Give a typical Japanese role playing video-game to a typical Western gamer to play and it will most likely result in confusion. Although more popular in the last few years there is still a certain stigma attached to this genre, where people tend to think all Japanese role playing video-games are quite similar. The Tales of team attempts to change that with the release of Tales of Xillia 2.
Although it may feel quite similar to the original, in that it makes use of the same locations, it is still a different experience. For starters the main character is newcomer Ludger who is unusually quiet for a role playing game throughout the journey.
The weapons that Ludger gets to use are rather uniqe. He can use twin swords with the option to use different fighting techniques and he can also switch to two guns and a hammer later in the story. With such an arsenal at his disposal it usually makes it easier to tackle even some of the tougher bosses. As with other Tales of games, fighting takes place in a closed off area and the character is able to move around freely( when a button is pressed). At some point he also gains a special ability that makes it possible to deal significant amounts of damage within a short period of time.
As usual, Ludger is accompanied by a group of supporting characters. In this case it consists of the cast from the original Tales of Xillia and a mysterious young girl. Those that enjoyed the previous title will no doubt like to see what the characters have been up to during the time that passed. These characters can still use a modified link mode from the original where they support each other and perform special attacks after filling up a bar on the side. There is still some room for improvement as yet again linking up only really works with certain characters. This is due to how each character has a certain fighting style. Sometimes the special attacks don’t work so well against some enemy types. It’s not very helpful when characters that work better when paired up with certain characters are sent off to do side missions.
Throughout the story there are moments where the player is given various opportunities to influence how the story develops. Some of the choices given are quite trivial, but there’s also some later on that affect how characters interact with Ludger. It’s one of the best ideas and one that could have been so much better if it led to completely different outcomes and paths depending on the choices the player made – so that each play-through could truly feel different.
Each of the character’s is equipped with an item called allium orb that is used to learn new skills and fighting artes/techniques. The only problem is that it’s rather complicated to even understand the basics – let alone how to use them properly. Fortunately it isn’t completely necessary to rely on them to complete the story. Those who don’t wish to try and understand this system can simply rely on old fashioned weapons and make use of the abilities earned with progression.
One of the biggest changes is what the main characters has to do in order to continue the story. Ludger is a magnet for bad luck and finds himself owing a substantial amount of money. In order to gain access to new areas it is necessary to keep up the payment instalments requested by one of his friends. No wonder he’s not the luckiest of men with friends like this. At first the idea of paying off this debt is quite interesting. It means that there is a logical reason for completing job requests for once.
Unfortunately each payment instalment becomes steeper than the previous and soon enough the novelty wears off. Instead it’s very likely that players will spend half the time wishing it was possible to eventually be given the option to skip this idea and just get on with the story. Not even being given the option to defeat larger beasts to earn bigger amounts of gald(in-game currency) works since it’s still necessary to find them. It’s amusing how it took a video-game to realise just how crippling debt can be to those that are unfortunate enough to get into it.
In previous Tales of titles one of the biggest incentives was to find new areas and explore them. For obvious reasons Xillia 2 makes use of most of the locations from the original. Not much has changed given the short amount of time that passed. It’s not necessarily a negative point since the locations from Xillia were a real treat to explore. But it also means that there aren’t many new areas to explore and what is available usually consists of barren wastelands from the dying world of Elympios.
There are a few exceptions where the characters enter other dimensions and it’s enjoyable to explore and see how different their lives could have been. It’s this sci-fi theme that makes it worth playing through Xillia 2. There is a lot of thought that goes into the story and how sometimes it’s necessary to do something that isn’t considered good no matter how hard the characters try to do the right decision.
For better or worse this is definitely the darkest Tales of title to date. It deserves some credit for attempting to shake up the formula, despite the fact that it doesn’t quite manage to make it fully work. Those expecting another memorable Tales of adventure might end up being disappointed. But there are a few moments where ideas like making choices for the character do work. It makes it all the more difficult to accept that it also can become a chore to try and get to these better moments.
It’s still worth playing through the adventures of shy Ludger and his merry group. Just don’t expect the same level of quality found in other Tales of titles.