Last week Monolith Soft released the long awaited Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and I bought it day one. I have been greatly enjoying the game and just beat it last night in fact, with a total playtime of 97 hours.
While I loved my time with it and want to call it a perfect game it undeniably has some flaws. Small things like tutorials that are too hand-holdy and collection quests not always marking where items are on the map can be a bit annoying in the moment but don’t drag the game down at all. There was one flaw however that started to drag the game down for me and if I didn’t nip it in the bud early on it could have gotten much worse.
So take this article as a warning to all of you who have not started the game or are still very early on in it, as I have come to warn you about the mechanic that can potentially ruin your Xenoblade 3 experience: Bonus EXP.
The Issue with Bonus EXP
Bonus EXP is EXP stored but not given immediately to the player unless they choose to use it at a camp. Bonus EXP is gained when the player discovers a new landmark, helps out in a skirmish battle, or has a party discussion in camp. The purpose of the mechanic is to give players and easy way to lvl up that doesn’t require grinding, nothing new for the Xenoblade series as 2 had a similar mechanic.
On paper this is actually a great idea but in practice the flaw becomes clear before players will even finish the game’s third chapter: Bonus EXP is given way too fast. I admittedly did a lot of side content but when finishing chapter 3 of the game I was 5 levels above the boss. It was at this point I started to see the flaw with bonus EXP and made the decision not to use it for the rest of the game. Once I had beaten the final boss I decided to use up what I had stored. I jumped from lvl 75 to lvl 90 instantly. 90 is nearly 20 lvls above the final boss, if I hadn’t stopped using Bonus EXP it would have been a complete curbstomp.
Now I don’t want to get into any long debates about the merit of difficulty in games, that is a discussion for people much smarter than I. However it is a basic fact that many players are unhappy with how fast they’re becoming overpowered in Xenoblade 3 and we need to talk about that.
How did this problem occur?
I think the problem stems from the fact that Bonus EXP seems to be designed with the idea of helping players who just want to rush to the end of the game and not engage with any side content whatsoever, but the issue arises because Xenoblade 3 encourages players to do side content more than any other game in the series!
This game has 17 optional party members and most players are going to attempt to recruit at least a few of them as they’re marked on the map!However even recruiting a few has the potential to set players on a path of having enough Bonus EXP that they will quickly overpower the majority of the game!
Monolith Soft’s intent for bonus EXP was noble but the sheer amount given should have been decreased drastically. Accounting for players trying to ignore all side content is all well and good but perhaps there should have been a warning that they were who the mechanic was for or alternatively a better solution they already had in previous games!
The Removed Solution
In the NG+ of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 the game allowed you to lvl down your characters if they were too strong, later on in the game’s life they patched the game to allow you to do this outside of a NG+ run. Then when Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition released on the Switch it came with the ability to lvl down your characters at launch.
Monolith Soft clearly knew in the past that players wouldn’t want to become too strong and provided them with ways to prevent that for a smoother gameplay experience. Unfortunately Xenoblade 3 restricts this mechanic to NG+ like Xenoblade 2 did at launch, but why?
My personal theory is because of how one of the game’s other mechanics works: accessories. At the start of the game you have only 1 accessory slot but as you lvl up you gradually unlock more until you reach lvl 50. It seems to me like Monolith restricted players ability to lvl down in order for them to quickly unlock all of these and thus the full potential of the gameplag system. Which if true, while understandable, it still resulted in this issue.
Once again, I encourage new players to try and avoid using Bonus EXP unless you are having trouble with a boss and even then only use it sparingly! If you are doing any side content at all you should not need the bonus EXP to stay at the lvl the game wants you at. If you do choose to ignore my warning however there is no absolutely no shame in making the game easy for yourself, if you just want to slash through enemies quickly and watch the plot that’s perfectly fine! Don’t let me dictate how you enjoy the game.
That’s all I have for today, but I am working on another Xenoblade article soon. A hypothesis on how each Xenoblade 3 Hero would play in a Musou game, so stay tuned for that!