Iím finally nearing the end of Xenoblade Chronicles after playing it for nearly 80 hours over the course of of about 7 months, and by nearing the end I mean that I may only end up spending another good 20-30 hours on it. Thatís just the way that it goes, and others who have played this game know exactly what I am talking about; it digs its claws into you and demands that you give your life over to it. This may be the most time that I have ever put into a single video game outside of Advance Wars, and thatís not really a fair comparison, because Advance Wars had a map editor.
Xenoblade Chronicles has become not just one of my favorite Wii games and not just one of my favorite RPGs, but one of my favorite games of all-time, period. There are so many things that it gets right, including a massive, highly explorable world, sleek gameplay mechanics, stellar visuals and sound, and a decidedly epic storyline. However, it is not a perfect game (what game is?), and it leaves plenty of room for improvement in a sequel.
Recently Nintendo fans were blessed with one of the best Nintendo Directs yet, and this included, among other announcements, the official debut of the next console game from the creators of Xenoblade Chronicles (Monolith Soft), complete with a trailer. No name was given to this game, although it is often dubbed ďXĒ because of the famous Xeno series X that appeared at the end of the trailer. It is still a bit unclear exactly how it ties into Xenoblade Chronicles, but due to the Xeno X is can be assumed that, at the very least, this is the next game in the Xeno series.. Still, it looked an awful darn lot like a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, so for the sake of this list, Iím going to refer to the upcoming game as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 from this point forth.
I am super excited for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and the trailer seems to point at a lot more than a mere rehash, so here is hoping for something that can surpass the already lofty original. Check out the awesome Xenoblade Chronicles 2 trailer, and then read up on improvements that I would like to see make their way into the game!
Unlike most RPGs that I have played, I got heavily into the sidequests in Xenoblade Chronicles. Itís difficult not to, really. A lot of them arenít even necessarily enjoyable for their own sake, but they are right there in front of you, and they become difficult to ignore. However, it wasnít until about 10 or 15 hours into the game that I started getting heavily into the sidequests. Up to that point, the basic monster battles in the game kept me on my toes, and the boss fights were pretty brutal; just the way I like it. However, once I started doing a bunch of the sidequests, my characters started becoming way too powerful, both in their core levels, as well as through utilizing the weapons and gear that I would gain for completing the sidequests.
In theory this makes sense; players should get some kind of reward for completing additional quests, and the most obvious reward is something that strengthens their characters. But what about players that actually enjoy a challenge? Is it really a reward to give us things that will take that challenge away from us? Making the game easier for this type of player can become a penalty, not a reward. There are some ways to get around this, for instance, obtaining new weapons and gear and then not equipping them. But I always mentally rebel against artificial ways of making a game tougher. I feel more comfortable when the difficulty comes from the intended flow of the game.
I donít have any surefire solutions for this conundrum, as I am not a game designer. However, a few things come to mind. The World Ends With You had a system where the player could manually lower their level and obtain additional rewards the lower that they set their level. Of course, this would result in more awesome gear, so it doesnít totally solve the issue, but you could use that better gear to lower your level even more, so at least it gives you the option of getting caught up in a cycle that leads to some tough encounters. Another solution might be offering weapons and gear through sidequests that arenít necessarily superior, but merely different, which would reward the player with having more options for customizing their experience, but would not turn them into a powerhouse in the process.
Have more fluid animation in the secondary cutscenes
Iím not sure exactly what the best way to word this is, but those of you who have played RPGs will probably understand what I am talking about. Many RPGs have two levels of cutscenes; the main story ones, which are given the most polish (and in the past often used to be FMV), and the secondary ones used to handle the side story sequences, optional story sequences, etc. (which have almost always used in-game resources.) I understand why two levels of cutscenes exist; developers have a limited amount of time and resources to put into their games, and most RPGs already have a ton of cutscenes that need to be made for the main storyline, so it would not be feasible to put this much attention into all of the secondary ones as well.
I get that. However, in the case of Xenoblade Chronicles, the gap is pretty severe. The animation in the main cutscenes is very well done; in the secondary ones, not so much. You often have to watch a character standing still and talking to another, just to stop talking, turn their back on the character they are talking to, walk to another position, turn to face the character they were speaking to, stand still, and start talking again. Itís very disjointed, and unfortunately, it took me out of the game a bit, and killed some of the immersion.
I canít really complain about this one too much, as many RPGs just use static 2D character portraits for these kind of interactions. However, Iíd like to see something a little better. The Mass Effect series managed to handle a ton of side / optional interactions with animation that still felt fairly natural, and I believe that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 could pull this off as well.
Huge, impressive environments... now in HD!!!
Give us auto-equip functionality for weapons / gear / etc.
So I mentioned above that there are, if IGN is correct, over 400 sidequests in this game, and that most of these sidequests come with rewards in the way of weapons, gear, etc. There is also a pretty neat gem crafting system in Xenoblade Chronicles where you can find or create gems to add to your gear that can buffer your various character stats. All of this stuff is awesome and Iím glad that it is in the game. However, after a certain point, I just kind of started ignoring it for long stretches of time. It simply became too tedious to constantly keep up with managing the weapons and gear for all of my characters. For an RPG that is otherwise pretty progressive, it kind of surprises me that it has no auto-equip functionality, something that has existed for ages in RPGs to help streamline some of the monotony of equipping characters.
I can understand and even agree with the argument that auto-equip functionality can diminish the joy of customization to some degree. And certainly when you are dealing with the gem system, where the various gems buffer various stats, there is no way to have an system that automatically hooks the characters up with the ideal set-up, because ďidealĒ is relative in this case and depends heavily on what stats the player values most. One player might prefer better attack power, another might prefer more defense, a third might want a focus on healing, etc. However, I would still prefer the option of an auto-equip, and having a few choices for where the auto-equip puts its focus might be even better. Ideally you could just set this up once for each character, and be done with it. For instance, ďShulk = Focus: AttackĒ or something similar, and then every time that you use the auto-equip functionality, he is set up with gear that focuses on attack power. Some kind of player-defined character priority system wouldnít be bad either, so your most important characters would automatically get the better gear. However auto-equip would end up implemented, I would really, really love to see this in the upcoming game.
Give us more control over our party in battles
Iím going to move away from the sidequests for a bit here (donít worry, they will be back!) Xenoblade Chronicles has a pretty neat battle system, but there is definitely some room for improvement. The thing that stood out to me most as something that could use a change is the level of control that you have over the other characters in your party. Itís really rather limited. I understand that this may very well be an intended design choice, but Iím not sure that I agree with it.
The first thing Iíd like to see is simply a way to switch between which of your party members you control in the heat of battle. Why not? Iíd love to be able to get some sword action in with a fighter, switch to a healer when things get rough and take care of everyone, then switch over to a magic user and get some long range attacks in, etc. This kind of dynamic system is very exciting to me. It could even lead to a bit of strategy involving the placement of your characters upon the battlefield, if Monolith Soft wanted to take the battle system to a whole other level entirely.
Another thing that seems pretty important to me and was lacking in Xenoblade Chronicles is the ability to quickly change which monster your other characters are attacking. Often I would be trying to focus on one monster and my teammates would be off doing their own thing. Iím the leader here, I should have a way to tell them where to focus their energies! [EDIT: I have been informed that this does indeed exist, and somehow I managed to miss it. Oops.]
Finally, I would love if Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would draw a bit from Final Fantasy XIIís battle system (and maybe Final Fantasy XIIIís as well, but I havenít played that one.) Donít get me wrong, overall Xenoblade Chronicles is the superior game in my eyes, but Final Fantasy XII did do a few things better in the battle system. Final Fantasy XII had a pretty interesting algorithmic system set up where your characters would choose their actions based on certain priorities and variables. For example, a character might be set with attack as the priority, unless a party memberís health dips below 40%, and then healing becomes the priority. This is a simple example, and you could keep it simple if you pleased, but you could also take it deeper and set up large, complex move algorithms for each character. In my opinion, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 could benefit from such a system.
There will be large monsters in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, no doubt about that.
Make it clearer how gear affects more than just battles
This would perhaps be a minor gripe for some, but as it led to me spending a good hour or so trying to do something that I found out from a FAQ that I couldnít actually do with my partyís current gear, itís going to make my list. It also contains a very minor Xenoblade Chronicles spoiler (in the sense that it helps you understand how to do something the game itself never explains well), so if you are worried about that kind of thing, you might want to skip to the next item in the list.
At a certain point into Xenoblade Chronicles, while exploring Valak Mountain, to be precise, I stumbled upon what was obviously the route to a secret area. There is a long, skinny, and twisted path of ice that you can slide down, ending in a gap that it appears can be cleared with a well-timed leap to allow you to grasp onto the edge of a cliff on the other side and climb up. ďAppearsĒ is the key word here. I attempted to jump this gap a good 10-15 times, always coming up just short, before I decided to check out a FAQ to see if I was doing something wrong. It turned out that I was; the gap could only be cleared if I had equipped an item that made my characters move 10% faster, thus resulting in a greater velocity heading towards the jump. It seems pretty obvious written out like this, right?
Here is the thing though; nothing in the game up to this point suggested that you would ever have to equip a certain piece of gear to change your abilities in a way that will help you access new areas. Itís just not that kind of game (or so I thought), and this example is the only point in the game where I found anything like this. Itís my opinion that if a game will involve these kind of secrets, it should be made clear at some point that what you equip matters for more than just battles, but can actually affect what parts of the terrain you can access as well.
Still, I think this point of mine includes more than just the way it was, but also the way it could be. Why not work a bit more Metroid / Zelda type ďobtain this item to gain access to new areasĒ progression into Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and have it be a known entity of the game? Monolith Soft played with it a tiny bit in Xenoblade Chronicles, but there is room for much more.
Add more variety to the levels of the monsters found in each environment
One of the coolest thing about Xenoblade Chronicles to me was that it didnít feel like you were playing a game; it felt like you were exploring a living, breathing world. This effect was created in a whole variety of ways, and Iím not going to get into all of them right now, because that would basically turn this top 10 desired improvements list into paragraphs upon paragraphs of me praising the game. However, one specific thing that stood out as going a long ways towards achieving this effect was the fact that, in any given environment, you would find monsters that you could reasonably take on in battles, and other monsters that were beyond your current capabilities. Iím sure that Xenoblade Chronicles isnít the only game that has ever done this, but it is the first one that I have personally played (as far as I can remember) that has. This may seem like a small thing, but it makes for a world that feels like it would exist whether you were there playing in it or not. Monsters arenít built just to be fodder for your characters to slaughter, many of them will straight up destroy you if you try to take them on.
With that said, the game didnít really push this idea as far as it could have. For the most part you run into two types of monsters in any given environment; those who are at a level that you can take on without significant trouble, and those who are at a level so far beyond your current one that you wonít stand a chance against them unless you leave and come back much, much later. And by much, much later I mean, essentially, when you are nearing the end of the game. But why should these be the only two options? Why not have a couple of monsters who are just a few levels higher than you might feel comfortable taking on, but whom can, with sound strategy, be defeated? Or monsters ten or twelve levels higher that you will be forced to avoid but, upon coming back to finish up some stray sidequests, you will notice that you can finally take a shot at? Having a whole range of levels for the monsters that you find in each environment could add to the game in both the quality of gameplay and the believability of the world.
There will also be guns. Itís basically an FPS now!
Make the paths to unlock the secret areas / bosses less convoluted
Ok Iím coming back to the sidequests again, and I can tell you right now, it wonít be the last time. One of the amazing things about Xenoblade Chronicles is the aforementioned 400+ sidequests. However, one of the frustrating things about Xenoblade Chronicles is that, unless you are going to spend something like 150+ hours on the game, youíre going to have to choose to complete some sidequests and ignore others. This is fair enough. But how do you determine which sidequests are the more worthwhile ones?
Many people that I have spoken with have finished Xenoblade Chronicles without ever knowing about the fact that it has a lot of secret areas hidden behind closed paths that include some pretty epic optional boss battles, among other things. This is pretty a pretty rad addition in my eyes. How can so many people be finishing the game without even knowing that this stuff exists though? Well, the way to unlock a lot of these secret areas is hidden within the mass of sidequests. Generally you have to complete a specific sidequest that chains into another, and that one into another, and on and on until eventually at some point you unlock the path. However, there is rarely any indication which, out of the many, many sidequests, is the first link in this chain. You can start to get a sense of which sidequests are the most likely candidates after awhile, but it is never totally clear.
I understand that the role of these areas is that they are ďsecretsĒ, so pointing the player directly to them would probably not make much sense. However, there has to be a better solution than mixing them into the larger pool of sidequests and requiring players to arbitrarily stumble upon them. Why not, upon the discovery of a secret area while exploring, at least drop some kind of hint as to which sidequest the player has to do next to start upon the path of unlocking the area?
Make the chain attack system more relevant
This is another tiny gripe of mine, but it bugged me enough to make my list. Early into Xenoblade Chronicles, you get introduced to the chain attack, which allows you to, after filling up your ďparty gaugeĒ (which has 3 levels), attack a monster several times in a row utilizing your various party members. This can be a pretty devastating attack at times, especially if you have party members who can use break, topple, and daze successively to keep a monster down for a bit and let you throw more attacks on top of them. It was a great introduction to the battle system and I enjoyed using it a lot.
...at first. However, the party gauge is also used to revive downed characters, and in fact is the only way to revive downed characters (at least as far as I discovered over the course of my playthrough.) Now, if you donít have enough of your party gauge filled to revive a character (up to the first level) and one of the party members that you arenít directly controlling goes down, you can keep fighting and hope for the best. However, if your main character goes down, youíre done. Game over baby.
Did I mention that doing a chain attack clears the entire gauge? So essentially, if you do a chain attack, you are now stuck in a position where if your main character goes down, itís over. In theory this could be an interesting risk / reward mechanic. However, the damage that you can do from a chain attack is rarely worth the risk of putting yourself in this position (as well as giving up three full revives.) I say rarely, but in truth it is closer to never. The way that the system is built, the chain attack becomes much too risky of a proposition to ever use reasonably.
The quick and dirty solution would be to simply separate the chain attack gauge from reviving. However, if Monolith Soft wants to keep the risk / reward that is involved, they can at least balance things a bit better. Have the chain attack take off only half of the gauge, or have the gauge refill more quickly or I dunno... something! Just find a way to make chain attacks more viable, because theyíre fun and generally effective, but the way that things currently stand, theyíre just not worth it.
Donít forget this wicked dinosaur / dragon thing! *DROOLS*
Have the menus / map / etc. be easily accessible on the Wii U GamePad
Iím generally not the kind of person who gets overly excited about having a second screen just to handle maps and menus, but in the case of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I think this would be the absolute best use of the Wii U GamePad. This isnít to say that the developers should ignore any other potential uses for the GamePad, but I am expecting, nay, demanding simple, seamless execution of the menus and maps on the GamePad at the bare minimum.
I canít be the only one who found myself constantly pausing the game just to check my map for the 100th time, or to recheck which strangely named monster I was supposed to be searching for this time around (oh, it was the Ammos Orluga, not the Azul Andos!) Furthermore, I would constantly be bringing up my quest log to see which quests that I could be working on in whatever environment that I found myself in. Xenoblade Chronicles is an excellent game, but it is an excellent game with a ton of menus, and I often found myself spending way too much time inside of the menu system.
You know what would be the best? If there was a scalable map built into the GamePad, and you could instantly warp to whatever landmark you want to just by clicking on the landmark on the map. Some kind of prioritization for the quests in that environment which automatically brings up a few of your most relevant quests on another section of the GamePad could also be pretty neat, and go a long way towards streamlining the execution of the sidequests. This would be topped off with clean, instant menu navigation on the touch pad for equipping, checking character relationships, crafting gems, and more.
Make it easier to find the items / monsters / NPCs that you need to find
The sidequest functionality in Xenoblade Chronicles is a kind of mixed bag to me. In some ways, it is very progressive and helps to manage the sidequests in an efficient manner that few RPGs can attest to. In other ways, it is just plain lacking.
One serious complaint of mine is how difficult it is to find the items that you need sometimes. In general you can obtain the items to complete most of the sidequests in two ways; either by picking up ďcollectablesĒ (the glowing orbs), or by defeating monsters to get ďmaterialsĒ. Fair enough. However, Xenoblade Chronicles will often give you a list of things you need to complete your quest (say, 3 bitter kiwi, 2 quirky livers, etc.) without giving you much of an idea of where to find this stuff. Oh sure, it will tell you the environment that this stuff is located in, but if you have played Xenoblade Chronicles you know these environments are freaking huge. It can take a long time just to walk from one end of an environment to the other, let alone explore every little nook and cranny.
Now, some people claim that the collectables for each environment are scattered randomly within, such that as long as you are in the correct environment you can just run around picking up the orbs anywhere and eventually find what you need without having to locate it in a specific place. Iím not sure that I believe this. There were times that I spent close to an hour running around trying to find a collectable, only to give up, look it up in a FAQ, and be pointed to a very specific location, where I would instantly have more success. Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but it feels like reality to me.
When it comes to the materials, you will often be given a specific monster name to look for within an environment. That makes it easy, right? Well, not really. Many monsters are only located in specific areas within the environment, and only during specific times of the day, and sometimes even appear only during specific weather. So even when you have a sense of which monster you are looking for, itís not always that easy to find them. But you will not always have a sense of which monster you are looking for, at least not visually, because monsters are often named things like ďLograt KromarĒ or ďSestago LexosĒ, and unless you have an awesome memory, telling you to seek those monsters out will mean little to you.
Furthermore, although some sidequests automatically reward you upon completion without requiring you to go back and talk to the NPCs who gave them to you, others do not. This is understandable to some degree, as these sidequests usually contain additional requests / etc. which would not make much sense if they were done remotely. However, you meet a lot of NPCs who give out sidequests in this game, so with only a name to go on, it is easy to forget where and when you originally stumbled upon any given NPC, and it can be a bit frustrating trying to track them down again. The game will give you a general location, but not much else.
Of course, to get past all of the above quickly, you can just go check a FAQ. Which I ended up doing many times after roaming around like a headless chicken for a bit. But FAQs make me feel dirty. I want to feel like Iím playing the game on my own!
My suggestion is pretty simple. Every item, monster, and NPC that you ever encounter should be logged somewhere in a more precise manner, to cut down on a lot of the random running around. And anything / anyone that you have not encountered yet should come with at least a semi-specific hint as to where it / they may be found. Furthermore, upon completion of a quest that requires you to speak to an NPC again, why not give you the option to immediately warp to the place / time of day where you originally met them?
And thatís my top 10 list! I hope that I didnít come off as overly negative. As I said, Xenoblade Chronicles is now one of my all-time favorite games, and I only criticize it because I love it so much, and want the sequel to be even better. But these are just suggestions. Rest assured, whether Xenoblade Chronicles 2 includes these improvements or not, Iíll be right in line for my copy. I cannot freaking wait. Actually, I lied, I can wait. Getting through Xenoblade Chronicles has been rewarding, yet exhausting in some ways, and I think that I will need a bit of a break once I finish it...
What do you think? Are these good ideas? Bad ideas? Is there something that I missed? Let me know!
Iím the leader here, I should have a way to tell them where to focus their energies! (#7)
Hi Zero..still reading..great article so far. Just wanted to interupt my reading to state that you CAN tell your group to focus on an enemy. I think you press R (sorry...classic pro mode) and then press up on the D pad to tell them to focus on the same target you are killing... There are other commands as well.
This might be nitpicky...but I wish there was a way they could make it so that your gear would always match up nicely. In Xenoblade, you'll have a set of gear that goes together. The helmet, chest piece, arms, etc all match each other. If you run low on cash, however, you have to mix and match the different gear. Then, all of a sudden Shulk is rocking some pink chest plate, and feathers line his arms, while he wears something akin to hotpants. Is there any way they can change this? I understand that the gear is a main driving force in the game, but I wish there was a way to make sure that the gear doesn't look fugly at any given time.
Superficial, yes, but in a gritter game like this, it could be...bizarre...to see things get as wild looking as they do in Xenoblade Chronicles.
@Smerd Well, then change that complaint to "the game needs to make it more clear what you can do in battle!" Anyway, that was only one part of that, I'd still like to be able to switch to controlling the others on the fly, etc.
@PogueSquadron I kind of always mixed and matched. For the most part, it didn't bother me, although recently Reyn has been wearing some ridiculous armor and I almost want to change it just to not have to see it.
1.) Making it so that sidequest goals appear on the map. They don't necessarily need to point out exactly where the enemy or red collectable is, but at least give a heads up of the area.
2.) Making the map automatically fill in more. I know that in Xenoblade once you get all the landmarks and named areas, the whole map fills in, but why not do more of this as you go along, where each time you get a landmark or named area, the area surrounding it is automatically filled in. Helps prevent my OCD from requiring me to run into some corner just so that it doesn't show up as dark on the map.
Good online multiplayer would be great as well, and how about local with one person on the gamepad and one on the TV?
I was having issues hunting down certain monsters - I like how there is a colour system (white/blue/yellow/red) etc to quickly tell you how big of a threat they were but it would be nice that once you activated a sidequest, it would glow green or some other colour so that if you run into that monster hours later, you will be reminded of that quest you hadn't completed yet.
@PogueSquadron Maybe! I was just thinking though how Shulk had the perfect voice for his character. I liked most of the choices except Riki and I sometimes wonder... would I have liked the voice acting as much if the game had gotten North American localization? Maybe not.
I agree with almost everything on the list. And Zero, as others have mentioned, you just missed where they explained how to get your party to focus on one enemy. I had no trouble with that.
That said, I have to agree that finding items/enemies was very difficult near the end, especially when rebuilding Colony 6. The wiki was my bible for a long time. I'd literally write down what I needed off the TV, go to my computer (not in the same room) and look up where I could find said stuff, and then get back to work. It was a tremendous time saver, but not really ideal. I think the next game could do a better job with that.
I also had no problem with how ridiculous my characters looked. I thought the more bizarre, the better! Whatever combo of crap gave them the best stats with the most gems, I was happy.
But actually I didn't really like the battle system at all. I think it's too quick and chaotic. Most battles are either very difficult, so the only reason you succeed is by pure luck, or they are so easy that you don't need to touch the controller at all. I often find myself waiting a long time to autoattack. Sometimes it's because the targeted enemy is a different one than the enemy I stand next to, and in a quick, difficult battle you don't always notice before it's too late. And it's not really easy to see when one of your partymember gets a debuff, because you have other things on your mind at the moment. And when after a vision occours, you have the chance to warn your targeted teammate. Usually I choose not to, but it sometimes happens anyway, because I press "B" and think it's the "Help" or "Encourage"-function. Yes, I can read. But the battle goes so fast that I forget myself and press "Warn" by accident. At least there should be a way that you can get time to think. When you buy a game like this you don't expect it to be a chance/action game.
And what makes the faced mechons deserve it's own chapter in the in-game tutorial? I thought there was a lot more of them than it turned out to be. I also at first thought there would be minor-enemy faced mechons in the game, which you first had to topple to damage. But it's just a few bosses really. And in almost all (if NOT all) you start a fight with them. The battle then breaks of with you never damaging them at all or with you removing half their health. And after a cutscene the battle starts again with the faced mechon fully healed and the premises of the battle are changed, usually by the boss being weaker in some way. It doesn't feel like a real battle to me. I can't really explain why, I just don't like it much. It seems somehow... artifical.
And when you buy armors and weapons or on the equip menu, I think the stats are too unclear. They show what the stats would be if you equip the gear and whether they go up or down. But what's not clear is how much the stats go up or down. It could be almost no difference at all, but it can also be a lot of difference. You don't know before you choose to look at what you are wearing at the moment. So you either have to write the stats down, remember them or switch between the items several times. This has me changing armors and weapons as little as possible.
I also wish there was a tool to remove gems from unique weapons and armor, so you could use it on another gear of your choice, but that's a whole other story.
But when you mention that people have finished the game and never knew that there were secret areas... Then they cannot possibly be as interested with the exploration of the game. In my opinion, if you explore the maps, you are bound to find at least a few if them.
I never felt like the combat was luck based. I always felt that adjustments to my strategy always had either a positive or negative result.
I got majorly confused with how auras and debuffs worked in the game to be honest. The game was also really bad with training you to fight a certain way, and then complexly going off the rails with a boss battle that required a strategy you only used once before, maybe dozens of hours ago.
When I hear "auto-equip" I start getting nightmares of a Mass Effect 2 type situation. Where we go from having a ton of options in the first game, to a straight and narrow path of improvement that destroys all sense of good in the universe. Literally in the case of ME2.
I really enjoy the combat. You get Rikki some Aggro Up gems, make sure his "Rikki Is Angry" skill is high, maybe give him some Spike damage and he'll never let go of an enemy once he gets aggro. Plus it's awesome having things beat on him and (potentially) doing 8x the damage back to themselves. Makes boss battles go really quickly.
I think tutorials could be beefed up, though. Make the control over the allies a little higher as well, kind of like a "Tales of" situation where you could say "Sharla, only heal when someone is below 50%, but attack my target until that point". Something that feels a little more structured than watching her take a couple hundred points of damage and then blowing the AoE heal on it.