Japanese role playing games haven’t been doing too nicely recently. The most successful series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have been struggling in the West due to the uneven quality of the latest titles and the lack of new releases respectively, leaving a void that has yet to be filled properly.
The Tales Of series, developed by Bandai Namco, on the contrary, has definitely been on the rise in the West in recent years, trying to fill the void left by the lack of good JRPG releases on home consoles. Tales Of Graces F and Tales Of Xillia have managed to become somewhat successful, despite some shortcomings that prevented them from appealing to a bigger audience and not just die-hard fans of the series. Combining the best from both games, Tales Of Xillia 2 has the potential of becoming a really big hit, thanks to its strong story, characters and gameplay experience.
Being a direct sequel to the first game, Tales Of Xillia 2 features, alongside the new main characters, the same cast of the original game and a similar gameplay experience with some important enhancements. While some shortcomings and small issues are still present, Tales Of Xillia 2 is overall a better game than its predecessor and a really good Japanese role playing game.
Tales Of Xillia 2 stars Ludger Kresnik, who lives in the city of Trigleph on Olympios with his brother Julius and his cat Rollo. On the first day on his new job, Ludger finds himself on a hijacked train after following the little girl Elle Mel Marta. Little does he know that this fateful encounter will bring him not only to discover the hidden power of the Kresnik family but also to become an agent from Spirius Corporation, embarking on a journey to destroy alternate timelines and reach the fabled Land Of Canaan, where Elle has to go under orders from her father.
Joining Ludger and Elle on their quest are all the main characters of the original Tales Of Xillia, including Gaius and Muzèt, who were not playable in the original game. The old cast, however, doesn’t have a huge role in main storyline, letting Ludger and Elle stay in the spotlight for the majority of it. And this is not a bad thing at all since this is their quest and their story and it will be their lives that will be forever changed at the end of this journey. The focus on the two new main characters also makes the story more heartfelt and personal, with a lot of unexpected dark turns and sad moments that truly make it shine. Everything still resolves in a “save the world” outcome, but the way it’s presented involves players on an emotional level unlike any other Tales of game. The pacing of the story is also excellent, with very few dull moments.
One of the main features of Tales Of Xillia 2 is the choices system, which allow gamers to choose Ludger’s response during many dialogues. The dialogue choices will influence the following cutscene and, at times, change how the other characters feel towards Ludger, raising or lowering their affinity with him. Unfortunately the choice system comes with a price, as Ludger is completely silent during story scenes. The inclusion of a silent protagonist is pretty hit and miss: it’s clear how Ludger has a definite and honestly quite likeable personality, but the choice system ultimately damages the character. It’s almost if the team decided to make him silent only after the character has been created as a regular Tales Of main character. It’s possible to unlock Ludger’s voice from the second playthrough onward, but it does very little to ease the issue.
One of the biggest complaints about the original Tales Of Xillia was its linearity. The sequel does give gamers more freedom as well as plenty of side content that can be completed between story chapters. The side quests are actually needed to gather money, as players will have to repay a debt to move forward. After a certain point early in the game, Ludger will become indebted, with new story chapters and areas of the world becoming available only after a certain amount of the debt has been paid. The debt system can be a little annoying at times, with Nova constantly calling you during exploration if you have enough money to pay the current threshold, but it’s not a major issue, especially if you pay pack the needed amount of money to proceed as soon as possible.
Between story chapters it will also be possible to go through Character Episodes, which are side story chapters focused on the Tales Of Xillia cast. Character Episode are probably one of the best features of the game, since they allow gamers to learn more of the characters and see what their lives have become following the events of the first game. This allows for plenty of character development without slowing down the main plot, since they’re completely optional. However it’s better not to skip them, as they are really interesting and add quite a lot to the game’s story.
Tales Of Xillia 2 uses an enhanced version of the battle system used in Tales Of Xillia, with a lot of new features that make battles even more enjoyable. The Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System is an action battle system that allows players to link with other characters during battle and perform powerful Link Artes. Together with the unique Link Artes that can be performed with a specific combination of characters and Artes, in Tales Of Xillia 2 it’s also possible to perform generic Link Artes with any character and Arte combination, further expanding battle possibilities. These Link Artes aren’t the only addition to the battle system, as it’s now possible to side step to avoid attacks and obtain a damage bonus multiplier by hitting several weak spots, just like in Tales Of Graces F. The weakness system also makes boss battles slightly more enjoyable, as obtaining a big multiplier reduces the chances of the enemy breaking out of combos.
Tales Of Xillia 2 employs the same Assault Counter system used by the first game, with the total AC number dictating the number of actions and Artes that can be performed consecutively. The system works as nicely as in the first game, allowing gamers to create some really nice and powerful combos. And you will be doing plenty of them during the course of the game, as the combo possibilities for the old characters have even been enhanced with some brand new Artes. Leia is definitely the character that enjoys the biggest improvement, as her moveset has been expanded vastly, making her one of the funnest characters to use in battle.
For obvious reasons, Ludger will play a central role during battles, as he is the only one who can hit pretty much all weaknesses by himself thanks to its huge moveset. Ludger’s special ability is Weapon Shift, which allows him to seamlessly switch between Dual Swords, Hammer and Dual Guns. It’s entirely possible to create some multi weapons combos, making the character incredibly unique among the playable cast and even the whole series. During the course of the game he will also acquire a special ability that will allow him to use the powers of the Kresnik family and fight the enemies in a special area where he fights alone and cannot be damaged for a limited amount of time.
While the battle system has been expanded and improved, sadly the rest of the experience didn’t. The game recycles pretty much all locations and bosses from the first game, with some of the older bosses appearing even more than once between story chapters and Character Episodes! Rieze Maxia is also identical to the first game, with only Olympios receiving two new towns and a few new fields, designed with the same Tales Of Xillia mentality: lots of items to collect and enemies to fight but no real incentive for exploration, with the exception of the Giganto Monsters hunt, a welcome return from Tales Of Vesperia. The few new dungeons are slightly better than Tales Of Xillia’s ones, with a few simple puzzles to complete, but they’re too few to actually make a difference. Recycled locations mean that the graphics don’t look that much better than Tales Of Xillia. There are some small improvements that enhance them, but it’s really nothing major. Sadly, the game still suffers from the same slowdowns during battles that plagued the original game.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is excellent from beginning to end. Alongside tunes from the original Tales Of Xillia, there are some new ones that are truly excellent like the new battle themes, some boss themes and all the background tracks for the Olympios towns and fields, which retain the same unique jazzy feel of the Trigleph town track. Voice acting is also quite good from beginning to end, with only Elle’s voice feeling a bit forced. This also was an issue in the Japanese version so it’s not a huge problem. There’s an awkward delivery here and there as well, like during Jude’s Mystic Arte, but nothing truly grating.
Everything considered, Tales Of Xillia 2 is a worthy addition to the Tales Of series and a better game than its predecessor thanks to the great story and characters and improved battle system. The amount of recycled content is disturbing at times but if you can look past this and a few other small issues, you will find a remarkable role playing game that can keep you engaged for a very long time.