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Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
I’ve barely started the game but I genuinely love how many times A squad of bio-engineered super soldiers, born and bred for fighting a forever-war armed with laser rifles and giant chainsaw mecha… have needed to scream for my help because they’re being attacked by bunny rabbits
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I'm close to fifty hours into this and well and fully hooked. It's the best Xenoblade, with its only competition being X, which exists liminally in parallel to the others in the first place and so might not be the most relevant comparison to begin with; no matter how good 3 might be that game's strengths remain fully its own. For the others, though--games I actively resented or was disinterested and worn down into quitting them before the end--this is an improvement in every way.

Xenoblade 2 was a porn parody of Xenoblade 2, and so one might argue that its derived tonal coherence was a deliberate play and execution on its central themes, but it could've just as well been the result of unmoored and unexamined creative id pratfalling into the worst excesses of the related concepts until only pure, distilled garbage remained wherein the game nestled and refused to crawl out of. Some vision drove that game to be what it was, and 3 isn't altogether different because it's also guided by a central set of principles that seek to carve a place for itself as a distinct creative work. What does set it apart is its total commitment to its tone, in all its moribund, solemn melancholies. It's superficially in the premise, with limited lifespan tube-babies wrapped in endless conflict in a staged forever-war, but infects all other parts of the production as well: the visual outlook of the world is less verdant than exhaustedly arid down to the hue of the grass in the beginning spaces; the accompanying music forbids the usual rollicking and triumphant adventure themes typical of the series, instead reaching for subdued and emotionally withdrawn even at its most awe-inspiring moments, drawing a veil of persistent sadness over the world's charted boundaries.

It's not a mission statement that would congeal without the writing to support it, and thankfully it's another space where the standards have thematically risen, or reoriented into something more palatable. The large-scale plotting and convoluted mysteries of the tale don't matter much in the face of the central six who define where the writing emphasis of this game lies, in the small camaraderies and interpersonal leveling with one another. Some pairs are favoured or emphasized among them, but the game takes great care in making sure that all potential combinations among the sextet are featured interacting amongst themselves so the story told isn't of a group of strangers sharing the road for suggested weeks and months of their short lives. It's invested in integrating the group dynamic into all possible narrative expressions of the text, such as in the sidequest model of hashing out overheard humours over a campfire or canteen meal and deciding on a course of direction through consensus and discussion.

Structural writing considerations are important to the game as the optional branches and opportunities that organically manifest through exploration can lead to sequences and narrative beats that feel important and as lavishly produced to be part of the main story, but still aren't, and all the more satisfying to discover as a result. The rewards, outside of witnessing what's done with the stories, are also significant in introducing new party members for the road, their inherited classes to play with (and thus an expansion of wardrobe), and often unlocking some new corner of the world from which further quests will branch out from. The writing in this optional side content breaks the expected form of such text because they don't feel isolated or inconsequential to the core cast, the major characters entangled in them, or the minor characters they primarily star in the moment--all of them serve to inform the ongoing thematic ends of the piece in smaller and larger ways before they're done.

The inordinate time I've spent on the game relative to how far into it I've progressed (barely into chapter 4) has been fueled by the joy of exploration inherent in it. No time has been spent on "grinding", and nothing particular in being stymied or roadblocked by a sought-out or mandatory challenge. This is another way in which I think--at least personally speaking--Xenoblade 3 distinguishes itself from its predecessors because it's the first Xenoblade where I feel like I actually understand the involved play systems. Part of the longstanding issues with the series on a mechanical level for me have been the asinine inventory management and overflow of menus, along with battle operations that I could never untangle from their convolution of overlapping multiplier and chain-focused torrents of chaotic numeration. 3 is not fundamentally different from the baseline, but it is in all ways more legible, more immediate in what it asks of the player and how the results of such actions are drawn. The adherence to the MMO-derived DPS-tank-heal holy trifecta paradigm stymied earlier games, limited as they were to parties that could include no more than those roles, leaving meaningful improvisation and personalization by the wayside. The expansion to a party of six, and seven soon enough, makes the longstanding systems actually feel like they work as part of the small-scale squad's operative flow while leaving room to shuffle those roles as needed or simply desired. I'm constantly continuing to push against the borders of the world because I feel I am equipped to take on what the game throws at me, instead of simply flailing about in confusion and walking away, resigned to the beaten path.

The spaces themselves tempt one to explore them too. The prior two games in the series might as well have been polar opposites in environmental design philosophy; X's true open world contrasted with 2's partitioned, narrow-laned theme park. The former I adored, the other I was as disinterested in as the game itself seemed to be. 3 is a deliberately syncretic work as far as incorporating the totality of the prior series within it, with its world design perhaps embodying that ethos the clearest. Like 2, it features its share of more linearly delineated biomes--but from within those locations, the world around expands and reveals itself far in the distance to visually mark the journey transpired or to come, as the first game might have landmarked itself through its large-scale structure. And while each "zone" is ultimately separated by a loading screen, they are geographically connected as part of a larger whole, with the individual regions seguing from one style of ecology and topography to the other within their maps, allowing giant expanses of ignorable, explorable space to exist parallel to the narrow push toward the next story beat. X had to fashion its world to be a space for omni-axis mechs to exist in, while 2 bungled its execution of exploratory mechanics by tying them into the gacha hell of its Blade system and their arbitrary aggregate statistics, so 3 again meets in the middle: there are universal and passive exploratory-aiding abilities to be gained that allow more thorough traversal, but for the most part it's just up to one's curiosity to push into the frontier as far as one cares to.

The residue of Xenoblade--Xeno as a whole, depending on your level of charitability--still exists in this game. The sexualization of women hasn't evaporated, just obfuscated--dedicated physics models for breasts and the painfully sexually dimorphic Ouroboros designs speak to that on their own. The absolute deathgrip of heteronormativity that's always been with the series is in full force here, especially present in how all of the main cast are paired opposite to their gender lines, and there is a worry that the story's preoccupation with legacy and leaving something behind of oneself is going to go in the "go out and procreate" style of self-actualization and fulfillment, eventually. For the most part, these are passing annoyances to how the rest of the game expresses itself. It's the first time--outside of X's mundanities--that I've enjoyed clothing design in the series, with cosplay dress-up as part of the class system underlining that fact with its individual personalizations. The character writing stands especially firm in unison, but I'm also happy that the kind of quirk-based definition of personality is toned down, with allowances made for the characters to simply be plain if needed. And while doubts remain of the story to come, some of its absolutely gets me, like the villain group of the day being literally spotlit as they mingle amongst themselves, or watch over the party endeavors at a movie theater, through a projector. It's over-the-top community theater and the sheer tonal confidence of the game at large allows me to laugh with it instead of snark against it, which might be the standing assessment of the game right now, where unlike past games in the series, being taken for its ride isn't a struggle against the current to glean whatever good may have come of it, but accepting and enjoying all the relevant twists and turns in store.
 

4-So

Spicy
About 30 hours now; think I just started Chapter 4. Still enjoying, still wishing it was on something besides the Switch.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
I am deeply mired in Horizon: Forbidden West (to be followed by Elden Ring) and still have XC2 to complete, but this looks like a third entry worth having.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Finished. At... over 150 hours. Some words.

What actually sustains a single-player, narrative-oriented game like this for that long? It's not the prime thrust of the narrative, for me. The things I was wary of did eventually rouse their heads, and left me emotionally rattled and thematically shaken to the point of physical nausea; I do not want to be exposed to scenes of baby fever and heavyhanded messaging about humanity's "natural order" by way of heteronormative essentialism of what being human is supposed to stand for, and the game's sentimental commitment to that being the only way to fix a broken world. I also did not care to invest in the ostensibly tragic, cosmic love story at the center of the tale--something that Takahashi is seemingly incapable of not including in his narratives. Mio and Noah stand strong as individual characters, traveling compatriots and parts of their makeshift family unit, but the romantic destiny and symbolic inevitability of their pairing falls entirely flat, especially when its supposed emotional highpoints are predicated on killing the same woman of the pair like four times in a row to elicit existential despair in the man, and through him the audience, with the contrived out for Mio's rapidly extinguishing lifespan being delivered by her doppelgänger counterpart who exists in the story only to be sacrificed and killed in her stead to allow the Mio familiar to the audience to go on living. It's a story full of emotional cheap shots, unearned gravitas and aspirations to great drama that doesn't hang together on the personal or world-shaking plotting level at all, with a grimy underbelly of surreptitiously regressive gender politics propelling the ostensible thematic throughline throughout.

If those elements and the who's-doing-what-and-how building blocks of the narrative--which aren't worth talking about because they're immaterial lore datapoints--don't track well to the sensibilities and preferences, what does? Happily, everything else. This is a game that blurs the lines between "main" and "side" content and the unsaid qualitative implication therein, as the integration of what can be walked past is not taken as a permission or opportunity to phone in what's there. The twenty-something heroes come with their own recruitment quests and follow-up codas each, but they don't stop existing outside of their bubbles; heroes will regularly guest-star in their peers' stories in integral roles, make comments about the world when accompanying the party, and put in appearances in other assorted quests when relevant. The game's structural writing voice takes after Xenoblade X's emphasis in gradually weaving together disparate communities and side stories in ways that enrich the portrait of the world as a cooperative whole instead of an arrangement of isolated pockets that should never meet; the net effect is that you cannot reliably predict what party members or the starring cast will pull into and from a given interaction over time, as all these threads are constantly crossing over and resulting in unexpected interactions and relationships taking root. The game does not deal in "throwaway" filler quests almost at all, with even the most menial-seeming task serving to prop up each colony or other location's widescale narrative that focuses on the communal and organizational aspect of them, with the leading heroes and other major figures contributing to the same through their interpersonal lens. It's why the game constantly tracks as being compelling in its writing, because the kind of contextless gags or boilerplate descriptive text don't really exist in it--even the NPC model-sharing redshirts have an avenue to be memorable in their own right because of the strong writing direction that grants them a group identity and then has them interact with others outside of that context.

It's also why even with frustrations present and accounted for, the "main" narrative of the game cannot be discounted out of hand because it's not just concerned with a few given elements of how or why the world is and what the spotlit main characters think of it. Prior games in the series would dole out (and gatekeep through protracted mechanical requirements) ancillary character interactions outside of the main thrust of the narrative through the codified Heart-to-Heart system, which is nowhere to be seen in Xenoblade 3. In its stead you'll find dedicated scenes along the primary path devoted to all combinations of the main six characters, directed with the same attention and nuance as any action choreography achievement along the way. The decision not to partition these interactions into optional, hardly seen points in the world has massive ramifications for the game's central voice in exactly what it wants to do with this sextet who are together for all of the game and form its foremost narrative and thematic backbone; it transforms the game from a travelogue interspersed with high-octane action intermissions into a series of quiet moments where any pair at all will take a moment to relate to one another and build the camaraderie that eventually comes to define them. You can view Noah and Mio as the "leads" as they subscribe to too many archetypical aspects not to be considered as such, but the game is always mindful in not allowing either to dominate the writing and consume it to revolve around their orbit; everyone is consistently featured and highlighted to push forward the idea of a legitimate ensemble where none can be discarded from the whole, and their relationships between one another are never defined through the lens of a primary protagonist's perspective. Whenever some individual plotting aspect of even the most majorly featured story scene flubs the landing, the antipathy cannot take hold for long because the contexts in which these characters truly soar are never far off, uninterested in displaying a particular bias of presentational preference for any one of the participants, no matter how ostensibly focal.

Despite almost everything in Xenoblade 3 having a very literal precedent down to its narrative premise, it surprised me in just about every way it could have. It previously would've tracked as an absurd notion to consider a game in the series to be a "writing achievement", but that is where the assessment stands now, warts and all. It's a game that through that same writing left me feeling physically ill, so the esteem to which I hold the material that did not speaks for itself as to the strength of the counterpoint it represents, in that it ever managed to have me consider the totality of the work as well as I do. It's an absolute trainwreck of a story, with some of the most enjoyable writing I've ever seen in the medium.

Remember, folks: Eunie is as Eunie does.
 
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gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
Random question I would like to know the answer to before I potentially invest 150 hours in this over, say, the game immediately preceding it:
Simple yes or no answer, please, do not need any other details or corollaries: do Pyra, Mythra, or any other main characters from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 appear in this game? Whoever answers can spoiler-tag it for other folks, or elaborate further from there, but I would just like a simple yes or no answer I can highlight and know going in.

Thank you!
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
In a word, surrounded by excess space so you can't scope it from the length: _____yes_____.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
Still in chapter 3, lolling so hard @ the Full Metal Jaguar attack animation where the character awkwardly rolls forward
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I haven't played in a few nights, but I definitely got sucked in - 20 hours so far. It's a neat combination of some of the best elements from the other games. Even if it still feels like enemies are too spongey, the rest of the package has been enough to keep me going.
 

4-So

Spicy
I haven't played in a few nights either. Starting to run out of steam, I think. I'm somewhere in Chapter 4, I believe, but I'm finding it hard to find a reason to come back to it.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
Assorted thoughts, just started chapter 4:
  • Love the flashbacks. It manages to place the characters in the actual world by giving you a glimpse of what their daily lives were like. Obvi "Our lives were changed forever in the opening hours and now we're on a road trip" is still a core part of the Xenoblade franchise (and I dare say, most JRPGs), but none of the other games really sold "these characters actually lived in a place and had friends and connections with people who aren't playable characters" the way 3 does. It makes me think how much 1 could have been improved if we had had flashbacks to the Colony 9 crew growing up, or if 2 had tried to like, give Rex any kind of grounding in the world (or more relevantly: Flashbacks of Nia and Torna just like hanging out and being people).
  • Caveat: The flashbacks to a scene that just happened. Even at the glacial pace I'm going at, it's silly to cut back to a scene we just saw.
  • Mixed on Crafting: It's theoretically more painless than ever before, but even though you can use your endless supply of Nopon Coins to cook, cooking with Manana seems largely worthless compared to Colony Meals.
  • World design still lacks the "Wow" factor I got from 1 and X, but at this point that's mostly fatigue. It's quite good though. There's a lot of verticality and it's frankly really neat to stop after traveling for a long time, look around and see one of the earlier Ferronis's looming in the distance to give you some sense of geography. I also like that even though it's not a True Open World, the regions have a lot of distinct biomes compared to what was in 1 and 2.
  • It's weird that Valdi's Hero Quest doesn't have anything to do with Climbing the way Teach's involved him teaching you to Skyrim Horse it up sand.
  • Of the main cast, so far Sena seems like the weak link because she's just kind of... there, being peppy and supportive. Hope that changes soon!
  • Balance is a little messy because any amount of side questing will almost immediately skyrocket your levels past what's happening in the storyline, which would be whatever except we play by Dragon Quest rules where fighting weak enemies doesn't give you class EXP.
  • Heroes are a great replacement for 2's Blades. They're obtained from side quests instead of gacha, and also they're characters who exist in the world instead of beings who popped into existence five minutes ago.
  • The gacha system being regulated to literal gacha machines that spit out the blue shiny collectables is good trade imo.
  • It's pretty funny that they introduce multiple systems early on that they discard almost immediately? Like, they introduce vendor trash loot that's only good for selling, then a few hours later they're like "Ok now this will just get autosold immediately after you pick it up lol"
 

Erilex

hourglass figure
This game has so many good individual parts, and yet it's so catastrophically less than the sum of them. I'm not entirely sure how I managed to finish it, because when I was done, after more than a hundred hours of play, I couldn't muster any feeling about it more enthusiastic than "that was kind of boring". Part of it might be series fatigue (this one does nothing to alleviate some of the most tedious aspects of previous entries), part of it might be having just gone through one of the most mind-numbingly boring final bosses in a JRPG. Seriously, he is the worst:
  • Really boring first phase with gameplay restrictions that make it drag on forever AND several unskippable cutscenes.
  • Big floating head. Come on, I'd take the most tired melange of angel wings and eyes over BIG FLOATING HEAD (no disrespect to Kagutsuchi from SMT Nocturne, he is cool).
  • There's several phases of big floating head, interspersed by cutscenes (skippable this time thank god) that are arguably cooler than anything that is going on in the actual battle, but really nothing to write home about once you get past the initial OH, BIG MECH! thrill.
  • From a thematic perspective, making Z the old JRPG cliche of "amalgamation of humanity's collective [insert human flaw here]" in a tale that so far has been about how a few selfish individuals benefit from the manufactured misery of many is a big misstep I think. He would have been more compelling if he was just some dude, honestly.
  • The final boss theme might as well be background white noise. Thoroughly unmemorable. In a game with so much amazing music, this is perhaps the biggest disappointment, especially considering how hard the regular boss themes go.
  • If you die you have to go through phase 1 again.
The Xenoblade series has always struggled with making its boss battles cool for me, because there's so much going on that I find it really hard to look at anything other than the character I'm currently controlling. As far as I'm concerned the boss might just be standing there while I beat them up, and sometimes my health goes down for some reason. That most of the battles are resolved in lavishly animated cutscenes outside the actual gameplay makes me think that this isn't exclusively a me problem.

This is kind of painful to admit, because it's objectively the worse game in almost every aspect (especially story and characters), but I think I liked Xenoblade 2 a lot more than I did this one. The combat was a lot more fun, and so was the world traversal and exploration. And the character designs were... hopelessly horny, for sure, but still more visually interesting than 3's incredibly drab, boring outfits (even accounting for the various class change looks.) I get why they had to tone it down, to fit the more somber tone of this game, but... it still looks like ass (figuratively, unlike Xeno2, where the ass was literally in your face a lot of the time). And God, Xeno3 has some of the most insufferable menu-fiddling I've had the displeasure to wade through in a long time. So many equipment and skill loadouts to keep track of. Awful.

Maybe I'm being a bit unfair to the game. Like I said at the start, it has many good parts, parts which I loved and even got me teary-eyed at times. I loved the characters, including most of the villains whose name isn't Z (special mention to my girl Shania. She is the best. By which I mean, she's the worst). But at the end, it all fails to coalesce into something truly memorable. It almost feels like the game doesn't quite understand its own strengths, and as a result, it squanders and misuses them, as perhaps best exemplified by the narrative's doomed last ditch attempt at convincing me that the current Mio and Noah are anything but platonic best friends.
 

4-So

Spicy
I fell off the game somewhere in chapter 4 and I've been unable to make myself go back to it.

I knew I liked XBC2 more than XBC3 within the first few hours. I'm not a huge fan of things that take themselves a little too seriously - the primary reason DQ has supplanted FF as the premiere JRPG in my mind - and I was already getting those vibes early on from XBC3.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I started playing this game today because I heard that this one actually teaches you how to play it. It does! The tutorials are clear, specific, and repeatable, and come at a nice comfortable pace. Introducing gameplay elements one at a time in an order such that they build upon each other has helped me to get a handle on what all the game's feedback really means and what's important to pay attention to. That's great! Feeling like I didn't know what the hell I was doing was why my prior experience with the series was limited to a couple hours at the start of the first one. (I will probably not go back to the earlier games in the series)

Anyway, I'm into this. Let's forge confidently onward. Is there any advice any of you would offer? I heard that there are parts in the game where it becomes a good idea for non-obvious reasons to either ignore or fixate upon sidequests, for instance.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
I started playing this game today because I heard that this one actually teaches you how to play it. It does! The tutorials are clear, specific, and repeatable, and come at a nice comfortable pace. Introducing gameplay elements one at a time in an order such that they build upon each other has helped me to get a handle on what all the game's feedback really means and what's important to pay attention to. That's great! Feeling like I didn't know what the hell I was doing was why my prior experience with the series was limited to a couple hours at the start of the first one. (I will probably not go back to the earlier games in the series)

Anyway, I'm into this. Let's forge confidently onward. Is there any advice any of you would offer? I heard that there are parts in the game where it becomes a good idea for non-obvious reasons to either ignore or fixate upon sidequests, for instance.

This game features a job class system like in classic RPGs Dragon Quest 6 and Dragon Quest 7. You won't get much Class Experience from defeating weaker enemies (especially if their levels are grey), so try not to overlevel too much from side quests or exploring other areas you're not supposed to yet. It's not a huge problem, but it's a game where, like, you do get to a point where stuff opens up and you want to poke your nose everywhere.

You can skip Gem crafting levels, so you can skip right to a Level 4 Gem instead of having to craft levels 1-3. On that note, you should probably save all your Gold Nopon Coins for crafting Level 10 Gems.

I don't think it shows up in a tutorial, but it is a load screen tip: You can click the Left Stick to execute a Quick Move in combat to help you get those positionals in.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Thanks for the tips.

I'm in Chapter 2 now, a little ways past the Chain Attacks tutorial, and boy, it seems like that's the way you win boss battles, huh?

Still finding the pace of the tutorials really comfortable. I think I'll settle into a rhythm where I get one or two major new combat mechanics in a play session, save at a lull in the action not long after, and then start off my next session doing the drills to help it sink in. Literally just adding one new icon to the UI at a time is a fine way to introduce a game of this complexity, and I can see how all the pieces are fitting together.

Wish I could zoom the camera out sometimes.

Experimenting with the six starting classes. Healer and Defender roles haven't held a lot of appeal for me: as an Attacker, you're the one ending the fight, whereas as a Healer or Defender, you're keeping the party alive while you wait for the AI to end the fight. I love playing support in multiplayer, but in a singleplayer game it just feels better to be the one taking the initiative. And Swordfighter has a lot better thumbfeel than Ogre, so I've simply been rotating my party leader to be whoever's learning Swordfighter. Still, I can tell there's enough room on that classes screen for a hell of a lot more, so I'm remaining open to the possibility that something blue or green will capture my heart down the line.

The cast is taking their sweet time revealing what their respective deals are, which of course is fine. I knew this was a million hour game going in. I like Noah as a protagonist: count on me to appreciate a main character who's perceptive and thoughtful. The rest of the squad is fun too and I look forward to learning more about them.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
That weird orb system thing in Xenoblade 2 was also how you really had to do damage, or at least that's how I found it on the last boss. It definitely helps up that damage output, and I try my best to trigger them towards the end so I can get an Overkill and boost my rewards - it helps me to not have to engage in random combat elsewhere. I really don't love the combat in any of the games - it gets by on strengths in other places. I had the same problem with FFXII (or anything MMORPG-styled), and that game didn't really have as compelling an exploration angle as the Xenoblade games.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
Chapter 5/6 stuff, containing some massive spoilers about stuff from this part of the game:
While at the end of the day it was just a long string of pulled punches, I do think this sequence was executed really well. I was genuinely surprised about being locked in a prison for a month, and the eclipse events. At first when Mio was sent I was like "holy shit they actually did it" (it would have been deeply funny if Ghondor had been a permanent replacement for Mio), but then when N seemingly executed Noah I was like "oh this is gonna be a Foresight/Monado Vision/Whatever," so I appreciate it didn't turn out to be that!

They did a good job with the character facial expressions. Noah, N, and Shania all pop off at various times with just absolutely incredible faces.

The pacing is weird, I didn't realize the chapter break was the save point so I thought I was in the lengthy denouement of Chapter 5 still instead of half way through Chapter 6 lol. I thought a lot of this stuff was being revealed pretty early (especially since M only makes her first formal appearance at the tail end of Chapter 4), but I guess it is pretty late in the game. It definitely feels like an Act is missing though, I guess maybe the Hero Ascension Quests, which so far have largely dealt with colonies from different sides of the war working together to move forward, are supposed to fill that role. The colonies themselves are boring to look at, but because of the side quest structure and Hero Quests, do feel much more like actual places than what was in Xenoblade 2. For example Colony Gamma's quests are all about teaching new recruits, Colony 30 is about building another MechaFriend, etc, etc. It works!

The floating Reefs around Keves and the ocean are absolutely miserable to explore though!
 
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Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
Chapter 5/6 stuff, containing some massive spoilers about stuff from this part of the game:
While at the end of the day it was just a long string of pulled punches, I do think this sequence was executed really well. I was genuinely surprised about being locked in a prison for a month, and the eclipse events. At first when Mio was sent I was like "holy shit they actually did it" (it would have been deeply funny if Ghondor had been a permanent replacement for Mio), but then when N seemingly executed Noah I was like "oh this is gonna be a Foresight/Monado Vision/Whatever," so I appreciate it didn't turn out to be that!

They did a good job with the character facial expressions. Noah, N, and Shania all pop off at various times with just absolutely incredible faces.

The pacing is weird, I didn't realize the chapter break was the save point so I thought I was in the lengthy denouement of Chapter 5 still instead of half way through Chapter 6 lol. I thought a lot of this stuff was being revealed pretty early (especially since M only makes her first formal appearance at the tail end of Chapter 4), but I guess it is pretty late in the game. It definitely feels like an Act is missing though, I guess maybe the Hero Ascension Quests, which so far have largely dealt with colonies from different sides of the war working together to move forward, are supposed to fill that role. The colonies themselves are boring to look at, but because of the side quest structure and Hero Quests, do feel much more like actual places than what was in Xenoblade 2. For example Colony Gamma's quests are all about teaching new recruits, Colony 30 is about building another MechaFriend, etc, etc. It works!

The floating Reefs around Keves and the ocean are absolutely miserable to explore though!
I was stupid enough to start the prison break sequence late at night and I was so into what was happening that I couldn't bear to put the game down and ended up playing way past my normal bed time. Worth it.
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
I started playing this game after completing XC2 (which was prompted by the release of XC3). I am currently up to Chapter 3.5, aka whenever the second crop of DLC starts becoming accessible. Not that I was playing for the DLC or anything, just got Poppi Mk. 3 on the team, and that seems relevant.

Anywho, does anyone know if there was ever any overlap between MonolithSoft and the people behind (vanilla) Final Fantasy 13? I drew a pretty clear Xenosaga/Final Fantasy 13 parallel back in the day, and now Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels like a game taking broad strokes directly from Final Fantasy 13. Both games vague spoilers: six random people drawn together by a chance encounter with a divine doodad, race-against-the-clock magical tattoos, short lifespans, capricious "gods" controlling the team, "you will become the enemy of the world", etc. I'm not saying one is copying the other directly here, but it seems like a clear echo of themes/concepts in the same way that a lot of the surface level plotting of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was extremely similar to Xenosaga. Like, in the same way that XC2 feels like "what if Xenosaga was shonen and extremely straight", it (so far) feels like XC3 is "what if Final Fantasy 13 was shoenen and extremely straight".
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
There is no writing overlap between the two. The scenario in Final Fantasy XIII is credited to Kazushige Nojima (initial concepts and setting mythology), Motomu Toriyama (overall plot and story structure) and Daisuke Watanabe (lead writing); none have worked on a Xeno game. Xenoblade 3's scenario is credited to Tetsuya Takahashi, Yuichiro Takeda and Kazuho Hyodo. Takahashi's professional life has mostly just been Xeno and Smash Bros. production assists for the past 25 years; Takeda only has writing credits for the Xenoblade trilogy; and Hyodo's credits are unknown.

To me, any similarities are probably just the results of genre writers working within an increasingly narrow and funneled genre where its creative influences are turning inward and self-referential as the medium ages and "lifers" within the field do not have the time or the inclination to absorb inspiration from sources other than perhaps the general zeitgeist output of their peers. Ken and Shinjiro's dynamic in Persona 3 was echoed step by step and even through the general aesthetics of the characters in FFXIII's Hope and Snow, and perhaps that was a deliberate riff by people whose gaze had grown cloistered, or maybe that kind of narrative is universal enough to be landed upon coincidentally. Two of my favourite games last year in The Caligula Effect 2 and Blue Reflection 2 possessed almost a comical degree of similarities between the two, from release dates, series trajectories, aesthetics, narrative beats, writing voices, story thematics, design touches and an innumerable other minutiae, but even if they hadn't been in development simultaneously it would still be natural to declare it a case of convergent genre evolution rather than one imitating the other. Whatever idiosyncracies Takahashi-lead games narratively possess, he is of a generation and peer group of video game writers that generally have compatible voices through which similar themes wil be echoed time and time again. If anything, the loss of Soraya Saga as a creator has been an unrecoverable one in terms of the distinct identity her input bestowed on his material in their collaboration, but those are nearly two-decade-old wounds.
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
So I very deliberately beat this on Thursday, kind of "nose to the grindstone" the last week because I wanted this off the docket before the release of Pokémon. And, while I did accomplish my goal just in time, I have not started Pokémon yet, and have continued playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Why? Because I have been doing all the sidequests. And why have I been doing that? Well, ultimately because the theme of XC3 is a lot more pervasive than I thought.

Gonna go ahead and spoiler pop this as it spoils the whole shebang...

So I have seen a lot of people say Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is baby crazy, and its ultimate moral is about how great it is to meet someone of the opposite sex and have some kids. There is a lot of textual support for this interpretation, as there is an overt emphasis on "isn't breeding fascinating" in The City (the one place on this planet where people are macking it), and they even go as far as retroactively making XC2's protagonist an omega dad (which is significant, as I want to say Rex never even mentioned children during the entirety of XC2, so it makes as much sense as announcing a game later that Zeke became a librarian). However, I didn't interpret it all as such, as I felt the emphasis on children was something of a byproduct of the theme of "let things move forward", and children are the most obvious example of that. Do not live in the stasis of "the eternal now", make changes in your life, move forward... and the corollary to that is that for a lot of people throughout history, "having kids" is the most obvious example of that moving forward. You can't be in the ten year time loop of being a young adult forever, and it's a lot harder to display that with "Eunie grew as a person and opened a flower shop and she really enjoys reading books on quiet Sunday afternoons" than just "babies babies babies!"

That said, I am still playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 because, apparently, raising kids is fun.

I have played all the Xenoblade Chronicles games. All of them have had variations on the... what did they call it in the first place... I want to say "Colony System"? Basically, you solve side quests in a particular town, and this leads to earning local "points", and eventually the town "ranks up", and maybe this means you can get more complicated sidequests, find more items at shops, or get discounts. This was there from the beginning in Xenoblade Chronicles, and then XC2 added to it by including some weird system where you could become a landlord for local shops or something. It was kind of... confusing? Like, I think the implication was that Rex was gradually "buying into" the towns and businesses he frequented, but it felt about as inconsequential as playing Monopoly, and gave a weird kind of "landlord" vibe. Like, this teenager now owns all the food stores in town? Somebody should call the cops about that. No, not the regular cops.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has much the same system in place. You are no longer buying fruit stands, but you are performing the same tasks of completing sidequests or handing over 10 Aruba Cacti or whatever and watching a little bar fill up. The rewards are still there, but, as someone playing on normal mode (so, to be clear, if this is more important in hard mode, I am unaware), the various shops and such are not that much of a gameplay factor. Like, I'm sure having a Level 5 colony somewhere grants you access to some game-breaking benefit, but I barely use gold/credits/whatever (instead predominantly focusing on leveling up the jobs and upgrading gems), and do not see much of a "physical" benefit to making a colony better.

That said, I cannot stop doing all these silly sidequests, because these colonies are babies.

Here's the cycle for damn near every colony in the game: you arrive at the Colony. It is controlled by The Bad Guys. At least one of the Bad Guys is skulking about, and they've got some weird plan that maybe could be benevolent at first glance, but is revealed to be powered by puppy souls. You personally defeat the Bad Guy, often with the help of one random person from the Colony. Random Person is often revealed to be the leader of said Colony. The Bad Guy is now dead, the colony's connection to the "home office" is severed, and now Random Person is left responsible for the whole Colony. Everybody knows you've got an adventure to go adventure at, but if you could stop back in and help from time to time, that would be great. Colony needs food badly...

And I realized after about the 26th time this happened that I was actually pumping up these colony scores because I wanted to help out the babies. All the towns or colonies or whatever in previous Xenoblade games had issues (like, they were often wrecked to all heck by a visiting Metal Face or something), but they were established places long before you ever sauntered in. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 made a big deal about Rex's hometown being his responsibility from the start of that game, but every other "town" was a hulking city that didn't care if Rex lived or died. You guys got a king sitting right there! You don't need me to go collect strawberries to somehow reduce real estate costs! You're good!

But the colonies on Xenoblade Chronicles 3? You cut them off from their previous parents. You personally did it with a big, glowy sword. You are responsible for them now. You're a good person, right? You're the one out there slaughtering Magical Buffalo or whatever. You don't want to bring some Magical Buffalo Steaks home to the kids? You don't want to help the new colony leader find their footing? You don't want to make sure Pebbles and Bam Bam survive their whacky adventures with a robot? These people are children, don't you want to make sure they're okay?!

And, yes, it winds up making the rewards for all these quests a lot more emotion-based than anything else. I care about Colony 9 and its inhabitants having a better life because my characters care about these citizens. Sure, earning a handful of CP is nice, but I'm more concerned about the fact that the locals have enough food to eat. And by the end of the game when you've got a network of liberated Colonies sharing supplies and collectapedia'ing flowers back and forth to each other... It feels nice. The babies are growing up now, and you can venture off to the final boss confident in the knowledge that they are going to be okay without you.

.... And then, in grand Xeno-tradition, beating the game obliterates the planet, and reboots two different universes, thus negating everything you have ever done...

Has there been a single Xeno-story that didn't end with a complete reboot of the status quo!? Fool me once...


But still! It's the thought that counts! And I was a good dad to all my little colonies before they left the nest and stopped existing.

Kind of insidious theme cohesion there...
 
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