This is the second time I’ve entered the world of Xillia, with my first foray coming from the first game which I reviewed last year. A lot can change in a year, and a lot has in this return to the lands of Riese Maxia and Elympios, as each of the characters deal with the consequences of the first game. Before you do jump in it is advisable to play the first Xillia because of how many references are made to the events of it. You could get by without doing so but then you’d miss out on a lot of background information.
The first major difference is the new protagonist, Ludger, who is a rather silent character. He is joined by eight year old Elle who is the complete opposite of Ludger and talks a lot, like a child is bound to do. She also has her own motivation for being part of the group, after witnessing quite a horrifying spectacle at the beginning. Over the course of the story, Elle managed to become my favourite character, probably because she reminded me of my own sibling who was exactly like her at that age.
It’s quite the change from the Jude and Milla dynamic of the first game as a lot of the story and characterisation came from what they said. In this case the player has a more direct role, choosing Ludger’s responses during cut scenes. In turn this affects how other characters see Ludger, and it pays to build a good relationship with all of them as they then give you gifts to help out.
The majority of the first Xillia cast do make a return in the sequel, all coming into contact with Ludger through different events, and it is good to see those characters return. The majority of them keep the same charm as they had before, especially Alvin and Rowen, while others – like Elize – have matured into stronger people. The way the relationships were portrayed really made the game, and I’m glad to say that the same quality has remained. The skits, activated by Select, make a return where the characters speak to each other about different aspects of the world, be it the main quest or just general musings. The voice work continues to be top notch too.
While Xillia 2 is a direct sequel there are quite a few changes to how the game works. The main addition is the debt system which is introduced fairly on in the story. Ludger is burdened with a ridiculously high debt and must make dents in it to make any progress whatsoever. This does have an impact on the pacing of the game, and a bit of feels like that it was implemented to drag things out. The game locks out locations, and so the main story, until you earn enough Gald to pay off a certain amount to unlock that area.
In a way its at odds against the story which is about alternate dimensions and a worldwide threat of instability. It’s also opposite to Xillia 1 which did have side quests but they were completely optional and didn’t hinder progress. In Xillia 2 you will have to go to each town’s job boards, take on the side quests and complete them until enough gald – the in game currency – has been earned to move on. Most of these side quests are either finding resources or killing a number of beasts, which at first is fun but gets a bit tedious when you have to kill 20 of the same animal to complete a side quest.
There are big side quests with huge payouts that revolve around taking down elite monsters, but to do so you need the right equipment and to be a high level. To get the best equipment you need the gald to buy it, so in some cases it comes down to a case of choosing to buy the items you need or unlocking the next part of the story. The most interesting side quests aren’t forced upon you, and are about the individual characters themselves. These give a backstory to each of them, showing what they’ve been up to since the original title, and what they are doing when not with Ludger.
The battle system is also similar to the first one in that it happens in real time instead of being turn based, with the return of the assault counters and technical points, each of which are used to perform attack moves and perform the arte (magic) attacks. There is also the return of Linked Artes, where characters can pair up to carry out powerful attacks. You need to keep your technical points high to be able to carry out the artes, and this gauge can be filled by using regular attacks. You can avoid battle by running around enemies on the field or if you want to fight them you can sneak up to gain an advantage. However, enemies can run up behind you can get their own advantage.
One major addition is Ludger’s Chromatus power which allows him to transform into a powerful being that can carry out incredibly strong attacks for a certain period of time. It’s an ability that can really help to turn battles around, especially some of the tougher boss battles. There’s also a story element to this power which Ludger must use when dealing with the alternate dimensions that keep opening up.
The character AI in battle hasn’t had a major overhaul and it didn’t really need it anyway, since both friendly and enemy characters react well to each other during it. Strategy is important and you will have to adjust them in the big fights, because if you keep trying the same thing over and over you’ll be met with failure. Some of these boss fights do have a major difficulty leap, but you can choose to not retry a battle if you do die over and over, leaving you to find better equipment and level up to overcome those obstacles.
Another change is that you no longer have the Lillium Orb, which was used to unlock artes. Instead there is the Allium Orb which allows you to choose different elemental powers to improve. Instead of doing this manually you collect elemental orbs dotted around the landscape, and once a point is reached you unlock new artes and skills. You can change which artes to focus on, as long as you find the relevant orb in the world.
The game world itself is also bigger with the original locations of Rieze Maxia being joined by those in Elympios. There are a lot of different towns and dungeons to explore, and at first you will have to get to each area by foot. Eventually fast travel does appear in the game so you can cut out a lot of journeying if you wish to, and it does help when you’re trying to clear the side quests that keep popping up.
There’s another addition to the game and it is called Kitty Dispatch. One quest has you searching for cats around the world, and as you find them you create your own item finding service. You can send the cats out to a location where they can find items or other cats. It’s a good addition and allows you to find rarer items quicker without having to scour every nook and cranny in the hope of finding what you need.
Visually Xillia 2 does look very nice with a broad array of colours present in the world, and the anime style permeates through the designs of both characters and the world. The music is distinct with each location having its own theme, and some will be recognisable to those who have played Xillia 1. There are some issues of clipping with enemy character models walking into walls and looking as if they become embedded in them. There’s also issue with pop in as textures and characters occasionally fail to load for a few seconds.
Tales of Xillia 2 is a very good game, but it is definitely not better than the original. The debt system is something I found irksome, with side quests forced on me instead allowing some natural exploration on my own part. If there was more variety in the side quest jobs then I wouldn’t have minded, but being sent out to kill the same beast a few times over does not offer that. However, in terms of gameplay and fun Xillia 2 does offer that for JRPG fans. If you enjoyed the first Xillia then you will enjoy this, and if you’ve not tried out this series yet then now could be a good time to get into it.
Version tested: PS3