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Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, Alana says you should do all of the sidequests in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 because they’re that good. Or at least most of them…
The Xenoblade series is known for many things. Incredible soundtracks, beautiful worlds, philosophical ideas and questions, and – most importantly – billions of checklist-type sidequests will have you collecting the same item or killing packs of monsters repeatedly.
Okay, that last one doesn’t sound appealing, but sidequests are an essential part of RPGs, and — hear me out — Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has some of the best both in the series and in the genre.
I’ve long been a bit of an advocate for Xenoblade’s sidequests – not because I want people to put themselves through the pain of repetitive fetch quests or menial tasks – but because I think they really enrich the game world. They get you to explore more hidden areas, form human connections, and help you grow and improve communities. As a result, you get an even greater sense of how the Bionis, Mechonis, and Alrest – present and past – work and how each society/settlement functions. But just thinking about filling out the Affinity Chart in Xenoblade Chronicles, or getting every Rare Blade for their quests in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, or the story-gating in Torna – The Golden Country gives me the shivers.
Doing all of the sidequests is still going to be intimidating, for sure, but I urge you to seek out what you can.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an exercise in “lessons learned” in many ways, and its sidequests are one area in particular that the game has improved upon its predecessors. These are the most consistent quests in the series, with incredible writing and character-building moments that deserve to be seen. They’re also the most accessible ever because they’re not as overwhelming as in previous games. You don’t get tons of new sidequest icons every time you enter a new location, and you never feel bombarded.
Most of the previous games’ fetch quests have now been boiled down to Collectopaedia Cards, requests for items that Colony dwellers put up for you to hand in (virtually, without going to them in person). They’re now just little unobtrusive checklists that never hide any story or character development behind them. I don’t ever feel like I have to do these, whereas, in previous games, I did.
So that leaves the much-meatier (hear that?) Standard Quests and Hero Quests. The former are your typical sidequests, while the latter unlock Hero characters (and their respective classes). Admittedly, sometimes these too can be a bit checklist-y, but nearly every time, the writing and characters won me over, because pretty much every single sidequest ties into the game’s main themes, giving Aionios’ numerous characters purpose, letting them grieve, or allowing them to form friendships.
There will be very minor spoilers about some Hero Quests, Colonies, and a few of the game’s villains going forward. However, there are no main story spoilers.
One of my favourite Standard Quests sees Noah helping a rookie off-seer, Schoon, learn to send off the dead. She doesn’t think she can do it and struggles with her confidence. What could have been a very cold, sad quest turns into a beautiful acceptance and understanding of death, and an examination of a blossoming friendship. It’s gorgeous and melancholic, and this is just a normal sidequest.
What elevates it, beyond the empathetic writing, is that off-seeing is an in-game mechanic and story focus in the game — a small funeral-type affair for fallen NPCs that garners Affinity points for whichever Colony that person was associated with in life. Both Noah and Mio are off-seers, and this quest gives us an insight into how Noah in particular deals with this role, while also showing us how the other residents of Aionios cope with it. All of these little details work together and help bolster your emotional attachment to the characters – and I’m not just talking about the main cast.
Then, on the complete opposite end of the scale, you have Dorin and Bambam, a hilarious pair from Colony 4 who eventually leave their ‘home’ and end up in some pretty amusing situations. And while Noah and his friends are often dismayed at the trouble these two get themselves into, they never really put them down, continually helping them throughout the duo’s multiple escapades. So even in this mournful world, there’s still a dash of humour, because the people who live there are humans (or Nopon, or High Entia, or cat people… you get it) and still live as normal a life as possible despite the ongoing war.
How you acquire some quests is yet another thing that helps make the world and the Colonies feel lived in. You can get quests by finding question marks on the world map which are usually near unusual monuments or places. Other times, you’ll see a little “i” above a character’s head, which means you overhear that character’s conversations. Then, your party discusses the conversations over a meal, going over the intricacies and – if needed – deciding to take the initiative and help. Other times, you’ll get some fun dialogue (that almost always involves teasing Lanz), fascinating world-building, or some truly touching moments.
When you do get quests out of these conversations, it feels much more natural than simply coming across a random person who just happens to need ten Slugger Bunnits slaying right this very second. Even when the sidequests do fit those “collect X amount of this item, kill X amount of that enemy”, I didn’t care because I felt like the characters’ reactions and Colony relations improving was more than enough reward.
Pretty much every single sidequest ties into the game’s main themes, giving Aionios’ numerous characters purpose, letting them grieve, or allowing them to form friendships.
A few quests I’ve picked up have also taken me back to places and made me find landmarks I’d missed or Unique Monsters I’d passed by. One particular quest from Colony Iota has you explore a level 40 area branching out from the Eagus Wilderness. My jaw dropped when I got there — sprinkled with soft, glowing trees, flora of all different shades of blue and purple, and fruit that glistens in the dark, I was both staggered at how much bigger the Fornis Region map was still and at just how serene and beautiful this area is.
I would never have known about the hidden storage that Colony Iota kept there without this quest, and I would’ve potentially missed an entire area. Stumbling across it by accident would have been amazing too, but the added element of it being tucked away and a sidequest with meaningful stakes and character relationships being forms made it all the more wonderful.
Hero Quests might be even better at tying this world together. These focus on a particular Hero – oftentimes a Colony Commander – and do a huge amount to establish your party’s relationship with them (past and present), their relationship to Keves and Agnus, their Colony, and the world at large. Some of these are actually gained through the main story, but even the ones that aren’t still feel important.
One of the first optional Heroes you’ll likely get is Zeon. His quest involves you helping him save his Colony from an impending Agnus invasion. The war is a pervasive part of the game, but what shocked me was who else popped up in the quest – a Consul, a member of a group of armour-clad people who seem to hold all of the chips in Aionios. Many of these turn up in the story, while others hold an iron fist in some of these quests. Having this group — however over-the-top they seem to be – appear in these sidequests makes the subplots feel just as important as the main story. The narrative beats in the main story permeate everything – they’re present everywhere and affect everything.
What branches off from Zeon’s Hero Quest are a number of new Standard Quests, some of which give insight into his leadership or the people who serve under him. And eventually, you’ll be able to carry out an Ascension Quest, a second Hero Quest that ‘unlocks’ the Hero’s full potential (along with the class). Zeon’s Ascension Quest is a perfect example of what I mentioned earlier – I don’t care so much about back and forth or fetch quests if the writing is good. And seeing how much Zeon has changed, and does change throughout this quest, is remarkable. It’s also a perfect reminder of the tangible difference Noah and his friends are achieving in Aionios; Zeon’s attitude has shifted in multiple different ways because of the party’s actions, and we get to see how his Colony and subordinates react.
Zeon is just one example; I don’t want to spoil any other Hero Quests, but almost all of them do something meaningful that helps enrich Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s world and narrative. The fact that most of them aren’t a chore to get through is a real treat, making these sidequests utterly essential to the narrative.
All of these little details work together and help bolster your emotional attachment to the characters – and I’m not just talking about the main cast.
When I started diving into the quests properly and thinking about how they helped develop the world and characters, I immediately thought back to Xenoblade Chronicles X. In the Wii U exclusive, the sidequests shine and feel like the real story of the game because they helped me understand the characters, the planet Mira, and explore this vast, alien world.
I think Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes it a step further. The quests all branch off from points in the main narrative and help to feed into the game’s main themes. They show Noah’s kind nature and willingness to change things and the world. They let characters discover things, develop, and learn naturally – both playable and non-playable. They teach us about Aionios, the Colonies, and the different ways of life. All of this makes this stunningly vast world all the more personal and a little bit less scary.
Doing all of the sidequests is still going to be intimidating, for sure, but I urge you to seek out what you can (at least do the Hero Quests!) and discover new pockets of Aionios, and new people in each of the Colonies, that you’ll fall in love with.
How are you finding Xenoblade Chronicles 3? Are you enjoying the sidequests so far? Share your thoughts in the comments!