Tales of Xillia 2 PS3 Review

Publisher: Bandai Namco  Developer: Bandai Namco  Genre: RPG  Players: 1

Age Rating: 16+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Most new entries in the Tales of series are set in individual universes, but is hasn’t been unheard of for developer Bandai Namco to revisit its most cherished worlds and characters on occasion, which has the double advantages of giving the company easy money and, at the same time, appeasing fans.

Tales of Xillia 2 might well recycle many assets from last year’s Tales of Xillia, but it also brings to the series some interesting new mechanics. It takes place a year after the events of the first game and returns to the two contrasting worlds of Elympios and Reize Maxia. It also brings back all the likeable characters from the original game in a redesigned form, and sees your party attempting to destroy fractured dimensions to save the prime dimension, which brings some interesting plot points about ethics; you’re taking out millions of people for selfish reasons, after all.

There’s a new lead character in Ludger Kresnick, a 20 year old man with a mysterious power that allows him to not only cause some nasty damage to his enemies but also to destroy entire dimensions. In a first for the series, Ludger is largely a mute protagonist, but, on occasion, you do get to decide what he says in certain situations, which, until later on in the game, doesn’t generally have much bearing on the course of the story, but instead effects your relationship with your comrades. Becoming closer to characters is worthwhile as it will unlock fresh abilities and bonus cut scenes at certain points in the story.

As is usual for the series, the localization is excellent, which, through a combination of sharp writing and excellent voice acting, really highlights the personalities of the characters and makes the engaging story all the more so, whilst the generous abundance of humour spread throughout the game is genuinely amusing.

Early on in the game, Ludger and his somewhat annoying eight year old companion, Elle, are injured, leaving them with a ludicrously high 20 million Gald medical bill. This is more than a plot device however and is actually a major new structural mechanic of the game. You must pay the bill off in instalments to unlock areas of the game world. These instalments are small to begin with, but will become increasingly bigger as you make progression through the game. Acquiring the necessary funds is done through the completion of tasks such as killing so many of a certain type of monster, taking out boss monsters or delivering items. Some won’t like that the story is put on hold whilst they are forced to get the money together, and it does, on occasion, feel like it exists simply to pad out the game, though completion of certain quests will see you quickly amassing Gald.

Being a Tales of game the combat remains a highlight, even though it is much the same as the original game, so you’re still able to link with allies to use special attacks in tandem. As always it has more in common with a fighting game than it does your typical RPG combat system, allowing you to build some truly dazzling combinations of attacks, which flow together beautifully. Ludger himself possesses dual blades, twin pistols and a hammer, and these can be freely switched between in combat to match the situation, meaning that Ludger is essentially three characters in one. There’s also the Chromatus, which allows Ludger to temporarily transform into a more powerful form with its own unique abilities.

The game does away with the Sphere Grid like Illium Orb character growth system and replaces it with the Allium Orb, which is a much less hands on process that sees you equipping elemental based items called Extractors to learn new skills and upgrade those that you already posses. With plenty of different Extractors to choose from, there’s a fair bit of freedom on offer, but growing your characters simply doesn’t have the satisfaction that it did in the original game.

In terms of length, the story can be completed in as little as 25 hours, which is pretty short for a Tales of game, though this can be expanded considerably by exploring the games’ vast abundance of optional content, involving searching for 100 lost cats (which you can send to areas you’ve visited to find exclusive items) and playing character specific side quests, which also can involve you returning to dungeons, although this can begin to grate, though at least there is new treasure to find along the way. Paying off your entire debts isn’t necessary to complete the game either, though you’ll be amply rewarded for doing so.

Tales of Xillia 2 doesn’t do enough to impress the series detractors and certainly isn’t the best starting point for those looking to get into the series, but for fans, this is another strong entry. It’s comfortably familiar, but also offers just enough new things to keep the game interesting as well as retaining that tremendous Tales of soul.