Aren’t we intrepid?
Like it not, DLC expansions are here to stay. Whilst they’ve been a part of the gaming industry for a good few years now, the very concept is still pretty fresh for titles associated with Nintendo. Following hot on the heels of the Champion’s Ballad expansion for Breath of the Wild and the Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has now gained its own meaty expansion in the form of Torna – The Golden Country. Set before the events of the main game, it offers a deeper look into some of the main game’s side characters whilst introducing a few new gameplay concepts to boot. But is it any good? Yes, but with a few caveats. Let’s take a look…
Straight away, Torna the Golden Country feels satisfyingly familiar if you’ve already played the main Xenoblade Chronicles 2 story. It looks nearly identical in terms of visuals, displaying the same sweeping environments and varied character models that fans have come to expect. What this also means, though, is that the game once again looks far better in docked mode than it does in handheld, so if you like playing on the go, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that it will look a bit blurred compared to how it looks on the big screen. Having said that, though, it’s still a beautiful game – the new areas of Torna in particular look unique enough from the world of Gormott that it’s easy to distinguish one from the other.
You’ll be playing through the expansion as driver Lora along with her blades Jin (who you may recognise as a main antagonist from the main game) and Haze. Lora’s story was touched upon in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and whilst you’ll benefit from playing through the main story, it’s not entirely necessary – Torna the Golden Country works very well as a standalone experience, so don’t fret about that too much. On the flip side, since it’s a prequel to the main game, you’ll likely already know how all of the characters end up by the close of the experience, so there are no real surprises for veteran players.
The gameplay is much the same as before, with a few additions both good and bad. You’ll spend a good chunk of time just running across the vast expanses of land and fighting the various creatures that happen to stand in your way. There’s a significant amount of grinding required – as with most JRPGs – if you’re to progress onto more powerful beasts later in the story, but you can quickly level up by resting at camps, using your EXP to boost a couple of levels at a time. It’s a good time saver without necessary feeling like you’re cheating. Camps also allow certain characters to craft useful items for the journey ahead, and you can also engage in some interesting, albeit non-essential, dialogue between the characters.
As you roam about the environment, you’ll come to notice a number of NPCs lurking about, and this is where the brand new Community feature comes in. As you introduce yourself to more and more of the local inhabitants, you’ll unlock side quests. Completing these adds the NPCs to the community, and the more members you gain, the more your community will level up, opening up yet more side quests. It’s honestly a bit of a pointless addition – I’d much rather just meet a character, do their quest, and move on. It needlessly pads out the experience, which is exaserbated by the fact that you need to take part in the Community feature to a certain degree in order to progress with the main story, which is frankly ridiculous. I feel like I may be in the minority here, but I didn’t much care for it at all.
The combat, thankfully, remains fairly unchanged, but there’s a welcome addition that improves the experience greatly. You can now swap between driver and blade at will, and by doing so at the right time, you can chain together combos and unleash a decent amount of damage. So for example, using Lora’s ‘Hungry Snake’ ability will cause Break on enemies – a simple tap of down on the d-pad will then swap Lora out for her blade Jin, and his immediate attack will then cause the enemy to Topple. The game encourages you to experiment with this, and it’s always worth trying out both Jin and Haze to see which blade will be more efficient for the task at hand.
Otherwise, combat will be immediately familiar to returning players. You’ll automatically attack when a fight starts, building in strength as you go. You can eventually activate your Arts once their individual meters are built up, with how and where you activate them determining how effective they are. Once again, utilising Arts between all the characters can chain together elemental combos, so by experimenting with both this and the ability to switch between driver and blade, you’ll quickly be able to dish out some serious damage.
Pillaging various items throughout your journey is once again front and centre with the expansion. Chests litter the environment, and you can gather multiple items at collection points all across the map. Just like the main game, the characters like to break out one-liners every time you collect the items, and it’s not charming or interesting in the slightest, it’s just repetitive and annoying. Shush.
When all’s said and done, Torna the Golden Country is pretty much just more of the same, so you’ve probably already made up your mind about whether or not you want to get it. It’s fun and it’s got a solid cast of characters, but it’s still grindy as hell and a couple of the new additions fall flat. It’s an expansion that isn’t necessarily required to fully appreciate the main game, but it’s there if you wish to lose yourself in its world once more.