Xenoblade Chronicles 3 might not end up being the best Switch game of 2022, but it certainly sounds like one of the longest. With a main story that takes dozens of hours and more thorough playthroughs clocking in at over 150 hours, it sounds every bit the sprawling JRPG fans have come to expect from Monolith Soft. But will it appeal to anyone else? The reviews are in and they say yes, and no.
The latest game in the fragmented Xeno series, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 follows the story of young mercenaries who discover a deeper mystery amidst the neverending war between their two nations. People still live on massive titans and combat still cascades across all manner of upgradable attack, transformation, and multi-character fusion. Mechs and existential anime tropes abound. Out on July 29, its Metacritic currently sits at 89.
RPG Site calls it a “modern JRPG masterpiece.” The Gamer writes that it’s “colossal yet also intricately focused.“ VGC’s reviewer said the game’s world of Aionios is “an incredible place to live for a month or two.” All three sites gave Xenoblade Chronicles 3 perfect scores, lauding its characters, grand scope and minimal gameplay annoyances.
But not everyone agrees. While massive, IGN writes that the story is often meandering and quests are occasionally bogged down in filler and backtracking. And while praising the sophisticated combat, Game Informer accused Xenoblade Chronicles 3 of having one of the worst ensemble casts in the series. One thing most reviews seem to agree on is that the open world is held back by the aging Switch hardware, with fidelity plunging during busy fights.
All told, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 sounds like another intriguingly inscrutable mess whose biggest virtues will be reserved for those willing to stick it out through a 15 hour tutorial. Yes, it’s one of those. By the time Marvel’s Spider-Man is ending, Monolith Soft’s newest is just starting to get good. Long-time fans wouldn’t have it any other way, but in the words of Silliconera it sounds “unlikely to transcend genre preferences.”
Here’s what some of the other reviews are saying:
“I’m not even sure the game can be finished because, at 25 hours in, it’s still throwing new mechanics and tutorials at me that increasingly complicate an already complicated game. That said, I’m strangely compelled by its combat, which makes it feel like an MMORPG, and its nigh-incomprehensible story. Half the time, I don’t know what’s going on, mechanically or narratively, but I’m enjoying it.”
“It’s quick to get to what I love about classical JRPGs - the sensation of running through endless fields of long grass with your companions, facing impossible odds with a spring in your step. It feeds into the incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly soar as a JRPG. Perhaps more than any game before it in the series this gets the balance between systems and story down perfectly - even better, it manages to entwine the two in an adventure that infuses each of your footsteps with a sense of purpose.”
“Xenoblade 3’s world is simply a treat to look at, with gorgeous vistas around every corner. Monolith Soft continues to be absolute wizards with Nintendo’s hardware, turning out a game that’s easily one of the best-looking in the entire Switch’s library. The game’s aesthetic falls somewhere in the middle of the more realistic style of the first game and the anime style of the second, and it really works. The game’s cutscene design is exceptional.”
“It does sport some really cool action sequences, and for those of you who don’t dig the Xenoblade dubs, dual audio is there for you. With that in mind, I loved this dub. With dialogue like “spark that,” “deffo,” “how much magic power has this geek got,” and “queen bitch,” it runs the gamut of wonderfully campy to straight-up laugh-out-loud hilarious. The spirited performances can get downright sassy, especially if we’re talking Eunie, the queen of sass.”
“Between an epic, moving story that left me no stranger to crying, a wonderful cast of well-written, relatable characters, a gameplay loop that kept me constantly coming back for more, incredibly satisfying chain attacks, a beautiful soundtrack just like its predecessors, and so much more to gush about, I can confidently say that I love Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and it might just be the best of the entire series. Longtime fans are in for an absolutely wild ride, and with handy tutorials for the thrilling gameplay loop, newcomers may even find themselves enjoying it as well.”
“Although Xenoblade 3’s environments are awesome to roam around in, they rarely look pretty due to the Nintendo Switch being pushed to its absolute limits by such an ambitious voyage. I played on my OLED model and switched between docked and mobile mode regularly, but even with Nintendo’s most recent hardware textures are often low-res, there’s frequent pop-in (and out), and oftentimes I just couldn’t help but feel like the world was a bit blurry. The good news is that I quickly got used to these visual shortcomings and, once I accepted it for what it was, it only rarely dampened my enjoyment.”
“Monolith Soft has struggled to recreate and magnify the novelties of the first Xenoblade Chronicles adventure since its 2012 release. The third chapter in the science-fantasy JRPG series suffers the same frustrating fate as XC X and XC 2. Despite its first-rate combat and character progression features, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a bloated trek across vast but lifeless environments further diminished by an unaffecting narrative with one of the worst ensemble casts in the franchise.”
“While the combat itself is fantastic, the real satisfaction comes from experimenting with different party compositions and streamlining various loadouts. My favorite moments in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 are when I’d get swept by a boss, adjust my party composition, and rain hell on that same opponent in a second attempt. It’s a brilliant loop that really hammers home the depth, strategy, and malleability of the combat.”
“The story is interesting, and the scavenger hunt side activities offer plenty to see and do, even if the quests are familiar and repetitive. This is a game for series fans who know what to expect, or genre enthusiasts who are looking for a nice, big RPG to sink their teeth into on the go. If you don’t fit in either of those groups you might want to skip Xenoblade Chronicles 3, because next to Mario, Zelda, and Kirby it’s an acquired taste.”
“My enjoyment was uncomplicated in a way it never could be in past Monolith Soft games. The studio’s success is not in overcoming hardware limitations, embarrassing character designs, or cringey direction — it’s in not having to parse those hallmark idiosyncrasies at all this time. Instead, it delivers a story its creators have been building toward for years: A story about a boy who meets a girl, who then find their own path and, with it, the poise to walk on — in an endless sea, under the boundless sky. And that is no small thing.”