This one hurts me to write.
Xenoblade Chronicles is my second favorite game of all time. I love everything about it. It’s a game I can go back to time and time again. Xenoblade Chronicles X is another game I love, though I don’t have the same affection for it as I do the first game. This series has quickly become one of my favorite RPG franchises out there.
But for reasons I myself don’t understand, I never got around to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. There’s been this sort of… mental wall. Every time I’ve thought “I should buy this game”, my brain immediately screamed “Not now, later!”
But then I finally overcame that wall. I bought Xenoblade 2 and, cautious but optimistic, I booted it up for the first time.
And disliked it the moment they gave me control.
Now, this isn’t going to be a full review. I haven’t finished the game yet. Rather, this is more of a ‘first impressions’ kind of article. I want to dive into why the game has disappointed me so far and get your guys’ gauge on whether or not I’ll enjoy it later down the line. Basically, I’m just venting about why I currently don’t like it to see if I get a ‘it gets better later’ response.
Cause I’m not gonna lie: I really don’t have a reason to keep playing right now.
Right off the bat, there are two things that I dislike: the story and the gameplay. I’m not a huge fan of the visual style, but that’s something to discuss in a full review. I’m going to focus on those two aspects and explain why they’ve let me down so far.
First: the story. From what I’ve gotten so far, the plot seems pretty simple. The whole world is on this massive sea of clouds, with all the people living on the back of these giant monsters. Rex, our protagonist, wants to find a way to Elysium, the fabled land where people had been banished. To make a quick buck, he takes a job with some totally-not-evil-at-all-why-do-you-ask anime tropes- I mean, characters, where he meets Pyra, an anime waifu/magic sword person who wants Rex to take her to Elysium. Begin adventure.
Now, I quite like the basic premise. It’s a nice reimagining of the Bionis/Mechonis; instead of two giant titans, we get a series of smaller ones. The whole Blade/Driver thing doesn’t make much sense to me right now, but it’s a perfectly fine, very anime concept that I’m sure I can get used to.
Unfortunately, the characters and the dialogue are just… so… bad!
Rex as a protagonist is horribly boring! He’s just your typical Shounen good-boy with nothing to help him stand out! Pyra is even worse; her personality so far seems to boil down to ‘girl’. The villains are all anime tropes and clichés, with nothing to help them stand out or establish them as an actual threat. The whole cast seems paper-thin and forgettable.
Their relationship with each other seems super weak, too. In one scene, Rex and Pyra become best buds. He literally picks up her blade and immediately figures out how to use it. The two are working together flawlessly even though the only thing they know about each other is their names. It just isn’t that interesting!
Part of what made Shulk such an interesting character in the first game was that he didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know how his visions worked or how to use the Monado. He spent literally the entire game figuring everything out. This made Shulk much more interesting and memorable, as we witnessed him struggle to learn and master this new power to protect his friends. Plus, his powers often served as a source of conflict; how did the people around him, and even Shulk himself, react to the visions?
Also his English voice actor didn’t make me want to kill myself. Which was nice.
Rex? He picks that shit up and immediately knows how to use it. He doesn’t even seem surprised by the fact that he now has a sword that can burn down an entire god damn ship with one swing. Wow. How engaging.
The dialogue isn’t much better. It’s either lengthy exposition or terrible anime gags. Oh, look, they got Nia’s wanted poster all screwed up and she’s all upset about it! I’ve never seen Tangled or read One Piece or basically any other piece of fiction where this trope occurs, so this gag is totally new and hilarious to me! Oh, thank you for spending twenty god damn minutes explaining how Blades and Drivers work, that was very interesting. You could tell because my controller did what I wanted to do: fall asleep.
Thus far, the writing has done absolutely nothing to impress me. It seems like a very generic Shounen anime. And not the fun kind.
But then there’s the combat. And this is where I want to abandon ship.
Combat in the previous two games was extremely fun. Each Art had its own unique abilities and effects, many of which worked in tandem with others. Stringing together combos with your party members was an absolute blast! Plus, the game taught you very quickly how to use them. Better yet, it did so in a fun and interesting way!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 very clearly wanted to appeal to newer RPG players. They slowed down your characters movement speed in combat. You only have four Arts, all of which take much longer to charge up than in previous games. So, how do you fight? Well… you sit there. Waiting for your character to auto-attack the enemy long enough for your Art to charge up. Then you press the button and do it all over again.
Jesus Christ, it’s like an early game MMO! Except there, I only need to look at my massive hotbar to know that I’ll get tons more shit later! Here, I look at my hotbar and my heart fucking sinks!
At the point I’m at, the game has introduced a few new mechanics to add a bit of complexity. From what I’ve gathered, each character has an elemental attack that can, if used in tandem with another, apply a unique status effect to the enemy. Unfortunately, my current combat options are still so limited, not to mention slow, that it’s very rare for me to actually get that out.
I miss the days of Break-Stagger-Stun. Those were… what was the word… oh yeah, fun.
It certainly doesn’t help that the tutorials are absolutely miserable. They stop you in your tracks, bringing everything in the game to a pause, then presents a massive text box to you. One that you cannot skip or disable. Most of which boil down to something like “Did you know that you can move by pushing the control stick?!”
Thank you, XC2. Are you gonna teach me how to tie my shoes next?
This game is so painful to play. I’m either being subjected to incredibly slow and boring combat, scream inducing tutorials, or a boring cliché anime plot. In Xenoblade Chronices and XCX, I couldn’t put the game down. Here? I can barely manage twenty minutes of play without deflating like a balloon! The boredom is so extreme that it physically hurts me!
But I have heard it gets better. I’ve watched a few videos on the subject now and most of them agree that this game does eventually get better. But I’ll be honest: I don’t think I can get to that point. I honestly don’t know if I can force myself to play this game until it gets there.
Luckily, I have you guys to make decisions for me. For if there’s one collective force that I will always bend to, it’s the people on the internet that I only know through written words in response to my written words!
Should I keep going with Xenoblade 2? Or is this game just not for me? I leave my decision in your hands.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep playing Final Fantasy 14 like the addict that I’ve become.