While I personally loved everything Tales of Xillia 2 had to offer, one of our wonderful writers had a few things to say about the previous game which can be found here for reference. Another thing to note, as this is a review for a direct sequel, there will be spoilers about the story infused in the review so please heed caution. For those wanting to skip the full critique and review or haven’t played the first title yet to avoid spoilers – this game plays exactly like the first Tales of Xillia, but with a few changes. So if you loved the first game, the second should be an instant buy.
I would highly suggest playing the first game first as this is obviously a direct sequel but you’ll also find the relationships you hold with the various characters hold through and picks up a year later, straight where it left off. This is still a great game with great mechanics, albeit rehashed from the first title. If you despise the first title, not much is made to differentiate Xillia 2 from its predecessor.
From this point onwards there will be spoilers in this review – you have been warned.
In Xillia 2, you play as Ludger Kresnik, a man from Elympios who yearned to work in the same company and position as his brother, Julius. After failing his entrance exam, he becomes a cook instead. After a cutscene in a perilous situation you are introduced to Elle, a girl who is sent by her dad to reach the Land of Canaan, a mythical land that grants a wish to any who visit its sacred grounds. Cutting further through the story, Ludger and Elle team up with the rest of the Xillia gang as they jump into alternate time paradoxes to destroy worlds, save the Prime Universe, and gain access to the Land of Canaan. By jumping around, the story is very far-fetched but from playing the game it lays it out more smoothly then how I described it.
The story in general is fun; it starts off pretty slow and and gets more interesting about midway and carries on in a strong stride. It showcases little snippets of alternative consequences of the choices characters from the previous game made and concocted various “what if?” scenarios. This was particularly nice to see especially the story and world from the previous title were so rich. The game also works in multiple endings – there are several choices the player will make in the game. These choices also influence a few parts in the game as to what main objective Ludger will be made to do first so the influence of choices is nicely represented here. Another neat feature was adding bonus scenes to the story and sidequest scenarios based off your relationship with characters – it was a brilliant icing to the cake.
There are a number of things that I believe detracts a bit from the story and gameplay or at least could’ve been pushed or developed further – the chief of them being the debt system. Ludger ends up raking a hefty fine of 20 million gald after an incident occurs at the beginning of the game. This is used to limit the layers exploration throughout the game. The bank follows and limits Ludger’s travel based upon how much of the loan he’s payed off. It’s a very smart move to get more time into the game and an impetus for a grinding mechanic as repaying the loan leads to rewards as useful as new clothing and skills for the party. The debt is also a large factor during the story, playing a big part of Ludger’s decision in game.
The Spirius Corporation promised large payments for doing jobs with them but nothing was given through the story. The biggest reward would be from the Spirius employees asking you to take down an elite enemy on the job board that any citizen can use. There is no main story impact from the Corp. Money is not physically received while it is used as a story driven mechanic. The game could have really driven home the debt idea by having the player stick with Spirius, so that the debt would be repayed a lot quicker while being employed by them.
But due to the game following a linear path until reaching near the end point, it makes sense why not to do that. There are, however, choices that influence the personality of Ludger which could have made a deeper impact between the debt and Brotherhood/Friends. It’s not necessarily a big detractor as the story is in the eye of the beholder, and the story is still intriguing to pursue. Just my personal input to aim for deeper impacts with story and reward by choice.
To elaborate further on the debt system, as I said before, it acts as a limiter to progression within the game as far as locations go within the game. The game then enacts a second limit based off how far you are into the story – this limit unlocks new regions, which I find to be a bit of a nuisance when the debt system offers these rewards for how much the player pays off. This means that if you aren’t far enough in the story, paying the debt back won’t get you further, and vise-versa.
This defeats the idea of player agency to freely grind his way to travel and basically tugs the players arm to just continue on the story. Perhaps a crazy player would grind his 20 million gald within the beginning of the game; to give a cool mechanic yet limit it to a story-based extent is a bit of a pain, but alas these are the ramblings of an old grinder. There are many ways to increase gold intake by partaking jobs on the job board which are your standard kill and collection quests. Some of which will also unlock costume accessories and extra skills which are is always nice.
One final note on the debt system is the nuisance of Nova constantly calling to demand money. As much as I can smile and admire the similar nuisance of persistent debt collectors it can really take away from the emotions left by the story. Such as an intense scene leading to a chase only to be stopped by Nova calling immediately after the cutscene and halting progress for money. This along with some of the repeatable party ramblings which are long and frequent could be toned down a bit in favor of keeping emotions high during tense moments.
The art and battle systems are nearly identical to the previous Xillia, so there doesn’t need to be a huge explanation but perhaps a slight discussion. I love the art, nice and simple. It’s nicely modeled with great usage of colors, but animations were copied from the previous game and that might be an issue. The lack of differentiating the environments from the previous game is a bit disheartening yet welcoming. They did add a few new locations and it is wonderful to revisit iconic spots that you’ve experienced within the previous installment but nothing looks changed – this is especially noticeable when its been a year difference with heavy influencing of two cultures.
It had so much room for growth. For example, just to showcase the different time, they could have a more festive fall matter, showing that it’s porange season with a porange festival in Hamil or something to liven up some of the locations or just add or edit a few models like statues or something in the Seaports to establish the bond Rieze-Maxians and Elympions are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, to some gamers, this could look like a cop-out to producing new art. This spans not just in environmental but also enemies too. Perspective wise, it is up to the player to determine the extremity of disappointment; to me I didn’t mind too much but I can see where people would be highly upset.
The newer locations are very lightly sprung in the beginning of the game, but closing near the end of the game many locations story wise are mostly revisits to older rehashed places. This is not a great thing but not necessarily awful either. When jumping into parallel worlds, the game likes to put on a dark, washed-out effect to showcase the off-set location. As much as it is a nice touch-up to show difference, it actually hinders world exploration. As the game points out, these parallel areas have new treasures to search for. A bunch of the time the player will travel through highways riddled with holes to crawl and explore little areas that hold treasure chests. This darkening effect on some areas make it nigh impossible to locate these holes or sometimes it’s even hard find the exit in low-lit areas. Not a huge deal, but it does show a lack of effective testing on the visual front.
The battle system continues very similarly to Xillia, but changes it up on a few accounts. The first and obvious example is the fact that the main character can swap 3 different types of weapons, which gives the player a lot more toys to fool around with during battles; These 3 different type of weapons are now labelled as attributes so some enemies could be weak to slash, blunt, or piercing attacks, so it does add a bit to the mixture in a more fun way since a good chunk of the game involves the player utilizing the main character. The battle system that Tales is known for is still one of its more fun features and still remains that way for fast, dynamic, combo-ridden combat.
Another function they added is Ludger’s transformation called the Chromatus. This bad boy allows Ludger to be invulnerable for a short period of time and can be utilized to cancel attacks or special effects. This can be a huge life saver in harder difficulties but a game breaker to easier ones. The skill progression took a path into the weird. Instead of Xillia’s previous model where a character would level up and gain skill points to spend on a visualized pathway-based skill chart, Xillia 2’s version has you collecting elemental ore from battles and field searching that unlocks skills via how much ore is collected when equipped with a certain element. This does allow all the skills to be ascertained without sacrifice of choice which is nice for fun skill acquisitions and combinations however, I think it failed in its way of displaying the skill progression.
The player must constantly check the equipped Allium Orb to see where the flow is going and the skill progression is only showed for that certain element when it is equipped. And furthermore, when the ore collected reaches a certain threshold, it will finally showcase more possible skills to the player. This gets highly tedious constantly swapping orbs just to see what pathway i’d like to take. If the game wished to use the elemental ore path it still should have utilized a similar graph like design as Xillia but just labelled how much ore was needed for each highlighted skill. It’s easy to appreciate trying something different though – it just wasn’t as effectively represented as the previous title.
Although I may have been beating on this title; it is still great and fun to play. There are a ton of collectibles and unlockables available to grab on the top of side missions that develop from furthering relations with your favorite xillia characters. Also added are timed collection bits utilizing Ludger’s cat, Rollo, to collect missing cats around each city and field. This way is also used for collecting rare items unable to grab by normal means. It keeps the player constantly checking tabs on the cat’s progress. This, along with the Allium Orb equipping and moving about, thankfully doesn’t stop gameplay interest at all.
Xillia 2’s Story in comparison is a bit weaker then Xillia 1, with Ludger being one of the weaker developed characters of the series, mostly due to his being a silent but still somewhat vocal protagonist with grunts and one word lines. I think it would have been more effective to have the voice actor just say the lines chosen, thereby at least giving Ludger a voice, and possibly have a more relatable character. Ludger is primariy developed through others such as Elle and Julius but it just doesn’t feel quite right for me. It was, however, cool that some of the side missions that are available to do slightly show a bit more of his personal life with friends and such.
To wrap this up, Xillia’s sequel does a great job in maintaining the feel of a Tales game – namely, combat is still fun, refreshing, and improved with more dynamics. There are a ton of collectibles and fun, great characters. Although Ludger may be one of the weakest characters when it comes to development, the rest of the cast is still highly interesting, charismatic and it’s great to see how they are adapting to their new lifestyles. Additional side missions are fun, albeit a bit grindy due to the debt system. The game could have put a bit more effort into editing the reused locales a bit to the avoid a cut & paste feel.
If you are a Tales fan, definitely grab the title, its still very good and fun, especially if you loved the Xillia universe. The only people I may not suggest this too are people who hate to grind, as the debt system is required to be taken care of while in the story to progress.
You may want to be careful as well if you did not care for Xillia in the first place, as the sequel didn’t do much to change it drastically – if anything it’s a slightly weaker representation. Enjoy the game, Niche Gamer Nation! Feel free to post below your favorite Tales title/character/etc.