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.
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.
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.
- 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!