Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna The Golden Country review – Prequel to the sequel

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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 prequel expansion, Torna The Golden Country, gives some insight about some of the major characters in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 but is bogged down by an extremely tedious, forced mechanic.

Title: Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna The Golden Country
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 14 (digital), September 21 (physical)

Despite some major issues, I’d still rank Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as one of the best RPGs I played last year. It had a superb soundtrack, had a beautiful and fascinating world to explore, great combat and very well-written characters that I loved spending over 80 hours with finishing the game. An expansion that gave me an excuse to spend more time in that world would be extremely welcome, and that’s what we get in Torna The Golden Country.

Torna the Golden Country is a stand-alone expansion to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. You do not need to own the original game to play it, but it does also contain additional content for the original game. It is a prequel to the story of the main game, taking place approximately 500 years prior. If you have finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the characters will mostly seem familiar to you.

The main antagonist is Malos, just like in the main game. Blades Jin, Mythra and Brighid, major characters in the main game, are featured in this expansion. The events in this expansion are hinted at in the story of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so you pick up on lots of references in Torna the Golden Country.

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I’m not generally a fan of prequels. They often answer questions that didn’t need answering and sometimes establish lore that screws up established continuity. In addition, it’s a prequel; you more or less know what’s going to happen at least in a general sense. Torna the Golden Country isn’t necessarily an exception to this. You know the fates of these characters. But the characters, including ones you’d be only vaguely familiar with, still are well-written and worth spending time with.

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  • Right off the bat, there are several smart things Torna the Golden Country does. I haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 since finishing it in January. That’s nine months ago. There is an incredibly complex battle system to this whole franchise, along with a handful of other intricate systems. Torna the Golden Country gives you a brief refresher on everything right off the bat.

    The second thing is adding a new layer to the combat. In the main game, you would control your character. Your Blades have various abilities, and you switch out Blades in combat to use different abilities. In Torna the Golden Country, you have direct control over both your character and the Blades, and they actively participate in combat. It’s like a tag team mechanic, you “tag out” and play as either the driver or whatever blades your driver is assigned. It really adds a welcome new dynamic to the combat that helps things feel fresh.

    Finally, and arguably the most important change is that you can toggle enemy aggression. It’s hard to state just how much smoother this makes progress and exploring. One of the most tedious aspects of the entire series to date is that enemies on the field will run right at you, and the field is a mix of monsters of varying levels, many that can one-shot you because they are twenty higher or more.

    It could make merely traveling from one story location to another an extremely frustrating process. This still doesn’t stop unique monsters from coming at you if you get to close, but your run of the mill enemies leave you alone unless you initiate combat. It’s an incredibly welcome option.

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    Unfortunately, for all those welcome improvements, some really bad problems still linger, and a couple of new ones are thrown in. The map and quest tracking in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one of the worst implementations I have ever seen, and this hasn’t been adjusted at all in Torna the Golden Country.

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    It remains frustrating to merely find the path to get to some quest points because all you get is how far you are from the spot you need to be at. Sometimes you need to take roundabout paths to get there, but it’s confusing because all that you get an indicator for is that you are getting further away from the marker.

    Secondly, one of the biggest aspects of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was collecting Blades. It could be an extremely frustrating experience because the process seemed very random and arbitrary, but it was still exciting to see rare named Blades pop up and be able to use them. Torna the Golden Country completely removes this aspect. You get a handful of pre-assigned blades you cannot even trade between your party members. In a way, this makes sense as it’s a much shorter more focused story, but it’s still one major component that is just taken right out.

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    Those, however, are minor quibbles relative to Torna the Golden Country’s biggest sore point which is also the major new mechanic introduced: “community level.” Torna the Golden Country features dozens of side quests. Side quests are generally an optionable thing; you complete as many or as little as you like. In Torna the Golden Country, each sidequest you complete lets you recruit NPCs to raise your “community level.” As an optionable mechanic that you can play with as little or as much as you want, it would be perfectly fine.

    When you are forced to spend at least half your time doing boring menial tasks, it’s exasperating.

    But that isn’t how Torna The Golden Country plays it. To get to the end game, you have to raise your “community level” to 4. This means doing a lot of these sidequests, most of which are tedious fetch quests or farming various resource spots hoping the right materials spawn. It essentially turns what would’ve been a breezy 10-12 hour expansion into a 20+ hour slog.

    An expansion pack that long driven by the story would have been fine. When you are forced to spend at least half your time doing boring menial tasks, it’s exasperating. This is a key example of not respecting players’ time in the worst possible manner, and the whole experience suffers horribly as a result.

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    Xenoblade Chronicles 2Torna the Golden Country is likely the only expansion that is being released, so if you really want to spend more time in the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, enjoying the battles system, some of the characters you are familiar with as well as get to know some new faces (though ones you’ve heard about or seen hints of in the main game) this isn’t a bad option.

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    It’s just that the biggest new mechanic in Torna the Golden Country is something that it arbitrarily mandates you participate to a rather extreme degree to no benefit aside from padding the playtime quite a bit. Especially at a time with a dense release market, that makes it a hard thing to recommend to all but the most hardcore fans who only want more Xenoblade Chronicles 2 content and aren’t interested in much else.

    6. Torna the Golden Country could’ve been a welcome expansion with some insight into the past of several key characters and a welcome twist on combat. However, the new “community level” mechanic that is forced upon you makes a good portion of it just a slog to get through.. Monolith Soft. . Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna the Golden Country

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.