Tales of debt…
The Tales Of games have always been quite popular (Well, as popular as JRPGs can be over here in the UK), and last years Tales of Xillia was undoubtedly one of the best games in the series. It required an investment in time, but managed to provide the player with an exciting world and a deep JRPG system to play with. Publishers Bandai Namco were obviously so impressed with the reception of Tales of Xillia that bringing out the sequel made sense. Can the newly released Tales of Xillia 2 really repeat this success?
Tales of Xillia 2 is set only a short time after the conclusion of the first game, and puts players into the boots of a more traditionally quiet protagonist. Ludger Kresnik finds himself dealing with opposing societies, terrorism and alternate dimensions in a story that just doesn’t seem to flow, or be as interesting, as that of the first game. The story serves to move the game forward and give a reason for Ludger’s actions, but it feels as though potential has been wasted with the direction things take.
Of more interest than the main story are the characters and their stories. These secondary characters all expand through various side quests, to tell engaging and often heart-warming tales that give them backgrounds and personalities. While the main character of Ludger may well be somewhat quiet in the game, choices that he makes (through the player) in response to the other characters gives him a certain depth too.
Almost as if trying to relate to these debt-ridden times, Tales of Xillia 2 puts Ludger into a difficult position from the offset. Basically, the hero is saddled with an impressively huge debt of some 20,000,000 gald and will find themselves paying this back throughout the game. Whilst this may seem like an interesting idea, watching a debt go down rather than watching accumulated cash go up, it can also be rather frustrating.
The problem comes with the fact that players will have to pay off a certain amount of each debt before they will be allowed to progress to the next part of the story, which means having to take on many menial tasks to earn the cash in between the more interesting story progression quests. These tasks really add nothing to the gameplay, involving the likes of “kill X monsters” and such, and only serve to break up the players’ immersion in the game. There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that you cannot proceed until you have earned enough money and any momentum that the player has build up is immediately brought to a halt.
Anyone who played the first title, something which is not entirely necessary before playing Tales of Xillia 2, will recognize the combat mechanics, as very little has changed there. The reality is that very little needed to change, the real-time combat was nicely done in the original and is equally nice here. Linking with other characters for support, Artes, tactical options, everything that is needed for a deep and engaging JRPG combat system is present. New to Xillia 2 is more emphasis on the weaknesses of your opponents, and Ludger’s ability to transform using his Chromatus skill. All in all, there really is nothing to complain about with the combat.
Character progression, on the other hand, seems to have changed rather a lot. Whereas progression in Xillia at first seemed overwhelming, in Xillia 2 it appears to have been dumbed down. While some streamlining would have been advisable, it is almost as if the developers have gone to the extreme and provide only a very limited number of options in where to take your character. For some, this may be preferable, but I would guess the fans will be lamenting this choice.
Visually, Tales of Xillia 2 looks as good as the previous game, which was really nice to look at. However, with the latest gen consoles showing off their graphical prowess, the game does look a little dated. Also, the copy and paste of certain areas from the first game will give a sense of uneasy familiarity to fans of the series. The audio is top notch though, with a mesmerizing soundtrack that really sets the atmosphere.
As a JRPG, players will be expecting many hours of gameplay, and Tales of Xillia 2 doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. Play time will likely exceed 100 hours, but how much of that will be the result of working to pay the debt? The debt system really does feel like padding to a degree, and may find players getting fed up before they reach the end.
Tales of Xillia 2 is a mixed bag. It successfully brings the brilliant combat from the fist game and some wonderful characters, but at the same time throws in a frustratingly tedious debt mechanic and a story that just doesn’t engage. While it may not live up to the success of the first title, Tales of Xillia 2 is still a worthy JRPG, just not the best.