Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s combat system is, in a word, hectic. You’ve got six characters, each with three Arts, one Talent Art, and at least one Fusion Art (eventually) all attacking automatically while also trying to string together combos to inflict statuses on enemies. Also, it’s a bit of a rhythm game as you try to cancel attacks into Arts. It’s a whole lot to try to manage.
In this Xenoblade Chronicles 3 combat guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of combat, talk a bit about Arts, Talent Arts, and Fusion Arts and how to cancel them all into a series of attacks, and then talk about combos.
A quick note: Additions to the combat system arrive slowly over the course of the game. For example, you won’t have Talent Arts at the beginning of the game, and Fusion Arts will show up even later. We’ll including them all here because the system builds on itself from the basics up until it becomes, frankly, really confusing.
Aggro and Positioning
Let’s start with the basics. The arced, glowing lines show who the baddies you’re fighting are focused on — this is called aggro. You gain aggro (from an enemy) by hitting it with strong attacks or healing allies. A blue line means the enemy is attacking a tank-type character who is well-suited to taking the damage. A red line indicates they’re pointed at a someone less able to deal with the attacks.
Tactically, aggro determines which way the enemy is facing. This matters because certain Arts rely on your location relative to the enemy you’re attacking — your positioning. For example, Noah’s Edge Thrust Art deals extra damage when attacking from behind. You can see your current position relative to the enemy you’re attacking as an arrow above the Arts icons.
Arts, Talent Arts, and Fusion Arts
By default, every one of your characters will auto-attack every few seconds whenever you’re in range of an enemy (you’ll see a little sword symbol with an arrow above and a little right of the Arts icons). That’s just your basic attack, though, and doesn’t deal much damage.
- Arts are special attacks that are stronger than auto-attacks and are mapped to the B, X, and Y buttons. They need to recharge between uses — Noah, Eunie, and Lanz’s Arts recharge over time, while Mio, Taion, and Sena’s Arts recharge as they perform auto-attacks.
- Talent Arts are stronger Arts and is mapped to the A button. The Talent Art has a recharge as well, but it refills as the character performs “role actions” — basically, doing what the class is good at. This is as simple as Healers healing, Attackers attacking, and Defenders defending.
- Fusion Arts come a little later in the game. These are Class Arts — Arts of the class you’re currently playing — combined (fused) with Master Arts — Arts of classes you’ve ranked up in.
Arts, Talent Arts, and Fusion Arts are strong on their own, but they become even better when you cancel them. Which brings us to …
You can trigger an Art or a Talent Art at any time, but the most efficient and quickest way to deal damage is by canceling one attack into the next. Canceling is, frankly, a misleading name. If you trigger the next move just as a previous move hits, you’ll cancel it — meaning the attack is sped up and deals damage faster.
- Auto-attacks can be canceled into Arts.
- Arts can be canceled into Talent Arts.
- Arts can also be canceled into Fusion Arts.
- Fusion Arts can be canceled into Arts or other Fusion Arts.
What this means is that, once your various Arts have (re)charged, you can string them together into a powerful series of attacks.
Combos are a series of Arts (from different characters) that stack their status effects — and only Arts that inflict status effects can be used in a combo. The basic example is Noah’s Side Break Art (that relies on his position) and inflicts the Break condition followed by Lanz’s Bull Rush that inflicts Topple. That combo will knock the enemy down for a time. How long each effect is in … er … effect is indicated by a timer to the left of the enemy’s health bar.
Since you’re only ever in control of one character at a time, you’ll need to tell the other two (and, later, five) what to do. Holding down the ZL button (the left trigger) to pull up the tactics menu. Hitting the various directions on the D-pad will change how everyone else fights.
- Focus Attacks (up on the D-pad) means all party members will attack the enemy the controlled character is fighting.
- Follow Leader and Disperse (down on the D-pad) determines how your allies will position themselves around the enemy.
- Any Combo, Smash Combo, and Burst Combo (left on the D-pad) determine which combos your characters will attempt to complete. Smash Combos focus on dealing damage, while Burst Combos emphasize effects.