Review: Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3)

tales-of-xillia-2-review-banner

Title: Tales of Xillia 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (5.1 GB)
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $129.99 (Collector’s Edition)
ESRB Rating: T
Tales of Xillia 2 is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 3 Collector’s Edition was used for this review.
This game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Tales of Xillia 2 picks up one year after the events of the first Tales of Xillia for the PS3. In this sequel, you play as a new character, Ludger Kresnik, as he learns more about himself and his family, and you are given direct input as he makes critical choices about how to save the world of Rieze Maxia.

Gameplay:
As the story of Tales of Xillia 2 begins, you’re introduced to Ludger Kresnik. Ludger wants to get a job at the Spirius Corporation in Elympios, where his brother works. Your older brother Julius, conducts Ludger’s training, but no matter how hard you try, you’re unable to gain employment. The story quickly takes a turn when you run into the co-protagonist of the first Tales of Xillia, Jude Mathis. It happens that, after the events of Tales of Xillia, Exodus has turned from a group of Elympians trying to get home, to a group of terrorists opposed to the unification of Rieze Maxia and Elympios.

As you help Jude find his way to the train station in Elympios, you end up boarding the train and events get very strange. A little girl named Elle has followed you two onto the train (you see the beginnings of her mysterious story in the opening scenes), and then you seem to be caught in a sort of déjà vu, where you end up fighting a doppelgänger of your brother, Julius, on the train, but his skin is pitch black and his eyes are glowing red. After you fight with Julius, you’re faced with a choice to finish him off or let him go, but in the end, you transform into some sort of clock-like being with a large spear. As you pierce Julius’ heart, the entire world shatters around you, and you end up back on the train before any of the recent happenings took place.

TOX2_201406_CHR_EVENT_0029

Once you awaken from the train incident, you wake up in a bar in Duval, a town in Elympios. A strange shady sort of man claims to have saved your life, along with Elle, and demands that you pay him a fee of twenty million Gald (!), which is the currency in the game. You’re quickly forced to sign a contract with a bank for a loan to pay him off, and are now tracked by your GHS device (a sort of mobile phone).

Already with the story this far, you are shown quite a few new game mechanics differing from the previous game. Since you are so deeply in debt, you’re not allowed to leave the city by train, your neighbors shun you, and you’re constantly hounded by a debt collector, Nova, who also happens to be a childhood friend.

The other main game mechanic that’s introduced into Tales of Xillia 2 is the choice and affinity systems. Upon certain events in the game, you are faced with a binary choice where you are prompted to press the R1 or L1 button to choose. Each choice can affect your affinity with your party, the responses you get from your party, as well as how the game’s story unfolds.

Just to bring the amount of debt into perspective, for every battle you win, you will usually gain anywhere from a few hundred Gald to a couple thousand Gald (and yes, they fixed the Xagut Floodmeadow Gald-farming area from the first game, that gave you enormous amounts of experience and money). Each time you accumulate enough Gald, that’s over the amount of your next payment, Nova will interrupt your gameplay to ask you for a payment. You can choose to pay her the entire payment, the current installment, or type in the exact amount of Gald that you wish to pay. However, if you do not pay enough, for every couple of steps that you take, she’ll keep hounding you until you pay up.

This game should be very good for young adults who are about to get their first credit card or who are applying for student loans, as it shows an almost accurate representation of what it’s like to default on your debts. If you do have money problems, this game might hit too close to home, so be aware of this. Being in debt is not without its rewards, because if you pay in advance, or pay more than the required amount, sometimes Nova will reward you with a present. You can pop open your GHS device and make a payment at any time by pressing the L2 trigger.

The world in Tales of Xillia 2 leads you through all of the locations in the first game, plus adds quite a few more locations in Elympios (of which you get to see maybe three total places in the first game). I was really excited to see the new world map, which displays where Elympios is in relation to Rieze Maxia (in the first game, Rieze Maxia was cut off from the rest of the world by a schism that prevented the two continents from seeing each other). The first game refers to both places, Elympios and Rieze Maxia, as different worlds, but in Xillia 2, you can observe that they’re just on different continents.

As mentioned before, the game’s battle mechanics are not too different from the first Xillia, and the locations are mostly the same. You do go to new places in the sequel, but most of the monsters you encounter are the same as the previous game (with the exception of elite monsters that are posted on the jobs board and a few additions). The entire world is strung together by large expanses with monsters walking all around. As you touch a monster you are brought into a battle with a number of the type of monster encountered on the map, plus other random monsters of that area.

TOX2_201406_CHR_BTL_0001

The battles themselves, for those not familiar with the first game or other Tales Series games, are in a small arena where you fight with a light combo system of melee attacks and arte (magic) attacks. You’re able to link to other players using the D-pad, which allows you to fight in tandem, as well as do joint arte attacks. You have a Health Point (HP) gauge for your life bar, Technical Point (TP) gauge for artes, and an Assault Counter (AC) number which determines how many subsequent attacks you can perform before resting.

There is a meter on the left-hand side of the screen that, once full, will allow you to go into Overlimit mode which allows you to do magic attacks at will, without consuming AC points, until the meter reaches zero. You can also do devastating arcane and mystic artes in Overlimit mode, which will affect anywhere from one to all of the enemies that are in the battle.

The game also allows you to connect up to four controllers and have your friends help you fight in each battle by setting their artes to Semi-auto or Manual (this is also a feature in most of the Tales Series games I’ve played since Tales of Symphonia). If you are playing by yourself, you can switch up the play style by pressing a button combination to switch to any of the other four characters in your battle party. While only Ludger has the ability to wield three weapons, the other characters in your party have completely different fighting techniques and use completely different weapons from your own.

One huge addition to the battle mechanics is that now your main character Ludger is the aforementioned ability to wield three types of weapons that you can quick-swap at any time in battle. Ludger starts off with large machete-like knives but eventually is able to wield dual pistols as well as a large hammer. You can cycle through these three weapons by holding the L1 button and pressing R1 or R2 to cycle backwards and forwards through your three weapon types.

TOX2_06_BTL_01TOX2_06_BTL_02TOX2_06_BTL_03

Leveling your character in Xillia 2 is the same as in the first game, however for learning new artes and skills, the Lillium Orb is now replaced with the Allium Orb. The Allium Orb works as an elemental extractor: as you fight, you will gain elemental energy which allows you to learn new skills and artes. The Allium Orb is no longer like the spider web-like structure of the Lillium Orb with different points connected to make new abilities, but like a black hole that sucks in elemental energy that grants you new attacks. As you find Elemental Ore lying around the map, or gain it in battle, the new skills will be drawn in closer and closer to the center of the extractor until you learn the new ability.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-26-0

Cooking in the Xillia games differs from both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Graces f in that you buy food and consume it prior to battle, as opposed to cooking the food yourself using raw ingredients. Eating food gives you special perks during or after the battle. For example, one dish can increase your attacks by 10% or perhaps refill your HP gauge by 50% after the battle is over. You can “cook” new dishes at the customization shop by combining materials with the pre-bought dishes.

The shops themselves are quite different than the first game where you upgraded the shops so that they would carry more items. Now, the shops work more like traditional shops in an RPG where different shops in different towns have separate inventories and unique weapons (as opposed to the first game, where the shops had a unified inventory). There is now a customization menu within all shops that allows you to combine materials with weapons, armor, items, and food to create upgraded versions of them. As you progress through the story, new items will appear in the customization menu.

Another new addition to Xillia 2 is the affinity system, which now has an actual meter. As you fight along side each of the other eight possible party members in battle, you will gain affinity with them. If you link with them in battle, the affinity will rise faster. There are also other points in the game where you can enter into an optional side-story which is based on the various party members. Each time you complete one of their side-stories, you will dramatically increase their affection.

Yet another way to increase affinity with a character is to answer choices which please the particular character(s). Lastly, you can gain and consume affinity potions throughout the game that will increase affinity automatically. Almost every time you increase your affinity with a character, (s)he will give you a present, which is usually a skill tome (a book that grants you a new skill, arte, or ability) or an item.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-20-2

Also new in Xillia 2 is the Jobs Bulletin. In every city there is a jobs bulletin where you can undertake quests for items and Gald. These jobs are completely optional, but they do allow you to quickly build up Gald and also give you unique and rare items. These quests are also a great way to level up your character and include an Elite Monsters section that rewards you enormous amounts of Gald, experience, and elemental ore if you manage to find and beat really tough monsters. These Elite Monsters are more comparable to the Devil’s Arms creatures that you fight in the first game, but there are more than a dozen of these creatures this time around.

Instead of searching the world for Aifread’s Treasures, Xillia 2 introduces the Kitty Dispatch service. In the beginning hours of the game, you find the Tales Series meme – a person that keeps hundreds of cats in a small apartment. This time, however, the cats have all escaped, and you must track them all down. This facet of the game is entirely optional, but it does serve another purpose: once you find the cats, you can dispatch them to find rare items for you. The Kitty Dispatch aspect of the game is surprisingly complex, as it functions in real time, and different days of the week give you different bonuses. As you find cats throughout the world, they can then be dispatched to the various locations in which you found them. Each town, field location, and dungeon has cats and each of those locations has its own unique items that can be gained there.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-25-3

Upon your first time dispatching the kitties the items are unknown, but as you find more items they’ll be filled in on the dispatch card. As mentioned before, the dispatch works in real time. I have not figured out exactly how long each dispatch takes, but if you dispatch a kitty, save your game, and then start it a few hours later or the next day, the kitties will have come back and you will get your items. Also, depending on what day of the week it is, different days will have different bonuses on the Kitty Dispatch. For every kitty you dispatch on Sunday, for example, the items that are found will be multiplied by up to three times. Other days will have different effects, such as the cats will come back 20% faster, or you’ll get a bonus for dispatching them to locations in Rieze Maxia or Elympios. You can also increase the speed at which the cats return by giving them special items when you dispatch them, like Kitty Crisps, Gummy Fish, Cat Nip, etc.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-25-4

It should be also noted that some jobs that you undertake on the jobs board will require items that can only be acquired through the Kitty Dispatch, so if you’re into doing the side jobs, you’ll need to use this feature eventually. There are one hundred cats to find in the game and some cats are only found at random by dispatching the cats you do have, so if you like hunting for treasure, the Kitty Dispatch is for you.

Skill Points (SP) in Xillia 2 are gained normally by leveling up, however, one difference from the first game is that battling a number of certain monsters will reward a specific character one or more skill points. If you are not familiar with the first game, SP are used to unlock certain skills for your characters. Some skills give your character more HP, TP, AC, Vitality, Intelligence, etc., but other skills give your characters completely new abilities, such as the ability to cast artes in mid air or lengthen their dash ability. Each skill has an SP cost to activate it, so you’ll have to pick and choose which skills are more important to you.

As you fight a certain number of a specific monster, every now and then you’ll get a message that you have defeated the specified number of that monster, and that a specific character in your party has gained a number of SP. You can go into your Monster Book in the Library section of the menu to see how many of the specific monster needs to be defeated and who will get the SP bonus. This new way of gaining SP makes it easier to grind up a character’s SP so you can activate more skills.

There are many more aspects and changes to this game, but probably my favorite addition to Xillia 2 is that you get to play as Muzét (!) and Gaius, who are the main adversaries in the first game. In my opinion, aside from Ludger, Muzét is the coolest character to play as. Many times, I’d have Muzét in my party, but my favorite thing to do was set Muzét to the leader since she levitates herself in mid air and floats across the fields.

Traversing the large expanses in Xillia 2 have been made a bit easier with a new ability to sprint through the maps by holding down the L2 button. If you make a quick stop or turn, the leader of your party will do a little dash maneuver to stop his or herself. Ludger does kind of a slide when he stops while Muzét does a few barrel roles to finally come to a stop. Each character has their own dash and stopping animations and later in the game you’ll gain skills that give each character an alternate animation, so you’ll want to try setting each character as the leader to see what they do. Also, to make travel even easier, your warping ability is unlocked from almost the beginning of the game.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-21-2

Overall, Tales of Xillia 2 is a fantastic sequel to the original. The game boasts what seems like dozens of new enhancements and has an incredibly deep and interesting story. It’s much darker and forces you between tough choices in which sometimes neither are very good. In fact, your main objective in the game is sort of on the dark side in and of itself. Xillia 2 is also a fairly long game for completionists. At the time of this writing, I’ve racked up one hundred and six hours, I’m on chapter twelve of fifteen chapters, my character is at level sixty-one out of a max of two hundred, and I’ve only paid off a little over two million on my debt.

For those of you who received free Downloadable Content (DLC) or paid DLC in Tales of Xillia, that DLC carries over to Xillia 2. Also, having a completed game save for Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Symphonia 2, Tales of Graces, or the first Tales of Xillia will unlock special items and costumes for your characters in Tales of Xillia 2.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-23-1Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-24-0

As far as the Collector’s Edition goes, it’s one of the better ones that I’ve bought. The Tales of Xillia 2 Collector’s Edition comes complete with an eight inch, highly-detailed Ludger statue, a replica pocket watch with mirror, steel book case, a Soundtrack CD, a full size art book, a Rollo the cat charm, physical copy of the game, and the Standard Edition retail packaging.

The only complaint I have about the Collector’s Edition is that the Soundtrack CD does not feature all of the music in the game. Several of the songs in some of the towns are very catchy and I really wish they would have been included in the soundtrack. All in all though, for a hundred and thirty dollars this was a pretty good deal, and now my Milla Maxwell statue from the Tales of Xillia Collector’s Edition has a friend to stand beside her.

Visuals:
The graphics of Tales of Xillia 2 are about the same as the first game. I thought that I had noticed a slight graphical upgrade but when I fired up the first game, I believe the graphics are almost identical. The art itself has a slightly polygonal, yet cel-shaded anime look. One of the best things about both Xillia games, is that the costumes that you dress your character in are all customizable, and the costumes are all retained in every single cut scene. That means that you can do all sorts of odd things with your characters, and when there’s a cut scene, they are wearing the same clothes, hats, and ornaments that they wear when you’re in control of them. The game not only includes dozens of costumes, hats, and funny things to customize your characters, but it allows you to reposition the hats, glasses, little stuffed toys, topknots, etc., on your character however you want.

Xillia2-snapshot-2014-09-20-21-28-1

The item customization feature has a complex tool that allows you to rotate, resize, and move each item on your character so that hats fit perfectly and ornaments are scaled correctly for the character.

On the whole, the visuals for Tales of Xillia 2 are not a large upgrade from Tales of Xillia, but the first game itself is a pretty good looking game. There were a few points where I got some frame-rate drops, but it normally happens when you enter a town and one of your party members begins speaking to you as you’re walking around. Aside from the occasional slowdowns, every other part of the game runs very smooth.

Audio:
The audio of Tales of Xillia 2 offers Stereo and Surround Sound. If you are using a Surround Sound system, be sure to change this setting before you start your game, as the default audio setting is Stereo. The use of surround is pretty good, and the game makes pretty good use of the back speakers. You can hear all the weird squeaks and yelps from the strange monsters as you run around the field. I did notice that the crowd noise in the towns has been revamped and you don’t constantly hear the calls of “Mutton! Fresh Mutton!” that overpower all of the other people in the towns like it did in the first game (the guys are still there, but not as prevalent).

The Soundtrack of this game is simply fantastic, especially when you’re in the towns located in Elympios where they play some really great sounding jazz. As for the other towns in Rieze Maxia, the tracks are reused from the first game. I did notice that when using certain costumes on my characters, particularly when I dress Ludger up as Emil from Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World, the battle music from Tales of Symphonia plays. There is also a specific section of the game where you can go up to large monoliths that will play the various tunes from past Tales Series games. I did notice as well that every few battles, different music would play once in a while. This is a nice feature since hearing the same battle music begins to become repetitive.

Online/Multiplayer:
While the game itself is single-player only, there is up to four-player local multiplayer within the game’s battle system. Unfortunately I do not have anyone locally to play the game with me, but I’d be willing to bet that by having a few players play with you could really do some damage against the tougher bosses. To activate local multiplayer, you simply set each character’s artes to either Semi-auto or Manual and the controller will be assigned from the first character to the fourth character in order on the menu screen. I did hook up three of my controllers just to make sure it works, and it did in fact work.

Conclusion:
Overall, this game is probably one of the best sequels that I’ve ever played. At the very least, it’s the best direct sequel to a Tales Series game that I’ve ever played. The developers have done an outstanding job of retaining the feel of the first game, yet adding a darker more engrossing story to the Xillia universe. The new character, Ludger Kresnik, seemed very unappealing to me by just looking at the screen shots, but they’ve kind of made him a more-or-less silent protagonist, giving you a chance to really build a connection with him.

The game is jam-packed with new content, including a casino where you can play poker, a higher max level to attain, item hunting, jobs board, new game plus, optional sub-quests, and higher difficulties. While I purchased the Collector’s Edition, I feel that the Standard retail version of the game is certainly worth the full price if you’re a Tales Series fan. For newcomers, I would strongly recommend that you play the first game, but it’s not a requirement. Bandai Namco has a handy YouTube video that recaps the first game, which will help you get acquainted with the characters and the events therein.

If you are a JRPG fan who also likes fast combo-based fighting and you’ve never played a Tales game, I can’t recommend both Tales of Xillia and its sequel, Tales of Xillia 2, enough.

Score:
9.5

* The majority of the screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature while a small handful were provided by the publisher.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • Keith Dunn

    SWEET!

  • Jahonius

    Wow, that is one helluva collector’s edition!