Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has a superb battle system, but it can be pretty overwhelming at first. I’m here to guide you through the many layers, mechanics, and hidden systems at play.
There are four types of attack — Auto, Arts, Break-Topple-Daze, and Chain Attacks — as well as stats like Aggro and Tension, and Monado visions. All of these mechanics coalesce into a rhythmic system that is just as rewarding as it is challenging. But knowing where to start is key.
Also, if you haven’t already, why not check out our review of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition to see what we thought of this tricky battle system.
Beginning A Battle
You will get into lots of fights in Xenoblade, so it is good to know how to start. Using the L & R buttons you can target a certain enemy. Push L to cycle to the enemy to the left, and R to cycle to the right. Once you have chosen the enemy you want to attack, hit the A button to begin.
Once you’re in the fight, your character will auto-attack, as long as you are in range. For your sword-wielders, be sure to get close enough. As you auto-attack, you will build up your Arts, and the more hits you get, the sooner these more powerful attacks will be ready to use.
This is where the fun begins. Once an Art is ready, use the D-pad to select it, and press A to use. To get the most out of these Arts, you will have to become acquainted with their different bonuses. Shulk has a Back Slash and Side Slash for example, which gives you a lot of extra damage depending on where you’re standing in relation to the enemy.
Once you know your Arts and how to use them, you can also start levelling them up to increase their damage and reduce their cooldown time. While you can just keep using auto-attacks to make an Art available again, upgrading them can mean you always have one ready to use, speeding up fights and making you more powerful.
This chain of attacks is incredibly helpful and can be caused by certain arts. Some Arts can Break (these are pink), some arts can Topple (these are green), and some can Daze (these are yellow). You have to use these attacks in that order to get the most out of them.
Break them to make it possible to Topple them. Topple them to make them fall down and be unable to attack. Then Daze them to keep them down for longer and inflict more damage. Some enemies can’t even be damaged unless they are Toppled, so be sure to learn this system.
Now that you are using all your Arts and knocking enemies over with abandon, you may notice a blue three-bar meter in the top-left of your screen has filled up. Once full, you can enact a Chain Attack. One-third of this total bar can also be used to revive downed teammates, so be sure to only use it when ready.
These Chain Attacks let each character perform one Art each round. The minimum number of rounds is one, though you can Chain Link up to fifteen times, meaning 45 arts get used! In order to do this, you must press B when the button prompt appears on-screen after one round.
To increase your chances of performing a Chain Link you can:
- increase affinity between characters before the Chain Attack
- increase your characters’ Tension (which will be explained later)
- acquire Shulk’s Chain of Friendship skill (+15% chance)
- acquire Reyn’s Ties of Friendship skill (+5% chance)
- press B more accurately (when the enclosing circle hits the rim of the static circle is perfect)
While there is a lot going into Chain Attacks, they are super powerful, and award extra Experience Points, Art Points, and Skill Points. Knowing how to make the most of Chain Attacks can give you the edge in the particularly hard battles.
Aggro is a stat that decides which of your party members is targeted by the enemy. The teammate with the highest Aggro is the one targeted. You or your teammates can use Arts to increase or decrease Aggro depending on your tactic.
Aggro is useful to draw enemies to characters with higher health (like Reyn), so that the rest of the party can get in better positions to perform position-specific Arts (like Back Slash). While that ally drawing the heat takes damage, however, their Aggro will decrease. Be sure to use Arts to balance Aggro between the team as and when a teammate needs to be freed up.
Tension is a measure of a character’s morale. A higher Tension means higher critical attacks, more damage in Chain Attacks, and a higher critical heal rate. Lower Tension, naturally, results in the opposite. There are a handful of ways you can increase your team’s Tension and gain the upper hand.
The best way I found was to start the battle before the enemy does. If you know the enemy you’re about to face will automatically start attacking you, try and commence the attack yourself. This can make a B-button prompt (same as with Chain Attacks) appear on-screen, and increase your tension. The same occurs if you start the battle with Shulk’s Back Slash.
Sometimes, the character portraits for your party will look fired up; this means they have high Tension. Other times they will look sad, meaning they have low Tension. When they look sad, run over to them and hit B to cheer them up, resetting their Tension. After a party member is revived, their Tension is usually very low, so be careful.
The unique sword Shulk wields lets you see the future, one where a party member is downed by the enemy. This gives you options to change the future, like using a Monado Art to increase their Agility so they can dodge the attack, or using one bar of the Party Gauge to warn them, which gives you control of their Arts, allowing you to choose one that will prevent disaster. Be sure to react to these visions, as even if the ally can be revived, they will be in worse shape than before.
Now that you know what to do, what are you waiting for? Get out there and slay some Mechon with your newly equipped knowledge and deadly understanding of Xenoblade Chronicles’ wonderful combat system. Now it’s Reyn time!