Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review: Ambitious, beautiful, but overly complicated

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Title Screen
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom Line: If you enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles, you will enjoy this sequel. The gameplay is definitely a mess, but the story and artwork are engaging, and you can spend close to 300 hours completing all the additional content.


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    Engaging story

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    Hundreds of hours of gameplay

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    Beautiful anime-styled graphics

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    Great DLC


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    Overly complicated gameplay

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    Convuluted battle mechanics

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    Seemingly never-ending side quests

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    Overpowered enemies

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Featuring a massive world, dozens of well developed characters, and nearly 300 hours of gameplay, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 fits well into the Xeno series. It features lovely anime-inspired graphics and an epic story with science fiction and fantasy elements.

However, it also features a complicated mess of controls, with tutorials that some may find lacking. The open world is also a little too open, allowing for unintended encounters that can put an immediate end to your party. This game is definitely not for everyone, but for those who muscle through the clunky gameplay mechanics, the story may just be reward enough.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 — A solid sequel

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Rex Pleased To Meet You (Image credit: iMore)

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a beautiful story, lovely artwork, and a vast world to explore. A masterful blend of fantasy and science fiction, with a boatload of anime influence, this game tells the story of Rex and his Blade, Pyra as they seek to save their world. While this game is connected to Xenoblade Chronicles, it can also be enjoyed alone. It's also massive, providing even those most dedicated of gamers with many days of play.

Ties to Xenoblade Chronicles and the other Xeno games

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (Image credit: iMore)

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is set in the same universe as Xenoblade Chronicles, but on a different, only ever-so-slightly connected world. Shulk isn't in the sequel and the only explicit tie-in to Shulk's adventure come from comments in the endgame. Some of the creatures are in both games, the overarching themes are quite similar, and the gameplay mechanics are almost identical.

However, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can be played without having so much as glanced at the original. The events of the first game happen concurrently with the sequel and they don't impact each other much. Even most of the terminology and unique world features are independent of each other. In the Shulk's world of Bionis and Mechonis, for example, the Monado is unique as the only weapon with otherworldly powers. In the world of Alrest, where Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes place, there are many sentient Blades — weapons that manifest a person or creature to aid the wielder in battle. Neither game features playable characters who can cross over from one world to another, either.

That's not to say it's a waste of time to play both. Both provide hundreds of hours of content and development in these connected worlds. In fact, if you enjoy one, you will almost certainly enjoy the other.

What is the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 gameplay like?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Image credit: iMore)

Similar to the gameplay in Xenoblade Chronicles, the gameplay for this game is a convoluted mess. Most of your attacks happen automatically, and that remains true even when you switch to manual gameplay. There are so many tutorials that you might feel compelled to skip over them, but I would not recommend doing that. In fact, I recommend getting screenshots of all of the tutorials.

One of the improvements made to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was the ability to revisit any of the tutorials at any point in the game. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 doesn't have this option so if you miss it the first go round, you're probably going to spend a fair bit of time in guides figuring out the complex mechanics in this game.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Image credit: iMore)

In addition to complex mechanics, due in part to the vast open world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, there aren't clear divisions between where you're supposed to be and where you absolutely shouldn't be yet. In one of the first missions you're supposed to take Rex and Pyra to a nearby settlement by crossing a forest. The field you cross has plenty of creatures at or below your level, but also has creatures 10 times your level. Some of them will even see you fighting smaller creatures and join in. It can be pretty discouraging when a massive bird spots you fighting creatures your level and one hits your entire party.

Another aspect of gameplay that is similar to the original is the sheer number of side quests and Affinity building. Between the core game and the DLC, there are over 200 quests to be completed, as well as minigames and relationships to build. Over all, there are close to 300 hours of content in this game.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a character-driven story

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Image credit: iMore)

While the gameplay may hold back Xenoblade Chronicles 2 from being a five-star JRPG, the character-driven story is where it really shines. The game follows Rex and his blade, Pyra (and her alternate form Mythra), and all are three-dimensional, likeable characters. This is what keeps players returning to the Xeno series again and again. Each and every one of the playable characters is well developed and brought to life with stellar voice acting. Through the complex weave of core story, Affinity gains, and side quests, you will grow to know and love many of the cast. You sure have enough time to get to know them!

On top of the playable characters, the Blades each have their own personality, likes and dislikes, history, and more. Because the weapons form a living person who joins Rex on the journey, they are often just as well developed as the playable characters. Pyra and Mythra, in particular, feel just as real as any of the playable characters and their story is every bit as engaging as Rex's, if not more so.

DLC - Torna: The Golden Country

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Dlc (Image credit: iMore)

As if the core game weren't long enough, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 also has DLC that adds even more character development and world building. Set many years before Rex bonded with Pyra, Torna: the Golden Country explores the event that led up to that first fateful mission. In addition to more game, the DLC also introduces new, more user friendly game mechanics. Much like the improvements made in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, creator Takahashi Tetsuya wanted to make this world easier for players to engage with. The user interface and tutorials have been reworked, and more complicated aspects, like the Affinity Chart, have been simplified to a Community section.

Plus, you get a ton of extra in-game items and quests that will help you along in the core game! While you can't download some of these until you've progressed to certain points in the game, some are available from the start and they really do make a difference.

Bottom Line: Should you buy Xenoblade Chronicles 2?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Image credit: iMore)

If long and involved RPGs are your thing, you absolutely should pick up Xenoblade Chronicles 2. If you enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles or any of the other Xeno games, you will almost certainly enjoy this game. There's plenty for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and anime.

While the gameplay mechanics are convoluted and some aspects of the world are discouraging, the story and artwork make it worth suffering through all of that. The characters are endearing and the voice acting is very well done, and with the length of this game, you will definitely get your money's worth.

Casian Holly

Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.