Ethics and Tragedy of Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2

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One of the central themes of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is whether or not Blades should be considered a race of people rather than weapons or tools, or if it is fair to treat them as weapons even if it’s their nature. Are they slaves no matter how well their Driver treats them? Just because a Blade and Driver have a good relationship, even a loving one, does that make it right to use them? On the other hand, is it acceptable to leave them dormant forever, in effect unalive?

What are Blades and Drivers?

In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, your weapons are called Blades. Not the kind of blades you are thinking of, no. Blades are sentient spirits of a sort that live inside a dormant crystal until a worthy warrior touches the crystal and activates the Blade inside. The Blade spirit will grant their new “Driver” a physical weapon based on their appearance in addition to sharing their magical power, then accompany them as a companion, servant, or tool (depending on how the Driver views the relationship).

The Blades can be humanoid, mystical animals, fearsome creatures, or even machines. They are all fully self aware and their life force is tethered to their Driver. The Blade lives with their driver until the Driver dies, then the Blade returns to their crystal form and lose all memory from that “lifetime” until they reawaken again with no knowledge of anything except their own form and abilities.

Vandham and Roc

Early in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Rex meets a band of mercenaries and ends up being taken in and mentored by the gruff but soft hearted leader, Vandham. Vandham’s Blade is a cocky avian creature named Roc, who’s Blade crystal is bequeathed to Rex upon Vandham’s death during battle later in the story.

When he is reawakened by Rex, Roc of course doesn’t remember anything prior to this moment other than what he is, a Blade. But Rex remembers and misses Vandham. In multiple side quests Roc inquires about his previous Driver, asking to learn about his character and background. Rex is delighted to tell Roc all about Vandham as a person and how he influenced the people in his life. It’s so bittersweet!

Morag and Brighid

When you reach Mor Ardain, you get to learn more about your party members Morag and Brighid. Brighid is a Royal Blade, an ancient legacy weapon belonging to the ruling family of Mor Ardain, passed down between generations to the eldest royal child. Staying in one place with one family for all of their past lives is extremely rare for Blades, so this situation granted Brighid the chance to keep her memories.

Living at the palace with her own quarters and belongings allowed Brigitte to keep a detailed personal diary that spans all of her lifetimes with different Drivers through multiple wars. This makes her one of the most wise Blades in the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, as few others have the knowledge and insight of multiple lifetimes stretching across hundreds of years.

Mabon and Vess

Vess and her Driver

In another sidequest the party meets and helps out a tall, motherly Blade named Vess, the Blade partner of an elderly man, Mabon, since his days as a young warrior in the military. She has been taking care of him as a friend and nurse long after his wife passed and children moved away. The old warrior tells you his life’s story over a several cutscenes and you get to know sweet, compassionate Vess, and her famous dumpling recipe, as you help her with errands.

At the end of the retired warrior’s tale several quests later, Vess suddenly returns to her core crystal in a flash, the crystal falling to the ground in the kitchen. Startled, the party looks back to the Mabon, whom had taken his quiet, last breath surrounded by friends and laughter. You take Vess’s crystal and help her carry out Mabon’s will, visiting each of his children, whom are all overjoyed to see Vess. Vess is happy to see their reactions to her even if she doesn’t remember them.

Praxis and Theory

Praxis and Theory

Praxis and Theory are two Blades who’s side story really stuck out to me. When you meet them they are inseparable best friends, both bonded to different bandit criminal Drivers. Your party slays one of these Drivers during a side quest, acquiring Praxis’ core crystal. Upon reawakening, Praxis is aghast to learn she was a criminal in her past life. Her side quests show her being followed by a mysterious character who reveals herself as Theory, Praxis’ best friend. Praxis doesn’t remember Theory, but Theory tries to remind her, begs her to remember, yet Praxis cannot, as in the nature of Blade.

Through these fervent interactions Praxis does realize how much she must have meant to Theory, and vice versa, vowing to try to save Theory from her criminal life. In a battle with Theory’s Driver, Praxis is almost killed, but instead Theory murders her own Driver to save her best friend, returning to her own core crystal as a result. Theory joins your party, memories wiped clean, and the two reforge their friendship as they try to right their past misdeeds.

I thought the way Blades function made for a very thought provoking setting and engaging character stories Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Either they live forever with no memory of past lives or they exist in the endless void of their dormant state. It’s tragic, really. I’m sure there are more examples of Blades discussing they feel about their own nature that I missed or did not think to include, so please let me know ones that stood out to you. If you played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 what were your thoughts on the treatment of Blades?

Thanks for reading!

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9 comments on “Ethics and Tragedy of Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2”

  1. Great piece, and a topic that I think was really well explored in the game.

    Have you played Torna The Golden Country? The blade/driver relationships in that are really interesting. The one that stands out most is Jin & Lora (I won’t go into details in case you haven’t played it) because it explores both sides of the equation really well. There is also a line in that game from Aegaeon which touches on the issue of Blade’s being slaves to their drivers – he recognises that his fate will be forever tied to the leaders of Mor Ardain, and yet he does not see himself as being enslaved by them, but rather that it is his purpose to fulfill this role over and over again. There is also the interesting case of Amalthus and Malos which really gives a different perspective on the whole blade/driver relationship!

    I could totally go on about this all day but maybe I should stop there! Thanks for getting my brain going on a looooong Friday afternoon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I haven’t played it yet but I have it in ye olde backlog. I’m looking forward to playing it. Jin is bae. I didn’t went to go into Blade eaters in the post because that’s a bigger spoiler than the side quest ones in there. I’m sure I’ll have something more to write about when I get to Torna! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminded me that I need to play through that game again. Xenoblade 2 is my favorite game on the Switch (until I get my hands on Fire Emblem and Pokemon) and there are so many stories that stuck out to me. It’s a fantastic game and this was a fantastic piece. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks! I appreciate that. Yeah all the little stories of each Blade were awesome. Wasn’t expecting that level of detail going into it to be honest.

      I too can’t wait for FE and Pokémon. Got the Collector’s edition of Three Houses pre ordered. I’m super excited for this year’s take on my favorite war themed dating simulator lol

      Liked by 1 person

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