I have been excited about the release of Tales of Xillia 2 since I played and reviewed the first one a few months ago here: http://www.rfgeneration.com/blogs/sirpsycho/Psychotic-Reviews-Tales-of-Xillia-2755.php. I greatly enjoyed the main characters and writing of the game, the plot also took plenty of nice turns that were not as predictable as an RPG veteran would expect.
Unlike the first game, you get taken off to a fast start. Quite a bit happens in a short amount of time and its not too long before you’ve reunited the cast of the first game. In comparison it just feels rushed, and there’s no real connection or build up with Ludger Kresnik (pronounced Loo-grr) as our new protagonist. They just kind of all join in, probably because Jude’s there from an early point and they all fondly remember their time together.
Ludger is much different as a protagonist than either Milla or Jude from the first game. He’s almost a silent protagonist in fact. He rarely speaks, and because of that when he does its only a couple words at most and just feels out of place. Instead of pre-recorded written lines and a well defined personality the developers decided to give the player a choice between two different lines at various points in conversation. These can have an impact on the affinity of your party members so they will like you more. Simple decision based systems like this make it easy for the player to make the character contradict him or herself, and the feeling of a character arc suffers as a result.
If you do not like backtracking, and you’ve played the first Xillia, then you will hate this game. Most of the game area is ripped straight from the first game, so for a long time you’re just revisiting areas you’ve already been. There are a few new areas, with a new town that serves as a bridge and trading post between Rieze Maxia and Elympios, and there’s a few more areas in Elympios, but it doesn’t feel like enough was added to make the world stand out any more than it already has from the first game’s adventure. There’s some more backstory with Elympios, and most of the new major players in the story are Elympions as well.
The battle system is much of the same, but Ludger has some unique abilities. He gets to wield multiple weapons, a pair of swords, a giant hammer, and twin handguns. You can switch these on the fly to attack enemies with different weaknesses. Ludger can also transform, and that leads to him fighting the enemies by himself during this transformation sequence. The other characters play the same way as the first game, with the exception of Gaius and Muzet being new additions to the party. Because of this there are plenty of new options to keep you occupied while you play through the game, backtrack to most of the same places you’ve been before, and fight the palate swapped enemies again.
The quest system is streamlined from the first game. Before you had to find whoever needed something done, talk to them, and then go off and do the task. Now there’s a quest board, and you rank up while doing plenty of quests, most of which are just random ones that involve killing a certain number of specific monsters or turning in items. Elite monsters are unlocked by progressing the story, and there are other story based quests that unlock from progression as well. On top of this there are quest points you earn by completing quests, and there is a series of levels to work through as well. Some of these story quests require a certain quest level to complete. Sometimes this makes little sense as the quest you can’t do yet will send you to kill some monsters you were slaughtering 20 levels prior, or they’ll need 1 item of something you already have at least a dozen of. But, you can’t take the quest yet because you need a higher level. This type of inconsistency is the most annoying aspect of these jobs.
Part of what helps you get items for quests is the Kitty Dispatch system. One of the overarching quests of the game is to find all kinds of hidden cats for some crazy cat lady that lives in the same building as Ludger. Each area you visit also has an item table that the cats can find when you send them out hunting for items. Some items you can only find through the cats, and there are plenty of quests which require these kitty items. Always expect to have a cat out running around finding you stuff, its the best way to stay on top of it.
You’re also expected to grind quite heavily while exploring the world. You have to find a cat in a certain area before you can send your kitties there to hunt items. Killing certain numbers of enemies will also give bonus skill points to use to equip the various skills you learn from the Allium Orb. There are plenty of skills here from simple stat increases to complete changes of combat mechanics. It can be quite enjoyable to customize your character’s skills to create certain builds. Eventually you’ll have so many skills that keeping up with them becomes more of a chore than anything.
The cats will also find you plenty of materials for the game’s crafting system, which is rather simple. You don’t have to guess and try to build items and gear with no guidance. Tiers unlock through story progression, then you can visit any shop and see what you can make, and check material requirements on what you want to make. Fairly early in the game these custom pieces of gear start to get stronger than gear you can buy, but most recipes will require a lower tier of weapon to make them.
So you have quests to make money, and a crafting system to pump money into. What other way can they find to take all of your hard earned Gald from you and make you scrounge for healing items and gear? Cripple the main character with a ridiculous amount of debt is one reason! Ludger does not start the game with any debt, but his life is saved quite early in the story, and he is then given a 20 million Gald debt to repay for some surgery and reconstruction.
I did enjoy this game despite the flaws I outlined above, but if there is a Tales of Xillia 3 there will need to be a lot of stretching, or Elympios recovering and leading to so many new areas to explore. It would just be a massive chore to slog through the same places for a third time. Like the first game the story took plenty of twists and turns, but these picked up towards the end while the first game was more evenly paced.
This isn’t even my final form!