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Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review – full of beans

In our Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review, it seems this RPG series is coming to a close, and this latest DLC is a spectacular bow on top.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review: Key art shows several characters standing on a cliff face

Our Verdict

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed is Monolith Soft firing on all cylinders, and it’s a resounding victory lap that rewards longtime fans while showcasing exactly what this incredible team do best. The story balances new and old with a deft touch, and everyone gets their moments. Plus, there is so much to see and explore, with smart and satisfying reasons to do so. Maybe make sure you’ve played a few entries before jumping in, but this is heaven for Xenoblade fans.

Reader, I’m an older gamer. Now 33, I picked up my Wii at midnight and couldn’t help but play Wii Sports and Twilight Princess until the early hours of the morning. Fast forward several years, and I vividly remember reading about Operation Rainfall in Official Nintendo Magazine, and later noticing the incredible previews of Xenoblade Chronicles. As such an expansive open-world RPG, I’d never seen anything like it.

Now, here we are three games, one 3DS port, one remaster, and two DLC packs later: it seems the current version of the Xenoblade Chronicles story is coming to a close. Knowing the struggle to get the original title localised for the Wii, playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed feels like a miracle. But is it a fitting end to the legacy of the now blockbuster Nintendo franchise?

First of all, while Future Redeemed is a standalone story similar to the Torna DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I highly recommend that anyone interested plays other games in the Xenoblade Chronicles series first. You can perhaps jump in after starting with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but this DLC features characters, story elements, and fun nods to not just each entry in the Xenoblade Chronicles series, but even Monolith Soft’s previous work in the Xenosaga titles. This is a true love letter to Monolith Soft’s achievements over the years.

Set before Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Future Redeemed follows protagonist Matthew and his friend A as they explore Aionios helping to rescue soldiers caught in the constant struggle between Keves and Agnes. Matthew is also missing his friend Na’el and hopes to find her as they travel the world. Pretty quickly, Matthew and A bump into two young characters, Nikol and Glimmer, who bear a strong resemblance to Xenoblade protagonists of old.

Not long after that, the whole party encounters Shulk and Rex from Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, respectively, and they all work together to solve the mysteries of Moebius, Aionios, and what is happening to this world. If you have played Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you may be aware of the different universes merging into one, and while that feels like more of an afterthought before, here it drives the story in interesting ways.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review: an RPG party surrounds a large alien deer-like creature

I’ll do my best to avoid story spoilers, but the fun ways in which Future Redeemed introduces Shulk and Rex, as well as the other characters, all play with the established lore of each game in the series. But crucially, this story tells its own tale, and it feels like Matthew’s journey throughout. It’s a real testament that he feels like such a fun, brash, and likeable protagonist when two characters beloved among fans flank him. In fact, it makes me sad that Future Redeemed isn’t just Xenoblade Chronicles 4, as I could journey with this party for another 30/40 hours.

In terms of gameplay, Future Redeemed feels very similar to the base game. You control a party of six, select arts to attack in battle, and use chain attacks to deliver huge doses of pain to your opponents. The major difference to battles is that instead of the Ouroboros powers, now two characters use something called Unity Combo – a special attack that combines two party members into one thrilling display of battle prowess.

The gameplay here still centres around exploring wide-open areas, obliterating wildlife to gain experience, and occasionally taking part in boss fights against robots the size of skyscrapers. Again, if you’ve played XC3, you know what you’re getting into, and it feels just as incredible here. The changes keep it fresh, streamlining the overall experience, as you no longer have the hero or class system of the main game.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review: a giant robot fires a laser

You still have to battle and gain experience, equip gems, learn new arts, and utilise accessories to improve. However, in Future Redeemed, there’s a new system called affinity points, which you can spend to unlock affinity skills. Each character has a wide bank of them that augment and improve their abilities, and you can slowly unlock even more skills to spend your points on as you explore further.

How the affinity point system works is my favourite improvement to the game, as Future Redeemed has a catalogue of your enemies, collectable items, secret areas, rest camps, and much more. Every time you encounter something new, you fill out your catalogue – or affinity goals – which incentivises exploring every corner. Much like in Pokémon Legends Arceus, battling an enemy a few different times will fill your catalogue and reward you with affinity points to spend on new skills.

Xenoblade Chronicles is a series that constantly focuses on exploration as well as battling, and this new affinity skill system is a fantastic addition to the series that really makes a difference. There’s something similar in Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition, but the way it works here is much simpler and more rewarding. I hope some form of the affinity skill system sticks around for whatever Monolith Soft does next.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review: a party battles a giant monkey

Coming in at around 20 hours, Future Redeemed is a leaner adventure than Xenoblade Chronicles, but the changes to the battle system and the affinity skill system make every moment so rewarding. The chain attack still takes longer than I’d like, especially here where I want to make the most of every minute I’m playing, so I would prefer some way to reduce the amount of time each chain attack and combo eventually ends up taking. It’s a minor nitpick, though, as everything else feels great.

It’s difficult to talk about the story or the world of Future Redeemed without going into spoilers, but I’ll do my best. One enriching element of this DLC is a town that borrows heavily from previous entries, and having a central hub to return to is something I really enjoy from the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Here you discover lost people out in the world, and you slowly return them to the town, as well as complete side quests to add even more to the area.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed review: Rex talks about someone he admires losing an eye

Between many nods to previous games and the addition of Shulk and Rex, Future Redeemed feels like Monolith Soft’s victory lap. The DLC handles two protagonists brilliantly, and while Shulk’s voice actor returns, a fully grown Rex is taken over by Fergus O’Donnell, who does a great job of bringing the same enthusiasm and optimism to the role, but with a world-weary experience that fits the story.

It’s amazing to see Shulk and Rex take on mentor roles, and the way they fit into the group is fantastic. There are certainly some unanswered questions that I would like an explanation for, but if Future Redeemed is the last time we see either of them, then it’s a fantastic sendoff. Given the themes of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and the DLC, it’s time to break the cycle and let a new generation take over. If Xenoblade Chronicles 4 does happen, I hope it’s completely separate from this continuity, and Monolith has the freedom to create something entirely new.

Visually, Future Redeemed is on par with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, clearly, but I will say that save for a few highlights, I find the environments to be a little bland. There are still plenty of places to explore and secret areas to discover, but there are far fewer moments of actual awe tucked away. Well, apart from one incredible late-game area, but I’m not spoiling that.

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The cut scenes, however, are fantastic, with amazing direction, and seeing some of the characters from XC3 interact with this new party is a thrill. It’s still not entirely clear where or when this happens within the greater narrative, but given XC3’s loose approach to timelines, it isn’t something fans should worry about. Future Redeemed leads into the main events of XC3, and that’s all you need to know.

As a longtime Xenoblade fan, one element that blows me away in Future Redeemed is the musical cues. If you know the soundtracks well, you are going to be spotting themes, motifs, and little nods in quite a few places. Not to mention the fact it all sounds fantastic, especially the thumping new battle theme. Xenoblade never misses when it comes to soundtracks, but like everything else in this DLC, here it feels like a greatest hits album in all the best ways.

I’m struggling to find faults in Future Redeemed outside of the fact I want more of it. The story of Matthew could easily get lost in the shuffle, but he’s a fantastic protagonist that easily stands next to Shulk and Rex as likeable, and endearing characters. Changes to the battle system and the new affinity skill tree make this a lean adventure, but one that constantly rewards the player. Normally when I complete an RPG I need a break, but I’m itching to return and discover every inch of the world.

If this has you in the mood for even more RPG adventures, be sure to check out our guides covering the best JRPGs on Nintendo Switch and the best Nintendo Switch RPGs.