Return to Alrest and discover the province of Torna in Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s story expansion. Set 500 years before the events of the second game, Torna: The Golden Country details the uprising against Malos’ brutality and destruction on the people. Between an upgraded battle system and an intricately woven and emotional storyline, this is a prequel Xenoblade fans wouldn’t want to miss.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 launched last December on Nintendo’s flagship console and was received well by critics – scoring an 8.5/10 from us – and fans alike. Since then, the JRPG Switch game has seen a myriad of updates and DLC drops, including new main quests, rare blades and items. But when Torna: The Golden Country was unveiled at Nintendo’s E3 showcase earlier this year, fans have been counting down the days since. For the first time in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Blades are now playable characters, enabling you to switch between Drivers and their Blades at will in the field or within battle. Perhaps that’s what makes XC2’s story expansion pack so enjoyable. There’s an entirely different battle strategy at play, blending the greatness of chain combos and elemental bursts into something much more unique and easy to grasp.
Players will begin their journey into Torna with Jin, the silver sleuth Blade, and his Driver Lora the mercenary. They’ve witnessed 17 years of hardships together, perfecting their battle technique with just one sword in combat. Fiercely protective of Lora, Jin is a complex character and exudes delicate grace and poise from his chilly exterior. His mysterious background, as seen with Rex in XC2, becomes a little less cloudy in the prequel as it centres on Lora and Jin’s relationship. Even Haze, Lora’s additional Blade, feels jealous at times. Developer Monolith Soft, together with writer Tetsuya Takahashi, builds Torna: The Golden Country as a window in time, painting a softer and less barbaric Jin, an Aegis dripping with sarcasm in Mythra and a terrifying foe in Malos that’s ready to taste the blood of his victims. Only with the help of the legendary Addam and Mythra, alongside Mor Ardain’s HRH Hugo and Brighid, can Lora and Jin hope to stop the desolation of Torna and overrule Quaestor Amalthus’s Blade, Malos.
Available as a standalone retail game and through Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Expansion Pass DLC, Torna: The Golden Country adds around 20 hours of story-driven playtime to your save file. While many side quests are mandatory to progress in the main storyline, there are enough quests and unique monsters to satiate fans’ hunger for 30+ hours of exploration and beast-slaying. After a quick tutorial detailing how the upgraded battle system works, fantastic for those who forgot how to play since last year (i.e. me) and newcomers, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and explore Torna: The Golden Country in all its beautiful glory.
From the onset, you’ll be able to play as both Blade and Driver in the field and in battle. Taking on foes now requires a new strategy, since you can easily switch between Blade and Driver to restore the other playable character’s health. Not only is the transition between characters smooth, it’s also easier to maintain and control during the natural ebb and flow of a battle. Blades can now learn Enhanced Arts (the same as Drivers) and have the ability to switch between Vanguard (offence) and Rear Guard (defence) Arts, alongside a Talent Art and a Switch Art. It’s interesting to note that Blades will share their health points, while Drivers’ health remains separate, making for a great switch and go tactic on enemies. Plus, the window for cancelling an auto-attack with an art to boost your special is larger, enabling those with less nimble fingers enough time to dictate the flow of battle.
As was the case in XC2, Drivers can equip accessories and use pouch items as battle buffs, while Blades’ weapons are upgradeable with collected or purchased Core Chips and Aux Cores. Affinity Charts remain for Drivers and Blades too, so there are still ways to access treasure chests, clear ether miasmas and excavate the land. On the other hand, chain attacks and initiating special attacks feels smoother. Elemental bursts during special attacks remain, with the chance to obliterate enemies (specifically unique monsters) with the Overkill skill. Putting it plainly, I’m still absolutely ecstatic I can take down a Level 42 unique monster in the Antol family and annihilate him with Earth, Wind and Fire. Hey, it beats squashing spiders with a shoe ‘IRL’ in September.
If you’re in the mood for some easy exploration, you can familiarise yourself with Gormott’s grassy plains and visually stunning beasts. While there are only two Titans to explore in Torna: The Golden Country, there’s plenty to discover. Side quests are an important part of the DLC, so you’ll often spend time performing fetch quests, slaying hordes of monsters and chuckling at the witty script as it plays off your team’s characterisations. Levelling up is also a snap in this game with the amount of experience received from side quests, so you’ll rarely spend your time level grinding. Instead, most of your time will be spent trying to find elusive ingredients out in the field, huffing and puffing with valid frustration when you can’t remember where you found that Barbed Tomato (yes, that’s been carried over from XC2; it’s still horrible). Quest markers are also still an issue, clumping together when you’ve got several markers on your distance level gauge.
The biggest change with side quests, however, is with the introduction of Community. Completing side quests not only rewards players with items and experience points, it also helps grow your Community level. As you earn the trust of the people, completing quests and assisting family members, your Community will grow and prosper. Once you have enough supporters, the Community will level up and create new side quests to complete, resulting in harder-to-beat monsters and rarer rewards. Creating a sense of community is what’s important in Torna, making the bittersweet ending that much more emotional. Players get deeper, more entrenched into the sub-stories, with many overlapping and interweaving as you help family members and friends reach a common goal. Simple in theory, but powerful in its execution.
Similar to XC2, Torna: The Golden Country hits the same flaws. Technical issues – including grainy textures in Switch handheld mode, lengthy loading screens, invisible walls, framerate drops – are still apparent. Character animations within in-game chat can feel quite jarring and robotic, while cutscene art often bleeds into the background, distorting the striking visuals. If you can handle a few blips, similar to XC2, the story DLC pack’s flaws are unlikely to cause a fuss.
Between the characterisation of Blades and Drivers, the improved battle system and a storyline that will make you reach for a jumper sleeve (or for the more sophisticated of souls, a tissue), the expansion DLC just feels so satisfying to play. So, whether you’re a newcomer, a JRPG lover, or a veteran Xenoblade fan, Torna: The Golden Country is a prequel not to be missed.
A review copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna The Golden Country was supplied to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.