The story so far
In the opening of the E3 2017 trailer, we see that citizens of an area known as Alrest lived on the World Tree with the divine father, the Architect, when the world was young. At the top of the tree is, Elysium, deemed as the “ultimate paradise for all of humanity.” The new hero of the story, named Rex, is asked by a female character, a “Blade” (a sort of living weapon, summoned by a “Driver”), to escort her home to the fabled Elysium.
The gameplay shown during E3 showed off Rex in action. His on-hand abilities were called Anchor Shot, Sword Bash, and Double Spinning Edge. He also had a fourth slot that was unassigned. Pyra delivered a ranged flame attack as Rex went in close for in-your-face sword-based combat.
The world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 appears to have massive, lush environments to explore such as Drillbore Bridge, the Galad residential zone, and Zalmor’s Crevice. The visuals are complemented by the MMO-like combat we’ve seen in previous games, with menus and status effects reminiscent of Final Fantasy XV. Blades are able to support Drivers with “Blade Arts” — powerful boosts that allow Blades to do more damage with their own attacks. Blades themselves are, hypothetically, immortal, provided that “the crystal” is not destroyed. However, in the game’s story trailer, it is implied that such an existence will burden Blades with unpleasant memories.
Drivers can take a total of nine Blade Arts into battle with them, giving them more control over how they perform in battle, and the combination Drivers use determines their class. Additionally, Drivers have access to “Driver Combos,” across three types: Blade, Driver, and Fusion. These are achieved by chaining particular Blade Arts together and offer significant damage increases.
The enormous dragon creatures living in the clouds of Alrest are called Titans, which also serve as mobile homes for heroes. Rex lives on the back of a small, talkative Titan named Azurda, who appears to be a shapeshifter capable of turning into an adorable fuzzy creature. Others, such as the Empire of Mor Ardain, don’t have a harmonious relationship with Titans, instead controlling them mechanically in order to use them as weapons.
Drivers aren’t just limited to a few blades for help in combat. They can use “Core Crystals” to summon new blades using a technique known as “Blade Resonance.” Each blade uses different weapons and abilities, and it’s something of a mystery box every time you awaken one, as they’re chosen at random. Up to three can be taken into battle at once, split into three classes: Healer, attacker, and tank.
Once the driver has filled up a blade’s “special” meter, it will be returned to its Blade owner, at which point you can press the “B” button to deliver a powerful attack. There are four levels of special attacks, and the latter ones appear to be absolutely devastating. To further increase a Blade’s abilities, you can unlock layers of its “affinity chart” — aka skill tree — and special locations will also trigger conversations to “boost their trust,” similar to RPG series like Bravely Default and Fire Emblem. As shown in a November Nintendo Direct which you can see above, older Blades that aren’t being used for direct combat can also be sent out as part of “Merc Groups,” earning additional gold, experience, and other rewards. One special blade named Poppy can even be enhanced by playing a retro-style underwater game called Tiger Tiger.
There is something mysterious about Pyra and her quest for Elysium that she is not revealing to Rex — a secret we will likely discover as we move deeper into the story. The trailer alludes to a power she wields but won’t use — a power her opponents clearly want to control and use for their own evil gains. However, according to Nintendo, she shares some of that “tremendous” power with Rex.
Other characters that Rex and Pyra will encounter along the way include Nia, a cynical character who believes Elysium is a myth, as well as Dromarch, who resembles a tiger. Tora, meanwhile, is a small animal that looks like the Porg from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Zeke appears to be a clumsy oaf with an eye-patch and some stylish threads.
The mysterious character Jin might be our favorite of the bunch. Wielding a large saber and armor that resembles Kingdom Hearts’ Organization XIII, his face is mostly obscured by a mask.
Additionally, players will be able to use KOS-MOS, an android from Xenosaga. She’ll be available as a “rare” Blade, though it isn’t clear how difficult it will be to use her.
As established with the first reveal in January, Xeno series creator Tetsuya Takahashi returns as executive director. He’s accompanied by Masatsugu Saito, who is in charge of the main character design and chose to take a more chibi anime art style approach with the sequel than what is seen in the first installment. Also on board is Tetsuya Nomura who handled the “Toma” character design.
On the music front, Monolith Soft enlisted the same composers used in the original Xenoblade Chronicles game: Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross), Ace (Tomori Kudo and Hiroyo “Chico” Yamanaka), Kenji Hiramatsu, and Manami Kiyota. Performing the music is the Bratislava Symphony Choir and the Irish choral ensemble Anúna.
For those looking to play even more Xenoblade Chronicles 2 after completing its main story — which early reviews suggest could be close to 80 hours long — an expansion pass is now available for $30. The pass will offer access to the game’s content packs from launch until fall 2018, and will include new items, additional quests, a “Battle Mode,” as well as a “new side story set in the world of Elysium.”
Additionally, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild players can obtain a Rex costume in the game for free through a new side quest, beginning on November 9.
When can we play it?
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 launches on Nintendo Switch December 1. A pink-and-green Xenoblade Chronicles 2-themed Switch Pro Controller hits stores the same day.
Update: Added info on additional characters, main story length, and Blades’ immortality.