Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was one of 2017’s best Nintendo Switch RPGs, and today marks the launch of its first big “DLC”. I put that in quotes, because this sucker is basically a whole new prequel game to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It’s got dozens of hours of story filling in the history of the game, with familiar characters, and a refined battle and crafting system to boot. If you liked any of the Xenoblade games so far, you’re in for a treat. This is our review of Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes place 500 years before the main game’s story. And while DLC Season Pass purchasers can play Torna starting today, the rest of the world can buy it as a standalone game on September 21. While there will be a whole lot more story that makes sense if you play XBC2 first, this is technically a prequel, and you can go in knowing nothing and still understand the characters and what’s happening in the world as you play. Just note that it’s $40 as a standalone, and only $30 as part of the DLC pass.
Now, one of the things Torna touts is a revamped combat system - it’s still a quasi-MMO-like combat system. Meaning, if you like combat in Final Fantasy XII or generally like Tab-Target auto-attack combat in MMOs, you’re going to feel at home here. Only in Torna, the fights generally take a lot less time, as the enemy TTK is way better tuned this time around. In the original game, fights often dragged on with minor enemies longer than they needed to, and it made combat feel like a drag.
Clearly Monolith Soft heard this complaint, and has made things more interesting not only by making enemies quicker to fall, but by allowing players to control both their “Driver” (the hero) and the “Blade” (their living weapon). In the world of Xenoblade, Drivers unite with immortal living weapons called Blades. Only certain people are attuned to be drivers, and once they awaken a blade they’re linked until the Driver dies. When the Driver dies, the blade reverts to its dormant form until a new person awakens it. It’s a pretty cool fiction, all things considered.
This story-driven RPG tells the tale of the driver Lora and her Blade Jin, who players of XBC2 will immediately recognize. The whole tale of Torna is about Malos and the Aegis, and how things went sideways 500 years before the main game. There are several dozen hours of game here, or more if you’re a completionist and want to tackle all the side quests. Luckily, a lot of the more unwieldy aspects of XBC2 are done away with here, making it more enticing to do a lot of the side activities rather than just ignoring them.
There’s a more understandable item and weapon system, less reliance on finding and unlocking new blades by RNG, a camp system that lets you craft, rest, and talk to your party, and a whole lot more. Overall, a lot of the usability or quality of life issues I had with the main game are done away here.
When I lost my save file on my Switch earlier this year, I couldn’t bring myself to go back and start over with XBC2. I think I may one day still, but it’s clear now that Torna - The Golden Country is a more refined and much better experience. The story of Lore and Jin, Addam and Mythra, and the rise and fall of Malos is actually far more engaging than the tale of Rex and Pyra was.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
- Revamped and improved combat
- Better story
- Excellent characters
- Still menu-heavy
- Navigation can still be a chore