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The Xenoblade Chronicles series has been running for over a decade, and from its humble beginnings on the Wii as a relatively obscure JRPG with way too much content and an utterly bonkers script, it’s grown into a behemoth. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the last game in the trilogy, but probably not the last game in the series, and it delivers everything anyone could possibly want from a Xenoblade game and so much more.

Many people, myself included, weren’t super keen on Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Sure, it was mostly fine, with a pretty decent story and some incredibly satisfying combat, but it leaned incredibly hard into its silly atmosphere, never taking itself too seriously until the exact wrong moments, where it pivoted hard to way-too-serious and caused some incredible tonal whiplash. And that’s to say nothing of the gratuitous camerawork that spent a little bit too long lingering on certain female body appendages.

Xenoblade 3 takes the best parts of both Xenoblade 1 and 2’s combat gameplay.

Xenoblade 3 takes the best parts of both Xenoblade 1 and 2’s combat gameplay.

To say that I went into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 with a lot of hesitancy would be an understatement. I knew that mechanically it would be good, but I had given up hope that the series could deliver a charming, nuanced story that was paced in a pleasing way. That made what we got all that much more surprising.

I have absolutely no qualms saying that this game made me cry. A lot. It was a touching, nuanced, incredibly thoughtful storytelling experience that spent the time to balance and build out its characters. Where previous Xenoblade games were more than content with dropping hours upon hours of cutscene exposition on the player, Xenoblade 3 showed restraint.

Instead of those front-loaded cutscenes, we saw only what we needed to see, only when we needed to see it. We found out about our heroes and their place in the world over the space of days and weeks, not hours, and that made it all that much more impactful when all the dots started connecting what happened in the past with what was happening in the present.

And that’s to say nothing of Xenoblade 3’s rock-solid character work. I was absolutely blown away by just how well-developed each and every character was, especially when the ensemble cast of six separate characters (plus two very adorable Nopon) all had to vie for attention throughout the game’s runtime. Still, against all odds, every one of them got their time in the spotlight, building upon themselves and their allies, in a way that felt both incredibly natural and incredibly satisfying.

Of course, it’s not just about the storytelling, either, though that is very obviously the game’s strongest points. Xenoblade 3 takes the best parts of both Xenoblade 1 and 2’s combat gameplay and seamlessly combines them, adding a few twists and fresh takes on top of it all.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels familiar and satisfying.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels familiar and satisfying.

The result is gameplay that feels both incredibly familiar and incredibly satisfying. Simultaneously easy to adapt to and yet never boring. It’s a masterclass in balancing player familiarity with new concepts, and I don’t think any game, 2022 or otherwise, has ever pulled off that balance quite as well.

It’s an utterly gorgeous game, too, with a dozen absolutely stunning locales to visit, each one more beautiful than the last. There’s a real variety too, with some locations pulled right out of previous games and given a curious makeover, and some just being all-new locations altogether. Again, it’s that mix of the new and the familiar that really ties together the experience, and there’s plenty of both to keep newcomers and veterans happy.

Like any JRPG, it does tend to get bogged down in ridiculous skill trees and fine-tuning stats and abilities and synergies… but it’s so incredibly easy to overlook that when the rest of the game is so incredibly fantastic.

As a sequel to the previous two Xenoblade games, it’s a stunning finale. As a standalone game, it’s just as good. And as a video game that was released in the year of our lord 2022? Well, it’s hard to see how anything could beat it. There’s still a huge story expansion left to come, and who knows what, exactly, that will hold, but if it’s even a fraction as good as Xenoblade Chronicles 3, then expect to see me writing about it this time next year as well.