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DigitalFoundry: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Switch: Great When Docked But What About Portable Play?

Oct 27, 2017
15,698
#1

Article.

Ultimately, there's the sense that Xenoblade 2 is a game of two halves - it's a visually upgraded experience over its Wii U predecessor, and holds up pretty well when playing docked, but the handheld experience just doesn't hold up to anything like the same standard. The game is impressive overall, but compared to the pristine works created by Nintendo itself this year, Xenoblade 2 feels like a step down in many ways. It looks and runs worse than Zelda, that's for sure, while lacking some of the more advanced rendering features. That said, the game itself is great fun - the characters are charming, the world is engaging and the soundtrack is superb. It may be rough around the edges, and we're not entirely sure that the portable mode holds up well at all, but it's still an excellent RPG for Switch users that's well worth checking out.
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/d...-chronicles-2-push-switch-mobile-mode-too-far

It's a big one with many different points, so here is an extensive summary:

Resolution:
Docked:
- 720p throughout the game, with a sophisticated TAA solution that makes it looks cleaner but slightly blurrier;

Undocked:
- Dynamic resolution, very low, down to 368p at its lowest and up to 552p;
- Worst image quality in a Switch game in portable mode;

General points on visuals:
- Still a beautiful game;
- per-object motion blur;
- Great specular highlights;
- Very good cloud simulation, with proper volume;
- Screen space reflections for water reflections, an improvement from XBCX's cube maps;
- Improved lighting from XBCX, with a simulated ambient lighting feature;
- High foliage density;
- Good draw distance, though still visible (much better than XBCX);
- Realistic light diffusion and reflections;
- Good ambient occlusion;
- Shadows are static - they do not change depending on time of day;
- Collision detection is much better than XBCX;
- Side characters can look slightly iffy.

Points on frame rate:
- Performance is generally 30 fps, however;
- Memory issue/bug causes problems for frame rate when leaving a certain location and returning to it;
- It could be a memory streaming limitation, but the speed of the storage medium did not influence the results, so likely a bug;
- Other than that, mostly 30 fps;
- handheld feels similar to docked in terms of frame rate.


Final conclusion:
- A very nice looking game, even with flaws;
- Feels somewhat unrefined from a technical standpoint.
 
Last edited:
Oct 25, 2017
3,215
#4
Really curious what the conclusion is about the sharpening filter, because lord knows it looks awful in the screenshots.

Edit: Xenoblade Cross... You disappoint me John! :(
 
Oct 28, 2017
1,540
ATX
#5
Yeah that sounds accurate. I never watch or care about these DF videos but even I can tell that this game looks.bad on portable.

But I also don't care, because the game itself is FUN.
 

TC13

The Fallen
Oct 26, 2017
4,029
#6
"Unrefined" is the best word to call it. Really disappointed by the resolution coming off of Chronicles X, couldn't they have pushed a bit more in handheld mode to ensure a locked 540p for example? That would be proportional with the GPU clocks too. It doesn't look any more advanced visually and mechanically than Zelda, maybe the short development time hindered its graphical outlook. Performance is also a big let down, those bugs are really odd. Here's hoping a patch will come soon to address these issues, but I'm not holding my breath for it.
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,554
#7
Weird shake up from BOTW at launch. I imagine this could’ve benefited from some more polish but the docked mode looks pretty snazzy.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,233
#12
I think part of what makes it look so bad is the weird sharpening filter the game seems to have, even when docked although it's not as noticeable, not sure if it's the games form of AA or something but it makes the game look super compressed when running in handheld mode.
 

Kuni

Member
Oct 27, 2017
167
#13
Aww man. 720p docked is quite the disappointment. Ninty need to try and stay as close to full HD as possible when docked.

368p undocked is just crazy low... hope Ninty avoid that in the future.

Hope Monolith can patch this and get the resolution up.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,602
#16
I'm only doing sidequests on portable mode. Honestly, sub 480p is unacceptable to me. They need to remove the sharpening filter asap. Also, it looks good docked not "great". Regardless, the game is enjoyable.
 
Oct 30, 2017
259
#18
I haven’t started this yet. I may wait for a patch to start playing. I wanted to play this mainly portable as rpgs can be a bore to watch for my family.
 

Jbourne

Banned
Member
Oct 31, 2017
3,497
#21
So undocked can go as low as 368p. Not surprising at all. It really looks bad when playing undocked. Feels like I'm playing a different game from the footage I watched before deciding to pick it up.
 
Oct 25, 2017
11,496
#23
It's a good thing the game is so good that I'm willing to overlook it's shortcomings because technically it's a mess. I'm wondering if Monolith weren't rushed for release, many of these elements seem like they could be improved with a patch.
 
Oct 27, 2017
8,442
#24
I def. expect some performance updates in the near future - they wanted to hit the December release date but we already saw from the past builds what difference just a couple more months did to the game.

I would be surprised if they are done with optimizing.
 

TC13

The Fallen
Oct 26, 2017
4,029
#25
Looks pretty bad docked too. 720p with TAA



I'm good on that, I'll wait for the Switch Pro.
Or for Monolith to fix it, I honestly don't think it's a problem with the hardware as it is one with the engine. We've seen games look much better and perform more stably than this.
 

Instro

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,202
#26
Sounds like they found a serious performance bug during their tests as well. It will be interesting to see if they release some patches to fix performance in general, or more particularly undocked mode. At least it actually holds 720p in docked, even that is a bit of a bummer. Rushed release, or maybe building off the back of the XCX engine caused issues? Maybe both?
 

mjc

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
2,760
#32
I'm inclined to say it's something Monolithsoft could fix, as we've seen the Switch manage stuff like BotW with relative ease.
 
Oct 29, 2017
9,938
#33
Definitely a rushed release, but hey, Nintendo proved all you naysayers wrong and got it out in 2017!

I still have yet to open my copy, but I am definitely only going play this docked. Hopefully a patch comes, but I'm not going to hold out hope. Stinks for you handheld only folks
 

Papaya

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
1,815
California
#34
The game looks great IMO. Not the best, but good, still. Rushed release is apparent though. Monolith is pretty big, about 150 people, and two years is a long time for a product that sells as much as Xenoblade has, historically.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,997
#36
The frame rate issues almost sound like a memory leak. That, plus the sharpening, bad TAAC and ridiculously low resolution in handheld make this a very unappealing proposition for handheld only players like myself.
 

TC13

The Fallen
Oct 26, 2017
4,029
#39
Sounds like they found a serious performance bug during their tests as well. It will be interesting to see if they release some patches to fix performance in general, or more particularly undocked mode. At least it actually holds 720p in docked, even that is a bit of a bummer. Rushed release, or maybe building off the back of the XCX engine caused issues? Maybe both?
That's what I'm hoping too, seems like they rushed it out as a 2017 release.
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,236
The Netherlands
#40
It's a big one with many different points, so here is an extensive summary:

Resolution:
Docked:
- 720p, with a sophisticated TAA solution that makes it looks cleaner but slightly blurrier;

Undocked:
- Dynamic resolution, very low, down to 368p at its lowest and up to 552p;
- Worst image quality in a Switch game in portable mode;

General points on visuals:
- Still a beautiful game;
- per-object motion blur;
- Great specular highlights;
- Very good cloud simulation, with proper volume;
- Screen space reflections for water reflections, an improvement from XBCX's cube maps;
- Improved lighting from XBCX, with a simulated ambient lighting feature;
- High foliage density;
- Good draw distance, though still visible (much better than XBCX);
- Realistic light diffusion and reflections;
- Good ambient occlusion;
- Shadows are static - they do not change depending on time of day;
- Collision detection is much better than XBCX;
- Side characters can look slightly iffy.

Points on frame rate:
- Performance is generally 30 fps, however;
- Memory issue/bug causes problems for frame rate when leaving a certain location and returning to it;
- It could be a memory streaming limitation, but the speed of the storage medium did not influence the results, so likely a bug;
- Other than that, mostly 30 fps;
- handheld feels similar to docked in terms of frame rate.


Final conclusion:
- A very nice looking game, even with flaws;
- Feels somewhat unrefined from a technical standpoint.
 
Last edited:
Oct 27, 2017
456
#41
Sounds like they found a serious performance bug during their tests as well. It will be interesting to see if they release some patches to fix performance in general, or more particularly undocked mode. At least it actually holds 720p in docked, even that is a bit of a bummer. Rushed release, or maybe building off the back of the XCX engine caused issues? Maybe both?
That would definitely explain why my framerate suddenly tanked when I got to Chapter 3.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,344
#42
I'm enjoying the game a lot but this is by far the largest gap between a docked versus undocked Switch game that I've personally experienced. Typically the differences are minor, but in Xenoblade 2 they are jarring. Of course I made the mistake of trying to get the full experience of the game by starting it docked and switching to undocked, which could explain why it was shocking to me. I also didn't pay too much attention to the discussions about it being sub-native undocked, as that's not typically a large issue for me.
 
Oct 25, 2017
16,886
#43
I knew the game was below vita level, but I thought it was as low as 480p. this game needs a patch badly. especially the memory issue
 

Cinemikel

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,433
#46
I feel it could have been better if delayed to like February for an extra 2-3 month polish

Hopefully Monolith take their time next time. Because sometimes this game looks really beautiful and a clear step up, and other times it looks the same as X. I'm wondering if because of how much they really wrung the best out of Wii U with the engine, transferring over the engine to Switch caused issues because it was optimized for Wii U architecture?
 

Stuart

Banned
Member
Oct 30, 2017
785
#48
Xenoblade 2 looks inferior to Xenoblade X to me. I know it's difficult to compare due to the artstyle, but that's my feeling.

Digital Foundry make too many apologies at their conclusion for the poor performance, John especially seems to excuse technical deficiencies because he likes Nintendo games.