Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft
Medium: Digital/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No

Some of you may remember when Xenoblade Chronicles 2 arrived in the tail end of last year and capped off a strong lineup of games for the console?s first year. And others may not remember, maybe because they didn?t have time for a 100h+ RPG in the middle of holiday release season. Well here?s the first expansion DLC to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Torna ~ The Golden Country. And if you?re curious about Xenoblade 2 or looking for something more on top of the base game, this standalone expansion is an awesome way to get your feet wet or return for second servings.

But wait, maybe you?re asking why you?d play DLC for a game before beating the core release? Well usually I would agree that it?s best to play games in order, but Torna ~ The Golden Country isn?t just stand-alone DLC for the sake of it. The whole expansion acts more like a prequel to the events in Xenoblade 2, but in about 1/5th of the time.

This makes it basically the shortest Xenoblade game to date, but that?s still an 18-20 hour game just to finish the story, which is still huge compared to most retail games. And really its hard to overstate how well this works for the series, since newcomers can see what all the hype is about without having to miss their kids childhood or take off work for two months.

So the game is set 500 years before Xenoblade 2 having you join Lora and her Blade Jin as they search for her mother during a time of war. This is a really cool way to flesh out the game since players of Xenoblade 2 will recognize Jin and having his past fleshed out is a lot of fun to see. For the uninitiated, Drivers and Blades act as Pok?mon Trainers and Pok?mon, so that a driver will keep their blade around to use both in and out of battle.

Blades appear in many forms but mostly look human and can talk with the drivers, so the Pok?mon analogy kind of goes just skin deep but usually works out. Back to the story, you?ll quickly become acquainted with some allies and once a party has formed, your adventure to pursue the up-to-no-good Malos and put a stop to his plans has begun before you know it. Anything beyond that is probably better left for you to see for yourself, but the game does a really great job of tying itself into what happens in Xenoblade 2 in a way that doesn?t exclude newcomers but returning fans will have things to appreciate.

Gameplay is the same as before, except now you can switch between playing as the Drivers and Blades. This is similar to changing your Blades in the core game, except now you?re physically in charge of their movement. This is a really satisfying introduction since it makes the combat feel more dynamic and overall quicker. The game does still work with characters who autoattack while building gauges to perform special moves, combos, and abilities, but the speed of combat in Torna feels faster than Xenoblade 2. I even pulled down the original game to see if it?s my imagination but no! Whatever changes have been made all make the combat feel more fluid and fun, and I hope these are permanent changes for the series.

That said everything thing in Torna ~ The Golden Country feels more accelerated. Yes, part of this is how much smaller the game is, but the game has a good pace overall between the story and just how it feels to play and move around. Leveling up also goes much faster, and the only thing that feels like gets in the way is a Community element which asks you to basically build support of villagers by doing sidequests and talking with them.

This mostly feels tedious because of having to wait through all the cutscenes and animations just to tell you the status of whether you gained or lost a person. Still near the Ed of the game you will have to take a few hours to put your Community level higher so that you can fight a battle, but it goes quicker than expected. I wish they had either not made the Community a requirement or done a better job for including it through the main story, but you?d probably be grinding to be strong enough for the endgame stuff anyway so what are you gonna do?

But really the Community stuff only feels like it?s awkward because the pacing is really good otherwise. Tee characters and story is interesting and the game is fun to play, so there aren?t many complaints that I can think of. And the music this time is even more awesome than Xenoblade 2 which means it?s well worth listening to outside of the game.

It’s hard not to recommend Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country to anyone looking for a great RPG experience on the Switch. It’s a great expansion for fans of Xenoblade 2 while at the same time being a perfect way for newcomers to sample the games without signing their life away on a full-length RPG. It also has one of the better stories in the series and to me it plays the best that these games have, so if you’ve been on the fence then definitely check this one out.

Nintendo provided us with a Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A