Tales of Xillia 2
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Bandai Namco Games (Bandai Namco Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, and Violence
Tales of Xillia 2 is Bandai Namco’s latest entry in their long-running Tales series of JRPGs. A direct sequel to last year’s Tales of Xillia, Xillia 2 takes place in a fantasy world coming to terms with the collision of technology and natural magic, and the cultures that rely on each. The game features several returning characters from the first game, but focuses on the chance encounter of two new characters, making it designed to be accessible to series veterans and newcomers alike. I especially appreciated this fact, as I am one of those uninitiated.
For being named Ludger, it takes a while to earn pistols
Tales of Xillia 2 starts off a year after the events of the first game. While the plot quickly involves you in the turbulent politics of two vastly different cultures recently reunited and the terrorists who oppose the proceedings, you start off humbly with the daily struggles of Ludger Kresnik, who’s starting a new job in his native Trigleph City. Ludger encounters a young man, Jude Mathis, on his way to the train station, as well as Elle Marta, a girl who uses him as a distraction to sneak past the ticket gate. The scene that follows brings Ludger in contact with some of the most significant individuals of the moment and sets him on an important mission that ultimately introduces him, and the player, to the cast of the original Tales of Xillia.
Gameplay elements are unrolled a bit at a time, often introduced and explained to you by the other characters in skippable tutorial segments that seem rather natural, Ludger being a newcomer among veterans. Battles play out in real-time with a system of attacks, blocks, sidesteps, action points, special attacks, teammate pairing, and weapon swapping that may seem overwhelming at first, even at the limited rate of introduction. Thankfully, most of the tools at your disposal aren’t necessary until after you’ve been free to experiment with random battles for a long while, and all of the tutorials can be reviewed with an NPC in every city area. By the time you need to use the more tactical parts of your arsenal, you’ve likely already started practicing and improving them with equipable skill options.
You gained a third of a title!
Tales of Xillia 2 constantly rewards you. Most battles conclude with levels gained, items found, skills unlocked, jobs completed, and (if not fully-earned) commendation for progress toward earning myriad titles. Outside of residential areas, there are items littering the fields and plenty of other incentives to go exploring such as, no joke, seeking all one hundred cats lost throughout the game. Within the cities, items are hidden inside random furniture, as is RPG tradition, and rooms exist containing block puzzles to challenge you for new gear. You’re rewarded for rescuing the aforementioned cats by gaining the ability, again no joke, to send the cats on missions to bring you more items. You’re even rewarded for making timely payments on a personal loan, a mechanic the game has you taking part in anyway as the means of unlocking new areas to explore.
Some design decisions are questionable, however. While finding items in the field is a breeze, thanks to bright, flashing lights or conspicuous loot bags signifying their presence, searching for items in towns can be a chore if you don’t want to miss anything. An interactive object is accompanied by a helpful icon over Ludger’s head, but walking into a solid barrier brings up a floating “no” symbol in the same place, so moving along the walls for the one bookcase in the entire facility that grants flavor text is marred by twenty false-positives. The game then keeps track of every location where you found something (including cats), which could be helpful going back later with a guide for things you’d missed, but is otherwise a useless feature. Also worth noting, the 2D animation for character conversation looks beautiful, but the 3D models sometimes act wonky and vibrate upon collision.
The menu system keeps track of everything, and you’re encouraged early on to explore it. You see where skits, optional conversations that occur between events, will be collected and counted. But Xillia 2 never tells you how or when to access them, so you’re likely to have missed a few before noticing the silent prompt in the lower left, instead of the flashier reward notices in the lower right. The Xillia encyclopedia is helpful for newcomers, but it focuses on details from the first game and omits characters Ludger knew from his past, the details the player would want in order to make informed decisions regarding his interaction with them. At least once, you’re asked to make a quick decision whom to defend from an attack, but have been given very little to go on.
There’s also the matter of Ludger’s floating somewhere between the Silent Protagonist and Hodor. While his not being fully voiced possibly makes him more relatable as the player’s avatar, the fact that he does speak a few words at a time while otherwise having Elle speak on his behalf makes him seem like a dullard, particularly in the end-of-battle congratulatory sequences. Had they gone fully one way or the other, it wouldn’t come across as so odd. That said, the rest of the cast is comprised of characters who feel very real. Their banter, mannerisms and, when appropriate, raw enthusiasm make them a joy to have along for the journey. Even Elle, who could easily have been the obnoxious kid sidekick, managed to prove quite likeable and realistic.
Head out, and find those cats!
Tales of Xillia 2 allows you to explore a beautiful and well-crafted world. Its locales, history, politics, and characters are a joy to investigate and experience. The battles start off simple but become rather robust and fun as complexities are added. The progression offers enough choices to avoid feeling linear, and the limiting factors are implemented sensibly. I can’t say how it compares to other Tales games, but Tales of Xillia 2 proved itself an enjoyable RPG and a fine entry point to the series.
Site [Tales of Xillia 2]