Impressions: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has a very powerful start but somewhat flat gameplay
For the first hours we have walked around Aionios and we have a lot of good things to say, but also some concerns we expect to dispel with the game's further progress.
I must admit I haven't played a lot of the previous instalments of Xenoblade Chronicles. I know a little about the story of both titles (especially the first one, which was going to apparently connect with this Xenoblade Chronicles 3) but I must insist that some of the finer details are lost on me. It is also clear that, in this first impression I am focussing just on the initial hours of gameplay. And like every important JRPG, both mechanics and story are gradually ramping up.
Two nations (Keves and Agnus) are at war and using young people in an unquestionable conflict where both opponents are always neck and neck, and everything seems meaningless if it is viewed from the outside. A soldier's only mission is live and die, and the greatest wish they have is to achieve 10 years of service to celebrate a final ceremony in front of their queen and disappear from the world with hero honours. And in that moment is when we put ourselves in Noah's shoes, one of the Keves' members and bearer of a red Blade like Xenoblade Chronicles 1's Monado sword. Noah, apart from being a swordsman class, he is an Eximios, a kind of field chaplain who plays his flute after the battle to give an honourable farewell to both friends and enemies. Since their childhood, Lanz and Eunie always go with him. Lanz is big-headed and strikes a tough pose but is actually very sensitive. Eunie on the other hand is a talented shooter with healing and ranged support functions.
They are part of the Keves' special forces, and when a mission to investigate an unknown energy source in the conflict-neutral zone is assigned to them, they go without hesitation. Right away they know that there is something strange with this mission, and what was thought to be a routine mission ends up being a conflict with the special forces of Agnus and a third group that, in turn, is fighting against some powerful enemies in the shadows.
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During the battle, these unknown enemies force Noah and his friends to reconsider joining forces with Agnus, whose fighters are the other half of the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 team: Mio, Taion and Sena. Mio is Zephyr class, and he carries circular blades, and he attacks while focusing the enemy with them. Taion is a Tactical type that uses ether-based powers. And the tiny Sena can deceive by her size since she is an Ogre class, and she is a specialist at attacking with her heavy and huge hammer. After understanding that this new enemy is much bigger, they make the decision to leave their differences behind and join forces against the unknown being. Then, something incredible happens: Mio and Noah combine with each other to become a being named Uróboros. That multiplies their powers and makes both characters united and complementary. After battle and some revelations that I am not going to spoil, the six characters leave together for a new place where they want to obtain some answers to their mysteries. As you can see, the narrative is getting more complicated each second. And all these script twists and open fronts take place during the first 3-4 hours of gameplay. The story hooks you, trust me. We can already observe some interests even in the romantic plane, and some typical clichés of Japanese pop culture and anime that are welcome, but at risk of being lost in the complexity of the overall narrative.
Aionios is the biggest and most detailed world in the whole series, and I can already confirm it. There are a huge number of scenarios and big biomes with enormous areas full of monsters, points of interest and a vast number of objects waiting to be picked up. But it is true that it is difficult to make all of them useful because, in addition to their variety, each one has their own subtype depending on its rarity. The scenarios are extremely big, the detail level makes them beautiful, and they have a very intelligent design. The monster's variety has also attracted my attention, because, depending on what level you set the overall difficulty of the game, even the most common monsters could put you on the spot if enemies group up during combat. Special protagonists' attacks each has its own unique time and loading mode, and if we add the main side effects to achieve an advantage in the battle, it makes for real-time combat that can be experienced with intensity and certain strategy even if we only want to use the same character all the time.
The truth is that these early parts of the game just work to unravel part of the background of the characters and to learn the basic points of the combat, item collection and learn how to move around the map and complete missions and errands, which are the usual in Japanese RPGs. There is also an introduction to their classes and their special abilities. It is essential to learn and use them at the right time. But the truth is that I haven't seen anything that makes me underline the game as something tremendously unique within the genre. Of course, this is a subjective fear, and it will probably have some surprises as the story progresses. But at this right moment, the battles, the monsters' encounters, and the NPCs are a bit monotonous and repetitive. Also, the vast number of objects, statistics, and modifiers within the team, and attacks makes you a little dizzy just thinking about it all. But these are just isolated feelings that the real strengths of the game should be able to shine beyond. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has me completely hooked, and I can't wait to be able to tell you in depth all the details as soon as possible.