So, my daily viewer counts have dipped consistently into the double digits of late, which is normal when I don’t post for nearly a month. For the handful of people who do read this blog on the regular, I’d like to apologize and offer the feeble explanation that my employer decided to go from having 1100 employees locally to having 150 employees locally, moving the ones that were left to Work-From-Home status so they can sell the building, and replacing our departing team members with new hires, in a different city, who we are responsible for training and supporting.
So, even being part of the lucky 150, it has been a bit of a stressful time.
I also haven’t had my normal posting habit of “finish a game, write up a quick summary of what I liked about it, add three pictures hastily sourced from GIS, call it a good day” because I’ve been playing pretty much the same game all month and it took far too long to finish.
So, since I promised you an explanation AND a JRPG rant, let’s talk about Xenoblade Chronicles 2: The Touching Love Story Of A Young Lad And His Sword Who Is Also A Girl With Massive Hooters.
Which has nothing to do with why I bought the game.
If Pyra is not to your liking, however, rest assured that Nintendo/Monolith spent a good deal of money hiring famous character designers to bring a bevy of top-tier waifus to suit every taste, then hid most of them behind a gacha mechanic with drop rates that would have people foaming at the mouth if they charged actual money for the loot boxes.
Fortunately, they are all acquired through in-game methods, so the only thing you need to spend to build up your collection is the precious heartbeats separating you from your inevitable demise.
It also has a tiger in a nightcap.
Which, honestly, goes a long way towards justifying the existence of the game.
I got a lot of enjoyment out of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but it’s a difficult game for me to recommend. It took me a little over 77 hours to get from opening to end credits, and it would have taken a lot longer if I hadn’t, at roughly the 40 hour mark, decided that I was going to abandon any pretext of “gamer cred” and drop the difficulty setting so fights would stop taking forever to play out.
That’s a ridiculous amount of time to put in on a game, and that’s with trying to focus on the main story quest and ignoring almost every side quest NPC. I spent some time trying to come up with lists of stuff I could have accomplished in 77 hours, but I realized quickly that trying to make lists about that was an even poorer use of time than spending it playing a long JRPG.
A good deal of that time was spend on filling out the skill trees for your assorted living weapon companions, because they don’t always fill out organically through normal play. Rather, at some point you’ll realize that the reason a particular sword has been stuck at level 2 of a skill trait for hours is that you need to go back to a low level zone and find five of a specific monster to kill before you can proceed, but those specific monsters only show up at a certain time of day and never if it’s snowing. Or that a spear wants to eat its favorite dessert – just roll with me, here – but it won’t tell you what that dessert is so you have to go through all sixty dessert items in your inventory until you’ve stuffed the poor thing so full of tarts that it’s ready to explode.
I’m not trying to imply, here, that this game was designed to sell you the strategy guide. I am saying it outright. It is therefore a little unfortunate that the strategy guide was only released in Japan, so keep the wiki bookmark handy.
It also has a ridiculous number of game systems to keep track of, with my favorite what-the-hell being the Economic Health system. Basically, your travels take you through several countries, and the items in shops and quests you are offered depend on how wealthy the country is. There are huge swathes of content blocked out until you spend millions of gold in the regional stores. It’s not my place to judge, but I think they could have simplified this particular system away without hurting anything.
I had a few technical issues, as well. The visuals are gorgeous – barring a fair amount of texture load-in – as long as you’re in TV mode. In portable mode, well… I tried to avoid major story moments in portable mode, because the game does not play well like that. It’s blurry and drops frames like mad. It’s better than the Switch version of Nights of Azure 2, at least, which is just a visual nightmare no matter what mode you’re in. It also has separate volume sliders for most audio channels (voices, narration, environmental sounds and music, that sort of thing) and I didn’t realize that turning down the one labeled “Cutscene Voice Volume” affected ALL cutscene audio (voice, music, sound effects) until after I’d finished the game and was going back to play around with the Event Viewer. As a result, my attempt to tone down some of the frequent character chatter meant that I spent most of the game with the Big Epic Moments being practically silent. I seriously did not understand why this was getting such universal praise for its soundtrack, and while I’ll accept some blame for that I still think this could have been labeled better.
AND YET. I’ve spent this entire article complaining about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but somehow it held on to me for an entire month and had me up until 5 in the morning getting through the last push to the final boss and the end credits. The world, characters, and story kept me going through all of the technical issues and over-complicated game systems, and that’s pretty high praise.
So, what I’m saying here is that this is definitely a game for anyone who likes cute girls, painfully sincere shonen protagonists, and huge game worlds with enough to do to keep you busy for a year. Just don’t be afraid to look up things online if you get stuck, and play docked if you can manage it.
I really need to finish this one. I did the same thing with XC1, played for ~35 hours, then took roughy 9 months off before finishing it up in a week or two.
The MAIN problem is (as you described) that there are simply too many damn things to keep track of. Menus in menus in menus. I finished XC1 in about the same amount of time (~80 hours) and I thought it was brilliant all the way though. When I play XC2, I want to keep playing, but bringing myself to reacquaint myself with all of the complicated systems at play kinda requires a degree of force.
I do wish they kept it a little simpler, mechanic-wise. And it’s weird when the screen is 85% boobs and my wife walks in the room.
The one thing XC2 does bring to the table for taking a break halfway through is that you can go back and review all of the story events at any time, I’m not sure if that’s a Xeno thing but it’s a feature that more games need to steal.
Part of why I powered through was decidedly out of fear of forgetting how the combat system worked, once I finally figured it out. (Not that I’m sure I actually ever figured it out completely, but I at least got it enough to get through.) I’ve been reading some strategy guides for post-game fights and it is crazy how many things just aren’t explained during regular play or may be explained in a single tutorial that you get at level 5 and then are expected to remember and reinterpret at high level.
Apparently they are changing the combat a bit for the DLC expansion, so maybe it will be a little less follow-the-flowchart? I haven’t bought the season pass yet, definitely withholding judgment there. It certainly won’t change the combat for the main game, though.
If you do decide to go back and power through, I really recommend dropping the difficulty while you’re running around the world map, increasing it again if you want to have more challenge for boss fights. Getting stuck in combat for 5 minutes because you happened to aggro a wolf 20 levels under you that keeps calling buddies is just mind-numbing. 🙂
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