Editor’s Note: This review will contain light spoilers for Xenoblade Chronicles 1, 2, and 3.
Recently, our Reviews Manager joked that I decided to score Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed a 100 before I downloaded it. He’s not far off.
I’m going to be upfront: there’s no way I can be objective about Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed. Really, objectivity is a silly thing to aim for anyway. It’s impossible to boil down any media to just numbers and facts; anyone who says otherwise is just fooling themselves. It would be especially silly to attempt this with the Xenoblade Chronicles series. These games are fundamentally about humanity: the communities we form, the importance of our experiences, and the philosophies underpinning those notions. It doesn’t want us to be objective about these people and their stories.
As a denouement to the entire ‘Klaus saga,’ Future Redeemed brings characters together from the communities across the series and plays on our investment in those stories. Needless to say, if you loved the rest of the series, I’m confident you will love Future Redeemed for its fun callbacks and beautifully refined gameplay. You won’t be objective. It’s brilliant, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the series in some respects.
If you haven’t played the rest of the Xenoblade series, you probably shouldn’t play Future Redeemed because it absolutely doesn’t work on its own. If you’ve only played Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you might still enjoy this DLC, but you lose much of what makes Future Redeemed a joy. In the very first scene, we see Shulk and Rex (the protagonists from 1 and 2) alongside Z, the main antagonist of 3, facing off against Alvis, a key character from Xenoblade Chronicles 1, as they argue about the future of humanity in Aionios, the setting for 3. Find any of that confusing? If not, you’re all set. If so, go back and play those masterpieces first.
The story then skips forward a few years, where you meet Matthew, a survivor of the destruction of the first “City,” and A, his mysterious companion. The two are trying to locate survivors from The City, along with Matthew’s missing sister, Na’el. They also find themselves intervening in battles between Keves and Agnus, trying to free them from the cycle of violence. Without giving too much away, they eventually meet up with some familiar faces and try to stop the destruction of Aionios as they know it, setting up the eventual narrative of Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
Surprisingly, the writers did an excellent job of setting up this premise. Initially, I was afraid Future Redeemed would serve as an excuse to bring some of our favorites back together, but they take their time in the early going situating the new characters well. Matthew is the antithesis of Noah: brash, outgoing, and not afraid to get into a scrap. His interplay with A is especially fantastic while she calmly tries to keep him from sticking his nose into every problem they come across. The other new characters also have fantastic introductions and solid, quiet moments to flesh them out.
That is, until some of the returning characters arrive. Don’t get me wrong—seeing Shulk and Rex again is a joy. Their growth and characterization are undoubtedly the best part of the story, and they have some genuinely emotional interplay, especially with some of the new characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters get shuffled to the back in favor of characterizing these fan favorites. The story also feels like it moves slightly too quickly through significant lore moments, and the answers, while satisfying enough, don’t hold the philosophical or emotional weight of some of the previous entries. Honestly, the writers just needed to give everything more time to breathe and give us a little more character development. I know that’s a big ask for DLC, and I feel greedy saying I want more, but Monolith Soft has shown it can do it before with Torna: The Golden Country.
The other place Future Redeemed takes a slight step back is in its side quests. After the ridiculous number of fetch quests in 1, the bland writing in 2, and the progression gating in Torna, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 knocked it out of the park, making the side quests an essential element of characterization and world-building that you genuinely wanted to do. Future Redeemed is nowhere near that level. The writing is as bland as it is in 2 and there are fetch quests reminiscent of 1, which, while a fun callback, doesn’t make them fun to complete. None of them do a ton to enrich the world nor add much to the overall narrative.
Nonetheless, you’re going to want to do them, because they’re an integral part of the absolute best thing about Future Redeemed: Affinity Points. In previous entries, exploring to access beautiful new areas, tougher enemies, and hidden items was always a joy, but they step it up in this DLC by rewarding you points toward character growth. As you gain Affinity Points, you can unlock new arts, new passive skills, and a variety of other upgrades. And you gain these points by doing everything. Are you building your Community up? You gain some AP. Discover a secret location? More AP. Opening chests, taking down UMs, or building ladders? They all reward you. Even if you don’t feel the need to fill out everyone’s skill trees, you want to explore anyway since items that unlock the ability to use more arts, equip more gems, and even access more skill trees remain scattered throughout the world.
Future Redeemed makes exploration a little easier by providing a checklist of everything you’ve yet to discover in an area, along with the X-Radar, a device that makes a noise when you’re close to a critical item or event. The new zones are dense with these new discoveries, so you’re never far away from something new, and you feel like you are constantly progressing. It makes for a deeply satisfying gameplay loop; each new discovery feels even more rewarding and essential, encouraging you to poke around in every little nook and cranny of the map exactly the way the developers intend. Put simply, exploration has never been this satisfying or rewarding in a Xenoblade game.
You won’t see the same huge change in terms of combat, but even though it’s generally a simplified version of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I think I prefer it. You still have arts on both sides of the screen, fusion arts, the same general roles, and chain attacks basically work the same as well. But there’s a synergy here that is lacking in even Xenoblade 3. Break-Topple-Launch combos have always been important, but it’s especially true in Future Redeemed because if you attack a launched enemy during a chain attack, you get a final blow which deals massive damage, making it even more important to fully engage with the combat system.
Additionally, rather than set Ouroboros pairs, you can choose your own “Unity” combos where you can pair any two characters up to change their “Unity” attack and provide the team with passive skills. You also get to set different “completion” bonuses with accessories during chain attacks. Overall, while you don’t have quite as much freedom here, as you can’t change job classes or have a ‘Hero’ character, it all feels a little tighter and more streamlined version of what we got in 3. It’s a blast. One tip: if you want to trivialize most of the game, play as Rex. Just trust me on this one.
There’s not much new to say about the way the game looks. It still looks unbelievable for a Switch game, and the environments are just as big, beautiful, and stunning as they were before. I did experience maybe a touch more slow-down this time around, and the loading times seemed a bit longer, but it’s not anything that truly detracts from the experience. Similarly, a lot of the music you hear here sounds familiar, but let’s be honest, who thinks that’s a bad thing? You hear tracks from almost every previous game, even Xenoblade 1, and the nostalgia hit is amazing. That’s not to say there aren’t new tracks, and they live up to everything that’s come before. I love the new jazz-infused battle music, and the day theme for Aurora Shelf might be my new favorite field theme. That gorgeous Trinity Box soundtrack can’t come soon enough.
If you came here looking for anything but glowing praise, you came to the wrong place. All the work that Takahashi has put into building his world pays off beautifully here with a fun, rewarding nostalgia trip, the most refined gameplay in the series, and the same beautiful look and sound we’re accustomed to. Frankly, my biggest criticism is that I wanted more. Future Redeemed may close the door on one chapter of the Xenoblade Chronicles saga, but hopefully it won’t be too long before Monolith Soft opens another and I get just that—more Xenoblade.