So far it#8217;s more of the Xenoblade gameplay we know and love, and the additions seem to be well thought out. Time will tell whether it#8217;ll be an evolution or generational revolution for the IP, but for now we#8217;re pleased to report that it#8217;s still delivering a very #8216;Monolith Soft#8217; experience.
Then, it all kicks off. We hit a sequence of events that jolted us into action and was downright exciting, even if the most snazzy moments were cinematics #8211; big music, drama, slightly baffling narrative, it#8217;s all there. It#8217;s at this point that it#8217;s very clear this is in the style of the original, as Monolith Soft returns to the roots of its Nintendo-based era.
Blades, then, feel like the key unique selling point for this one, along with the fact that it#8217;s a new cast, world and story to work through. The plot hasn#8217;t grabbed us as quickly as in the original, but it#8217;s done a decent job and has us intrigued. Like series predecessors there#8217;s some cringe-worthy writing and animations #8211; and a few of the outfits and designs aren#8217;t to this writer#8217;s personal tastes #8211; but the broad potential is there. Even in the opening half dozen hours some segments have had us on the edge of our seat, and there are attractive worlds in which to explore, potentially endlessly.
The more pertinent question around this one, then, comes from those #8211; like this scribe #8211; that have battled through the adventures of the Wii original (which also landed on New 3DS) and its Xenoblade Chronicles X spin-off on Wii U #8211; what kind of Xenoblade game is this? Looking back they were very distinct experiences, and having played the new entry for about six hours so far #8211; which is likely to be about 2% of game progress #8211; we reckon this one is certainly a return to the formula of the original, as Monolith Soft has indeed promised. It#8217;s less about factions and dictating your path, and more about embarking upon a narrative story.
Even in early skirmishes we can see the strategic potential for this feature. For example when in a team with another Driver / Blade you can bring together Blade combos, and elemental attacks also come into play. You#8217;re then introduced to the idea of creating new Blades as you can utilise more than one at a time #8211; depending on which is in action your weapon and moves change, too. It#8217;s an interesting system, and while we#8217;re still mastering its intricacies it is intuitive as long as you pay attention to tutorial prompts and experiment in battles.
New this time is the relationship between Drivers and Blades, and having gone through the early stages we#8217;re starting to see how this will play a role as a major evolution in the series. The core combat feels the same #8211; characters auto-attack to charge #8216;Arts#8217; that you then trigger. The Blades initially hover nearby, with their affinity reflected in the colour of the line between them and your character; as you attack you charge a special Art for your Blade, and this triggers a powerful attack. This also has levels, so you can hold off triggering this special to unleash an ever more powerful Blade assault later on.
This time the protagonist is Rex, and indeed his Titan friend / ally #8216;Gramps#8217;, and early on there#8217;s an introduction to the world of Alrest and the #8216;cloud sea#8217;. Nintendo#8217;s multiple showcases and Directs give a good sense of the early game, and in fact the initial 90 minutes is relatively sedate, as you amble from basic tasks to cutscenes and back again. It#8217;s a useful opening, as it teaches the basics for any series newcomers.