Released in 2012 in Japan, Tales of Xillia 2 has finally had its Western release and I couldn’t be more pleased. The first Tales of Xillia was a fantastic journey through two worlds, with an interesting story and a likable cast of characters. Tales of Xillia 2 sees the return of all of these playable characters as well as two new main party members joining the cast. How does the sequel compare to the original? Have Bandai Namco changed enough to keep this direct sequel interesting, or is this just retreading old ground with a new main character?
The story starts out with new guy Ludger Kresnik, the semi-silent protagonist of Tales of Xillia 2. Set around a year after the ending to Tales of Xillia, it isn’t long until you run into Jude, a familiar face to those who’ve played the first game. Things quickly turn bad and you’re forced to fight for your lives in an attempt to stop a terrorist attack. It then goes from bad to weird as you get thrown into some strange, alternate dimension, with absolutely no idea how you got there. Unnatural things start to happen, including Ludger transforming into a sort of demonic version of himself, although most of these things are just brushed off by the characters. Sure, you may view a short scene in which people are confused at what the hell Ludger just did, but after that it’s just forgotten about, and no one seems surprised when it keeps happening.
Ludger & friends then also get stuck with a very large debt (Going into details would be giving spoilers, and no one wants that!) So in order to progress within the main story, you must pay off a certain amount of the debt between chapters, in order to lift and travelling bad imposed upon your group. This is done by tackling side missions and earning enough gald to pay it off bit by bit. I’m the sort of player who has to finish every side quest before carrying on, and although the jobs given to you are simple ‘collect this’ or ‘kill that,’ it was fun to deviate from the main story and go exploring dungeons in order to complete these simple tasks.
It definitely takes a while before things are explained to the player, with all the main characters from the previous game joining up with you and seeing these alternate dimensions as normal. It would have been nice to see more mystery revolving around how they keep getting thrown into these altered versions of certain areas, instead of them just blindly accepting whatever seems to be happening at that moment in time, but once it is explained to the cast of characters, you start to understand the story more and get drawn in to the tale it’s trying to tell.
The story feels more mature and darker than the previous game, with racial tensions between Elympios and Reize Maxia reaching breaking point within the year gap between Xillia 1 & 2. It’s the same two worlds combined into one and the inhabitants are still getting used to the idea of these “foreigners.” Yes its returning to a place we’ve already seen, but this is the first time we get to properly explore Elympios as well as see the fallout from the first games events. You as Ludger also get chances to affect the main story line, be it choosing where you wish to go first, picking a response to a conversation etc. These can go so far as to change the games ending, which has a variety of different outcomes for the player.
Apart from the main story, when in towns you may find your companions with a quest icon over their heads, indicating a side story specific to them is available. Like the main story arc, they’re in chapters, so you’ll never be going out of your way and spending hours on these optional stories. Think of them as mini-episodes between Tales of Xillia’s main plot line and you’ll have the gist of what they are. Each character has a few chapters each, with Ludger being the exception, although not being much of a talker, he acts as the go to guy when the others are in need of some help.
It’s difficult to go into too much detail with RPG stories without giving away spoilers, but what you’ll find here is a massive 35+ hour story that is both enjoyable and interesting. Each character has likable qualities with well done English voice acting, I even found myself liking the floating doll Teepo, who acts as a sort of comic relief from the sometimes serious nature of the plot. Everything gels well within the story, with lot’s of nods to previous Tales of games that will put a smile on hardcore fans faces.
I don’t often talk about character designs within video games, because I never overly love or loathe them. But for some reason the character models, animations and anime style portraits all really impressed me. From Milla to Rowen, each character has well done animations and an interesting style to them, with every facial expression portraying well how that character is feeling during a particular scene.
This then brings me onto the games combat, as each character can play dramatically differently within battle. In all my experience of playing RPG’s, I feel that the combat system is near perfect. It remains largely the same as Tales of Xillia but has only improved upon it to give you a fun and rewarding style of play with enough character to mix up combat strategies and play styles.
For those of you who haven’t played the first game, you take a party of four into battle, with the X button being used for attacking, and the O button and a direction on the analogue stick for artes. You can pause the action to use items or command your team members to use specific tactics or artes, before jumping back into the action. It’s incredibly fast paced and the game does a great job of slowly teaching you the features of the battle system. You’ll have a lot more to do in fights after the first 5 or so hours of the game showing you the ropes, but its a lot better than being thrown in at the deep end, because looking at it from an outsiders point of view, it looks quite complicated.
Something unique about this battle system is the ability to link up with one of the other three characters in battle. This opens up a whole new set of gameplay elements and can change the tide of battle instantly. For every arte you perform, some of them will be linked with a specific character, with an on-screen prompt telling you that you may use a linked version of this arte with the character you are linked to. For example, using one of Ludger’s sledgehammer abilities that is linked to Leia, whilst linked with her, you’ll get an extra attack in which you both use a more powerful arte. There’s a huge number of linked artes and they’re all incredibly useful in the heat of battle.
The bar on the left of the screen relates to these linked artes, using one when the gauge is full will trigger an option to combo several different linked artes until that meter runs out. Absolutely essential during some boss fights and can cause some serious damage to anything you may be up against. As previous mentioned, it does seem quite confusing at first, but after a few battles it’ll be second nature to you.
What makes Ludger unique within this game is his ability to swap between weapons. He has a choice of three weapons which he can switch to at any time; dual swords, dual pistols and a warhammer. Each one comes with their own benefits, things like the swords offering more speed, whilst the pistols give Ludger more ranged attacks. They also come with their own sets of artes, giving him a large and diverse arsenal of combat abilities. In addition to this, he also has an ability known as Chromatus, which transforms Ludger into an invincible power house for a short period of time. This is upgradable as the game progresses and got me out of a lot of tough fights. You can activate it any time when a meter in the lower right corner of the screen is full and it lasts until the gauge runs out.
With all these improvements there unfortunately comes a step back. The Illium orbs from the previous games are gone, replaced with a new Allium orb system. It’s a simple system in which you earn element orbs, with the element changing dependent on what Allium orb you have equipped. Some artes or skills may require fire & wind elements to unlock, so you must find an orb which has these two elements and keep winning battles until you learn that skill. It offers less freedom than Xillias Illim orbs, so no more buffing up Alvin’s health so he can be a front line fighter, or putting all of Elize’s points into magic to turn her into a killer mage.
Moving onto how well the game runs, pop-in issues are also commonplace, especially with the job board NPC. Having to wait a couple of seconds each time you want to check this list of jobs or report in gets really irritating, really quickly, especially if you’re running back and forth grinding for gald. The games graphics as a whole are fairly average, apart from the brilliant character designs and vibrant looking towns, areas like dungeons and fields look bland and they’re mostly areas you’ve already seen from the last game. Other than these issues however, the game runs smoothly with no slow down, even in the hectic battles.
There is a huge game here and I almost certainly have forgotten things I should have talked about. But that’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much. You have a whole lot of content here for your money, with one of the best battle systems created and a fantastic cast of diverse characters that you grow to care about quickly. If you have any interest in RPG’s go and pick up the first Tales of Xillia before starting this one. If you’ve already finished the first, you absolutely need to play its sequel. I cannot recommend this game enough.