Nintendo has announced full details of its massive, free new update for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, due to arrive on Switch next week.
Update Ver. 1.3.0, as it's called, is primarily focussed on delivering a New Game Plus mode. However, according to Monolith Soft's Tetsuya Takahashi in the latest production notes, New Game Plus is "more than just a way for people who have cleared the game to play through it a second time" - it introduces a number of key new features too.
For instance (the lightest of spoilers ahead, incidentally), when you play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in New Game Plus, the Blades encountered in the kingdom of Torna - namely, Obrona, Sever, Perdido, and Cressidus - will be to able to join your party as Blades. The same is true for their Drivers, Akhos, Patroka, and Mikhail.
They can join your party in two ways while playing New Game Plus - either automatically once you meet them or by resonating Core Crystals. "As you might expect", says Takahashi, "you could potentially get them from a Common Core Crystal early in the game, which kind of wrecks the story, but our goal here is to prioritise making the game even more fun to play."
Additionally, all Blades - including core story Blades such as Pyra and Mythra - can be disengaged from the party and dispatched on Merc Missions. Merc Missions, if you've yet to experience them, are essentially off-screen quests which Blades can embark on. After a while, Blades return with the likes of Gold, EXP, Merc Points, and treasure.
New Game Plus mode will also add new skills to unlock in the Drivers' Affinity Charts, and make it possible to decrease a Driver's level at an inn, gaining experience according to that decreased level. "You can exchange this bonus experience for special items, including an item that lets you increase the number of accessory slots available to a Driver", explains Takahashi, "You can get these items by trading with the bards [...] on each Titan."
Last but not least, New Game Plus mode will unlock the Level 4 Special of "a certain Blade".
When a game is started using the New Game Plus option, certain data will be carried over: Driver levels, all equipment and Affinity Charts of Drivers and Blades, resonated Blades, items and gold, Merc group levels, and the development level of each city. You'll also still be able to view unlocked content in the Event Theater and Unique Monster defeat status. Quests, Heart-to-Hearts, Skip Travel points, and cleared Merc Missions will be reset.
Alongside the exclusive New Game Plus mode features above, Ver. 1.3.0 also brings a number of additions and quality of life updates to the core game. For instance, a new "Easy Mode" option will be introduced, and difficulty can be changed at any time. Additionally, it'll be possible to skip the rather long-winded Blade resonating cut-scenes.
There will also be new sorting options for Accessories, Aux Cores, and Blade lists, making item management a bit less of a chore, and it will be possible to lock certain Blades from the menu so that they can't be released. "This feature," says Takahashi, "will be useful in a variety of situations, such as if you get a 4-star Common Blade." There's no word yet on whether Ver 1.3.0 will introduce any much-needed performance tweaks, but fingers cross, eh?
As for those that purchased the Expansion Pass, the new update will bring a fourth set of "useful items" to tide them over until the new story content arrives. That will eventually include a new Blade and an accompanying quest, says Takahashi, plus new battle content. More details on those will be announced "after we've finalised the release schedule".
Takahashi also has one final tease: "You probably already noticed [the] symbol on the save screen that indicates that you've completed the game. We're thinking about giving a little gift to players who have this symbol at some point in the near future. Stay tuned!"