Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Blades Guide: unlocking new blades, upgrading blades, overdrive protocol and the best blades explained
The good news about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is that it has some of the most in-depth and complex RPG combat and battle system mechanics we've seen in an RPG this year - but that comes with all sorts of caveats and catches, of course. Absolutely key to the entire Xenoblade 2 combat experience is the blades system, where blades are unique beings that determine pretty much everything about each of your character's abilities - from their available skills right down to their character class.
On this page we're going to run down how the blade system works including how to unlock new blades, how to upgrade blades, how to use the Overdrive Protocol special item to switch blades between your characters, and why you should be careful with that item. We're even going to dive into our collective hundreds of hours logged on Xenoblade 2 while playing to write our Xenoblade 2 review to list off some of our picks for the best blades in the game. So - let's hop to it!
Need help with more than just Blades? We've got more Xenoblade Chronicles 2 guides to assist:
- Dual Audio: how to get Japanese Voices via download
- Battle System Guide: Combat strategy tips and tricks
- Classes Guide: All the roles and jobs available to party members
- Rare Blades Guide: All rare blades and where to get them
- Booster Guide: all about Bravery, Truth, Compassion and Justice Boosters
- Pouch Items and where to find Pouch Expansions
- Tiger Tiger Guide: how to play and upgrade Poppi
- Unlocking Vess via the Tranquility side quest
- Finding Confusion Ivy for the Concerned Carpenter Side Quest
- Snow-White Rhino Location for the Young Man's Prize Side Quest
Xenoblade 2 Blades: how to unlock new blades for battle
Once you get through the early tutorial areas of the game and you're set loose on Xenoblade Chronicles 2's world proper Rex will have Pyra as his primary blade. As the game progresses you'll gain the ability to equip more blades and switch them out, opening up a truly surprising amount of variety in combat. In order to actually equip more blades, however, you'll need to get more. The good news is that getting them is easy. The bad news is that to get the ones you want, you're going to need a little help from old lady luck herself...
In order to unlock new blades you'll simply need some Core Crystal items. These come in three primary variants like the Common Core Crystal, Rare Core Crystal and Legendary Core Crystal, plus the likes of the Beastly Core Crystal and Inherited Core Crystal and other story-specific items. When you've got some, all you need to do is open up the pause menu and then hit the blades menu, and once you're in there head into the Bond Blades menu.
In this menu you'll be able to select the character (also known as a driver) you want to bond the new blade to (and this is crucial, as we'll touch on in the Overdrive Protocol section shortly) and also select which type of core crystal you want to use to generate a new blade form. The character you choose to bond to is the only character that will be able to use that blade, so choose wisely.
Xenoblade 2's Blade system basically runs on what players of Japanese mobile RPG games will know of as a 'gacha', or to put it in more plain terms: it's a lottery. What blade you get is random, though it is influenced by booster items and most importantly of all influenced by your choice of core crystal. The more rare the core crystal, the higher the chance you'll get a more rare blade is. The very best blades in the game are the truly rare blades, and we've got a separate guide listing all the rare blades in Xenoblade 2 so you know exactly what you're hunting for.
When you get a blade you can check their stats, and the best blades will come with unique artwork as shown in the screenshot below. All blades have a 'crown rating' - consider the crowns like stars. A five-crown blade is some seriously good stuff, and that's what you're going to want to be shooting for for the most part.
Blade Roles and Elements in Xenoblade 2
AS well as the crown rating above, you'll also find a variety of other information attached to each Blade. Most of this is just basic RPG stat information that's crucial to Xenoblade 2's combat, but two key stats are actually the Blade Role and what Element the blade is linked to.
There are three roles, and the roles of the blades a character has equipped ultimately determines their character class. Be sure to check that link if you want to learn more about how blade roles determine your character class, as it's an important wrinkle to Xenoblade 2's design. The roles are as follows:
- Attacker (ATK) - focused on dealing out damage quickly.
- Healer (HLR) - offersi support to the friendly party in various forms.
- Tank (TNK) - soaks up damage in order to buy the attacker and healer time.
In addition there are eight elements, also represented by an icon on each Blade. These are pretty self-explanatory, and every element of course has an opposite number. The elements are:
Elements and Roles are entirely separate from each other, so you can have any combination of the two in any given blade. Some of them are quite rare, too - like Light Blades, where there are only a few of them in the game.
How to Upgrade Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2
It wouldn't be a proper RPG without some progression, and Xenoblade 2 is a seriously hardcore RPG. That means there's not only character progression for each of the driver characters in the game, but also unique progression for each of the blades. It looks like the screenshot above, and is accessed by hitting the Affinity Chart menu which is found in the Manage Blades section of the Blades menu. Pick a Blade and here you are - presented with this detailed screen.
The Affinity Chart features a variety of upgrades for each blade, though the tree is also fairly linear, unlocking in stages. You'll have to unlock every single option in one row of upgrades before you can then move on to the next row, but you can at least plan ahead by scanning around. Hovering over an option will tell you about what you're required to do to unlock that new affinity perk, and in many cases skills will unlock once you've used prerequisite skills a certain number of times.
Blades in the game vary greatly in strength, usefulness and utility (with the best in the game hands-down being the rare blades), though every single blade in the game can be made more viable by getting into the upgrades. If you really like a blade's design or something, don't be necessarily put off if they're not one of the absolute best blades in the game - you can make pretty much any blade viable if you make it part of a good combination of blades attached to a driver and purchase some upgrades along the way.
Overdrive Protocol: how to transfer a blade to a new driver
As we mentioned earlier, one of the key things about Xenoblade 2's Blade system is that when you open a core crystal you have to pick what character you want to bond the resulting new blade to. Here's the problem: once you bond a blade to a driver character, there's no easy way to change it. In fact, the only way to change it is with the Overdrive Protocol, but you're going to want to use these extremely carefully.
Basically, the Overdrive Protocol is a hugely rare item of loot you'll find out in the world of Xenoblade 2. If you find yourself unhappy with a blade and driver combination you can use the Overdrive Protocol item to switch a blade from one driver to another - but these items are one-time use, extremely rare, and as far as we can tell can't even be farmed. They're available in set locations throughout the world as super-rare loot.
As such, we recommend holding on to these items: don't use them lightly. In fact, you should generally speaking only use the Overdrive Protocol if you manage to get your hands on one of the powerful rare blades, the strongest and best blades in the game. Poppi can't be transferred for some story reasons, and it also should be noted that oevr time through the story Rex will eventually be able to equip almost any blade without him having to go through a formal transfer with the Overdrive Protocol - so keep these things in mind when deciding how to use these precious items.
Xenoblade 2 Best Blades: how to pick the best blade for each driver
Often in RPGs there's a clear, correct path that outstrips others. RPGs always give you a lot of choice but there's often an optimal way to play - but the thing about Xenoblade 2 is that even if that exists, it's difficult to reliably recommend that thanks to the manner in which you obtain blades. Any list of the best blades in the game can only be treated as a suggestion, since there's a strong chance you won't see them right away through the random draw of opening core crystals.
Another thing to seriously consider when thinking about which the best blades for you are is the blade elemental affinity and role, as mentioned above. Your character class has a big impact on your party make-up and how you'll fare in combat - you'll want a balanced, quality team of drivers, so don't necessarily crowbar in a blade with higher stats if it adjusts your character class to something less useful, and learn what driver combinations create certain character classes.
Two of our favorite Blades are Sheba, a Water element ATK blade that uses an Ether Cannon, and Boreas, a Wind Element HLR Blade that uses a Bitball.
Sheba - Lover of Beauty and Wealth
Acquisition: Sheba is acquired by spending 500,000 Gold for the Inherited Core Crystal over at Torigoth's shop Margia's Odds and Ends. It seems like a lot to put down, but you can eventually earn half of that asking price back. However, if you wanna level her up more, you're going to need to put even more gold down.
In order to level Sheba up, you don't need to gain Trust or send her on Merc Missions, instead, you need to put Gold into her piggy bank found at Argentum's Goldmouth Warehouse. Accessing the warehouse itself will cost you either 100,000 Gold to the Nopon standing out front, or a potentially more manageable Field Skill check if you hop into the cloud sea and head around the back.
While Sheba does need to earn the usual Trust to level her Lockpicking ability, you can boost her to Key Affinity Level 5 just by putting gold down. It's a lot of gold to be sure, but those that have salvaged regularly will know how to acquire gold fast. And this way, you can have a high level Blade before ever using her in battle.
Sheba is an ATK Blade with the ability to equip three Aux Core -- many Blades, even Rare ones, can only equip one or two. Water is a nice element to have because since Rex will often have Pyra and Morag will have Brighid putting on Fire Orbs on your enemies, it's nice to always make sure you can Burst that Orb down pretty easily. Sheba also gains a 30% damage boost for each female in battle with the skill Entitled Entourage, which is a unique and powerful trait indeed.
Boreas - The Hero of the Nopon
Acquisition: Unfortunately, Boreas is obtained through a Common, Rare, or Legendary Core Crystal. So it might be a while before you find him, but we've found that he seems to be one of the easiest Blades to summon. Luckily, he also seems to be one of the most useful. If you accidentally end up with him on a Driver where you're not sure he's going to be useful, he's a good candidate for an Overdrive Protocol to move him to Nia (or whoever you have healing, but why wouldn't that be Nia?).
Boreas is unique in that he levels up his Key Affinity, and most of his abilities in general, through the use of Pouch Items. Like Sheba, you can boost his main Affinity up through purchasing cheap food items, but you can earn a lot of his Blade Arts and other abilities as well. Earning Trust with Boreas will only level up his Fleet of Foot skill. He's also one of the few Rare Blades that has the Field skill Nopon Wisdom, which is useful for a few optional areas dotted around Alrest.
Boreas also comes with Salvaging Mastery, which is a great skill when it comes to earning gold via Salvaging (potentially for Sheba above.) Once this is up to level 2 or 3, keeping Boreas engaged during your salvaging expeditions will greatly increase your drops per canister to trade back in for gold in the cities. Boreas's battle skills include Tasty Snack, which heals your party of the defeat of every enemy (great for those numerous enemy groups) and Look Out! which increases your evasion rate when Affinity is maxed. Coupled with Mythra's Foresight, this means your healer can evade nearly everything if both Mythra's and Boreas's Affinities are max.