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Hooblashooga completed Xenoblade Chronicles 3
It's wild to imagine that I almost skipped Xenoblade Chronicles 3 this year. XC2 left such a bad taste in my mouth, Monolith Soft should be thankful that they won my good graces back with Torna: The Golden Country.
Out story takes place in a world plagued by endless conflicts, fighting for each other's literal life forces. War is all the Kevesi and Agnians know, until a chance encounter breaks our main Kevesi/Agnian trios free, gives them newfound powers, forcing them to live on the run from their own allies, begrudgingly work together, and find a new purpose in life. Some outside force is trying to keep these wars going, and our heroes are determined to put a stop to it. Discovering every colony in the game and witnessing the variety of lifestyles they lead was always a treat. Our main cast of characters bounce off each other really well, and I'm glad that they felt grounded in reality. The one part of the story I take issue with is the ones pulling the strings behind the scenes: The Consuls, also known as Moebius(plural). Every colony has at least one, and they spout some of the most cartoonishly evil drivel I've ever heard. There were a few that left an emotional impact on me, but they were definitely the minority. Most of them just run their mouths until I just wanna...just wanna...JUST WANNA--
...where was I? Well, I think that about covers how I feel about the story anyways. As weird and moderately backhanded as it may sound, one of the things that impresses me the most about XC3 is its quality-of-life features. It's a lot of little stuff that adds up in the long run to improve the experience overall. Just to name a few:
-there's a directional indicator so you know what side of an enemy you're on at all times
-a symbol appears when you're within auto-attack range
-clicking the right stick in battle does a quick dodge. it doesn't give i-frames, but it lets you briefly phase through enemies, allowing you to reposition yourself even when backed into a corner
-pressing minus activates auto-battle, good for mopping up aggressive small fry
-holding minus brings up a mid-battle pause screen where you can retry/abandon battles
-you can fight while swimming in a body of water
-all popup tutorials can be reviewed at any time from the pause menu
-there are optional, dedicated tutorials that more thoroughly walk you through the battle system's mechanics
I'm legit torn on XC3's battle system. The class system allows you to mix and match abilites and skills, building up all your characters into whatever role you desire. Fusion arts are a cool way to gain the benefits of two different moves out of one attack animation. Interlinking to become a superpowered Ouroboros form is also rad, but it's also where my problems begin to take root. Performing enough fusion arts will cause your interlink level to rise. When it's at level 3, your Ouroboros forms are ludicrously overpowered. Having so many options at your disposal already can make combat a bit of a clusterfuck, just a completely unintelligible flurry of particle effects and numbers. Sometimes I wondered if I was making a difference at all during battles. On top of that though is this game's chain attack, which is a complete and utter pacebreaker. It is not hard to game the chain attack in your favor, dealing disgusting amounts of damage for what feels like no effort whatsoever. I begin to question your combat's balance when the most dominant strategy is using fusion arts until Interlink level 3, fire off a bunch of Ouroboros attacks, and deploy a chain attack before the interlink ends. This method decimates about 80% of a boss's health bar, and they were likely already down 20% by the time you hit interlink level 3.
The amount of content on offer in XC3 is downright insane. I frequently postponed progressing the story just so I could check out all the colonies and see if there were new developments. At one point, I even stood outside the door to the final boss, turned away from the point of no return, and found 6 more sidequests to do. I could do with less of the sidequests that involved following an NPC along its scripted path, or the ones where you follow a seemingly endless trail to your destination, but regardless, most of the sidequests succeed in pushing forth their own slice of the narrative. All of it takes place in an open world so gargantuan in terms of scale that I'm impressed that the Switch didn't melt in my hands/dock. There's so much stuff to see and do packed into every corner of the map, and it felt like the devs tried to make every dead end worth my while. Wrap it up with a soundtrack packing both beauty and bangers, and before I know it, I've been playing the game for 5 hours straight.
Honestly, I have no idea how Monolith Soft does it. They have these innate abilities that no other studio seems to understand. How do they keep getting away with crafting these wholly unique open worlds, lovable characters, and engaging combat systems. They even managed to keep the tradition of a major character getting cucked (seriously Tetsuya Takahashi, what is your obsession with cuckoldry). Glad I didn't miss this one though. I'm gonna think about it over some Oreos. No particular reason why.

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