Like the Final Fantasy series used to be, the Tales of series has been one that has not had direct sequels very often. Opting more time than not to just do standalone games. However, after the critical success that was Tales of Xillia, Bandai Namco decided to buck the trend and release a direct sequel, aptly titled Tales of Xillia 2. It’s not just the name that the second game borrows, but also the same locations and characters from the original, with a few twists and turns. In fact, one might think of this as an expansion and sometimes that can be off-putting, but not so in this case.
Tales of Xillia 2 puts players into the snug shoes of Ludger Kresnick, a young man trying to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become an agent of the Spirius Corporation. Along the way he meets up with a girl named Elle Marta and from there of course, an adventure ensues. The game takes place a year following the events of the first, which saw a long standing divide between Rieze Maxia and Elympios be dispelled, though that hasn’t stopped hatred from both sides for each other. Not helping the matter are terrorist actions that look to pull both sides back into a war and is right in the middle of our main characters and their quest. There is a lot going on story-wise with Tales of Xillia 2. Not only is there the main campaign, but also side stories for each individual character in your party. It’s nice to see so much attention paid to each character, especially since they are all rather strong characters, but it does detract a bit from the main experience.
The game sees a return of so many familiar faces from the original and let’s players who enjoyed the first game find answers to the questions of what happened to Jude Mathias following the events of the first, or where is Alvin now? Not only is the returning cast strong, but added characters into the story, such as Ludger and Elle, are equally as strong. Though with all that good, I find it kind of odd that the game basically made Ludger a mute, with only a few lines spoken randomly throughout. He seems like such an interesting character that could have had some great exchanges with everyone else. They do try to offset this with the addition of choices in the game, where during dialogue you can select which reply you want to give, either hurting or helping relationships with your fellow party members. It is a nice addition that says it will have consequences on the story, but it never feels like it does anything. I even replayed different sections of the game to pick a different reply, yet I got the same basic result as the first reply I had given. The biggest benefit I found was in the Player Affinity System, which allows you to unlock different outfits and hair styles by linking with teammates or making good with your conversation choices.
Combat has always been a feather in the cap of the Tales games and it’s not different this time around. Battles are done in real time, as players are set in a round battle ground and must carefully move about, attacking and defending when the time is needed. Ludger has the ability to switch between three sets of weapons in the game, giving players a great freedom of changing their style of attack based on what enemies they are fighting. Some enemies might not be affected by the sword, so you will want to switch to your dual pistols or hammer to do the job. It is extremely satisfying to switch mid combat and works very fluidly. Like the original game, linking players a huge part in combat, as you can link up with one of your three AI teammates and pull off combination attacks and execute special moves. Your link partner will also watch your back, rushing to hit anyone trying for a back stab. Each party members has different abilities that come out when you link up, such as Jude rushing to pick you up and heal a bit of health whenever you are knocked down.
Tales of Xillia 2 Review - It's the 2nd Xillia (PS3) - PlayStation LifeStyle
Xillia 2 brings something new to the table, introducing the Allium Orb, which replaces the Illium Orb from the previous entry. Each character can have a single Allium Orb equipped and these different orbs come with different abilities. You can gain new abilities for the orbs by collecting element points found throughout your travel. Your abilities associated with whatever orb you have equipped will automatically level up as you find element points, meaning you can just focus on the combat at hand. It makes things a little easier on the player but might irk some of those who want to be more hands on with what they learn. Thankfully you can still acquire skill points to allow you to customize each character a bit more and as you level up you will unlock new artes to use in battle.
One of the more controversial additions to the game was the new debt system that players have to deal with. Basically Ludger gains this huge amount of debt early on in the game and must now work to pay off that debt. Making matters worse is the fact that he cannot travel to certain parts of the world until he pays off a set amount. What this does is forces the player to grind and grind until they can pay off enough of the debt to move on with the story. It’s not a bad system, especially with how fun the combat is, but it isn’t an overly great system either. I find it a bit off-putting to be forced to grind to progress the story, taking on basic kill or fetch quests over and over again until I can accrue enough funds to move on. The debt system also involves an ex-classmate of Ludger’s named Nova; who besides Elle, is easily one of the more annoying characters in the game. This mode will likely have a big divide between gamers, as some will hate all the grinding while others will enjoy spending hours on end killing.
Tales of Xillia 2 reuses a lot of assets from the original game, from locations to characters, but this time around it’s not a bad thing. This was not a game that annoyed me at one bit by reusing assets and in fact, I often times didn’t even notice. The story and characters are just so well done and the addition of story levels for each individual character allow you to gain back stories for each of your party mates. The story levels for the characters are given the right amount of service and don’t feel tacked on, adding an invaluable look into each characters past. The All the voice work, minus Elle and Nova, are top notch and the musical score fits the game like a glove.
Bandai Namco should be commended for taking an already good RPG in Tales of Xillia and expanding on that storyline in a way that pays respect to the original and builds so much on top of it. It is hard to make a sequel that is worth of the original and Tales of Xillia 2 does just that. The world never feels stale and the development team shows just how much we didn’t know about each character and their inner workings. If you can look past the forced grind of the debt system, you are rewarded with a very good RPG and a wonderful addition to the Tales of franchise.
Tales of Xillia 2 review copy provided by publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.