire + Water + Fire would land you at the third combo from the top: Seal Self-Destruct. You have to execute them one after the other, before time runs out, represented by the bar up top (in this case, keeping track of the remaining combo time started from Heat).

It’s tough to explain, really, but I spent 5 minutes on YouTube and had it figured out in no time. I recommend watching this video here.

Overall, the beginning of Xenoblade 2 will definitely feel slow to a lot of players. The anime tropes are a-plenty and the tone can flucuate between serious and downright goofy, but overall I think the mechanics work well once you hit three party members. If you push through for one game this year, make it this one.

Bonus Tips

  • Open up the progress pages of each of your Blades once in a while. You can only unlock the new skills once you have met certain conditions, but you must still open that page to fully “activate” them.
  • If you’re finding yourself getting crushed in combat, don’t forget to rest. It will allow you to instantly level up, which is not automatic.
  • If you’re finding the combat too easy, don’t level up as much – you’re given the option to use all of your accumulated points to level up, or just some of them.
  • Experiment playing with different Drivers in your party, and using their different Blades. It will help you memorize which moves you have, which helps with activating combos.

The core concept here is to take the game slowly, and if you’re finding yourself having trouble after the first few hours, it does make significantly more sense if you press on with it. If you’re having trouble with the early game, keep pushing and you’ll figure it out. I did, and now I’m enjoying it!


Did you run into early-game woes with Xenoblade 2? How far are you along so far? Did you see a turnaround at a certain point in the early game? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

9 thoughts on “Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – A Rough Start

  1. Pingback: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – 34 Hours and 134 More Questions – nostalgia trigger

  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying it more now! I had seen your thoughts on the chat, and was wondering how you’d feel later on. It definitely has its flaws: can’t repeat tutorials, pacing issues near the beginning, and a somewhat confusing battle structure. But I agree that once you get the hang of it, it’s an excellent battle rhythm. And I loved the characters, even if they seemed anime generic. As an avid anime watcher, the story goes in different directions than I’m used to in anime, and appreciated it for that. Plus the fight choreography in the cutscenes is really something else! Good luck throughout the rest of your playthrough!

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  3. Pingback: The 2017 Master List + My Top 5 Games of the Year – nostalgia trigger

  4. It’s fascinating to me that everything you just described is how I currently feel about XC1 😛 I love it when it’s going, but then something comes on to test my patience… usually a tough boss battle or simply finding the correct path to the boss battle. I haven’t got a Switch so I’m afraid I can’t comment on XC2 but I sincerely hope we both warm to our respective playthroughs more from this point onwards 🙂 I downright hated FF7 when I first played it, but upon a second chance it grew to become one of my favourite games of all time 🙂

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  5. I’m around 7 hours in and haven’t reached the point where I’m starting to enjoy it anymore. I’m honestly struggling to remain interested in anything the game has to offer — the UI is a mess (looking at the screenshot you posted of Nia during combat, there is SO MUCH CLUTTER on the screen that it’s tough to keep track of positioning, especially in handheld mode), the map system is abysmal (why is there not a map I can look at with icons and stuff on it? the current implementation is awful), and the non-stop barrage of tutorial pop-ups and cutscenes make me feel like I’m not progressing at all. I don’t think I’d be so down on the game if the characters, story, or narrative dialogue were enjoyable. So far, they’ve been anything but.

    But I’m determined to keep pushing on. As you said, Xeno-prefix games are slow burns and lengthy cutscenes are nothing new. I just found every previous game in the series to at least offer something interesting within their first 7 hours. I’ve little motivation to launch the game over something else that feels more rewarding, but I’ve knocked it back to just 30-45 minute sessions while exercising or something.

    I love RPGs. They’re my favorite genre. But man, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has been *so* disappointing on so many different levels.

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  6. I think I am in the point in the game that you mentioned and I agree that the combat takes some getting used to. I had no idea what I was doing and would just try and time the specials as best as I could.
    The game is fun and I really enjoy the story, but I just wish they would have found a way to either change the combat or better explain how everything works.
    The video you posted helps out a ton!

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  7. I haven’t purchased this game yet, but I will one day. Most of the issues people seem to have is with the little things that most modern games have. The mini map, tutorials, and lack of in game information. I really enjoyed Xenoblade X so I know I’ll play this one day, but the lack of customization kind of turned me off the game. So I went back to Skyrim for the time being :). Skyrim on the PC btw not the Switch.

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  8. I’m actually 43 hours in (start of Chapter 7), and I very much agree in terms the beginning of the game.It does get better (although the start of chapters can still be a REAL grind). I would second all of these tips and say that the story has been worth it for me so far.

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