Xenoblade Chronicles 3: beginner's guide tips and story primer

Nintendo’s next major role-playing game, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, is out now so here are some explainers and tips for newcomers to the series.

Given how overwhelmingly positive reviews for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (including our own) have been, many people are likely to be jumping into the role-playing series for the first time with this game.

As we explained in our review, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the most approachable entry in the series and a great starting point for newcomers. However, it is, at the end of the day, another massive open world adventure that requires you to memorise a lot of important information.

The game is very generous with its tutorials but, whether you’re a new fan or are intimately familiar with the series, we’ve put together a list of tips about its gameplay and story so you can prepare for the adventure ahead of you.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: setting and main cast

The story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes place in a world called Aionios. Unlike the first two games, Aionios doesn’t rest on the back of a giant and is a more traditional continent.

However, it’s the stage for an ongoing war between two rival nations: Keves and Agnus. Both nations are comprised of artificially grown soldiers who only live up to 10 years (or terms as they’re called).

When soldiers are killed in battle, their life essence is essentially absorbed into something called a flame clock. Each colony throughout Aionios has one and if it ever runs out, the soldiers associated with that colony die.

Your party is comprised of six soldiers that find themselves freed from their flame clocks. From the Keves side you have Noah, Lanz, and Eunie. From the Agnus side, you have Mio, Sena, and Taion.

Unlike previous games, you’ll have the complete party by the end of the first chapter and, from there, set out in search of a mysterious city to uncover the truth behind the war.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: do you need to play the previous games first?

No, Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s story is entirely standalone and requires no in-depth knowledge of any of the previous games.

There are definitely some throwbacks that long-time fans will recognise, and a few minor spoilers from the first two games, but they mostly serve as fan service and don’t give away too much about those games’ plots.

The connections between all the Xenoblade Chronicles games, including spin-off Xenoblade Chronicles X, are all very loose and while the situation is not identical, it’s similar to Final Fantasy, where you can just jump in and play any game in any order.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: do any characters from the previous games appear?

That is one of the biggest mysteries that fans want answered. However, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 definitely wants you to think this is the case. (Obviously we know for sure but we’re not going to say for fear of spoilers.)

One of the first characters you’ll meet is an old man called Vandham, who shares a name with a character from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. He even looks a lot like him and has the same voice actor.

The masked queens of Keves and Agnus are also theorised to be Melia and Nia, party members from the first and second game respectively since they share voice actors too. Their masks hide their true identities, though.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: how does combat work?

Basic attacks are handled automatically. So, all you need to do is get within range of an enemy and your character will attack with their weapon. You’ll know you’re in range if you see a little sword icon appear above the right-hand side of the user interface.

Your special attacks, called Arts, can be triggered with a button press. Once an Art is ready to be used, its portrait will glow. After you’ve activated it, you’ll need to wait for a certain period of time to pass before you can use it again.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you play as all six party members?

You only ever control one character at a time, but you can choose to play as any of the six main characters. You can switch control both in and out of battle.

Party members controlled by the computer will act on their own during combat, but you can give orders, such as targeting a specific enemy or focusing on certain Art combos.

There are also optional hero characters you can recruit through the story and certain side quests. They can be added as a seventh party member, but you can’t take direct control of them, they can’t swap their classes, and you can only have one at a time (you can’t swap out any of the main six characters).

Recruiting heroes is also how you unlock more classes. At first, their class will only be available for one of the main six party members, but by fighting alongside anyone equipped with that class, it will eventually unlock for everyone else.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are roles and classes?

In battle, each character takes on a class, which determines their base stats, and the weapon and Arts they use. Examples include Swordfighter, Heavy Guard, and Medic Gunner.

At first, every party member can only use their starting class, but more will become available as you progress through the game and then they can be freely swapped between.

Although each class is unique, they all fit into one of three different roles: attacker, defender, and healer. Attackers focus on dealing as much damage as possible, defenders draw enemies’ attention away from their teammates, and healers restore the party’s health, as well as grant buffs (like increased attack) to their allies and inflict status ailments (like poison) on enemies.

We advise always having at least two healers in your party as they’re the only ones capable of reviving fallen party members.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what is aggro?

Using strong attacks and healing Arts will generate aggro, thus making you more likely to be targeted by an enemy. A coloured line that trails from an enemy to a party member will show who’s being targeted for attacks.

If the line is blue that means a defender is targeted. A red line means either an attacker or healer is targeted. Ideally, you want defenders to be drawing the most aggro.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what is an Art combo?

Some Arts can apply certain effects that chain into each other to perform a combo. An Art combo always starts by inflicting the Break effect. This can be followed by a Topple Art to knock an enemy off its feet. As long as it’s toppled, it can’t attack.

When toppled, you can then hit it with a Daze Art to stun it further and guarantee that all attacks hit and don’t generate aggro. You can end Daze early with a Burst Art, which will make the enemy drop some items you can collect.

Toppled enemies can also be knocked into the air with a Launch Art. While launched, attacks are guaranteed to hit and deal more damage. A Smash Art will end the Launch effect early, but deal a massive amount of damage.

An Art combo can’t begin without Break, so using a Topple Art on its own won’t inflict topple.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are Fusion Arts?

While each character can initially use three Arts in battle, they’ll eventually unlock upwards of six. Your starting three are on the right-hand side of the screen, while the other three are on the left.

All six Arts can be used individually but two can be activated at once and trigger both their special effects. So, if one Art deals damage and the other heals you, you’ll deal damage and heal yourself.

Each Art is linked depending on their position, though. So, only the two arts in the top spots can be performed together as a Fusion Art. Same for the two arts in the middle spots and the two Arts in the lower spots.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are Talent Arts?

Talent Arts are particularly strong Arts that can deal massive damage, restore a lot of health, etc. However, these don’t charge up automatically like regular Arts do.

The method for charging up Talent Arts depends on what role you’re playing. If you’re an attacker, you’ll want to use Arts that gain bonus effects depending on your position, as well as land critical hits and participate in Art combos. Defenders need to draw enemy attention, as well as block and dodge attacks, while healers need to place field effects, apply buffs, remove debuffs, and revive fallen allies.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: how do you block and dodge attacks?

There is no dedicated block or dodge button. Blocking and dodging will happen automatically and is dependent on a party member’s block rate and agility stat respectively.

These can be increased with certain accessories and through levelling up. The higher they are, the more likely that character will block or dodge.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: is positioning important?

Absolutely, as certain Arts deal more damage depending on your position, such as from the side or behind an enemy.

There is an arrow on the right-hand side of the user interface that lets you know your position in relation to an enemy. If it’s pointing up, for example, you’re attacking from the front.

Enemy attacks also have a certain range. So, if an enemy’s attacks hit whoever is in front of it, you’ll want to move to the side or behind it if you’re an attack or healer.

Healing Arts have a limited range as well, so you want to make sure you’re near your teammates before you use one.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are field effects?

Some Arts will place a ring on the ground that provide certain effects, such as healing or increasing defence. They only affect those standing within the ring and they do fade away in time. You can have multiple field effects out at once.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are the Ouroboros transformations?

During battle, two party members can interlink, aka fuse together to become an Ouroboros. While in this form, you are technically invincible and have access to Ouroboros Arts, which do not need to recharge after being used.

There is a time limit for how long you can stay in this form and, once it runs out, the two party members will unfuse and you’ll need to wait a while before you can transform again.

While you can activate the transformation whenever you like, you can raise the interlink level by using Fusion Arts. It goes up to a maximum of level three and the higher it is, the more powerful the Ouroboros form becomes. Some Ouroboros Arts even gain additional effects at level three.

Not every party member can fuse together. The only compatible pairs are Noah and Mio, Lanz and Sena, and Eunie and Taion. Each pair has access to two different Ouroboros forms, though, and can be swapped between during battle.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are chain attacks?

By performing certain techniques like Art combos, you charge up a meter found on the right-hand side of the screen. Once full, you can activate a chain attack, where each party member takes turns to attack an enemy with whichever Arts they have.

There’s no set order for attacks; you can select whichever party members are available (knocked out party members can’t participate in chain attacks).

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you explore anywhere you want?

For the most part, yes. Even if some areas are filled with incredibly strong enemies, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 doesn’t try to stop you from walking through them.

Some locations will be inaccessible to start with, but you’ll eventually unlock the means to reach them, such as the ability to slide on ropes.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what types of enemies are there?

Enemies are split across four different types. Normal enemies are cannon fodder and don’t require much effort to defeat as long as you’re roughly the same level as them.

Elite enemies are stronger versions of normal enemies and require a bit more strategy. They have blue symbols next to their names.

Unique enemies are the most challenging ones in the game and can be spotted by the orange symbols next to their names. These include bosses, but many can also be found as you explore the world.

Lucky enemies will have golden sparkles above them and drop better rewards when defeated. They’re also about as strong as normal enemies.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you fight enemies in water?

Yes, unlike the previous games, you can enter combat while swimming. Nothing about combat changes so no need to panic too much if enemies pick a fight with you while in water.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you pause during battle?

Yes, by holding down the minus button. While in this pause menu, you can review the controls, restart a battle from the beginning, or give up and respawn at the nearest landmark.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what’s the point of exploring?

Aside from satiating your own curiosity, exploring the world of Aionios will lead to item containers, unique enemies to fight, and side quests. Finding new landmarks will also reward you with experience points.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what should you do if you get lost?

If this happens, you can activate an orange trail that will direct you to your next objective. It will always provide the shortest route, but it may take you past tough enemies you may otherwise want to avoid. So, don’t be afraid to take a different path.

If you’d rather complete a side quest, you have the option to switch the trail to direct you to where you need to go next to progress it.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: what are Nopon coins?

As you explore, you’ll pick up a special kind of currency called Nopon coins. They come in two varieties (gold and silver) and can be exchanged for items at certain shops.

They can also be used to level up your classes, as well as for cooking and gem crafting, bypassing the need for the required ingredients and materials.

They are not, however, microtransactions. At the time of writing, Nintendo has announced no plans to incorporate microtransactions into the game, so you can’t acquire Nopon coins by spending real money.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you re-read tutorials?

Yes, every one of Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s tutorials is saved in a tips menu. It’s under System in the pause menu.

There is also a training drills menu that walks you through individual combat mechanics and lets you practice them, in case you ever need a reminder.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: can you pause and skip cut scenes?

Yes to both. To pause cut scenes, press the plus button. To skip them, you have to hold down the ‘X’ button.

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