Every time someone mentions the amazing library that exists on the Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 inevitably comes up. I’ve heard it all. Ranging from comments such as “the game’s story is amazing!” or “it’s the best combat system I’ve ever experienced,” it’s hard not to buy into the hype. But when I bought the game back in December, I found myself very disinterested in it. Sure, it was fun, but it seemed to be a little bit too overhyped for me.
As I am writing this, I am now 50 hours deep into the game and facing the final boss. At the 15-hour mark, I dropped the game completely. I played it on and off, never very invested. The combat seemed like such a drag, and the story was very anime-like; it was all very goofy and was going nowhere. Yet around the 30-hour mark, something clicked. The combat was making a lot of sense to me, and executing Blade Combos and Chain Attacks felt satisfying. I started caring about the characters, so much so that I would purposefully seek out little tidbits of dialogue between them throughout the world. Before I knew it was hooked.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the best game on the Switch. I have many issues with its combat system. The story takes a while to get going. Hell, even from a technical standpoint, the game does not perform very well while playing undocked. That said, I do think Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a very, very good game and it deserves your time.
Since I want to convince you to play the game, I will do my best not to spoil anything about it. And I say that because I truly believe that, once it gets going, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one of the best cases of storytelling in gaming. When I started the game, the antagonists seemed your run-of-the-mill drab villains. The final scenes in the game made me rethink all of that, and transformed Jin into one of my favorite characters in gaming.
But story alone does not sell a game to me. Once you understand it — and trust me, it took me a long time to understand it — the combat is superb. There’s a flow to your actions and button presses, a layered process of knowing which Art to use and when to switch Blades. Once you learn how to execute Driver and Blade Combos the combat improves so much, that it’s really unfair to judge the game based on the initial slow, methodical combat system.
To reiterate: the combat system is not perfect. Countless I seethed in rage because the game failed to explain a fight’s one-shot mechanics. Other times, it can be hard to control the terrain of the fight unless you are playing the Tank role, and you can accidentally draw in far too many enemies. In most cases it’s better to just skip fights and run as fast as you can. The combat system is not perfect. But it is unique.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 stands out to me as one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in gaming. The story is wacky as all hell, and the lore is sometimes hard to keep track of. But once you invest time in it, and once that final reveal is given to you then it’s hard not to just go, “Oh, wow. That’s really fucking cool.”
If you’re one of the people who, like me, gave up on Xenoblade Chronicles 2 early on, then I implore you to give the game one more chance. I can’t promise you that it will be the very best experience you will ever have in gaming. But I can promise that when you come out on the other side, you’ll have a very unique experience to talk about.