Xenoblade Chronicles 2: hands-on preview, news, trailers and more

Everything we know about Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade is a fantastic JRPG franchise that has rarely received the attention it deserves. The previous two entries embraced the hardcore audience with their staggering open worlds and imaginative characters, yet they seldom penetrated the mainstream.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, bringing a broad, gorgeous adventure to Nintendo Switch later this year, although a solid release date hasn’t yet been announced, leaving us with only a brief trailer to whet our appetite.

After being announced during the Switch’s big unveiling in Tokyo, fans of the first game will no doubt be eagerly anticipating its arrival. And for those picking up a Switch, it’ll be nice to have a solid JRPG to sink our teeth into at home and on the go.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Nintendo Direct trailer

The most recent Nintendo Direct presentation saw plenty of new gameplay footage for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 alongside a long-awaited release date! Check them out below:

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 at a glance

Release Date: December 1, 2017
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: JRPG
What’s new? Hands-on gameplay impressions

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What is Xenoblade Chronicles 2?

Acting as a sequel to the Nintendo Wii original, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will once again feature a dynamic open world filled with quests, monsters and secrets to discover. Coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch, the sequel adopts a chibi, anime-inspired art style to emphasise the size and scale of the environment. Little else is known about XC2 so far, but there is plenty we can’t wait to see.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 release date – When is it coming out?

The JRPG is set to launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on December 1, 2017.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Story – What’s it about?

All we know so far is that we play as a brand new character in search of a mysterious place known as Elysium. What this is and why it’s so important is unknown, and is something the core narrative will likely delve into.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Gameplay – Hands-on impressions

Written by Katharine Byrne

The Xenoblade series may have built its name on its awe-inspiring worlds and jaw-dropping vistas, but its cluttered UI and barrage of confusing, colour-coded symbols didn’t help court RPG newcomers. Take one look at Xenoblade Chronicles 2, though, and you’ll find it’s done away with much of the fussy iconography that defined its predecessors, resulting in a cleaner, more approachable game that really lets its bright, anime art style shine.

A lack of icons doesn’t mean a lack of systems, though, for underneath this newer, simpler façade lies a game that’s just as complex and intimately-crafted as its excellent forebears, as our extensive hands-off demo made clear.

We begin in a wooded forest, where oversized beetles nose through the undergrowth. In previous games, insects often had sound-sensitive warnings above their heads, but now we’re told to learn each enemy’s particular mannerisms through experience, seeing which enemies attack on sight and which ones are perfectly happy to chill out and leave us alone.

This will be good news for seasoned Monster Hunter fans – especially those mourning the lack of Switch support for the recently announced Monster Hunter World – but we suspect it’s actually more a concession to those playing the game on the move. With less screen real estate on the Switch’s screen, the last thing you want is a bunch of tiny icons getting in the way.

Related: Super Mario Odyssey Preview

Indeed, the revamped layout of the game’s battle system is testament to this. Instead of having your attacks lined up in a bar along the bottom of the screen, they’ve now been shunted to the sides, handily mapped to each Joy-Con’s face buttons.

On the left, you’ve got your Blades – a new feature to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that determines what kind of Art abilities you can use on the right of the screen. Up to three Blades can be assigned to each character at any one time, and switching them in and out is key to unleashing powerful team combo attacks.

Some Blades, such as the flame-haired Pyra shown in the trailer, are inextricably linked with their so-called Drivers as part of the story – in this case, protagonist Rex. She can generate potions that other characters can use to heal themselves, but another randomised Blade we’re shown – one born from a special crystal our demo rep finds in the field – can launch enemies into the air if they’ve been toppled. Pyra doesn’t have any topple-based Arts, but the Blades assigned to Rex’s fellow party members do, so working together and monitoring the flow of battle is vital to using your Arts effectively.

In many ways, you could say the Blades are simply a neat way of giving players just as many attacks as previous Xenoblade games without cluttering the screen. However, when every Blade also comes with its own unique weapon type and elemental attribute, it means each one can dramatically affect your overall play style. Fancy playing it slow with a huge axe? Sure. Or sniping from afar with a rifle? You got it. Admittedly, we’ve yet to see if or how a Blade’s Arts develop over time, but with dozens of spare Blade slots on offer, there should be plenty of variety to keep you busy.

When it all comes together, the results are stunning, too, and the end of demo boss fight we saw looked to be one of the most exciting and engaging Xenoblade battles we’ve ever seen.

First impressions

Yes, there’s a lot to get your head round, but once you’ve seen it in action, Xenoblade’s real-time combat is second to none, and we can’t wait to see more when it launches this December.