JRPG fans, Monolith Software's newest installment in their beloved series is here. But chances are, after spending over a dozen hours being slowly dripfed the game's various mechanics and systems, you want to know how to get the most out of it. What sort of classes, accessories, and various combos can you lean into to just ruin challenging bosses? What sort of tactics and tricks will help you in a pinch against boss battles? This is our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 combat guide, specifically aimed at early game strategies.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat Guide – General Tips
First, it must be stated that this guide will assume you have working knowledge of the basic combat systems as introduced in Xenoblade Chronicles 3's extensive tutorials. Furthermore, it will cover systems and mechanics introduced to players after Chapter 3 of the main story; roughly 12 hours of gameplay and cutscenes. With that in mind, here are some broad tips starting with the following:
You Can Pause Battles
This is arguably the most underappreciated bit of information for a game like Xenoblade Chronicles 3. This is a game where boss battles can drag out and happen in real-time. Furthermore, certain button usually used to pause or open up menus are tied to key systems and commands.
So how do you pause in Xenoblade Chronicles 3?
Press and hold the “-” button. This will pull up a special pause menu and stop the battle. It will also give you the option to just give up the fight and instantly reappear at a nearby landmark. You can do this to bail out of a battle that is out of your league. There is also a Retry option that is only available for certain boss battles. This is useful if you wish to repeat a certain phrase of the battle or want to retry a DPS check against an enemy's powerful attack.
You Have a Dash Command
One of the more infuriating elements of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is that once you enter a battle your movement is reduced to a walk and your jump is disabled. This means that if you are unfortunate to have party members stuck on elevated terrain or thrown around by a status effect, your movement options are limited.
But, there is a combat dash that can give you some additional mobility in the middle of a fight. Just click the right stick while moving in your desired direction. This can help you get to other party members in need or to an AOE for some healing or buffs. There is also a bit of verticality to the maneuver so you can potentially get up on elevated terrain. It's not as good as a dedicated jump, but it is something.
Threat Management and Team Tactics
If you want to make short work out of bosses and elite enemies, there are two major elements to keep in mind. First and foremost is threat management. Fighting a single powerful boss in an open area is challenging, but if additional enemies pop up, they can pull your party's focus. Worse still, a few lucky hits or a few unwanted status effects can lead to cascading failure.
This is where you need to eliminate the stragglers as soon as possible. Choose one of these targets with the shoulder buttons, open up your Tactics menu (the ZL button) then tell your party to Focus Attacks. When this happens, your entire party will gang up on your target. Repeat this process until there is just the boss left, then get back to the fight as usual. Please understand that this is not a waste of time. As easy as it would be to just focus on the big threat, this is a game where small changes to health, armor, and damage add up exponentially. So clear the hordes early so you won't have a headache later.
Alternatively, the Tactics menu can mean the difference between victory and defeat later on. The Follow The Leader command (down on the directional pad) will make the party follow you. You can do this to either bunch up healing and buff effects or just get the team away from a powerful AOE attack or effect. Furthermore, there are Combo Tactics represented by the left directional button in the Tactics menu. There is Smash Combo, which makes the team focus on high DPS effects and armor-piercing tactics.
If you want to get the most out of the franchise's Break, Topple, Daze triple tap, this is for you. Meanwhile, Burst Combo focuses more on status effects and debuffs in order to slow down rampaging attackers. If you don't have enough force to interrupt a boss, or they're an enemy type that is resistant, this is something to keep in mind.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Early Combat Guide – Building Your Party
Next, we will get into how to build the various members of your party. But in order to do this, we do need a better understanding of the stats attached to all party members in the game. These are never fully explained in Xenoblade Chronicles 3's tutorial but must be inferred from UI and UX elements. For the sake of clarity, those stats are:
- HP: Your health (duh).
- Attack: How much damage you deal if your attack hits.
- Healing Power: How much you heal allies with a healing Art
- Dexterity: How often your attacks will hit your target.
- Agility: How likely an enemy attack will miss you.
- Critical Rate: How much damage a critical hit deals based on the base value of your attack.
- Block Rate: The rate at which your character will block or absorb an enemy attack
- Physical Defense: How much physical damage is mitigated
- Ether Defense: How much elemental or energy damage is mitigated.
With this roadmap in mind, we can get into how we can make these stats work for us in combat.
Once you have reached chapter 3 of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you should have the following six character classes unlocked:
- Swordfighter: This is Noah's starting class. It prioritizes positioning and precision over raw damage..
- Zephyr: This is Mio's starting class. It is a high evasion Tank thanks to its high Agility as well as solid Block rate and various defenses. It is also great for revenge tank builds.
- Medic Gunner: This is Eunie's starting class. As the name suggests, this class is all about keeping at a distance and keeping the party healed with spells and AOE regeneration.
- Tactitian: This is Taion's starting class. This is a support class that heals, drops AOE buffs, as well as pelt enemies with status effects and debuffs.
- Heavy Guard: This is Lanz' starting class. This is a pure defense tank. It has great Defenses and solid Block Rate.
- Ogre: This is Sena's starting class. This is a damage dealer that can break through enemy damage resistances and even launch enemies in the air.
- Flash Fencer: This is a Hero Class you unlock in the main story after interacting with Silvercoat Ethel. This is a pure offense class with a high attack rate as well as bleed status effects.
As you level up your party members, you will increase their Rank in these various classes. Once you hit a certain rank, you can start using other Arts from different classes. A Flash Fencer can suddenly use an Ogre's Giant Swing for example. These Arts are represented in a second menu on the left and activated by hitting buttons on the directional pad.
But these aren't just additional tactical options: these Arts can be combined. Formally called Fusion Arts, these are much stronger abilities, combining benefits from both for a bigger pay-off. Finally, these Fusion Arts can be cancelled into other Fusion Arts, allowing for longer more elaborate combo chains. Since Arts cancelling can lead to more powerful chained damage and effects, you will want to invest in Fusion Arts as soon as possible.
It is highly recommended you max out ranks and switch out your party classes.
As long as you keep at least one Tank, Healer, and Attacker in the configuration, you should be safe to experiment and mess around. The more options you have for Fusion Arts, the more effective you will be. In addition, you will unlock Master Skills. These are ongoing passive boosts to your character based on the Class they ranked up in. Simply put, you can only improve your chances if you mix things up early.
Gems are vital to your character composition in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. On the surface, it appears to be a rudimentary crafting system, another place for you to invest your resources into enhancing your stats.
And on the surface, that is correct. There are four different columns of Gems, color-coded to match four different pillars of gameplay:
Crafting a starting gem takes fewer precious resources, while more advanced Gems require extremely rare resources as well as Ether harvested in the world. Alternatively, these gems can be built and improved with Nopon Coins, which are earned from farming certain roaming boss battles and opening hidden containers in the overworld.
But, this is something the game doesn't tell you. Once you make a gem, you can use it indefinitely on as many characters as you wish; you don't need to make multiples. Furthermore, when you create the better version of the Gem, it applies to all characters it is equipped to.
With this in mind, I highly recommend crafting the first level of every single gem you can immediately and equip them as soon as possible. As for gem recommendations based on Class, here are a few:
- Swordfighter: Disperse Bloodlust, Steelcleaver, Steady Striker
- Zephyr: Tailwind, Brimming Spirit
- Medic Gunner: Lifebearer, Soothing Breath, Lifesaving Expertise
- Tactitian: Swelling Blessing, Refined Blessing, Swelling Scourge, Refined Incantation
- Heavy Guard: Steel Protection, Perilous Presence, Ironclad
- Ogre: Analyze Weakness, Accurate Grace, Steelcleaver
- Flash Fencer: Doublestrike, Empowered Combo, Steelcleaver
With all of this in mind, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 still has a lot more complexity on offer. There is still the push and pull of Chain Attacks, the completely separate progression system tied to Interlinking, and even a world reputation system that ties into Affinity and faction rewards. But for now, these tips and tricks should help you find your footing.
That's it for our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat Guide - check out more guides below!