Tales of Xillia 2
A failed exam, an attack on a train, and a massive debt begins Tales of Xillia 2, released on PS3 as the 14th instalment in Bandai Namco’s Tales series of loosely associated high fantasy JRPGs. It’s the sequel to the reasonably successful Tales of Xillia released in 2013 and wastes little time (by the standards of the genre) in throwing you into the action. Let’s keep up that pace by taking a look at just what’s on offer here.
Set one year after the events of the original game, the Great Schism that once divided the human and spirit worlds has been torn down, with some less than ideal consequences. You play as Ludger Kresnik, a young man determined to emulate his older brother Julius by joining him as an agent for the mysterious Spirius Corporation. Unfortunately, he fails his exam and, defeated, accepts a job as a cook at a train station. Meanwhile, little Elle Marta is running for her life after an attack on her father that should have left him dead. She trusts that if she can reach the mythical Land of Canaan via train she can wish to be reunited with him and live safely.
Both Ludger and Elle end up at the train station when terrorists suddenly strike and Ludger decides to defend Elle with the help of new acquaintance Jude Mathis, one of the main characters from the previous game. They move onto the train as it departs, resolving to stop the attack. One shocking encounter later and thousands are dead – and it would seem that Julius is to blame. Ludger wakes up burdened with crippling medical bills that hinder his investigation into what really happened and just why anyone would want to harm Elle.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of plot to keep anyone invested. It’s jam-packed with things to do aside from the main story and could easily take a long time to finish for someone who wants to experience everything. Now, I have to confess that although I enjoy JRPGs generally, I have never played the original Tales of Xillia. Going into it, I was worried that I would be completely lost but that wasn’t the case. While the game doesn’t offer anything like a “previously on” to catch you up, it does have a handy encyclopaedia with information on previous events. The dialogue also offers quite a bit of variety, with plenty of comedy thrown in to lighten the mood given the tone of the plot is rather dark.
A surprisingly innovative system has been employed for progression through the main story. The game only allows you to advance as you pay off Ludger’s debt, opening up new areas with each instalment. While you can walk from one to the next when this happens, there is also a handy quick travel system in the train network to save time. I can see how forcing you to unlock the next part of the story in this way might annoy those who just want to get through the game but it encourages you to take on side quests and do some old fashioned grinding, a seemingly necessary evil in any JRPG. Instead of doing all this stuff while you internally wonder why you should because the world has gone topsy-turvy, you have absolutely no choice. I definitely didn’t feel any guilt in investing time building up my skills and learning combat techniques thanks to this.
Keeping with standard convention of the genre, the game has a map mode and battle mode. The battles certainly stand out compared to similar titles. They’re fast paced in real time, with free flowing action offering excellent flexibility in how you attack. A lot of work has gone into crafting the Artes, which are abilities or spells you can use in battle to hit your foe where it hurts using TP, or Technical Points. You learn them via Allium Orbs, which you have to tweak in the menu to make sure you’re gaining the skills you want to. There is some memorisation involved in using them smoothly but it’s definitely better than scrolling through menus. The only downside is that I found I rarely needed them aside from with bosses. For many creatures it was enough just to slash repeatedly and they would go down quite quickly.
The map mode has some large environments to explore. Too bad they feel so empty once you start walking around. There were plenty of people standing around in the cities that I could talk to but few of them said anything that interested me and finding the odd treasure here and there just wasn’t enough to make me want to search every nook and cranny after a while.
There’s also some semblance of choice in the storyline. Whenever Ludger is prompted to respond to someone or react to a situation, the action freezes for a moment and two wheels appear onscreen with options to choose from. They mostly don’t matter on any large scale early on because certain events are simply part of the plot and you’ll be thrown in anyway. You can, however, build up your relationships with others, which is a nice touch. The ultimate ending will be up to you, though, so choose wisely.
The most awkward thing about any conversation had is that Ludger is almost entirely silent, occasionally making slight noises that almost sound like grunts. It’s a bit disconcerting, particularly when faced with situations that should make him shout or otherwise show some kind of emotion. From what I can gather, this wasn’t the way of the original and unfortunately having a nearly silent protagonist really doesn’t work here.
Put simply, Tales of Xillia 2 is a solid game with heaps going for it and just a few holes here and there. They’re not game breaking and really don’t hinder enjoyment all that much, particularly when you’re distracted by the flashy battles and well acted dialogue from other characters. It puts its own unique twist on a few elements of the genre, which is always welcome, and if you’re a fan of JRPGs, this game should be added to your list to play.
- Gripping story
- Engaging battle system
- Influence over ending offers replay value
- Clunky menu
- Empty and sometimes repetitive environments
- Not enough of a challenge at normal difficulty