Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat has some serious depth to it. Though it's fairly intuitive, the complex lattice of interconnecting mechanics can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re newer to the JRPG genre. Fortunately, we’ve spent a great deal of time with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and we’re ready to pass everything we know on to you.
Released for the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has been very well received. The memorable cast of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 characters, as well as the clear step-up in JRPG storytelling both serve to make the title truly special. However, as with many entries in the genre, you’ll need to make your way through a host of battles as you journey your way across Aionios. These battles are immensely satisfying, and you'll be drip-fed the core mechanics over the first eight hours of play or so.
However, even with the relatively gentle pace of the tutorial, there's still a lot to keep track of. Plus, with a new Challenge Mode due to be released in the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass, there’s never been a better time to get to grips with the title’s robust and rewarding combat system.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat guide
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: the basics
In order to get to grips with Xenoblade Chronicles 3's combat, you'll need to understand five main mechanics: Arts, Fusion Arts, Party Management, Interlinking, and Chain Attacks. Though there's more to the battle system than just these mechanics alone, if you master these five fundamentals, you'll be well on your way to facing any challenge Xenoblade Chronicles 3 might throw at you.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Auto-attacks, movement and Aggro
Before we get to those, however, you'll need to learn a little bit about Auto-Attacks, movement, and aggro. In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you're free to move about the battlefield as things play out in real-time. Your character will also auto-attack whichever enemy you have targeted, assuming they're in range. Crucially, if you're moving, your character will no longer be auto-attacking. This means you'll have to choose between mobility and damage output.
We advise finding an ideal spot, planting yourself there, and then slicing the enemy to ribbons, only moving when you have to.
While you're fighting, you'll notice arcing lines between enemy combatants and party members. These lines represent the attention of the enemy fighter in question, otherwise known as Aggro. It's the job of Defender classes to draw Aggro to keep the rest of the party safe. Aggro management is key to surviving in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. If you're not playing a Defender class and you draw Aggro, move next to the nearest Defender to benefit from their defensive buffs.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Arts
Located in the bottom right corner of the screen, Arts are the bread and butter of combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Arts range from area-of-effect attacks to stances, to party buffs. If in doubt, read the Art's description in the main menu.
To get the most out of Arts, though, you'll need to know about Cancelling and Combos.
Cancelling provides numerous bonuses, as well as increasing the recharge speed of Arts, and is almost always worth attempting. To cancel, time the use of an art to just after you finish an Auto-Attack. If you succeed, you'll see a purple circle like in the image above.
Some Arts inflict special statuses which can be used to initiate powerful combos. These statuses are Burst, Topple, Smash, Launch, Break and Daze. Carry out Arts that inflict these effects in a certain order, and you'll render them helpless. There are two main combo sequences that you should be aware of.
- Break > Topple > Launch > Smash
- Break > Topple > Daze > Burst
Apply attacks in this order, and your enemies will fall in no time.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Fusion Arts
Fusion Arts can be used by holding down ZR when one of your normal Arts and one of your Master Arts are both recharged. This will allow you to combine both attacks in one swing. Master Arts can be equipped after a certain point in the story, once you've unlocked the ability to change classes.
Using Fusion Arts will gradually increase your Interlink level and Chain Attack gague as well as allowing for some pretty nifty effects.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Party Management
As with any JRPG, Party Management is key, as is choosing the right classes for the job. There are three types of classes in Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Attacker, Defender, and Healer. You'll need a balance of all three to survive. Defenders are vital for drawing attention off of more vulnerable party members, while Healers are the only classes able to heal others and revive allies. Without Attackers, you'll run out of steam long before you finish the fight.
Crucially, after a certain point in the story, you'll be able to switch the classes of your party members, as well as switch characters to change who you're controlling mid-battle. Both elements are key both to character progression and to success in combat. Don't be afraid to micro-manage.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Interlinking
Early on in the story, you'll unlock Interlinking, a means by which your party members can fuse together into a more powerful form: the Ouroboros. Though you can Interlink at any time, we advise using Fusion Arts to increase your Interlink level, so that once you fuse, you'll be able to trigger more powerful effects from your attacks. Once Interlinked, your Ouroboros will accrue heat, eventually overheating and ending the Interlink. Use your limited time wisely.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Combat: Chain Attacks
At the top right-hand corner of the screen, you'll see your Chain Attack gauge. You can fill this in by using Fusion Arts. Once it's full, press the '+' button and you'll initiate a Chain Attack.
During these attacks, the real-time combat will pause and you'll be able to select party members to initiate individual attacks. Each party member only gets one attack as standard, though, so choose wisely. Before each round of attacks, you'll need to pick a Chain Order which will apply a significant buff. From Noah to Sara, every one of your characters has a different unique chain order.
In this state, your attacks generate Tactical Points (TP). Each time you exceed 100% TP, you'll carry out the order and expend a chunk of the Chain Attack gauge. Exceed 150% or 200% and you'll get extra damage bonuses as well as extra attacks. Once the gauge runs out, your chain will be over. At the end of every round, you'll recover one party member. This increases to two if you exceed 150% TP and three if you manage to get to 200%.
Different classes and orders have different effects on the Chain Attack process: Attackers get a TP bonus if they're the first to attack, Healers cap the gauge at 99% while Defenders ensure that your attacker with the highest TP is recovered at the end of a round, so long as you finish the round with their attack. Master Chain Attacks, and watch as those tasty damage numbers soar!
Well done, you are now well on your way to mastering combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. May your enemies tremble in fear.
Sign up for Black Friday email alerts!
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.