The battle system within Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is considerably complex. Even 16 hours into the game, you’ll still find tutorial screens explaining how to use advanced techniques within the game. Chain attacks are a powerful tool in your arsenal, first encountered and explained when facing Akhos for the first time. However, the tutorial is fast paced and it can be difficult to understand, especially since it skips ahead by giving you a “free elemental orb” – and you’re left wondering – what does that even mean? Look no further for here is a brief tutorial about all you need to know about using a chain attack in Xenoblade.
A huge thank you to a few users over at Reddit for contributing to this article with their suggestions of things to add and corrections of some of the terminology. In particular, a thank you to: sdw4527 (about HP of orbs), Suasive2 (for many different tips throughout this article), and Lockdown106 (for correcting terminology).
What is a Chain Attack?
Your party gauge is the bar on the top left hand corner of the screen that fills up gradually during battle. You would already know by now that it has three bars inside it, and that when you revive a character, one of these bars is used up. However, this is not the only thing the party gauge is useful for. When it is completely filled up, you can use a ridiculously powerful move called a chain attack, which allows every one of your characters a chance to use a special move on your targeted opponent. Each of your characters takes turns to bash up your targeted opponent. To trigger the chain attack, wait till your party gauge is filled up to the max, and then press the + button on your controller. If you time your actions right – say, pressing B at the right time – then the chain attack will continue on. You also become invincible during a chain attack so you can use it in an emergency to interrupt a boss during their big attack. After the attack finishes, your party’s HP is also restored. Last but not least, you get a higher drop rate of items for killing an enemy with a chain attack .
But what is this “elemental orb” thing?
One of the ways to deal a huge amount of damage to your opponent is to inflict an elemental orb on them, then to use a special move of the opposite type on them during your chain attack. This can be explained better with an example:
1. Inflicting an elemental orb on your opponent
To “give” your opponent an elemental orb, you need to use the blade combo to combo your special move attacks – let’s say, using Rex’s I attack with Fire, then Nia’s II attack with Water, and then with Rex’s III attack with another Fire move. In this particular instance, this launches the Steam Explosion move, which itself deals a lot of damage – but also inflicts an elemental orb of Fire type on your opponent.
You can find a more detailed guide on how to perform Blade Combos here.
2. Bursting the elemental orb during a chain attack
When your party gauge is ready, press + to use your Chain Attack. You will see underneath your opponent’s HP bar that there is a Red Fire Orb – this is the elemental orb that you just gave them! When it comes to Nia’s turn, use Dromarch’s special move (who is a water type – the opposite of Fire), and this elemental can will burst – inflicting massage damage in the chain attack. Not only this, but this allows you to combo so that you get to use everyone’s special move again in a second round? Each orb has three “HP”. That is, every orb needs to be hit 3 times in order to be burst. However, using an element of the opposite type will count as 2 hits. So in other words, if you have a Water Orb and you hit it with a Fire (2 damage) and an Electricity (1 damage), it will burst.
But which orb gets attacked?
A common question is that when an opponent has multiple elemental orbs, what order are they attacked in? The answer is: if the orb has the opposite element of your attack, it is attacked. Otherwise, people’s experiences have been different: some say that it attacks an orb at random, whereas others say it will attack orbs from left-to-right.
And is there any other reason I should choose one special move over another?
This fantastic tip from /u/Suasive2 over at Reddit explains it best:
During a chain attack your characters are using their actual specials of those blades. So they can crit and apply the effects in their affinity chart during the attack. So pick the order of which element to use based on the special you want to use, for example Dromach’s level II heals the whole party, while Pyra’s level I has bonus damage vs beasts. So if you have a lot of orbs, or are hitting it with a neutral element, prioritize it based on that depending which round of the chain attack you are in.
Element Types and Their Opposites
One thing that’s not explained in depth – and is surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere on the internet apart from dedicated forums – is which element type is the opposite of which. It’s easy enough to guess that Fire is the opposite of Water…but what’s the opposite of Wind? Or Ice?
Here is a list of the opposing elemental types:
Fire (Red) / Water (Blue)
Ice (Cyan) / Wind (Green)
Electric (Yellow) / Earth (Brown)
Light (Sun Logo) / Dark (Purple)
Update: @ArchTalko from Twitter has posted this nice schematic of combos:
3. ‘Full Burst’ – the most ridiculously overpowered attack of all
Whilst Chain Attacks are in themselves powerful, there is one particular goal you’ll want to aim for (especially with later bosses) when it comes to succeeding in Chain Attacks, and that is the full burst. This one-hit-kills many high level opponents owing to the fact that it can literally do millions of points of damage, but is hard to pull off, and it becomes the goal for later boss fights. The meter to the upper left of the screen during a chain attack will fill up as you keep on unleashing more and more specials. If you fill up the meter completely, you launch a full burst attack, which deals an insane an insane amount of bonus damage.
But how many do I need to burst to fill it up?
It’s usually about 4 orbs within 2 rounds, or 5 orbs within 3 rounds.
And that’s it. In summary, you inflict an elemental orb on your opponent with a combo’d special III move of any type. You chain attack when your party gauge is full with the + button. Then you inflict big amounts of extra damage by bursting the elemental orb with a special move of the opposite type during the Chain Attack.