Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass Review - Screenshot 1 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Nine months on from the release of the stunning Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and, true to form, Monolith Soft has once again delivered a hefty chunk of story-based DLC for fans to sink their teeth into, this time in the shape of Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed. We’ve already had a bunch of fun new heroes and an all-new challenge mode added through the first three waves of add-on content, and now it’s time to tuck into the real meat of your Expansion Pass.

Much like Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country, with Future Redeemed (which arrives in the fourth and final DLC wave and will be the focus of this review) we’re treated to a prequel expansion that gives Xenoblade aficionados plenty to get excited about with some of the series’ most beloved characters returning, dramatic revelations aplenty and enough jaw-dropping spectacle to fill several lesser RPGs.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

We’ll fully admit that, after spending a whole lot of time fully rinsing the main game for our review and guides campaign, the idea of returning to Xenoblade Chronicles 3 did fill us with a certain trepidation. As much as it deserves its 10/10 score we felt like we’d had our fill and then some. And so, it speaks to the overall quality of this absolute top-notch DLC that, mere minutes after booting it up for the first time, any slight weariness was instantly forgotten as we were fully hooked into Aionios once again.

This latest adventure wastes no time in dropping you into the heart of the action, setting out in explosive style and introducing you to a bevy of hugely likeable new heroes who take up arms alongside the likes of Shulk and Rex (yes, he’ll still teach them a thing or three) as they bear witness to the dramatic events that preceded Noah and Mio’s epic battle against Moebius.

It’s a somewhat tricky expansion to review in terms of its story, packed as it is full of spoilers that affect the entire series of games, it’s hard to know what we should or shouldn’t mention for fear of ruining someone’s fun. However, even side-stepping this issue completely by simply stating that the narrative here will rock the socks off series fans, we’ve still got plenty to discuss in the form of meaningful gameplay changes that take the core of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and improve it in several notable ways.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Indeed, in terms of exploration and combat, Future Redeemed actually manages to top the base game, thanks to a few carefully considered additions. The biggest changes come in the form of rejigged battle mechanics that switch out the main game’s Ouroboros transformations for Unity Combos, and an all-new Affinity system that runs through every aspect of the game, positively affecting almost every action you take outside of main story beats.

Let’s start with those Unity Combos, and you now have the ability to pair up your party members in order to perform specials that take the place of the fantastical robotic transformations from the main game. Unity Combos are charged in the same manner as Ouroboros attacks, filling up a gauge by using your arts and fusion arts and then unleashing devastating assaults on your selected target. The real meat here comes from the fact you can mix up your Unity pairings and change up the effects of attacks to suit any given combat situation, with the game actively encouraging you to experiment and find pairings that suit your playstyle.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Unity Combos still feed into Chain Attacks in much the same manner as Ouroboros assaults did, you can still complete Chain Attack orders with a view to unleashing a final huge Unity Order, but these attacks can now be augmented by equipping various collectible accessories. This, in turn, feeds into the other major change this time out, a revamped collection, exploration, and reward system that gives the entire endeavour a nice lift.

As you roam the stunning world map — a map that, for our money, hews closer to the style of XC1 in terms of its vistas and tone — you’ll take down monsters of varying rarity, collect items, open containers, and all of that good stuff that you were so used to doing in the base game. However, you now have an Enemypaedia and Collectopaedia that register all of this, ticking off enemy types and tallying up how many of each and every item you’ve got your hands on. Complete a listing for collecting six Sour Gooseberries or dispatching three Jarack Volffs, for example, and you’ll score yourself Affinity Points that can then be used to purchase and upgrade a bunch of Affinity Growth skills for all party members.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

There are three tiers of Affinity skills to work through and you’ll net points for collecting and killing, developing community relations, completing battle missions, and discovering Affinity scenes that give you a little cutscene and some context about the world as you explore it. This Affinity system really gives the core gameplay loop a huge boost here, adding a real sense of purpose to grinding through enemies and collecting items that incredibly makes the base game feel lacking in comparison. It’s addictive stuff that works well to make a smaller campaign map feel bigger and busier than it actually is. Discovering a new enemy type and working to kill as many as is needed to fill an entry in your collection had us happily roaming this DLC’s world with a revitalised sense of purpose.

Away from these main changes and there are lots of smaller tweaks to be found in new enemy mechanics that see packs of foes given increased attack and defence capabilities, enemy initiative arts, field crafting that allows you to make and repair ladders, fix elevators, create ether masts to locate ether deposits, and an X-reader that pinpoints the locations of other survivors. There's lots that's been added here, in short, and it genuinely makes for instalment of Xenoblade that’s more addictive and fine-tuned than ever.

Of course, all of this would be for naught if the story wasn’t up to snuff, so it’s a good thing that what we’ve got in Future Redeemed is a prequel that delivers the goods in terms of tying up loose ends and bringing the trilogy to a fantastic end – even if it does pose plenty of new questions for those who take their lore super seriously. The new heroes we’re introduced to are all crackers (we actually prefer Matthew to Noah from the get-go in terms of his banter) and the roster of returning legends makes for a terrifically exciting party of protagonists with which to strike out against another array of amazingly OTT Moebius baddies. We loved the regional accents and overblown pantomime madness of these villains in the main game and they’re every bit as entertaining this time around.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed wastes no time in throwing you into screen-shaking battles against spectacular foes, and the flow of its story benefits from the shorter running time of around 15-18 hours (easily double that if you’re aiming for 100% completion) getting straight down to business and keeping a high tempo going throughout. If you’re here for big revelations and emotional moments, to see old favourites again, dive deep into the lore, and discover how everything connects, well, you’re in for quite the treat. Playing through this stunning expansion has been a breathless experience for us long-term fans, with a constant conveyor belt of meaningful moments hitting us repeatedly in all of the feels, which is all we could have asked for really.

It helps too that the quality of cutscenes, carefully choreographed battle sequences, a truly epic soundtrack, and top-notch writing all carry over from the main game, with the devs once again proving just how adept they are at shifting the tone from all-out flashy action to moments of quiet introspection. You may have less time to gel with the newbies here, but rest assured you’ll care about them just the same by the time you’re through with this one. It's an awe-inspiring conclusion, and one that improbably manages to improve on the sublime base game.

Conclusion

Just like it did with the excellent Torna – The Golden Country, Monolith Soft has given us a carefully refined prequel experience here, adding to and improving upon core combat and exploration elements that were already best-in-class. Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s delightful battle system feels better than ever, its stunning landscapes are packed full of exploration that’s been reinvigorated thanks to the new Affinity system and there’s enough emotion and revelations packed in to satisfy the most ardent of Xenoblade fans. It also provides something of a clean slate going forward for this most intriguing of franchises. Where will the world of Xenoblade take us next? We cannot wait to find out.