Xenoblade 3 didn’t need redemption, but it has it all the same
When Xenoblade Chronicles 3 really hit the meat and potatoes of the story and went into spoilerific territory, it kicked into high gear. For Xenoblade fans it was both a blessing and a curse; we all knew it would be hard to unring that bell, and by the time the credits hit, not everything was explained.
Future Redeemed attempts to not only tie up a few loose ends from that adventure; but from the series as a whole. Thankfully it comes with some really rad quality of life bonuses that help showcase where it could go next: not just from a narrative standpoint, but design-wise, too.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed (Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Monolith Soft
Released: April 25, 2023
MSRP: $29.99 (part of the four-wave Expansion Pass)
As a bit of background, Future Redeemed is a completely separate story that even has its own main menu and save file. We’re whisked away to another battlefield, and follow in the footsteps of Matthew: a hard-headed fisticuffs brawler that gives me strong Fei from Xenosaga vibes. Although you can technically start it right away, a lot of it assumes you’ve already finished the core game, and various spoilers of the main quest and mechanical assumptions will potentially haunt you if you haven’t cleared the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 campaign.
Things start off small with a fighter (Matthew) and healer-based (A) party, then escalate quickly. Every 30 minutes or so you’ll meet a new party member until you have everyone: which also includes Shulk and Rex, the protagonists from the first two Xenoblade games. While his fighting style is reminiscent of a certain Xenosaga character Matthew is decidedly not Fei: and is both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious. Without ruining it, there’s massive dad energy all around in this party too, which is a nice dynamic that’s fun to watch throughout.
Speaking of dad energy, character swapping returns to the DLC, which is great news for folks who wanted to play as Shulk and Rex again. Both of those lovable lunks are all grown up now, and their performances and movesets reflect that in an interesting way. The DLC, to a degree, is inherently fanservice-oriented, but there’s a lot more there than I expected when it comes to motivations and the gravitas of their actions. It keeps you on your toes in multiple ways, which feels appropriate for a high-profile DLC.
The frantic combat and Holy Trinity (heal, damage, tank) full party composition management is back, albeit with a little less customization this time. Ouroboros (read: the mech-like powers) party morphing is not in (mostly for story-related reasons), but it’s actually a great thing as it further divides itself from the main game and lets the DLC walk its own path.
“Affinity goals” are now a thing, and they’re effectively a challenge system that tasks you with completing meta-quests for bonus skill enhancement. Think of stuff like exploration, unique monster kills, sidequest completion, party chats, and collectibles. All of those collectively grant affinity points for party members, which are shared and can be distributed as you see fit.
I’m not sure it would work for the main game, but for a DLC, it’s a nearly perfect way to encourage people to actually engage with Future Redeemed‘s smaller world. Things are less expansive, sure, but they don’t necessarily feel that way if you’re doing actionable objectives that also happen to boost up your party. It also allows for several different playstyles, like rush on easy mode, or completing delving into everything the DLC has to offer on hard. The bosses nearly all feel like heavy hitters, which is another bonus of a more linear story.
It is weird in a way, because (like Torna) it shows how pointed Xenoblade could be, for those of you who don’t dig playing through a massive, and sometimes meandering, full-on RPG. But by that same token, the team expects you to have already finished said massive game to fully appreciate what’s going on. It’s an interesting dichotomy Monolith Soft has created here, as it’s a “for the fans” story, but one that happens to have a lot of really cool alterations that could have made it into the core game.
About that “for the fans” comment: the ending (which I won’t discuss here) is a bit too mysterious and withholding for my tastes and still leaves some lingering questions. I expected that out of this series, but don’t come in assuming you’ll get a fully conclusive crescendo. Length-wise, it’s about the same level of time sink as Torna: The Golden Country from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (so 15-20 hours for the story, and a little more if you’re going for everything). That’s fairly significant for a DLC that’s already part of a season pass.
I had a fun time popping back into the world of Xenoblade with Future Redeemed. There’s so much there that I didn’t expect in terms of little mechanical tweaks, and it reminded me of when Nintendo would occasionally give other designers (sometimes up-and-coming talent) a go just to see what they could do. If you finished Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and even remotely wanted more, it’s an easy recommendation.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]