Platforms PlayStation 3
Publisher/Developer Bandai Namco Games
Genre JRPG Platform Played PlayStation 3
Tales of Xillia was one of my most treasured experiences of 2013; the original title showcased some incredible mature themes within a mystical new world, with characters that I will never forget. Tales of Xillia 2 is a sequel that is meant to be played as such, with many facts, characters and past moments never fully explained as Xillia 2 assumes you know them. This is where Xillia 2 prospers for those who loved the original game, cutting out boring filler to further the narrative and allow players to quickly jump in and get back to the true heart of the Xillia universe. This leaves me highly recommending those who haven’t played the original, finish Xillia 1 before jumping into its sequel.
Tales of Xillia 2 follows the story of Ludger Kresnik, a descendant of the Kresnik family who were a focal point of the original game; Elle Marta, a young child who becomes Ludger’s companion, though her origin is unknown, and Ludger’s cat Rollo. Taking place 1 year after the conclusion of Xillia 1, players must see the nations of Rieze Maxima and Elympios deal with the removal of the barrier that separated both nations. Unlike most sequels set within a previously established universe, Xillia 2 doesn’t expand into new locations, meaning players who enjoyed the original shall expect to revisit a plethora of locations throughout the 30 plus hour adventure. Though Xillia’s main story arc feels convoluted and difficult to follow, seeing the nations cope with their new-found neighbours became some of the more interesting and controversial moments.
These two neighbouring nations harness a great hate towards one another, due to their different philosophies and ways of life. Simply put, racism is rampant throughout both nations and the political repercussions of the barriers removal are ever present throughout the narrative. I found Xillia’s ability to tackle such controversial and mature themes consistently, while never making them feel oppressive or removing Xillia’s fun nature to be one of its most endearing traits. Tackling such topics is never easy and players can completely ignore these political undertones, but the added tension these topics offer for this out-of-this-world story feel relatable and current.
One of the new additions to the Xillia formula is the inclusion of player choice. Throughout Xillia 2 players are able to make decisions, which range from simple dialogue choices, to moments that can alter how the story continues. Having an effect on how Ludger interacted with characters allowed for a more personal experience. While these choices also made me want to playthrough Xillia 2 again, to see how my choices and interactions could be altered. This sense of replayability was lacking in the original release, which will certainly add a reason for players to extend their adventure into New Game Plus.
Xillia’s main plot falls flat due to the complicated narrative taking place, involving different dimensions and a twist that can be seen from a mile away. Fans of the original Tales of Xillia will appreciate the return of their favourite characters, and seeing how they have evolved over the past year. Returning are the skits that were found within the original release, where characters will interact with one another in-between battles. These character interactions are excellent, helping emphasise the relationship each individual has with one another. These scenes provide some light-hearted and beautiful moments, but it also showcases the problem with Ludger’s mostly silent demeanour.
Ludger Kresnik is almost completely silent, apart from a few sounds and words throughout the adventure. His lack of interaction with characters feels out of place, as his persona is barely showcased. The silence makes it hard to invest in the character, when surrounded by the lovable original cast. The main narrative felt weakest when it began to focus on Ludger’s exploits, simply because I couldn’t find myself attached to his bland personality. If Ludger was a complete silent hero the decision would have made more sense, but due to the fact he has a voice actor the lack of usage felt out of place.
Tales of Xillia also offers a range of side activities, alongside the lengthy main campaign. The main narrative is separated into chapters. If players want to avoid the main story and tackle some of the side activities, they are more than welcome. Due to early events in the Xillia story Ludger has amassed a substantial debt, which will need to be paid in-between the main story in order to gain access to new areas. Earning money can be done by completing side quests, which range from killing a certain number of enemies, collecting items or simply winning battles; how you earn the money is up to you. Rollo also has his own personal mode called Kitty Dispatch, allowing collected cats to be sent around the world to find rare items.
Completing these side tasks is made easier due to the instantaneous fast travel system, allowing players to revisit previous locations in a flash. Xillia’s world is massive and the insanely fast travel system is impressive, despite the fact NPC pop-in is rampant throughout. Characters around the world can take around 10-15 seconds to appear in crowded city locations, but the problem never tarnished the experience as they provided very little significance to the adventure.
The most entertaining addition to the range of side tasks available are the new Character Missions. These missions revolve around characters from the original game, focusing on their own personal stories and how the conclusion of Xillia 1 affected their lives. These stories do an excellent job of showcasing the persona of each character, allowing new and old Xillia fans alike to understand and relate to their personal demons. These tales are beautiful and I’m glad the original cast were given such a substantial amount of love, further showcasing how in-depth and endearing the original cast of characters were.
Battles in Tales of Xillia 2 are fast paced and take place within real time, which Tales veterans will be accustomed too. Xillia avoids the typical JRPG turn-based battle system and focuses on an action-orientated slant, allowing for more control of your party during battles. The system is almost identical to Xillia 1, with the ability to link with other party members to combine attacks, utilising Artes or physical attacks, and the ability to freely move around the battlefield as any party member. Ludger does provide some slight variations, with his ability to freely switch between his double blades, double pistols and a long-range hammer. The ability to switch weapons is an interesting idea, though switching feels cumbersome and neither the pistols nor the hammer feel as damaging when compared to your double blades; which meant I mostly avoided this new feature.
When facing against smaller enemies, combat is quickly over without much thought, however when facing the multitude of rare monsters and boss encounters the battle system becomes much more complicated. Players must manage their own controlled combatant and their entire party, making sure each member of your party is healed and working together with their team mates. The management system adds strategic elements to these difficult battles, bringing with it a more enjoyable challenge. Though the team mate AI struggles to stay alive for longer periods of time when you fall to your demise, the ability to switch members and continue the fight makes for some interesting dynamics to strategy.
The biggest change to the Xillia formula is the new upgrade system. Known as the Allium Orb system, it throws away the simple aspect of utilising skill points to upgrade your character and instead tries to add new layers. The new system is however extremely difficult to understand. Instead of simply choosing where your points are placed, players must now collect elemental orbs which are instantly added to the designated extractor your party member have equipped. Each extractor utilises different elements and players can choose which area they wish their orbs to increase.
The new system forced me to constantly micro-manage my party in order to allow for each member to increase their stats in new areas, this made upgrading my party’s abilities an unpleasant chore. Ultimately you can make your way through the game without messing with the new system, but in order to make things easier utilising the Allium Orb is essential. The new rendition of the original system feels confusing and makes the art of leveling up your characters more nuisance than pleasure.
Tales of Xillia 2 doesn’t quite live up to the excellence of the original, but it certainly provides an excellent adventure for those wanting to spend more time with the beloved cast of characters. Though Ludger feels bland as a main hero, he is surrounded by an array of colourful characters that provide some excellent character interactions, alongside some heartfelt Character Missions.
Fans of the original game will find themselves right at home, with many of the same locations, music, enemies and characters all making an appearance. Though new players may find themselves out of the loop, due to the fact many details are assumed to be known by the player. Unfortunately many of the new systems actually provide some of the weakest moments of this extensive journey, with the new upgrade system, combat additions and new narrative providing some of the bigger low points.
Tales of Xillia 2 is a fine JRPG, one that looks to extend on the original. Though these additions don’t always succeed, experiencing another adventure through the world of Xillia with the beloved original cast made the journey an enjoyable one.
- Embracing the events that took place in Tales of Xillia.
- Character Missions tell wonderful stories.
- Mature take on sensitive issues.
- Player choice moments.
- Ludger Kresnik’s almost silent demeanour.
- Convoluted main narrative.
- New upgrade system.
The Score: 8