Author: Nathan Doverspike
After almost a dozen hours in the breathtakingly beautiful world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I feel it is safe to say I’m definitely enjoying my time with it. The JRPG, which is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, caps of a brilliant first year for the versatile new console. While the story isn’t as engaging as I anticipated, I can’t help but praise the art style, wonderful world, satisfying and sometimes challenging combat, and intricate systems. So without further ado, I present six tips and hints for starting your journey through Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
1. The Map is Your Best Friend
This one seems obvious, and it should be. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a massive world, with countless side quests which combined together can understandably be overwhelming at first. I found it best to consult the map if I ever had trouble finding where certain side quests wanted me to go (indicated by blue diamond with white question mark inside). The main quest has been fairly simple to track, since it is denoted by magenta diamonds with white exclamations marks inside, but even then I have gotten turned around once or twice. Just keep in mind that you CAN navigate over large roots to trees in the left part of the map where the gold person is found on the image above. I found that out after an hour of wandering around and then getting slaughtered by a level 75 King Kong-looking monster.
2. Spend Time Exploring the Menus
Like many JRPG’s, this game has A LOT of systems working simultaneously during battles. Whether it is upgrading your Arts, Affinity grid, or unlocking new Blades, there is always something that can be improved in your party if you know where to look. The Affinity Chart above is a great example of all the upgrades available for completing certain tasks explained for each bubble. One might require you to revive a companion a single time in order to receive 20% extra health from potions dropped from enemies, while another may require you to enter 10 battles in order to get a permanent boost to physical defense. These may not seem like much, but you will appreciate that extra defense and health from potions when the battle lasts 10+ minutes and you have a skill that specifically drops health from enemies.
3. Don’t Expect Too Much From the Story
This one comes off as negative, but it isn’t meant to be. Setting your expectations appropriately for this game will help you enjoy it much more. After the great story from the original, I had high hopes for this one to continue that trait. It might fall flat on its face at times, and the lip syncing during cut-scenes might be laughably bad at times, but the game play and intricate systems make up for it. It won’t win any awards for the story it appears to be telling, but if you can get past that it will reward you with everything else it has to offer.
4. Grinding Isn’t Just Necessary, It’s Also Fun
Games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 usually feature some form a grinding, whether it’s White Knight Chronicles, FFXV, games from the Tales series. Grinding is something that is expected and can even be relaxing if you do what I do and throw on a podcast to listen to while you go through the motions for an hour or so each night, chipping away bit by bit at your slowing increasing experience bar. I haven’t found the grind to be too cumbersome at this point, and hope it doesn’t become frustrating come late game content. The enemies have interesting designs, and rounding a couple up can result in fantastically engaging battles that leave you nearly out of breath and HP by the end. A dozen hours in, and I look forward to spending some more time fighting the denizens of Alrest.
5. Timing is Everything
Whether you are scavenging the clouds for treasure or fighting a plethora of monsters all at once, timing is everything. Whenever you choose to scavenge for treasure, you will be presented with button prompts. Hitting the corresponding button on screen while it is inside the inner circle in every prompt will result in better rewards from the dive, and can get interesting once you progress farther into the game and encounter enemies that are over 20 levels above you when you arrive on land.
Button prompts are also a key element of battles. While using your special attacks, depending on which ones you use with different weapons, you’ll have the opportunity to hit the correct buttons to do exponentially more damage. Timing your abilities just after landing a hit (auto-attack or Art) will increase the damage even further, so it is entirely possible to turn the tide of a lopsided battle in seconds once you begin to master the system.
6. Tackle Named Monsters of Equal Level
During my time, I encountered a few named enemies that may look like normal enemies, but are denoted by a special symbol and are much more difficult to bring down. I attempted to bring a level 12 beast down when I was level 15, and after 10 minutes of intense button pressing and frantically running to pick up dropped potions, I felled the beast and received numerous rewards for their defeat. I highly recommend trying to tackle some of these once you gain three characters simultaneously in your party. The monster I took down wasn’t overwhelmingly challenging, and I felt great afterwards! They even have a little gravestone where they were that allows you to fight them again should that be something you wish to do.
Overall, I’ve had a great experience with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, despite a few frame rate stutters and the occasional annoying character. It is a JRPG after all, and I can’t stop looking ahead and getting excited about what awesome Blades I will be able to unlock or wonder how this connects to the original game.
Have you picked it up yet? If you have, are you enjoying it so far? Let me know in the comments!