This article contains spoilers for Xenoblade Chronicles 1, 2, and 3 and all of their expansions, especially Future Redeemed.
Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade series has, over the course of a decade, become Nintendo’s flagship RPG franchise. Back in 2011 it was uncertain if the original Xenoblade Chronicles would be localized in the West, but after fan campaigns that I was actively a part of, the game released in April of 2012 and I devoured it. I remember picking it up at a GameStop and playing it nonstop through spring break. I fell in love with the franchise, and I’ve always found something to love with each new entry.
With Xenoblade Chronicles 3, after some distance from when I first played it, I find I adored its themes, the expert world-building, and the ridiculously in-depth combat system. And now with the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Connected, I can definitely say that the DLC was sloppy at several points, but it still managed to provide a decent endpoint to one of the best RPG trilogies of the past decade.
Future Redeemed serves as a prequel to the main game set centuries before and features an almost entirely original cast, save for Xenoblade 1 and 2 protagonists Shulk and Rex. Their presence is only the tip of the iceberg for longtime players, with Shulk and Rex making references to their previous adventures and the people they encountered, commenting on the fused nature of Aionios, and interacting with characters that are aware of their respective worlds.
In the beginning, I was excited to see what these original characters would do with Rex and Shulk and how they would factor into the story. However, their presence ultimately raised questions that superseded my enthusiasm to play as them again. I kept wondering how they were present in this world, how they were the parents to two other party members, Nikol and Glimmer, and why they retained their memories of their original worlds in the first place, among many others. What made these two special over everyone else we encountered? From a narrative perspective, I ultimately just settled on them being in there to provide some type of metatextual symbolic closure for the series. If this is the end of one era of the franchise, Monolith Soft might as well bring back some fan-favorite characters despite how little logical sense it makes.
While Shulk and Rex’s appearance feels like hamfisted fan service with a murky explanation, I much preferred the other methods Future Redeemed took to satisfying longtime players. Exploring Colony 9 again as your main hub was a wonderful callback, as well as the climax of the game having you return to Prison Island, a major location from Xenoblade Chronicles. Plus, the game was able to wrap up one of the major lingering threads in the series: Where was Alvis?
In Xenoblade Chronicles, Alvis was a character who flip-flopped between being an ally and an enemy, but his role was greatly expanded in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 despite not formally being present within the game. You inadvertently learn about who he really is and his role in the game’s cosmology, something that was further referenced in the 2020 Switch remaster of 1. He wasn’t present in the base game for Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but his appearance here in Future Redeemed offers resolution for a character that I desperately wanted to know more about. Plus, making him both the main antagonist and your closest ally as Alpha and A respectively was a brilliant little touch that kept me interested in learning more about what happened to them between the events of the first, second, and third games.
Though like with Shulk and Rex, Alvis’ return is predicated on a lot of questions that don’t really have any clear answer. This is in line with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 as a whole, a game that had these huge lofty ideas and concepts but never really was able to flesh them out or have them make any logical sense. It’s a game about making you feel a feeling, but due to Future Redeemed’s smaller scale and shorter length, it just brought into focus how much of the DLC’s story is irrelevant.
None of what happens in the DLC impacts the base game in any meaningful way. It really only serves to flesh out a section of a late-game area that only aroused mild curiosity when you encountered it and nothing more. Future Redeemed is not as essential to understanding or even complementing the base game in the same way that Torna: The Golden Kingdom was for Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
And yet, this is the first Xenoblade game I 100% completed. It took me about 30 hours and is significantly smaller than any main entry, but I still did it. The game is fun and exemplifies what the Xenoblade franchise does best, offering up compelling worlds to explore with highly engaging combat. While I loved just how much you could customize your party in the base game, I equally enjoyed how limited your party and their abilities were, emphasizing both move synergies and teaming up with party members in order to best utilize a character’s inherent strengths.
While narratively the plot of Future Redeemed leaves something to be desired, it still serves as a fitting conclusion to the series. This feels like a perfected version of the franchise’s combat, taking the best of what worked in every installment and refining it to a mirror shine. The ending sees Shulk, Rex, and A all join together to preserve Aionios from Alpha’s machinations, claiming that someday a new set of heroes will be able to set the world right again and restore the world to what it should be. The credits roll, we see cutscenes from every game in the trilogy, and we reflect back on all the adventures we went on, closing with the world being restored to how it was supposed to be, free from all of the chaos and interference by each entry’s villains.
What makes Xenoblade such a good franchise is that, by the end of each game, for all of their strengths and weaknesses, you feel like you actually went on an adventure. You explored a fully realized world and fixed its myriad problems. You gave its residents a future again — ending a never-ending war, solving an energy crisis, brokering peace between two hostile races, killing wannabe gods and corrupted despots. These were RPGs that made you feel like you were a part of their worlds, and despite how little some parts of Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Futured Redeemed made sense, it still captured that feeling perfectly. And sometimes, just sitting back and thinking about the past decade of experiences is enough to make you feel like you were a part of something special, something that almost didn’t exist.