Creating a Tier List around the party members of Xenoblade Chronicles is a particularly difficult thing. We have already written about the 5 that we think are the best in the game, but where do you put the break points? Where do you separate those considered the absolute best of the best, and those that are just slightly awesome? In reality, every character would have their own tier because well, they’re all pretty damned different, but tier lists are all about segmenting characters into categories wherever possible and if we’re honest we kind of like the challenge, so let’s get into it shall we?
We’ll level with you here: Deciding the break point between the bottom of the Elite Tier and Great Tier was by far the hardest portion of writing this Tier List. No doubt you will have noticed the lack of a certain character here, and you’re probably reaching for your nearest keyboard to tell us just how wrong we are, but bear with us. We try to be as fair as possible with these tier lists and as you might expect they’re determined by our own playing experience, but we take into account everything possible, including all round power, availability and utility. Still, try not to get too angry, we’ll justify why a certain seventh isn’t there.
Our first choice is what we’ve grown to consider a barometer for Xenoblade Chronicles players: Melia and Riki. Once, many moons ago, we were fresh faced players with no experience, convinced that Shulk’s ability that makes the sword temporarily huge was the best thing in the world. Since then we have learned much, and we’ve found that with experience comes appreciation of both Melia and Riki. They are fantastic characters, capable of doing a tremendous amounts of damage, providing almost all of the utility you could need and once they’ve scaled up their damage is absolutely fantastic. As the game progresses you’ll find that relying entirely on physical attacks will often have you come unstuck, yet the Ether users just keep blasting away. We’ve learned to love these two; given them some love and you’ll find that they outclass pretty much anybody else.
The only real exception to this is Dunban, who manages to split the two with a combination of incredible dodge tanking ability and high damage options. His different Auras mean that he can adapt to any situation and those damage options – group and single target – mean that he’ll generate more aggro than any other option. Availability is good too, since he joins after approximately 20% of the game, and the scaling on some of his abilities mean that his numbers remain relevant for the entirety of it.
For the Great Tier we’ll start with two of our choices, since we expect that the third will need a little more explaining. It’s relatively easy to justify Reyn; being a tanking character and comparing rather unfavourably to Dunban, you can see why we consider him slightly lower down. It’s not that he’s a bad tank, in fact we’ve used him in every section of the game and found him to perform well, but Dunban edges him out in damage and indeed post game content, where a dodge tank is just plain better than a face tank. Again, he’s a very good performer and if anything beats Dunban in group damage, but it’s not quite enough to tip the scales in his favour.
Shulks up next, and we expect that quite a few of you might consider him slightly higher up than we have. It’s understandable, after all he does some excellent damage and has a very good amount of utility in general. In this regard it’s not Shulk that is the problem, but rather the necessity of his abilities. Of course Monado Enchant is absolutely necessary in some portions of the game, but other than this he isn’t specifically required. It takes fully letting go of Shulk to truly appreciate other party members, and once you do a realisation occurs; Armour and Speed were nice in the first quarter of the game, but a little party optimisation removes their requirement. He’s powerful of course, and Monado Purge will push him back up the list in the late game, but diminishing physical effectiveness levels him out in the Great Tier for us.
Alright, to the controversial choice then: Fiora. How could we position such a powerful character so low down our list? Well it’s a combination of quite a few things if we’re honest. Firstly she’s super unavailable, only joining your team in the final third of the game, and whilst she is very powerful once she does so, you’ve gotten a great deal more use out of the others before then. Secondly, whilst she can do massive amounts of physical damage, you’ll have to go to great lengths to unlock her skill tree that really makes it pop. Oh sure, others have a similar requirement, but just try to convince us that their quests are this awkward. Finally, despite not wanting to sound like a broken record, physical attacks really do diminish in usefulness in the late game… Which is kind of when she joins. Fiora is super powerful, capable of huge auto attack damage and great fun to play, but when we consider everything above, we can’t possibly put her higher.
Almost as difficult of a decision as the Elite to Great Tier split was to put Sharla in her own tier. Our resident dedicated healer joins the troop near the start of the game, provides tremendous amounts of healing for a short amount of time and then, at least in our case, falls off rather quickly. It’s not that she’s bad at her role, after all no other character can restore health quite like her, it’s just that well… That’s all she really does. Every other character brings a lot more to the table, be it tanking, physical damage, ether damage and indeed heals of their own, all of which ends up overshadowing our medic girl. It’s possible to squeeze a damage build out of her, but it’s hindered by her terrible auto attack animations. You could bring her for her crowd control abilities which are very good, but Melia, Riki and even Fiora can do the same whilst providing much, much more to the team. It’s a little sad, and we should note that you can absolutely use her for the entirety of the game and have no issue, but when compared to the others on this list she doesn’t quite match up.
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