With the imminent release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Future Redeemed, this seems like a good time to check out the first three waves of DLC. I definitely didn’t expedite my coverage plans because I expected wave four much later in the year, no way. The DLC released so far fills some nice niches to the base game, so let’s get right into it.
One of my favorite things to do in games is customize characters’ style and fashion, and the first wave simply gives you alternate color costumes for each main party member. Just like with all future waves of DLC, you receive these through the Expansion Pass section of the in-game menu. This is basically just a nice little bonus for people who purchased the pass near the game’s launch, and also includes handy items like Nopon Coins and accessories, but the clothes are the main draw. In all honesty, these are a mixed bag with some looking great, like Mio and Taion’s, and others just being very garish recolors, especially Eunie’s red bodysuit and Lanz’s yellow jacket. This wave is fine for what it is, providing an immediate bonus for anyone who bought it, but the next waves are where the real content lies.
Wave two added a new hero and challenge battles in the familiar Land of Challenge, both of which require you to reach partway through Chapter 3 to access. The new hero is Ino, an artificial Blade (like Poppi, not the characters’ weapons) and friend to all Nopon. Unlike other Heroes, she isn’t assigned to either Keves or Agnus, and instead uses the Nopon Caravans icon from the Affinity Chart, though she does use Agnian arts for auto-attack recharge. After completing her quest, Noah will inherit her class: Noponic Champion, a tank class which grows more powerful each time the user dies in battle. This is an evasion tank like Zephyr with some amazing survivability, which does somewhat conflict with its gimmick of growing stronger after being revived. It does give us three Keves tanks and three Agnus tanks to choose from, and while it’s not the best of all your options, it could be a good choice if you’re battling foes at a higher level or some unique monster superbosses. It can also unlock some decent cross-class skills and arts for a little more utility, like healing with every evaded attack and a break art. I imagine I would use her a lot more if I was still progressing through the story, but she’s a good addition and her quest is pretty fun.
Ino does come with a bit of a twist, however. Just like Poppi in 2, you can upgrade her through Inoswap using the new HD Ether Cylinders. While it’s not as customizable as Poppiswap, Ino does get a ton of stat, skill, and art upgrades to win her spot as the seventh member of your party. HD Ether must be sought out from specific points, which appear on the map and are usually guarded by a group of enemies. Defeat them and you’ll be able to collect the Ether. Again, this seems like it’s meant to be done as you go through the story, and doing it post-game can feel like a bit of a grind. Even so, this is a neat twist to make the DLC hero a bit more unique.
As for the Challenge Battles, this initial set felt a bit lacking at the time. The fights themselves were very easy (at least after beating the game) and the rewards weren’t very exciting. Just like 1 and 2, these are timed battles and winning quickly will earn you more of a special currency to spend on things like swimsuit costumes, accessories, Nopon Coins, Enigmatter (which is more useful in the next wave), and Origin Shards for the weapon upgrade quest. You can also pay to unlock newly acquired classes on other characters rather than fighting alongside that class, which is useful for gaining immediate access to Noponic Champion for all characters. Not the most exciting of additions, but it gives some quicker ways to obtain rare materials and the battles serve as a nice way to test out different party compositions.
Wave 3, once again, adds a new hero and new challenge battles, but also an entirely new mode within the Land of Challenge. The hero this time is Masha, a woman from the City who crafts jewlery. Her class is the Lapidarist, a Keves aligned healer using twin rings giving us a total of three Kevesi healers and… six Agnian healers. So yeah, she was sorely needed, and may actually be one of the most powerful classes in the game. After completing her quest, Mio inherits the class, which focuses on passive healing through critical hits. You also get a nice set of versatile arts which can debuff the enemy, buff the party (like an arts heal field and a recharge speed up), and of course heal. It doesn’t sound particularly special on its own, but combine this with a cross class skill to recharge arts for every critical hit and you’ll be canceling between moves perpetually, healing the party all the while.
My preferred setup has Mio with an 80% crit rate using the Signifer’s Aureole (which applies a random buff to self) and Resonant Flag (which spreads any buffs on you to the whole party), as well as Troubadour’s Ring o’ Roses for even more recharge speed and their Talent Art Glittering Melody to pause the timer on any active buffs. After a bit of buildup, this allows Mio to apply every single buff in the game to the entire party and keep them up for the entire battle. It’s not a foolproof build, but when it works it can make you feel invincible and makes for some fun, fast paced gameplay.
While Ino’s seemed good for getting through the story, Misha’s is definitely an end-game class because of how strong you can make it, which makes it a great fit for the new, much harder Challenge Battles and the new rogue-like mode: the Archsage’s Gauntlet. After choosing a difficulty, you’ll enter with only one party member of your choice to battle increasingly strong waves of enemies. Fighting well will increase your score, which you can spend after each battle on passive buffs, which last the rest of the run, as well as Heroes to join your party. You can’t control these Heroes, but they’ll make up your party composition in this mode rather than only joining one at a time. The mode is a ton of fun, and for once it’s actually nice to have some “forever content” in a game like this. It’s a great way to test out builds, and it’s cool to give the Heroes a bit more spotlight.
Each difficulty has a different length, and beating the final wave will earn you a ton of the new blue currency to spend on accessories, materials, throwback outfits referencing characters from 1 and 2 (X is forgotten once more), and new bonuses for purchase after a wave. The throwback outfits are fun to see, but the second variants are just recolors rather than entirely new outfits, which is a bit disappointing. I would have liked to see more characters represented, like Elma, Rex, Dunban, and Pandoria. Even so, this is the best wave so far by a wide margin, adding what I would expect a season pass to do: give you more things to do after beating the game. For me at least, the main draw of the pass will come in a few days with the Future Redeemed expansion. Look for a full review of that shortly after it launches on the 25th.