Grabbing the right party members makes all the difference in Xenoblade Chronicles. The game is build around combining team members to overcome increasingly difficult challenges, often requiring very specific abilities only available to select members, making it all the more crucial for the player to pick the right members. We’ve already written about your party choices, even recommending a few team builds, but what if you just want to consider which of your choices are the absolute best of the best? Perhaps there is an author out there who has put thousands of hours into all three releases of the game, from which you’d like to glean some vital information about party members…
Obligatory note: This list contains spoilers, and one rather large spoiler in particular, so if you have not played through the game at least up to events at Mechonis Core, you may want to come back later. Or, you know, just close your eyes and scroll really, really quickly to read the spoiler free top 3.
Shock and awe! How can the protagonist be this low down on a best party member list? Surely he qualifies higher up than this by sheer dote of having the big glowing god weapon? Well listen, young us playing the original on the Wii would have probably agreed with you, but with age (and thousands of hours) we have matured and our opinions have changed, mainly because we’ve taken the opportunity to take control of the others just as much as him. This in no way means that Shulk is a bad party member, in fact we’d say that every single option in this article is a great party member option, just that he pales in comparison to the others, at least in our opinion.
We’ll start with the good news; Shulk is very good at dealing big chunks of physical damage, he possesses some useful parts of the Topple combination and his Monado Arts are very powerful. Throughout the first third of the game he is a necessary part of your team and he’ll perform very well in the role. Our issue with him is that once you progress into the mid game you’ll find that any number of party combinations will do exactly what he does and more. Monado Speed and Armour are always useful, and he is a very reliable Purge option in the late game, but he’ll gradually get overshadowed by party member options that just plain do more. Ether damage becomes more and more relevant, something he clearly lacks, and his unique Monado Arts while powerful, aren’t strictly required any more. Not to mention his token heal is nowhere near powerful enough, and we challenge any player not to get bored of spamming Slit Edge into Back Slash forever and ever.
- Great physical damage.
- Useful portions of the Topple combination.
- Monado Arts are very powerful.
- Probably the best Purge option throughout the game.
- Obviously has no issue with availability – he’s with you throughout, apart from a tiny mid game section.
No doubt some of you will have continued to read despite our spoiler warning, and to those we should say that yes, this is a spoiler, but if you think that this is all that Xenoblade Chronicles has to offer then you’re sorely mistaken. Play it, explore it, love it. It’s a vast game with huge amounts of content and plenty of story line twists outside of our lost little lady here.
Much like our first choice this one might raise a few eyebrows, though probably for different reasons. Just like the new players seeing Shulk as the absolute best, most seasoned players would argue that Fiora represents peak performance. It’s easy to see why of course, she is capable of pushing out absolutely incredible amounts of physical damage with her auto attacks, to the point where she easily out-does any other team member for physical numbers. You’ll see no arguments coming from us; Fiora cannot be beaten for pure physical damage output, especially in the late game.
So why isn’t she higher up the list? It mainly comes down to two things; availability and time investment. For clear story reasons she’s not available for a very large portion of the game, arguably more than half, and as such it’s very difficult to recommend her higher up. Additionally, when you do finally get your hands on her, you’ll need to invest some time unlocking her additional skill trees to truly maximise her damage. Again, we’re not going to argue that she’s a fantastic party member, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that others can do the job just as well sooner and for less effort.
- Absolutely massive physical damage, the highest single target option in the late game.
- Legitimate alternative tanking option.
- Excellent crowd control options.
- Limited availability. You’re going to have to play through 50%+ of the game before getting your hands on the new improved version of her.
We’re constantly shocked with just how often our little Heropon is ignored in these ‘best of’ lists. Forums are replete with people singing the praises of other characters, yet so few players are willing to put in the time to learn just how good this little chap can be. In fact, we’re pretty sure that the only character we see mentioned less is Sharla. Such things are an absolute travesty to us – yes we understand that his personality can grate a little, when he initially joins the team some of his arts might be a little underwhelming and it’s not immediately apparent what role he should fill, but we must implore you to give him a chance! With a little TLC through the early to mid game, and a few levels given to some of his key arts, he turns into a whirling ball of opponent slaying, team supporting fury!
The trick here is to focus him on two things; Ether damage and healing. Happily both of these can be boosted with the same statistic (Ether), so it’s quite easy to load him up with gems and a strong weapon to maximise these. Once focused on these two things, and having levelled up his healing art a little, he’ll turn into a one stop shop for everything Ether related. Spells like Burninate will demolish groups of enemies in very short order, and his heal will reach a very short cool down once levelled up, meaning he can take care of party healing on his own. There are other builds of course, but it’s this method that pushes him so high on our list – no other character can provide both of these benefits to the level that Riki can.
- Excellent Ether damage.
- Incredible at quickly raising party gauge.
- Good physical damage options.
- Great utility with Topple combo segments.
- Fantastic healing once levelled.
- Good availability, joining approximately one third of the way through the game.
Our penultimate position is held by the perennial voice of reason within the team: Dunban. The old man and hero of Sword Valley is every bit as good as he is in the introduction, even without the Monado. He’ll join you just after the events of the Ether Mine, and you’re initially likely to ask the same question that we did: Does this guy do damage or tank? Well the best answer would be to say both, though as the game progresses he’ll likely be overshadowed in the former and shine in the latter.
So why is he second on our list? Well firstly, whilst you could argue that Reyn is better at dealing with vast groups of enemies, Dunban certainly isn’t bad and he is the absolute king of single target tanking thanks to his ability to dodge, both via arts and through a high Agility stat. He will also do more damage than Reyn, even applying both a strength and defence debuff all at once, and he has access to a great deal of topple combo options. Digging deeper however, will reveal that almost all of his power revolves around his Aura options; having the ability to massively boost either Strength, Dodge and Haste means he can adapt to almost any situation whenever he needs to.
- Excellent physical damage, with the easiest access to defence down debuff.
- By far the best single target tank, the defacto super boss option.
- Good Topple combo options, albeit unusual in their activation.
- High Agility helps with dodge and accuracy.
- Good availability, joining approximately 25% of the way through the game.
Attempting to justify having chosen Melia for our absolute best party member is going to be interesting. This is mainly because it comes down to the feeling of controlling her, which is completely different to any other party member. Where most have a very specific set of abilities that you use depending on the situation, all of which are one button press away, Melia requires more preparation in the form of spell rotations; if you press the right buttons in the right combination, you’ll unlock the ability to deal incredible amounts of damage to any target. That last bit is key too, because after a certain point in the game your path will be littered with a variety of enemies that are frequently immune to physical damage, and such things are trivial to the powerful pocket mage.
Two things then, make Melia our absolute favourite party member. Firstly, controlling her is an absolute joy and makes you feel like an epic spell caster! This does take a bit of adjusting to, mainly because every other member is relatively simple in comparison, but once you do there is nothing quite like it. Second to this, though ultimately more important, is the absolutely insane levels of Ether damage that this girl is capable of putting out. Where other members are only used to seeing huge numbers during a stacked combo, Melia will frequently put out 5 figures of damage in one hit. Things only get more ridiculous in the late game too – we’ve had her damage over time effects ticking for more than 10k per tick, and her lightning bolts hit for 20k+, non crit. This is all fine, you’re no doubt saying, but doesn’t Fiora do this too? To answer we must emphasise two things; Melia can do huge damage to groups of enemies, something Fiora and even Shulk will struggle to keep up with, and once again this is Ether damage, which little to nothing is immune to!
- Capable of absolutely massive Ether damage. No really, it’s huge.
- Plenty of utility arts available, including crowd control and healing.
- Can purge enemies.
- Can contribute to the Topple combo.
- Good availability, joining approximately a third of the way through the game.
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