JRPGs are some of the most dense gaming experiences on the market. Ambitious ones typically ask players to not only learn the basics of how their combat works — which can be real-time, turn-based, or a combination of the two — but also the unique elements and mechanics within those styles. On top of all of that, there’s also the unique language the game may use to describe things that you might know as something else from a different game. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has almost all of these possible hurdles in it, especially for newcomers to the franchise.
As intimidating as a massive game like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 can be, there are plenty of things you can learn ahead of time to make your early hours much more inviting. This massive game’s world and story will satisfy any JRPG fan, and once you get a grip on the mechanics, the combat systems are a blast to master. Unfortunately, as hard as it tries, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 isn’t quite up to fully onboarding players in the best way. If you want to know the best tips and tricks to get started in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, here’s a full beginner’s guide.
Take your time
This game is long, and it knows it. Rather than pushing all the mechanics on you as fast as possible, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will take its sweet time introducing things before opening up the world for you to fully explore. This may feel restrictive and slow, and it can be, but try to view this prolonged introductory sequence as easing into this giant experience. While the tutorials and mechanics are drip-fed to you early, they’re fundamental for understanding all the more fun, and complex, ones that will come later.
Make sure you fully master the few things taught to you first, because later tutorials will happen at a much faster pace and expect you to pick them up, memorize them, and then go on to learning the next thing. Also, considering you will probably be living in this world for 50 or more hours, you may as well get comfortable.
Do your drills
Jumping off that last point, eventually the tutorials will come at a blistering pace. Not only that but they’re given to you while in battle a lot of the time, which can be helpful for actually seeing how they’re used in a real scenario but also make them easy to forget. These prompts for new battle tactics only show up one time, and if you take a break or just get confused about how to do each one, there’s thankfully a way to refresh yourself.
It’s a surprisingly hidden feature for how useful it can be, but the Training Drills option will let you read the instructions or repeat and practice any combat skills in a simulated environment. You can even check out moves you haven’t been introduced to yet if you want a sneak peek at what’s to come.
To access the Training Drills, open the menu and go into Settings > Training Drills. From here, you can select any tutorial you want to go over.
One move Xenoblade Chronicles 3 holds back from you for longer than it should is the Quick Move maneuver. Despite not being taught it for a few hours, you can still pull off this move right away, and there’s really no reason to hold it back from you.
Quick Move isn’t quite a dodge like you might expect — though it is possible. It is more of a repositioning tool. To use it, all you need to do is press down on the right thumbstick while moving in a direction with the left to either dash or roll in that direction. The best uses for this move are to either press an advantage on an enemy, such as getting around to its back faster, or to retreat quickly for healing.
Customize your shortcuts
By default, holding down the ZL button will turn your face buttons into a set of shortcut commands. These will automatically be set to bring up the map, character menu, quest menu, or highlight the path to your current quest. While these are all useful, you may not need those specific ones as often as others.
To customize your shortcuts, hold down ZL to show the shortcuts and then press Start. Here you will be given a list of all the different things you can map to your face buttons, such as Items, Save, Options, and more. You can still only have four, but you’re free to change them at any time.
One of the terms you will need to get comfortable with if you’re new to the Xenoblade franchise is Arts. In short, Arts are you special moves that are more powerful than your standard attacks that are mapped to your face buttons. These moves have cooldowns, but are generally ready to use again in just a few seconds, so you will be incorporating them into your fighting style frequently. The best way to do this is to pull off what are known as Art Combos.
Art Combos are triggered when you pull off a specific sequence of Arts in a row that leave an enemy with something called a Reaction. Reactions include statuses such as Break, Topple, and Daze. However, you can’t just rely on one character to pull of Art Combos, and will need to coordinate landing Arts with your entire party in the right order to full maximize damage. The order you hit these statuses in matters too, so experiment with how you want to end your Art Combo to leave the enemy in the most vulnerable position. Finishing with a Launch, for example, hits the enemy into the air and makes every attack dealt do more damage.
If you realize you messed up, or accidentally hit an Art you didn’t want to, you can cancel an Art by inputting the command for a different Art right when the initial one hits. This is actually a mechanic, and pulling it off will result in a blue circle appearing. Regular attacks can also be canceled this way, leading to tons of combo potential.
Play with your entire party
Even though Noah is the “main character” of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you will gain access to a full party of six party members who will be with you through the majority of your journey. Naturally they will all have their own personalities and stories, but they also encompass different classes that have their own Arts and roles on the battlefield. While anyone you’re not playing as in combat will automatically fight, which you can set by hitting the “-” button when battle starts to set their AI to automatic.
This will only get you so far, though. Only by swapping among all your available party members will you be able to overcome the tougher challenges in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. You can swap your controllable character in or out of combat by holding down ZL and then cycling through your team with L or R.
Most often, you will want to be switching to and from healers in combat to either get them out of danger or bring them close to other characters who are out of their range to heal. It might feel a bit like micromanaging, but it has a ton of upsides and keeps combat fresh to change up who you’re playing as and what moves you can do.
Don’t worry about every item
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 somehow packs in one of the biggest open worlds of any game on the aging Nintendo Switch hardware. Not only are these areas massive but they’re downright cluttered with items. Now, normally we’d recommend doing the opposite and tell you to go and grab everything you can, but in this case it’s not only unnecessary but will just make the game a drag. Most items in the world have very few uses, and while you might luck out and collect some items you need for a fetch quest or to fill out you Collectopedia, they’re better off found only when needed.
At the same time, any item you grab that has no use at all, for quests or anything, come with a little scale icon that indicates you’re free to sell it without worry. Eventually the game will auto-sell them for you, but until then, clear out your inventory of clutter and get some extra cash.
Rotate your saves
If you played the last game in the series, you might be a little concerned about the save situation since Xenoblade Chronicles 2 only had a single save slot. Thankfully, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 offers way more saving options. You should use each of them, too, to prevent any accidental loss of progress. You are given three slots you should rotate your manual saves through, plus a single quick save that replaces itself each time you use it.
You can manually save at campfires, between chapters, or by opening the System menu while paused. Quick saves are done by either hitting Y in the pause menu, or you can even set it to one of your shortcuts by customizing them like detailed above.
The game will also auto save to hopefully keep you from getting sent too far back if you forget to save for a while, but don’t rely on it.
Turn off the tutorial (eventually)
One final quick menu tip is, once you’re through all the tutorials and are comfortable with everything Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has to teach you, to turn off the tutorial prompts. These will continue to pop up as little tips for the entire game if you don’t turn them off, which can get annoying and clutter up an already dense game.
To turn tutorials off, go into System and scroll down to Options. Here you can toggle tutorials on or off.