I know I’m a few years late to the party, but after completing the first Xenoblade Chronicles recently, I decided to try and play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 again. This was actually the first game I got for my Switch, but due to negative experiences that I discussed prior, I ended up dropping it a multitude of times before ever really getting into how the game worked.
So, I was always aware that there was a sort of gacha system in the game. I’ve seen it discussed in passing but never knew to what extent its implementation was. And man, oh man, it’s certainly, uh, more pivotal than I thought. See, when I think of gacha, I think of free-to-play mobile games that ultimately rely on players spending money to spin a digital roulette. I’ve never been a fan of gacha games, so seeing it in a grand JRPG was offputting. So much so that it’s almost completely ruined my experience.
My experience with gacha games comes mostly from a year of playing Fate/Grand Order. I was a free-to-play player, but my frustration reached its boiling point when I became morbidly curious one day and desperately wanted to pull a certain character. In the back of my mind, I knew how obscene the pricing was, but I spent the money anyway and instantly regretted it. I got absolutely nothing of value from the pulls, and I immediately realized just how irredeemable this genre was for me. Despite my year of investment, I deleted the game and, to this day, have never had any intention of going back.
I know that gacha titles have their audiences because they clearly flourish and do fantastically considering the numbers some of the more notable games of the genre garner. They also build massively dedicated communities that help each other out.
But, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is different.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is not a free-to-play game at all; it’s a console JRPG. It also does not have real-life money usable for its gacha elements, so the inclusion of a gacha system makes me scratch my head and grow endlessly frustrated with why it’s there at all.
For those unaware of how it works in this game. Players obtain core crystals in various ways, which are then used to perform pulls to obtain Blades. Blades are their own characters with their own unique movesets, character traits, etc.
From what I have been told, some Blades apparently have their own quests too. Even though you do not need to obtain all of the Blades to beat the game, they are an undeniably pivotal aspect of the experience. The title does attempt to justify this mechanic with its own lore, but once again, I do not think anything can justify obtaining central parts of a game through roulette.
As I stated prior, you can’t spend real-life money to get more pulls for Blades. Well, there is the DLC that comes with core crystals, but aside from that, you can’t willingly spend real-life money to obtain more core crystals. Since that is the case, why am I so upset? After all, free-to-play gacha games’ predatory nature is not present, so all is well, right?
To be blunt, I just find it unnecessary.
The free-to-play nature of gacha games gives them a reason to include those systems, which is similar to gambling. However, given that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a paid-for console JRPG, this just doesn’t flow well with the paid experience. I am by no means attempting to justify free-to-play games being gachas. After all, I spent a few hundred words discussing how much I despised them, but at the very least, I could understand why they are the way they are. They are there to make money. Money makes the world go round.
But in the case of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, you can not spend money to get more pulls aside from the one-time purchase that is the DLC. So with that being the case, I am just incessantly and constantly baffled by its implementation. The Luck stat betters your odds, apparently, but is this really how it has to be? You’re telling me I have to get lucky to get all of these usable characters? What is the point? Is it for the dopamine release that comes from getting good pulls? Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to have quests tied to obtaining each of the Blades?
I would have much preferred having quests for obtaining them, which would, in essence, make each Blade feel more special. They would not simply be a series of disappointments or occasional surprises that I would mash through. I have obtained several rare blades, but each time I do, I just roll my eyes and let out a sigh of disappointment that this is how I am getting these characters.
Aside from quests, it would have been great to find these blades out in the environment since exploration is one of Xenoblade’s central tasks. The maps are massive, and I always find them a joy to stroll around and discover landmarks, treasure chests, and secret areas.
Utilizing these massive maps with the inclusion of additional Blade finds could have been interesting. This idea sounds far more conceptually enticing than rolling dice and hoping I get rare Blades. It could just be me, but I derive no joy from getting lucky for key parts of the game. It is one thing to get lucky in a turn-based RPG by getting a critical hit that saves you from dying. That is far more tense and exhilarating.
Now, for semantics, one could argue that everything in RPGs is dependent on luck, and well, they’re right. After all, grinding for materials is dependent on luck. Accuracy and the like are also all dependent on luck. But, I mean, is that really a legitimate argument?
Hoping to get rare monster drops in a game doesn’t seem equivalent to hoping to get fully-fledged playable characters. Some may find them to be the same, but I could not see more drastic differences. Vast quantities of gameplay potential and individualities are sealed off by this annoying and needless criterion of luck that makes me seeth with genuine indignation every time I play.
I wondered if one of the reasons for the gacha system was to promote unique player experiences, which sounds fair in concept. Players obviously have different experiences with the Blades they pull. But I feel there are better ways to offer player choice and overall agency in a fairer manner.
Players can have their preferences for who they enjoy playing as, and that is a choice. I would much rather have non-luck-dependent methods to gather Blades and have the choice of which ones I would like to use instead of the game deciding on which I should and should not get.
While the act of pulling Blades is already hindering enough, there’s also limited inventory space for them. This means you’ll eventually have to choose which Blades to keep around. Removing this might make the gacha effectively pointless and more of an eventuality to get the Blades rather than toss out them out and put them back into the pool to potentially get again. Being guaranteed to get all the Blades sounds like a far more rewarding gameplay experience than just hoping to get them all.
I forgot to mention the common Blades, which all have similar colorations and designs and do not stand out much when compared with one another. These Blades feel fundamentally lazy, and I suppose they promote further hype for the rare Blades and make those stand out more than they already do. This whole system exasperates me to no end. I am not playing a free-to-play mobile game; I am playing a console JRPG.
I know many people may tell me to stop playing the game if it frustrates me this much. And that’s a fair point. If such a core mechanic of the game is causing me vexations to this extent, why bother with it? Well, here’s where the next bit of conflict comes into play because I am actually really enjoying this game in so many ways outside of the gacha.
The soundtrack so far is supremely stellar, which does not shock me at all, given how superb the first game’s soundtrack is. The environments are stunning and constantly entice me to explore more and more. Not to mention, the combat is addicting as hell.
As someone who is not into MMOs due to the stress factor that comes from playing with other people, the solely single-player MMO type experience that the Xenoblade games provide is like a wet dream. Battles are rewarding, and I can easily spend hours just fighting and exploring. This game can be such an enjoyable experience. Granted, the voice acting is appallingly awful, and the story has not grabbed me at all, but the combat, music, and explorative factors are more than enough to keep me playing.
This is easily the most conflicted I have ever felt with an otherwise great JRPG. While this game would certainly not be faultless if it lacked its gacha implementation, I would be far more inclined to enjoy it whole-heartedly. Removing that pressure of pulling a specific character would allow me to focus on other aspects of the experience rather than worrying about luck.
The way I see it, the developers put this system in to milk more playtime from dedicated players. I do not see this as grinding rare, elusively difficult to craft equipment like in other RPGs. I see this as restricting player access to full-on characters behind arbitrary means with no good enough excuses to justify it.
If you enjoy the gacha implementation in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I am not attacking you here. There are assuredly people like me who find it fundamentally awful. At least, I hope I’m not the only one who detests this system. But regardless, if you do find the gacha fun, then all the more power to you. I envy you in a sense because that is a type of exhilarating joy I can’t experience.
As someone who tends to complete all that I can in games, I am well aware of how detrimental RNG is in those endeavors. But Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s reliance on it with fully-fledged characters is to a level that I am just not okay with. I don’t think I can ever see Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s gacha system as anything other than ‘why’? Everyone enjoys games differently, and I think I have to come to terms with the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is not without faults. I still intend to beat the game, but I wish the process of going about it was less galling.
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