If you’re not already a fan of the Tales of franchise, Tales of Xillia 2 probably isn’t the crossover hit to sell you on the series. That being said, fans of the first Tales of Xillia will feel right at home with this game.
Tales of Xillia 2 is the 14th core Tales of game from Namco, now Namco Bandai, but only the second game specifically developed for the PlayStation 3. Unlike the more popular Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest Japanese role-playing games, the Tales of series has long used a real-time combat system and has typically featured more ordinary characters. Tales of Xillia 2 continues that trend but peppers the presentation with steampunk-tinged noir.
Tales of Xillia 2 picks up one year after the conclusion of the first Tales of Xillia. In the first game, the two worlds, Rieze Maxia and Elympios, were eventually united by the destruction of a barrier that separated them. Elympios is a modern place whose people celebrate their technological advancement, whereas Rieze Maxia had been a secluded land, focused on a more spiritual path. As you can imagine, there is some friction between these two ideologically opposite regions, and that is the backdrop against which our new man of few words, Ludger Kresnik, finds himself.
Though Ludger is new to Tales of Xillia 2, there are plenty of familiar faces to be found in the game, some pretty early on. It’s Ludger’s series of unfortunate events, though, that everything else revolves around, and what a terrible first day it is.
The game starts with Ludger failing a job interview, getting blown up in a train accident, and being saddled with an insurmountable eight-figure debt. Though the first two catastrophes drive the plot, it’s paying back the loan that defines the gameplay. That means side quests become almost mandatory, as the level of your debt works as a gatekeeper to advancing the surprisingly dark story.
Luckily, the combat in Tales of Xillia 2 is engaging, which makes many of the “kill ‘X’ number of monsters” side quests a little more tolerable. Because there is a limit to how many jobs you can take, it won’t take long before you can make the trip from the job board out to the wild areas with your eyes closed.
Also new to Tales of Xillia 2 is a dialogue choice system which serves to invest you more into an otherwise vanilla main character, and also determines the relationships he has with other characters in the game. While the relationship aspect is interesting, the fighting system is really the star.
In Tales of Xillia 2, there are no random encounters. You know pretty well in advance if you’re going to be fighting and you can even avoid many of the battles, if you want to. Though it’s difficult to pull off, you can also sneak up behind some enemies for a first-strike bonus. New to Tales of Xillia 2 is Allium Orb which adds a new level of skill progression to the original game’s Illium Orb. Of course that also adds to the tedium, but it also adds to the variety of tactics, including weapon swaps, you can employ during battle. You’d be hard pressed to find another JRPG with the same level of action and variety.
While Tales of Xillia 2 is unlikely to win over any new converts to the JRPG series. Those who enjoyed the first game will probably enjoy seeing the aftermath of their first adventure. There are a ton of new mechanics in the game, but with some of them it really seems their only purpose is to drag out the tale.
That being said, this type of JRPG is really intended for an audience that will spend months with the game, and would likely choose to perform all of the side tasks the game forces upon them. Those same people are also likely to forgive the egregious graphical issues of a major publisher’s game, on a console eight years into its life cycle. In other words, you probably already know if this game is for you.
Tales of Xillia 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, and Violence.