Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Combat Guide – Beginner Tips

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It goes without saying that JRPG battle mechanics range from the simplicity of traditional turn-based options to the remarkably complex features of modern day systems. While most titles admirably guide the player through a laundry list of beginning tutorials, perhaps no other game features a more intricate approach to battles than Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The game’s tutorial system is also spread throughout multiple chapters and then does not fully conclude until the latter chapters. To make matters worse, the game adopts a confusing combination of action and turn-based mechanics. But do not despair. The staff at GamingROI has broken down the entire Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat system into easily digestible pieces. Each segment is a building block for the next so be sure to follow along closely. Enjoy!

Auto Attacks & Affinity

While many action-RPGs feature an auto-attack mechanic, the way that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 employs this combat element is unique. Auto attacks are the key components for many other techniques on this list. However, affinity also plays a vital role from the start.

  • Auto-Attacks. When standing still, each Driver automatically performs a series of three auto attacks, which gradually increase in power. After the third auto attack is complete, the driver will begin recycling through the same three attacks. Moving, performing an art or switching blades will restart the three-attack cycle. As attacks connect, the arts gauges on the right-hand side of the screen slowly fill. More on that in a moment.
  • Affinity. The connection between the Driver and Blade is depicted by a thin blue or gold line. A weak affinity level is portrayed by the thin blue line; whereas, maximum affinity is illustrated by a solid gold line. While this appears on the surface to be merely cosmetic, the affinity level has many benefits. Maximum affinity fills the arts gauge faster, makes specials more powerful, and increases the Driver’s movement speed. But to achieve max affinity, the Driver must remain connected to the Blade for a set amount of time. Standing closer to the Blade during battle decreases this time while moving too far away can break the bond completely. Switching Blades also resets the affinity level.

Arts & Art Cancels

Arts are nothing more than special attacks with a refill gauge. Located on the lower right-hand portion of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat screen, arts are the three triangles that fill with a red-lined gauge. As previously stated, auto attacks fill the red-lined arts gauge. When fully charged, players can unleash these powerful attacks that grant stat buffs, debuffs, shield and healing options. Certain arts provide the Driver with a stat boost while others benefit the Blade. Visit the sub-menu option to learn more about the status effects. Finally, arts are the sole means of filling the special meter, which allows Blades to perform an even more powerful attacks. More on that shortly.

Lastly, the key to filling the arts gauge is to perform an “auto-attack cancel.” An auto-attack cancel is nothing more than a perfectly timed interruption of a Driver’s auto-attack. As the Driver finishes one of the three auto-attack cycles, players can perform an art that will not only increase damage but also slightly recharge the same art. Think of this mechanic as a “timed-hit” in an action-RPG. A perfectly timed art is depicted by a slight metallic “ping” and a blue glow that encompasses the Driver.

Driver Combos

Are you with us so far? Because it is about to get even more tricky. Not only do Drivers have their own set of combos but so do Blades. But let’s start with the easier of the two: Driver Combos.

Certain arts have unique effects on enemies. While most offer stat buffs and debuffs, a select few are components of Driver Combos. The individual Blade’s weapon type determines the available arts, which in turn establishes the available elements of Driver Combos. There are four sequential parts of this chain of attacks; therefore, it is imperative that players equip at least one blade with an art of each component to the party of three Drivers. The Driver AI of party members will automatically initiate elements of Driver combinations, if available. Beware though: there is a limited amount of time where players can execute the combination. Check the game’s sub-menu for more information on arts. Here are the following stages of Driver Combos in order:

  • Stage 1 – Break. This status effect lasts for 10 seconds and has no additional impacts.
  • Stage 2 – Topple. This status effect lasts for 5 seconds and increases party damage by 25%.
  • Stage 3 – Launch. While this effect only lasts for 5 seconds, it increases party damage by 50%.
  • Stage 4 – Smash. Upon completing the final stage of a Driver Combo, the game rewards players handsomely: heavy initial damage as well as an enduring 50% attack boost.

Blade Specials & Combos

Remember how we mentioned that Blade arts fill a special meter? Well, that meter just so happens to be the Blade Special meter. Located on the right-hand side of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat screen, this gauge is the “first-base” diamond in the arts meter. After unleashing a number of Blade arts, players have the option of pressing the “A” button to perform a Blade Special. Like Blade Combos, these powerful attacks also have four stages, as depicted by Roman numerals. Each special stage requires that players use more arts to fill the gauge. For example, a level II Blade Special means that a player must fill the Blade Special gauge twice. Which leads us to the coup de grace: Blade Combos.

Blade Combos are a series of Level I, Level II, and Level III Blade Specials that pack a mighty punch. But here is the kicker: not only must players perform the correct Blade Special “level” but they must also employ a Blade with the correct element type. For example, if Pyra uses a Level I fire special, the next Blade Special must be a Level II in order to continue the combination. Sound confusing? Because it should. Blade Combos are by far the most complex element of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat system.

But successfully performing a Blade Combo has many benefits, which include Elemental Orbs and Seals. More on the former shortly. Seals are permanent debuffs that can dramatically alter the outcome of a battle. Check the image below for the list and combination of Seals. Finally, to pull off the maximum amount of Blade Combos, players must pay careful attention to the Blade’s element type when forming a party.

Fusion Combo & Joint Combo Finish

Is your brain hurting a little? Because ours sure is. But we are almost there. Now all we have to do is simply put the Driver and Blade Combos together. Doing so results in a Fusion Combo with the potential for a Joint Combo Finish.

Fusion Combos are nothing more than when a player performs a stage of a Driver Combo when a Blade Combo stage is activated or vice versa. For example, if Rex performs the Topple Driver Combo while a Blade Combo Level I is active, the Fusion Combo screen will display. Fusion Combos not only increases the damage of the attack but it also extends the combo timer and quickly fills the party’s chain attack gauge. But let us make this simple. Always alter between Blade and Driver combinations in battle. Have a Level II Blade Combo active? Start a Driver Combo. This strategy will ensure that players maximize damage and fill the chain attack gauge quickly.

Finally, a Joint Combo Finisher is nothing more than defeating an enemy with a Driver Combo when a Blade Combo stage is active or vice versa. This mechanic also rewards the player with additional experience points so it is well worth the effort.

Chain Attacks & Elemental Burst

We have come so far, and we are almost complete. This is the second-to-last step in the convoluted Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat system: Chain Attacks and Elemental Bursts. Here we go.

Chain attacks are nothing more than a series of three uninterrupted Blade Arts that players can perform once they party’s chain attack gauge is full. Located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, the chain attack gauge consists of three segments. As previously stated, performing Blade arts and various combos fills this gauge. Once full, players can press the “+” button to unleash a chain attack. Upon doing so, each Driver takes a turn performing an uninterrupted Blade art.

Which leads us to Elemental Bursts. Remember when we explained that a Blade Combo results in an Elemental Orb? Well, now is when that “element” becomes important. With zero orbs activated, a chain attack will result in only three Blade Art attacks. However, breaking Elemental Orbs can extend a chain attack. To break an Elemental Orb, players must attack said orb three times. But that can be reduced by using an art of the opposite element. For example, suppose that a Blade Combo produces a fire Elemental Orb. By initiating a chain attack and using a Water Art, the fire Elemental Orb will burst in just two turns. Each time a player breaks an Elemental Orb, the chain is extended by one round, and the Blade Arts are filled by half. Breaking orbs has profound impacts, which is why we are giving the full burst its own section.

Full Elemental Burst

Our journey is nearly complete. The final piece of this crazy puzzle is upon us: a Full Elemental Burst. Upon entering a chain attack, players must have at least five Elemental Orbs activated to achieve a Full Elemental Burst. With each sequential breakage, Elemental Orbs increases the chain attack’s damage ratio:

  • One Orb = 1,000% damage increase
  • Two Orbs = 1,500% damage increase
  • Three Orbs = 3,000% damage increase
  • Four Orbs = 5,500% damage increase

Upon breaking the fifth orb, the entire party will perform a Full Elemental Burst in which each party member and assigned Blades will initiative all of their assigend arts. The final attack in this sequence is assigned player’s Blade Special Level IV.

To put the power of the mechanic into context, the game’s most challenging post-game super bosses will absorb over 50% total damage from a successfully executed Full Elemental Burst. Pretty powerful stuff.


Phew. That felt like quite a lengthy explanation. But we want to know what you think. Did you have a hard time with the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat system? While the story is enjoyable, did the battle mechanics turn you off to the rest of the game? Let us know in the comments below or the social media links on the right.

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One comment

  • Fantastic explanation, easy and understandable, and most of all, spoiler free. I can now enjoy the game at its fullest. Thank you !

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