We finally got a full overview of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 today and the upcoming Switch JRPG looks massive. A 20-minute Nintendo Direct showed off more of the game’s existential story beats, multi-layered combat mechanics, and other activities players will get up to in its giant open world. Hopefully you like on-screen icons, because there were a ton of them.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was only announced back in February and already it’s just around the corner. Wednesday’s extended trailer made clear the game isn’t pulling back at all from its weird and esoteric roots. If anything, it seems to be veering even more into the series’ fascination with war, class struggle, and free will. Also mechs, including giant ones that act as mobile military bases.
The game takes place in a land called Aionios where residents of two warring colonies, Keves and Agnus, experience nasty, brutish, and short lives battling for their leaders. Those who kill more fill a flame clock that extends their life longer. But when two groups of youths from the opposing sides meet up during a special ops mission, a mysterious old man wearing goggles intervenes to reveal a deeper threat lurking behind the scenes. Intrigue, Monster Hunter-inspired grinding, and large sci-fi fantasy spectacles ensue.
We also got a full look at the game’s core cast. There’s Noah, the red jacket-wearing “off-seer,” Eunie, a “brash and blunt” gun healer, Lanz, the massive sword guy, Mio, a dual-chackra weidling off-seer, Taion, the philosophical tactician, and Sena, a tiny fighter who carries a giant wrecking ball. Taion is already far and away the best, which probably means he will either die or betray us.
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Here’s a quick rundown of what else was shown in the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Direct:
- Aionios looks big, real big. Xenoblade has always offered unnecessarily big and beautiful worlds to auto-fight enemies in, but this one, coming five years into the Switch’s life cycle, is the most breathtaking yet. I only hope the framerate and pop-in aren’t a mess when your party of six are running from quest marker to quest marker.
- Quest routes highlight the path forward. A red line will now show you exactly where to go to reach your destination. No more following a marker into the side of a cliff just to realize you’ve got to go all the way back around the other side.
- Crafting, cooking, and rest spots return. But in a further layer of gamified adventuring, you’ll be able to sit down with your comrades at a campfire and debrief about what you’ve heard from NPCs to initiate new quest lines. It looks cumbersome unless there’s also a relationship-building aspect to it.
- Characters have classes. In addition to roles like attacker, defender, and healer, each of your six party members will have related classes they can rank up to customize their contributions in battle even further. Master Arts are special abilities that can even be equipped across classes, letting you craft hybrid builds.
- You can recruit extra heroes. As if six characters in battle weren’t enough, there will also be unique “hero” NPCs that you’ll meet throughout the game and can be selected to help out in battle.
- Characters can fuse into mini-mechs. Called “Ouroboros,” these Evangelion-looking fighters are extra strong and can swap between two different playstyles, each modeled after the characters that formed them. You can’t mix-and-match though. The fusion pairs are story-based and fixed.
Originally set to release in September, last month Xenoblade Chronicles 3 got its release date bumped up to July 29. Nintendo revealed Wednesday that Monolith Soft’s latest foray into the Xeno-verse will have a $30 Expansion Pass supplying it with new characters and story content through December 2023. There will even be Amiibo support, giving players extra items, or in the case of the Shulk Amiibo, the Monado laser sword from the first Xenoblade Chronicles.
While I can say without reservation that I’m ready for all of Xenoblade Chronicles 3's JRPG bullshit and more, I’ll be curious if this is the one that can finally break out beyond the series’ core fanbase. The games have traditionally been overly long, repetitive, and weighed down by terrible dialogue. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 sold a decent 2 million copies on the Switch, but isn’t nearly as easy to recommend as things like Persona 5 or even Tales of Arise. Maybe Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will be different. I’ll let you know after it’s out and I’ve played 100 hours of it.
Here’s the rest of Wednesday’s Direct: