Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has been five years in the making and it shows. Monolith Soft’s latest open-field JRPG odyssey has more systems and more to do than either previous game in the trilogy (not to mention the often overlooked Xenoblade Chronicles X). I’m enjoying it a ton so far. I’m also learning lots of useful lessons along the way.
Xenoblade 3 isn’t overly complex, but it is chock-full of abstract systems that take some time to wrap your head around. And like every assembly-line-style grindfest, you learn plenty of tricks and shortcuts along the way. Below are the biggest lessons for anyone making their way through the earlier half of the game.
Xenoblade 3 is full of monsters and some give extra rewards. Farm them whenever you can! The game explains this briefly early on, but there are special enemy types called out by unique visual effects around the level displayed over their head. Here are the types:
- Lucky - sparkles overhead, normal difficulty, chance for better drops.
- Elite - blue markers overhead, harder difficulty, chance for better drops and double XP and class points.
- Unique - red markers overhead, extra hard, better drops and more bonus XP and class points.
Elite monsters can be challenging and you’ll want to be within at least a level or two of them to make the time sink worth it. Unique monsters are even more difficult, and you’re better off being one or two levels stronger unless you want to risk spending 10 minutes on a fight just to die at the end.
Throughout your journey you’ll occasionally encounter groups of enemies fighting one another with a big red icon overhead. You can choose which side to help out and get the corresponding spoils in return. Always pick the side that will give you Nopon Coins since they are rare and incredibly useful.
If you’ve never played a Xenoblade game before, the core combat combo revolves around these four things. Different Special Arts will have different debuffs, but striking an enemy with them in this order will incapacitate them and greatly increase the damage dealt. And unlike in past Xenoblade games, this one lets you swap between characters to initiate the combo yourself in case your AI allies aren’t as quick on the draw.
Like the two games before it, Xenoblade 3 encourages you to cancel attacks to do bonus damage. It’s simple enough to do but the name is a bit unintuitive since you’re not actually canceling the attack. Instead you’re inputting a new one exactly when the old one hits. The most common version of this is going from auto-attacks to special arts.
Use the art right when an auto-attack makes contact to immediately use it and get a damage bonus. A little silver circle effect in the middle of the screen will tell you if it worked. You can also cancel one special art into another this way. But you can’t cancel an auto-attack into another auto-attack.
Battles will often require you to maneuver around, either to get out of the way of an attack or because a special art requires hitting an enemy from the side or back to maximize damage. Whenever you’re not moving you’ll auto-attack. However the time between auto-attacks is constant whether you start moving again or not. So instead of running from point A to B in battle in one shot, pause along the way to get an auto-attack or two in to keep your damage-per-second up (this also helps fill up the gauge for master arts faster).
In every battle, you’ll slowly build up your chain meter. When it’s full you can unleash a chain attack. This turn-based onslaught lets you pick a character’s special chain attack, complete smaller attacks to build up tactical points, and then unleash the chain attack with a damage multiplier corresponding to how many points you earned that round.
More points means more damage and a better chance of refreshing characters who have already attacked so they get a second or third turn. Carefully select attacks to break, topple, daze, and launch an enemy, as well as maximize your tactical points (characters of the class matching the one prepping the chain attack will score more points).
To initiate an even more powerful Ouroboros attack, use the Chain attacks of two characters ho can interlink back-to-back.
Chain attacks are also a great chance to heal up and shore up your defenses mid-way through a battle. Don’t be afraid to select multiple healing arts during a chain attack, even if it means forgoing extra damage. Also make sure to come out of the Chain attack with at least one buff, whether that’s increased defense or significantly lowered aggro for healers.
Killing an enemy or boss during a Chain attack will initiate Overkill. Each round of damage you do after death adds to a percentage multiplier that increases how much experience you get from the fight. In boss battles this can be a big deal. Usually this means saving your second Chain attack for right before the boss’ health meter is depleted. Executing a big Chain attack has the chance of netting you upwards of 400 percent more XP from the fight.
Once you get the ability to swap classes you can have every character perform almost any role. Initially, character classes max out at level 10. Once a character hits that cap they aren’t earning extra class points. Make sure to switch them to a new class so they’re constantly growing.
Not all characters can level up each class at the same speed. Just like in real life, different fighters have different natural aptitudes. Make sure to stick with the classes a character is best suited for early on so they level them up as fast as possible. This will let them unlock new master arts and passive abilities faster. Once you’ve hit the cap on the third class, you can experiment more with subverting roles.
Warm meals provide important time-limited bonuses like bonus XP and gold or better drop rates for items. Make sure you eat at each Colony’s canteen to learn new recipes that you can then make with your own ingredients whenever you want back at camp.
Every time you advance Xenoblade 3’s story there’s a chance to open up new quests, NPC conversations, or other side content. Check back often to make sure you’ve initiated the latest missions. The objective icons will get added to your map and you can then complete them wherever it’s most convenient in your larger travels. Some of the quests also focus on lower level areas, and it can feel like a waste of time to revisit them once you’ve progressed too much farther in the story.
Monolith Soft managed to do a whole lot with the aging Switch hardware and there are some very neat vistas in its sprawling sci-fi world. But if you just snap screenshots with the dedicated console button, you’ll have tons of ugly UI elements in the way. Holding the right and left shoulder buttons will also grab a screenshot but with all of the UI automatically removed.
The terrain in Xenoblade 3 is full of surprise bends, steep inclines, and cliffs. If you want to get where you’re going without getting lost, turn on the recommended path by holding ZL and pressing Y to “Show Quest Route.” This will turn on a glowing red path that leads where your next quest objective is. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for custom-placed objective markers.
Almost every time you discover a new part of the world you’ll gain the option to fast-travel to it by selecting that icon from the map. Xenoblade 3’s levels are sprawling and if you fight everything along the way you’ll progress at a snail’s pace. Don’t be afraid to hopscotch around to complete side objectives quickly, or explore random dead ends without needlessly losing time to backtracking.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a super long game. Take it easy every once in a while. If you’ve trained them well your party will be able to win most fights themselves. Press the select button during battle to put your character on auto-pilot.