Xenoblade Chronicles 2
|Xenoblade Chronicles 2|
North American cover art
|Release||December 1, 2017|
Xenoblade Chronicles 2[a] is an action role-playing game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch video game console. The game is part of the Xeno series, serving as a sequel to the first Xenoblade Chronicles, and was released worldwide on December 1, 2017. The game sold over a million copies within a month of its release. A large story-based downloadable content (DLC) addition, titled Torna ~ The Golden Country, is scheduled for release in September 2018.
Akin to the previous games in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 plays as an action role-playing game (ARPG) where the player controls a main character out of an overall party of three. The game employs an open world design, with players able to freely navigate seamlessly interconnected environments. A day-and-night time cycle exists in the game, with the time of day often affecting in-game events, quests, enemy strengths, and item availability.
The biggest change to the gameplay comes from Blades, sentient beings that can produce a weapon to be used by a combatant, who is referred to as a Driver. These are the characters that will make up the player's party in the game. As players progress, Drivers are given the ability to summon Blades by opening items called "core crystals", which can then be equipped on that Driver. The Blade equipped on a Driver determines their class, and Blade weapon types are divided into three main categories: Attacker, Healer, and Tank. Blades will provide support to the Driver in the form of buffs and special attacks are performed by both a Driver and their Blade. Buffs and other upgrades can be unlocked through a Blade's Affinity Chart.
The game is set on Alrest, a water world with no stable land surface, but a never-ending sea topped with clouds. According to legend, humanity once lived atop the world's central World Tree in a paradise called Elysium with their creator, the Architect. However, for unknown reasons, they were exiled and given creatures called Titans, which range in size from medium-sized boats to small continents, to live on/in. Also central to the world's lore are Drivers, who wield Blades, powerful weapons obtained through special "core crystals" that take the dual forms of actual weapons and living beings who channel their power into the weapons through a force called ether. When a Driver dies, their Blade reverts to their crystal form and have lost their memory when their next Driver awakens them. At the game's start, the nation-state from the continent Titans Mor Ardain and Uraya are on the brink of war.
Rex, a young, orphaned salvager who collects treasure below the cloud sea for money, is hired by Argentum Trade Guild Chairman Bana to aid a group of people—Jin, Malos, Nia, and their Blades—in the salvage of an ancient ship. Going inside, they find Pyra, an especially powerful Blade known as an Aegis. When Rex reaches out to touch the sword in front of her, Jin fatally stabs him. He awakens on a field and is introduced to Pyra, who asks him to be her Driver and bring her to Elysium and gives him half of her core crystal to revive him. With help from Nia, who defects, and Gramps, Rex's Titan companion, they manage to escape to the Titan Gormott. However, Gramps is wounded and reverts to his larval stage, which cannot carry them through the cloud sea. Soon after, they meet and are joined by the Nopon 'Driver' Tora, and Poppi, an artificial Blade whom Tora invented. The group try to get to the World Tree, only to be stopped by a monster known as an Artifice named Ophion.
While searching for a way past him, they get embroiled in the rising tensions between Mor Ardain and Uraya. After clashing with an experienced mercenary driver named Vandham, he joins the party and Rex begins to look to him as a mentor. They learn that Jin and Malos are the leaders of Torna, a terrorist group named after a Titan destroyed in the Aegis War 500 years ago. Consisting of an evil Aegis accompanied by Flesh Eaters, which are Blades infused with human cells, they seek to destroy humanity by unleashing the most powerful Artifice, Aion, on the World Tree; after which Jin and Malos plan to kill the Architect. During a battle with the Aegis Malos, Vandham is killed and Pyra unveils her true form, the Aegis Mythra. They consider themselves sisters with shared memory, and from then on switch back and forth as needed.
The group's search for a way past Ophion leads them to join forces with Drivers Mórag, the young Ardainian emperor's elder sister, and Zeke, prince of the Kingdom of Tantal from the Titan Genbu. The party is summoned to the Indoline Praetorium on Indol, which controls distribution of core crystals, by its leader, Amalthus, who is Malos's Driver. They learn that he unleashed Malos after stealing his and Mythra's core crystals from the World Tree, starting the Aegis War with Malos' rampage; then sought out another Driver, Addam, to awaken Mythra to stop him. When the ensuing battle destroyed three Titans, Mythra created Pyra to seal away her power before Addam sealed her away. Unlike other Blades, Aegises are able to maintain their bodies and memories after their Drivers' deaths.
After Amalthus attempts peace talks between the Uraya and Mor Ardain, the group stops an assassination attempt by a warmongering Bana, during which the player learns Nia's status as a Flesh Eater. Soon after, in another battle, Jin threatens Rex's life to force Pyra to surrender. Malos, weakened in the Aegis War, siphons her power to restore himself to full strength. Gramps leads the group to Pyra/Mythra's third Aegis sword and they battle a phantom of Addam, who nearly kills Rex. To save him, Nia reveals herself fully as a Blade, declaring her love for Rex, who in return affirms his love for the entire party, and his desire to fight for and protect them. The phantom vanishes and the spirit of Addam appears to Rex, deeming him worthy. Armed with new power, they confront Jin and Malos at cliffs near the World Tree. Despite Pyra revealing that she wanted to go to Elysium to ask the Architect for death, Rex convinces her to not give up, forcing Malos to summon Ophion, who knocks them all into the abyss beneath the Tree.
In the Land of Morytha, the group is forced to work with a weakened Jin. He reveals that Amalthus destroyed Torna after the Aegis War to destroy the Aegis, unaware that Addam had already sealed Mythra away, resulting in Jin and Malos forming the group after the former lost his Driver, Lora, and consumed her heart to retain his memories. It was also Amalthus' hatred for humanity, fueled by his mother's murder, that contributed to Malos' malicious nature in the first place. Planning to destroy the World Tree and by extension, the world, Amalthus unleashes a devastating attack. The group severs his connection to them, only for him to take his true form and kill all Torna members except Jin and Malos, who goes ahead. Jin uses the last of his strength to kill Amalthus before fading away. The group arrives in Elysium, a massive space station, and meet the Architect, a scientist named Klaus. He explains that he discovered a device called the Conduit which sends objects into different dimensions, the use of which resulted in his body being split in two, one half going to another dimension, as well as the destruction of his world.
To atone for his mistake, Klaus created the world around them, bringing them into existence through evolution, with Blades created to maintain the established cycle of Life. However, he was so disappointed when humanity started acting as they did in his home that he did not intervene when Amalthus stole the core crystals. Sensing that his other half is about to die, which will result in his own death, and finally seeing the good in humanity through them, Klaus sends them to stop Malos, who fights them using the weapon Aion. The group manages to defeat Aion and defeat Malos, who admits that he wishes he had met Rex earlier. After saying this, Malos dies. Before Klaus dies, he grants Rex and the party "one final gift." After doing so, Klaus dies, resulting in the Conduit shutting off and the World Tree beginning to crumble, which will destroy Alrest. Pyra gets the rest of the group out, as she must sacrifice herself to use Aion to safely detonate the World Tree. Rex is greatly distraught by this, but he and everyone else leave and barely survive the detonation when Azurda, thanks to Pyra, returns to his normal size and flies everyone down. As the Cloud Sea fades, they all watch the other Titans come together to form a new landmass. Pyra/Mythra's core crystal, restored previously, unleashes her and Mythra, now separate, who reunite with Rex.
The game is the third title in Monolith Soft's Xenoblade metaseries, following the original Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Plans for the game began as early as July 2014, during the latter half of development of Xenoblade Chronicles X, out of the negative fan reaction from changes implemented in the title. While the original Xenoblade Chronicles followed the typical structure of a general story-driven JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles X received far less emphasis on story, and was organized in more of a mission-based structure, focused primarily on exploring the game's open world. The development grew impatient upon hearing the fanbase complain about the changes, and started work on another story-driven title. Because the gameplay was more of a continuation of the first title, they decided to title it Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Initial work on the game was difficult because the technical specifications of the Nintendo Switch were not yet finalized or known yet, but once it was finalized, the game featured a shorter development period compared to the prior titles, with executive director Tetsuya Takahashi citing being able to use the technological foundation established in Xenoblade Chronicles X as a means of speeding up development time. Another motivating factor was the agreement made by the team with Nintendo specifically to deliver the game early on in the Nintendo Switch's lifecycle.
One of Monolith Soft's objectives for the game was to give the characters a wider range of facial expressions compared to past Xenoblade titles. The lead character designer was Masatsugu Saito, who for the first time was designing characters for a video game. The developers chose him to give the protagonists a more expressive anime-like art style than prior Xenoblade entries, which featured a more realistic type of modeling that they found a bit too stiff. Square Enix artist Tetsuya Nomura was responsible for the characters within the Torna organization. Takahashi had always wanted to work with Nomura, but as he was busy with other games at Square Enix, he hesitantly approached the company with the hopes of letting him work as a guest artist. To Takahashi's surprise, they accepted the negotiation. Other guest artists also contributed, such as Xeno series veterans Kunihiko Tanaka and Soraya Saga, who designed some of the game's "Blades", weapon-like life forms. Notably, Tanaka designed a blade of KOS-MOS, one of the protagonists of the Xenosaga trilogy. The game's story was conceived by Takahashi, with assistance from screenwriters Yuichiro Takeda and Kazuho Hyodo, who respectively worked on the even and odd chapters. Takeda, who also worked as a writer on the last two Xenoblade games, stated that the writing techniques and workflow for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was similar to that of a movie. Takeda also stated that the story had the most "Tetsuya Takahashi flair to date". While it is a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, it features a new world and cast of characters.
The game was announced in January 2017 as part of Nintendo's detailed reveal of the Nintendo Switch, with a gameplay trailer being released on the same day. Similar to the original Xenoblade, the title was announced as Xenoblade 2 in Japan, but had Chronicles added to its name in English speaking regions. The game was also a part of Nintendo's presentation at E3 2017, where it was reconfirmed for release by the end of 2017. Like the original Xenoblade Chronicles, Nintendo's European division took up the reins for the English localization, who regularly communicated with Nintendo's Japanese and American divisions about decisions that could prove controversial, something that was previously an issue with Xenoblade Chronicles X. The game had a simultaneous worldwide launch on December 1, 2017, as the localization process took place during development rather than after it, unlike the first two games.
Torna ~ The Golden Country
Additional story-based downloadable content was made for the game, with the first being Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country. The content is being released digitally as part of the game's expansion pass on September 14, 2018, and at retail on September 21.
The game's original score was written by Yasunori Mitsuda, ACE (Tomori Kudo and Hiroyo "Chico" Yamanaka), Kenji Hiramatsu, and Manami Kiyota. Mitsuda, who was also in charge of the audio budget, musician booking, schedule management, and music sheet proofreading, was first invited to the project by Takahashi in December 2014. Throughout the following year, Mitsuda and Takahashi held numerous meetings discussing the overall direction of the music, eventually inviting musical group ACE and Kenji Hiramatsu, who had also worked on the first Xenoblade Chronicles. At the meetings, each composer's contribution to the soundtrack was decided, with ACE primarily handling the field music, and Hiramatsu handling the battle music. According to Mitsuda, it was done in a way that would satisfy the fans, as they did not want to "ruin the image" that was set by the first Xenoblade Chronicles. With contributions from over 300 total musicians and 20,000 sheets worth of music, Mitsuda considered it the largest project he had ever worked on, with files and data from Pro Tools, his music production software, surpassing one terabyte in size. Overall, there were approximately 120 tracks recorded for the game, with around 25 of them being from Mitsuda.
The soundtrack features performances from the Slovakian Bratislava Symphony Choir, as well as the Irish chamber choir Anúna. Mitsuda, who had always wanted to work with Anúna after becoming a fan of theirs in the 1990s, claimed that their performances for the game made him cry. Two tracks, including the ending theme written by Mitsuda, were sung by Jennifer Bird of the English acoustic duo Tomorrow Bird. Before recording, Mitsuda and Bird corresponded so that she could properly convey the characters' emotions through her singing. While recording, Bird was able to improvise melodic elements of her singing, something that did not usually happen with Mitsuda's arrangements. Days before the game's launch, a promotional music video featuring a vocal track from the game by Mitsuda, "Shadow of the Lowlands", was uploaded onto Nintendo's official YouTube accounts. The video features a performance by Anúna, and was filmed and directed by Michael McGlynn, leader of the group. An official soundtrack, consisting of over a hundred tracks, was released in both physical and digital formats on May 23, 2018.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was positively received upon announcement, with some critics calling its reveal "unexpected". Jeremy Parish of USGamer favorably compared it to Chrono Cross. At the Gamescom event in August 2017, the game received positive early hands-on impressions from gaming sites, being praised for its streamlined combat system and environments.
Upon release, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 received "generally positive" reception according to review aggregator Metacritic. IGN praised the game, calling it a "standout RPG that manages to keep its story, combat, and exploration interesting over the course of at least 70 hours of adventure through an impressively varied and rich world", though conceded a few frustrations with the game, including a confusing minimap that sometimes led to the reviewer getting lost. GamingBolt called it "one of the best JRPGs of this generation", awarding it a score of 9/10, and calling its world "vast and beautiful", its story "complex and layered", and its combat "intricate and addictive", while also noting that the game was occasionally held back by "obtuse design choices" and "a simple lack of polish".
A more negative review came from Jason Schreier of Kotaku, who panned the game for being "dull, dreary, overly complicated, and unconcerned with wasting the player's time", as well as calling the writing "subpar". Despite his criticisms, Schreier praised the game's music and environments, calling the former "spectacular". The game received a 35/40 review score from Famitsu. It was nominated for "Best RPG" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards; in addition, it was nominated in the "Game Engineering" category at the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards.
The game sold nearly 98,000 copies in its first week in Japan, and 168,000 after a month. In the United Kingdom, the game positioned itself at number 19 overall in its first week, which made it debut 9 places higher over Xenoblade Chronicles X. In the United States, it charted at number 16 for the month of December. Within a month, the game had sold over a million copies worldwide, which had risen to 1.3 million by the end of March 2018.
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