Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Jumping in to a new RPG is always a daunting task due to the usually gargantuan amount of time you have to invest. It is for this reason that RPGs have had to become slightly more friendly in their opening hours in order to pull new players in. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country does a great job of slowly rolling out new features as you play, this makes sure that any fresh faces aren't instantly scarred by all of the knowledge that could be thrown at them. The ability to revisit previous tutorials is a god send for those times when you accidentally skip one mid-battle, which will happen.
In case the world of Xenoblade is new to you there are a couple of particularly interesting things about the world in which it is set. First of all, the land masses are titanic creatures that slowly wonder around a featureless cloud sea. Getting from one to another requires a skyship, and whenever you are on land you can look around and see some moving part of whatever one you are adventuring on. It is a strange spectacle but one that is so brilliant in its conception that you have to be a little in awe every time you see a wing, or a head above you.
The combat is almost MMO-lite, with auto-attacks and cool-downs on all of your abilities; this is not a button mashing action game, but one that requires thoughtful actions in order to get the most out of every movement. Swapping characters and chaining your special moves together is essential to your success in this real time battlefield. Status effects must be juggled and their impact has to be learned in order to take down some of the bigger monsters that you can hunt, or that will hunt you.
The characters are fairly well voiced, the English voice acting actually manages not to be a constant festival of cringe and actually brings out some genuine emotion. The visuals look great in handheld but almost feel a little old school compared to some of the other big hitters on the Switch, though the scale is somewhat unrivalled so it makes sense to a point. The music so far has been good enough to stick with me, but not so good that I've woken up confused as to why I am humming it. All good stuff so far for the most part.
One of the most intriging features in this expansion is the community building that you do as you adventure around. As you meet NPCs you add them to a list of people you know and if you help them out they can have a positive impact on your journey as you go. It makes the side quests that can often feel fruitless outside of the experience you earn feel more worthwhile. Knowing that you are building something up as you run around grinding up your characters is a satisfying experience that really helps to make the world feel more fleshed out.
The greatest strength that Torna ~ The Golden Country has is it's ability to appeal to both new and old players alike. It feels like a great gateway into the series as well as being a welcome additional chunk of content for the devoted. It is rare that a stand alone expansion truly stands on its own two feet but this does it with aplomb. The fantastic writing, great combat, and huge open world all combine to make for something that is a truly compelling experience, and one that you will struggle to put down. Add in the entertaining voice acting, the pretty vistas, and the satisfying levelling system and you have an RPG that proves to be yet another strong entry to the ever growing Switch library.