Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of the year’s best-reviewed Nintendo Switch games, thanks to its deep combat, sweeping story, and giant world that’s fun to explore. The game is engrossing from the moment you start, but there’s a way to get even more immersed in this epic JRPG.
As pointed out by the YouTube channel BoomStickGaming, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is entirely playable in first-person. Xenoblade series veterans will recognise this as a recurring feature, but as someone who has bounced off most of the prior games in the series, I was completely unaware it was possible.
I’ve now played the first 10-ish hours exclusively in first-person mode (aside from one boss battle), and while it’s probably not the optimal way to experience the entire game, playing in first-person truly helped me sink into Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s early chapters, and I intend to play as much of the game as possible this way.
How to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in first person
To play in first-person, hold down the ZL button on your Switch controller and push the right thumbstick up to zoom the camera all the way in to a first-person view, then push the stick left or right to adjust the height. You can also adjust the “camera movement” and “camera zoom” speed in the settings menu to suit your preferences. Make sure the “camera position” setting is set to the middle option to centre on your character’s head, otherwise your view will be awkwardly offset to the left or right.
To further the sense of immersion, I also disabled the “mini-map,” “auto-targeting,” and “additional information” settings, and made sure to hide or disable all quest markers and notifications whenever possible.
These are optional changes, but they’re worth trying, even if you’re playing in the default camera view. Doing so removes much of the UI clutter, so you can see even more of the world as you’re exploring. It also forces you to pay closer attention to your surroundings, which I find helps me connect to the environment more (you can easily open the map from the shortcut menu if you need to double-check your heading).
Is Xenoblade Chronicles 3 actually playable in first-person?
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, but so far, Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s first-person view feels great to me, though it took some getting used to.
Playing the game in first-person gives you a closer look at the characters, enemies, and locations you interact with, and really emphasises the world’s massive scale. The obvious comparisons to other large-scale first-person RPGs like The Elder Scrolls are immediately apparent, but running around these vast landscapes dotted with high-tech military bases and populated with alien flora and fauna reminded me of an anime-tinged No Man’s Sky.
Moving, jumping, and picking up collectible items remains easy, and most other actions you’ll perform — like swapping between party members, talking to NPCs, climbing ladders, and interacting with important objects — are intuitive and work as intended.
Combat is the only part of the game that takes some real adjustments to make it work, but it’s doable.
Xenoblade 3 makes a strong first impression. And yes, I am playing exclusively in first-person mode and pretending it's anime sci-fi Wizardry. pic.twitter.com/877rcFCjDm— Brendan Hesse (@Brendan_LH) August 2, 2022
Overall, the MMO-like battle system works just fine in first-person. Since the game clearly marks whether you’re standing to the front, back, or side of your target, it’s easy to tell if you’re in the right spot for an attack, even if you’re staring up at a giant alien gorilla, and your party members’ banter will fill you in on what moves they’re using. In first person mode, the battles feel more like the tactical combat in CRPG blobbers like Wizardry 8 or Might & Magic X.
That said, you’ll need to tweak some settings if you plan to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in first-person for the long haul, since the constant visual barrage of combat UI and other effects can be downright chaotic in that mode. Do as the BoomStickGaming video above suggests and disable all battle numbers except your character’s damage pop-ups in the settings menu. This will make fighting much more comfortable in first-person. I also chose to disable the “Battle camera” option to stop the cinematic cutscenes intercuts for certain attacks.
So far I’ve found the game to be entirely playable at the normal difficulty mode after implementing those settings tweaks, but feel free to set the gameplay difficulty to “Easy” if you still find the combat too difficult to manage. You can always pan out the camera just before a battle starts to take advantage of the third-person perspective, then zoom back in while exploring.
No, first-person mode is not the “intended” way to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but it’s made it much easier for me to get into one of the year’s best JRPGs. If you prefer first-person games, or just want to try playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in a novel way, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.