Much like other RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has so much depth that it’s not uncommon to lose your way. As I wrote before, the game’s mechanics can be so poorly explained that it takes hours upon hours to finally understand them. With a game as long as this, there are a few things you should know to make your experience smoother.
I compiled these tips as I played, noticing that these were things that I would have liked explained to me. Because this guide is meant more towards the beginners of the game, I am going to try and avoid spoilers like the plague.
Blade & Driver Combos
Blade & Driver Combos are the staple mechanics of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s combat. Although they don’t appear until a bit later into the story, knowing how they work is key to enjoying the game.
Blade Combos are achieved by using Specials, and you will often see “Combo Requests” from your partners pop up on the left and right side of the screen. Each element of a combo has different Combo Routes that you can follow, and they all culminate in a Level 3 Special that deals massive damage and puts an elemental orb on your opponent.
Once you start a Blade Combo, pay attention to the top right corner of the screen. It will show you what the possible Combo Routes are, indicating what elemental Special you can use next.
Elemental orbs are critical for some of the tougher fights in the game. Once you put them on an opponent, they can be used during Chain Attack Finishes to extend the rounds of damage. Make sure to keep this in mind for some of the tougher boss fights.
Finally, Driver Combos are a lifesaver everyone should be aware of. As you may already know, each Art you can perform has a special effect. Some of these combo into each other for massive damage. To perform these combos, you have to do the following succession of effects: Break -> Topple -> Launch -> Smash. Successfully pulling off these combos will reward you with medium and large health potions which can be extremely useful in longer fights.
You Can Skip Fights
I can’t stress this advice enough: you don’t have to do every single fight. Although some fights are absolutely necessary to progress the main quest, there will be instances where that’s not the case. An enemy giving you trouble? Skip it and return some other time.
The game’s balance can be a bit skewed in the second half of the story. In some areas you will encounter enemies that are far too powerful for you, so you might as well just run. Word of advice: some of them will deal so much damage to you that it will be easier if you temporarily switch to a character with more HP.
But here’s the real pro-tip: Want to disengage from any fight? Find a ladder, vines, or anything you can climb and move towards it. It will immediately break aggro with your enemy and reset your health and fallen allies. If you’re worried about missing out on EXP, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. You can always grind for it later or go to an Inn to level up with Bonus EXP.
Improve your Blades’ Affinity Trees
This is pretty straightforward. If you go to the Character menu and then into the Blades themselves, you can see their Affinity Trees. Each of these objectives can be acquired by playing naturally through the game, although some will be more out of the way than others. Make sure you read through the Affinity Tree so that you know what enemies to keep an eye out for, or whether you need to talk to a specific character in a specific location.
That said, that’s not why I included this tip. No, I did so since Affinity Trees can be one of the most infuriating mechanics in the game. When you finish the required steps to complete a bubble in the Tree, it doesn’t actually take effect until you go back into the menu. Once you do, the bubble will shine and you will finally be given the improvement for your Blade.
There will be moments in the Story where you need to have your Blades’ Field Masteries improved if you want to continue. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that you should just improve them all.
This is an embarrassing mistake to admit, but here we go. Each Blade that you awaken has the possibility to be either ATK, TNK or HLR and these denominations will place them squarely in a specific playstyle. Now, because this isn’t explained very well, it is entirely possible to awaken a Healer Blade on, say, Rex. Although Rex can absolutely play the healer role, it is better to use Nia for this as she has stats better suited for it.
I made the mistake of playing Rex with one ATK and two HLR Blades, while Nia had a mixture of all three roles. This made fights unbearably hard because you are at the mercy of Nia switching Blades randomly, which often led me to die due to a lack of Healing. It doesn’t matter what role you give each character, just make sure that they only use Blades from that role.
Don’t Waste Your Overdrive Protocols
On that note, Overdrive Protocols can be your savior. These rare drops are found in Treasure Troves around the world. In the later game, you can also acquire them by filling out a Driver’s Affinity Tree. If you release a 4-crown Blade with maxed out Affinity, it can also grant you one of these.
Here’s the thing about Overdrive Protocols: they’re a blessing but exceedingly rare. They allow you to switch one Blade’s Driver to another. More often than not, bonding a Rare Core Crystal might result in a character like Rex getting a TNK Blade which is not very desirable, so with these Overdrives you can send them over to a character that will actually use them. Don’t waste these Key Items on any non-essential Blades or you’ll regret it, trust me.
For a final tip that is almost verging on Spoiler territory: it’s better to awaken Blades unto characters that are not Rex. Without spoiling anything, through the Main Quest Rex can acquire at least two ATK Blades that will serve him well, so there’s no need to worry about accidentally bonding with the wrong role of Blade.