Written by Twisted Ideas
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year since the first Tales of Xillia came overseas. It was considered by many (including myself) the best of the series and it was one that deserved a sequel. But we’ve been burned by a sequel before. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World wasn’t bad but was a major let down to many fans. Will Tales of Xillia 2 suffer the same fate?
Tales of Xillia 2
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platforms: Playstation 3
What is it about?
At the end of Xillia Jude and Milla’s group dispelled the schism reconnecting the two worlds of Rieze Maxia and Elympios. One year later the team has split up and played their roles and lived their lives in the new world. However, things are less than perfect. Politically, the two worlds are stable with good trade relations but tensions between some groups of people are on the rise. Jude’s spyrite research to solve Elympios’ mana shortage hasn’t exactly taken off either.
Ludger Kresnik is a soldier in training who stumbles across an terrorist train hijacking possibly lead by his brother, Julius. Ludger learns of a hidden power within he and his brother just before the train crashes cost thousands of lives and damages. Ludger is left with a massive debt by the Spirius Corporation whom Julius was working with before the train incident. Using his debt Ludger is blackmailed to work for Spirius to continue to find Julius and continue his previous duties.
The core gameplay hasn’t changed. You run through towns, fields and dungeons and contact with enemies on the field starts real-time battles. Battles consist of a party of up to four characters with their own fighting style. You can link will one of the three teammates for unique support and skills in battle. Ludger Kresnik is the new main character but unlike Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World the original Xillia cast is are permanent fixtures to the group and can be leveled and customized.
The new combat mechanics revolves around Ludger. He wields dual blades but eventually gains dual pistols and a sledgehammer which he can quickly switch between in battle. Eventually Ludger gains access to his chromatus form which give him temporary invincibility plus new attacks and artes for enhanced damage.
The Lillium Orb is replaced with the Allium Orb. Characters have to equip extractors that corresponds to one or more of the six elements. By collecting elemental ore from battles and on the fields. Elemental ore is used to learn new skill an artes and enhancing learned artes Skills change attributes in battle require SP to equip. You gain SP from leveling and you can earn extra SP by killing a certain amount of an enemy type.
One of the biggest additions to the game is your debt. Ludger has a 20 million gald debt and the bank restricts your travel because of it. When you reach the end of a chapter you will have to pay an installment on your debt to continue the story. This usually expands the areas you can visit. Quests are the fastest way to earn money. Quest typically involve killing x number of enemies or collecting x amount of materials but there are powerful elite monsters and character quests that yields more greater rewards. Paying additional installments grants gifts from the bank.
Throughout the game you will find stray cats. Cats can be sent to previously visited areas and search for items. Each day gives a different search bonus and items can increase there searching speed. More cats increase your spoils and some items are found exclusively by cats.
How does it look?
I remember saying that in Xillia that the cel-shading wasn’t that good for the environments but that didn’t seem to bother me this time around. I don’t know whether the detail got better or I wasn’t paying as much attention but both are probably true.
There is a lot of detail in characters despite their anime style appearances. Their textures add the illusion of shading and shadows and it’s a good look. You can give character attachments which are seen during cutscenes and battles but sometimes they block the character’s faces when the camera focuses on them.
Doing character quests unlocks the original costumes and hair styles from Tales of Xillia. If you wear the complete outfit their picture is changed in their status screen which is a nice touch.
How does it sound?
Most of the music has been recycled from Xillia. There are a few more rock tracks in the game and later on in the game the battle theme, “The Fighting Spirit” makes a return which was a pleasant surprise. Other than that the music is appropriate but doesn’t stand out too much.
My biggest problem with the sound is Ludger. He’s mostly a silent protagonist but it takes away a lot of energy from scenes. I’m fine that he doesn’t say anything after a player choice but the camera focuses on him as he says nothing. Plus early in the game he responds with grunts and moans instead of easily saying one or two word responses.
What do I think?
Tales of Xillia was the best paced game in the series. The story was a long as it needed to be and was straight to the point while giving the cast development and emotion. Xillia 2 takes a step backwards in terms of pacing. The debt encourages you complete quests but with the shear number of quest it can be very time consuming. The character quests are also optional and can be missed if you progress with the story before completing them. When you advance the plot there, occasionally several new areas appear. You’re encouraged to explore, looking for loot, treasure and cats at the expense of the main quest. It’s very easy to be distracted even if you’re not sure of what you’re accomplishing.
The combat is as enjoyable as ever. The game pushes Ludger a lot by giving him new abilities so you may neglect the rest of the cast. The other party members are still fun to play, finding which artes you like and how you approach the characters.
The balance is still and issue of the series. Oddly, common monsters at the very beginning are very weak. Shortly after they become challenging even on normal difficulty. Eventually common enemies become very easy and a nuisance but bosses tend to be fairly challenging. With good use of overlimit linked artes, mystic artes and the new chomatus ability makes even tough bosses much more manageable.
The allium orb reminds me of Final Fantasy 9’s way of learning abilities by changing equipment. The rate you learn something is kinda ridiculous. Every couple of fights and pickups makes you learn something new. It’s actually annoying to keep checking what you’ve learned every few minutes.
The plot has several parallels with Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Unlike DofNW, Xillia 2 isn’t treated as spin-off. It’s a fully fleshed out story and even gives the original cast a lot of character development. The character quests are great because you get time alone with the characters and different group dynamics plus it adds new scenes to the main story. Most character quests leads to battles but some are just extended scenes which I appreciated. The story itself it good but it’s often sidetracked only really picking up steam near the last few chapters. It’s easy to forget what’s happening but the story still has powerful moments midway through. The strong supporting cast really carries you through the plot.
I initially had a problem with Ludger. He’s a (mostly) silent protagonist. It’s bizarre because other than the spin-off, Tales of the World he’s the first. I’m not saying a silent protagonist can’t work, (because it can) it’s just harder to accept when the characters engage him this much and he responds with grunts and moans. You get used to it and once more characters join the party they carry the conversations. The strangest thing is that later on Ludger starts speaking more more, often with short responses but speaking none the less. Other than that Ludger is a bit of a blank slate reacting to events surrounding him. The player choice was a big part of the game but keeping the main character quiet for a majority was a big loss.
Should you get it?
Tales of Xillia 2 feels like a step back pacing wise from Xillia but uses its strong foundation and characters to make a compelling game. While much of it will feel familiar it succeeds as a sequel. Since this is the rare sequel in the series, playing the first game is a must. If you’ve enjoyed Xillia other than a few hiccups at the start the game does get much stronger. For JRPG fans, the Tales series shouldn’t be overlooked.