If there’s a guilty pleasure any of us can admit to, it’s a good JRPG, or an insanely addicting anime. Combine both together, and what do you get? Why, you get the Tales series, of course! And just this past August, the latest installment in the franchise was released as the sequel to 2013’s English release of Tales of Xillia.
Tales of Xillia 2 takes place one year after the schism has been dispelled. Citizens of Rieze Maxia and Elympios live in varying degrees of suspicion, fear, and optimism. As with any political turmoil, different factions exist. Rieze Maxians are viewed as supernatural freaks, Elympions are viewed as spirit-murdering barbarians, and those in-between are torn between wishing the two worlds were divided again, or united in peace.
You start the game as Ludger Will Kresnik, and the first disappointment happens almost immediately. In the very beginning, Ludger is fairly quiet, and isn’t overly vocal. The moment I saw a trigger choice with dialogue options, I was excited to hear Ludger’s voice, as the voice acting in the original Tales of Xillia was mostly phenomenal. To my disappointment, Ludger did not utter the phrases and would merely nod or react with action. This trend continued, with Ludger only uttering one-word answers or short phrases, if need be. I actually began to wonder if Namco had run short on their voice acting budget.
Fellow Xbro Shadowstorm144 had actually gone to Google to find out if his game was glitched or if this was intentional. Thankfully, he spared me from doing the same thing, as the matter of Ludger’s voice is actually a huge spoiler. (I won’t spoil it in this review, fear not!) Ludger voices all of his lines completely in New Game+ mode, but the fact still remains that the game sounded broken or rushed during the first playthrough. After the lush, full voice acting of the first game, this was a disappointment and tainted my enjoyment of the game. It was a risky move for Namco, and unfortunately, it didn’t work.
The story follows Ludger, but offers numerous side chapters to help explain what happened to the various characters in the year after the schism was dispelled. The political intrigue between the cultures of Rieze Maxia and Elympios is both delicious and reasonable, but like any good JRPG sequel, if the player hasn’t played the first episode, the second game will leave them scratching their heads at certain parts.
A main aspect of the game is the trigger choices mentioned earlier. Ludger will find himself faced with different choices throughout the game, and these choices can affect everything from his relationship with his fellow characters, to the story itself. Players will no doubt end up doing a second playthrough just to see how these choices could have panned out differently, as well as finally hearing Ludger’s voice.
The cast of the first game returns, with new additions to join your party. Gaius and Muzet are now among the companions who join you, adding a wider range of party members to chose from, and a heavier emphasis on strategy. Other than Ludger’s plot-important silence, the voice acting is still fairly decent, with a few exceptions. Xillia 2 brings back an aspect of earlier Tales games that Xillia chose to overlook: Companion affinity/affection. Based upon your actions and answers, Ludger and his allies can learn new skills, gain new items, and open up dialogue scenes that may have been otherwise hidden. Even some NPCs have affinity with Ludger. One thing I have to applaud Xillia 2 on is the use of Linking to increase the Affinity. The more you link with an ally in battle, and the more successful those links, the more your affinity grows with that character. This is an excellent encouragement for players to link up with more than just their favorites.
The Lilium Orbs of the first game have been replaced by Alium Orbs in Tales of Xillia 2. The joy of customization that the Lilium Orbs offered was gone, replaced by an automatic leveling system. In the first game, players could either fill out a Lilium Orb completely, or rush through to get the desired skills and expand the webs without lighting up all the nodes. Alium Orbs are linear-based. Whatever one you equip decides what skills and attributes your characters develop. While there is still customization available, it isn’t nearly as much, in my own opinion.
The battle system is as fluid as ever. It’s as easy as ever to perform Artes, Linked Artes, and Chained Linked Arts. Even the Mystic Artes remain as easy as they were in the original Xillia, which was the only game I ever managed to execute a Mystic Arte on purpose, and more than once. (Seriously. Luke, Lloyd, I have no idea how you did that, but could you repeat that please?) The variety of skills and abilities to use offer endless ways to battle, and successfully mastering Linked Artes makes the tougher boss fights much easier.
One of my favorite new features is Ludger’s weapons. Unlike the other main characters, Ludger has the ability to switch through different weapons: The twin swords, the sledgehammer, and the dual pistols. The twin swords are excellent for racking up combos and striking quickly, while the hammer is the weapon you’ll want to use to break an enemy’s guard. And naturally, the dual pistols are what you’ll want to use for TP regen and attacking ranged enemies. Switching between all three is easy, and this added more freedom and strategy to the battles, as well as the joy of Hammer Time.
The environments are beautiful, and the characters are well rendered, with emotions clear on their lovely faces. Even the music is catchy and memorable, but much of it is the same as the first game. There were times where I felt that the game makers had merely re-used the same environment and smoothed the textures over just a bit. Still, that didn’t stop me from exploring every inch I could and humming along with the music.
But there’s an ugly shadow over Xillia 2. The game can be considered a diabolical madman who sits in the corner cackling as it forces you to perform sidequests. How does it do that? Well, it involves 20 million gald and the chirpiest debt collector you will ever meet. That’s right. The game forces Ludger into debt early on, and restricts your ability to travel. And the only way to make money is by hitting up the Job Board for Contracts, where players will find a selection of static jobs, and randomized kill-or-gather quests.
The quickest way to gather the necessary gald is to go after the Elite Marks, or challenging battles that may be too much for under-geared characters. Even then, players will be forced to perform other tasks in order to raise enough gald for both the debt and new weapons and armor. What’s even worse is that the debt collector, lovely Nova, will automatically message you and force you to pay if you raise enough gald. In order to progress through the story, you have to pay certain increments in order to unlock the ability to travel. While I don’t mind doing sidequests, they’re ‘side’ for a reason, and should be optional, not mandatory to continue with the story.
Still, despite these annoyances, Tales of Xillia 2 is an enjoyable game with great character development. It’s easy to get sucked into the game and laugh at the interactions between the characters – never play chess with Rowen – or get lost in the rich cultures of Rieze Maxia and Elympios in the age-old struggle to obtain peace without losing one’s heritage or identity. If you enjoyed the first game and fell in love with the characters, the game is a must-have. If you’re just looking for a good, stand-alone JRPG to fill your hours, Xillia 2 does a decent job of explaining the events of the first game. Is the full price tag of $59.99 worth it if you aren’t a die-hard fan of the series? Maybe not, but any fan of a JRPG should give this one a shot at least once. And hey, with the holidays right around the corner, we’re sure to see some sales, right?
Recommended for fans of: Previous Tales titles, Final Fantasy games, anime, JRPGs, ridiculous story plots that involve alternate dimensions and time travel
Kayla Swenson is an aspiring author and former DJ from Seattle, WA that procrastinates far too much with video games to get a book out. When she’s not gaming until carpal tunnel sets in, she’s working on dreams of being a voice actor as well as a published writer. Fond of RPGs, she will happily disappear into the void to tackle whatever bad voice acting awaits. Contact her at the email above, or on all major systems/networks as Beltravi.