Some first impressions from the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of the biggest JRPG releases of the year, and comes at a time when the gaming calendar has been relatively bereft of big titles. Thankfully, you don’t need to have played the previous games in the series to jump into this latest adventure, so fans around the world can dive in and see what all the fuss is about.

I’ve only managed to get about six hours into the game so far, but there is plenty to enjoy as well as some things that I can see that will start to wear on me as the hours pile up.

What I like about Xenoblade Chronicles 3 so far

I love a bit of JRPG nonsense in my life. Give me all the oversized weapons, the physics-defying hairstyles, and the strange tonal shifts that I am missing in my real life. And Xenoblade Chronicles 3, like its predecessors, delivers on all those fronts. If you’ve been craving a good JRPG to sink your teeth – and a couple dozen hours (more like 150+, judging by early reports – Ed.) – into then this is what you’ve been looking for.

The setting is completely detached from the previous games, showcasing a world locked in an eternal war. Groups of soldiers are born in pods, fully grown, and given a maximum of ten years to live, with the expectation that most will die on the battlefield before reaching this age. Their reward for taking part in this struggle is a peaceful end to their lives rather than a violent one.

I enjoy how the game presents this concept; the characters simply accept it, since it is all they know. They talk about how their lives are finite in a matter-of-fact way, with the knowledge of when their end will ultimately come. They recoil in horror at their first sight of someone who has reached middle age. The concept of wrinkles or grey hair is so foreign that they had never considered it before.

That mindset, of the inevitability of death, is really fun to watch and play with throughout the game. The game isn’t necessarily as horny as we have all been hoping (who’d have thought people on the Internet might have blown all that out of proportion, eh? – Ed.), but it is still more mature and thoughtful than I expected.

There are things Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does that I usually hate but haven’t bothered me just yet. There is going to be a lot of grinding that happens during the game. Enemies are plentiful and good targets are easy to spot thanks to their level appearing above their heads on the map. Normally grinding is the kiss of death for me in video games but, so far, the combat is simple enough that the grinding isn’t a chore.

The AI-controlled companions, another feature that usually ends in frustration for me, do a decent job of supporting you. Healers provide ample heals and tanks actually draw aggro when needed. You learn quickly how to capitalise on the flow of combat and how certain characters and classes behave in combat. Positioning in combat is key to both damage and unleashing your most powerful attacks, so you’ll spend a fair amount of time shifting around enemies to get the most out of each class.

What hasn’t worked for me

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Noah

The voice acting in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is on par with what we’ve seen in the series so far. Everyone has such an over-the-top British accent that I have to laugh. No one gives a necessarily bad performance, but there are issues around the short number of barks (stock phrases that are said after combat encounters) each character is given. Especially early on when your party is small these get repeated constantly and highlight how limited they are. If I hear someone joke about wanting a “meatier” enemy to fight one more time I will scream.

The game leans into the classic JRPG trope of starting slow, forcing you to sit through multiple long cutscenes before the world opens up for you. It doesn’t quite reach the limits of my patience, but there are multiple stretches of at least 20 minutes where I never even touched the controller. The world-building is good and I’m excited to play with these characters. I just wish the game didn’t take so long to let me get there.

There is more to like than to dislike in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. I am, admittedly, less than 10% of the way through the game, so I have no doubt that my opinion will change slowly over time, but the setting, characters, and streamlined combat make it hard to want to put it down. Fortunately, now that it is finally out, I don’t have to.

We’ll have more on Xenoblade Chronicles 3 very soon, so watch this space!

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