Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
The only game I’ll be playing this weekend is Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I’m pushing about 53 hours played and just started chapter 7 of 10 before going to bed last night.
It was smooth sailing until a couple of days ago when my progression was blocked by a skill check that my party wasn’t prepared for. The game has these little nodes that you click on that require you to have certain skills equipped in order to interact with them. These skills are provided by the “blades” (weapons) you’ve unlocked through both story quests and a randomized lootbox system. I needed a certain amount of Ice Mastery and was one skill rank short, and because of bad luck, I failed to obtain a number of Ice-based Blades that would have allowed me to continue.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
At first, I got frustrated. “Why in the hell would they gatekeep the story behind a randomized skill system,” I asked. But it was ultimately my fault. You see, the higher a character’s “luck” stat, the better chance you have of pulling rare Blades from these Core Crystals. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is full of these generic robot-looking Blades, but rare ones are fully voiced, have unique art styles, massive affinity charts to unlock, and extra quests to complete.
Since Rex, the game’s protagonist, had the highest Luck stat by a significant margin, I only used him to open EVERY. SINGLE. BLADE. However, once a Core Crystal is opened, the blade awarded to the player is bound to the chosen character. You can reassign them to another party member with an incredibly rare item, but I own the Expansion Pass which gave me 10 of them at the start of the game. I didn’t care. If I unlocked a healing Blade that was better suited for Nia or a tanking Blade for Morag, I’d just transfer it.
What I didn’t take into consideration was that I’d eventually NEED to have a bunch of junk-tier blades on other party members for moments like the one above. In addition to Pyra, Rex can equip two Blades. In this particular example, I needed a bunch of Ice Mastery and came up 4 ranks short. If I had opened some common Core Crystals on Nia and Morag, I would have easily had enough by equipping Ice Blades onto them as well.
Since this was MY fault, I swallowed my frustration and made the best use of my time. I spent five hours sending my unused Blades out on mercenary missions (a mini-game that awards XP, gold, items, and Blade affinity without having to use them) in hopes of unlocking additional ranks of Ice Mastery. In the meantime, I raised the development level of a town up to its max rank which reduces the cost of items there by 50%. Using the discount, I purchased as many Gold Cylinders as possible (the best consumable that offers the greatest chance at rare rewards in the salvaging mini-game), and salvaged while listening to Giant Bomb podcasts.
Five hours later, I had made millions of gold, maxed out the ranks of three different towns, scored a ton of Core Crystals that ended up unlocking four new rare Blades, and easily found the necessary Ice Mastery ranks by actually bonding low-rank Blades to someone other than Rex.
I feel like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 puts these obstacles in front me purely to teach me how the game works, which is odd for a game so littered with tutorials. However, it’s a welcome approach. I get lost or stuck and work through how to proceed by fiddling with the game’s complexities, exploring, and, should the need to pass time arise, spend it doing other fun things instead. The moment I noticed Rex had Blades with Salvage Mastery perks that greatly increased my salvaging rewards, I felt like I had just discovered the ultimate cheat code. It’s a great feeling.
I’m not sure what happened, but Xenoblade Chronicles 2 went from being last year’s biggest disappointment to possibly my 2nd favorite game on the Switch. Perhaps it’s all of the updates or the new easy mode making combat less of a chore (but still tactical and fun), but every day since I’ve started playing it I cannot wait to jump back in.
I do have a review for Flinthook in the works, but I try to spend my weekends on myself. This weekend will be no different. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.