Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tales of Xillia 2 Preview

Tales of Xillia 2 made its debut last week in Japan and although the game is not planned to be localized in the west just yet, fans might have something to look forward to in the sequel if it does come. The game is a direct sequel to the first Xillia and boasts itself to be a mothership title. While it’s hard to judge if it’s worthy of that title just yet, the game does boast a lot of content and changes up how Tales titles normally work.

Meet Elle and Ludger
Tales of Xillia 2 takes one year after the events of the first game. Nearly everyone from the previous game makes an appearance or has an important role to play in Xillia 2, however, the focus has shifted to two new characters. Ludger Will Kresnik is the game’s silent stoic protagonist. He’s one of the older protagonists that the Tales franchise has seen and it’s interesting to see the age dynamic in your party considering that you’ll have old men and very young girls. Speaking of young girls, the second new character is Elle Mel Mata, an eight year old girl who asks Ludger for help in her quest to find the Land of Canaan.

It’s clear from the get-go that Xillia 2 has a different story to tell than its predecessor and this isn’t entirely bad. Characters such as Jude and Elize have matured greatly in the interim so it’s nice to see how they interact with some of the other party members. The focus is heavily on the character interaction and development and it’s definitely there. The constant conversations and banter that your crew will have during skits and cutscenes are always amusing and while they may fall to Japanese tropes, it’s not entirely bad.

Ludger is one of the older protagonists in the franchise.
The story is progressed through segmented chapters and each chapter will have a small narrative that keeps the overall story going. It may seem odd at first but it’s not bad as the game feels episodic in nature, a la Final Fantasy XIII-2, and they’re long enough to be fun but not short enough that it’ll end abruptly. To progress from one chapter to the next, you must pay off Ludger’s debt, which he ends up getting within the first hour of the game. It’s a cheap way to keep the game segmented and you cannot proceed to the next chapter without having to pay off a certain amount of Gald. Luckily Gald is abundant and there are many ways to attain it whether it be finishing quest from a nearby bulletin board or just hunting monsters. It’s all in good fun.

When you’re not keeping yourself distracted with the main story, in between chapters you can interact with your party and undertake Character Chapters. Each one of your party members have an individual story to tell and Ludger can take part in it. It’s interesting especially if you were invested in the characters from Xillia 1 as you’ll see further growth in them or you can see how their maturation has affected them. Some of these chapters last a couple of minutes while others can take up to the length of a main chapter. These extras are very beefy and are just as entertaining as the main story that you can engage in.

As cool as always.
While the narrative is something new and entirely different from the original title, everything else remains largely the same. The battle system plays exactly like the first Xillia so if you’ve played it, you’ll find yourself right at home. You can use normal moves and special moves called Arts; and the number of times you can attack in succession is dictated by a number located to the right of your character portrait. Linking makes a return in Xillia 2. The purpose of linking is to combine two characters to attack enemies in unison to create a cohesive set of attacks and combos. It’s an interesting idea and it’s not a surprise that it appears in the sequel. When using certain Arts with your linked partner you can initiate Link Arts. These powerful moves cause a lot of devastation and it’s pretty thrilling to pull them off. Unlike the previous game, however, the amount of Link Arts available is substantial making Link Arts much more useful this time around.

While the execution of combat appears to be fairly simple in concept it can quickly develop into a deep one if you choose to invest in tinkering with the game’s skill system and Arousal Orb - no it’s not what you think. The skill system is nothing new but by activating the various ones you can unlock from the Arousal Orb - which I will get into after this - characters get new abilities. Whether it be stat boosts, special skills that assist you in battle, or skills that benefit your linked partner they’re all pretty useful. The Arousal Orb is the successor to the Lilial Orb. While the web design of the latter allowed you to control the various ways to build your character, the Arousal Orb is much more streamlined. From the outset of the game you’ll have only two Arousal Orbs to choose from and each Orb has a set of skills and Arts that your assigned character can learn. As you progress the game you’ll find more Orbs and by switching the out you have a variety of things to learn. If you’ve played Tales of the Abyss, it’s something to that nature. 

Like a boss.
The game is hardly disappointing so far and if there are any qualms I have about the game there are only two so far: Ludger and reused assets. Ludger is a silent protagonist and it doesn’t work at all. In the various instances where Ludger is interacting with the character, it’s clear that he’s supposed to have a set of reactions but he doesn’t show this at all. Instead there’s an awkward silent or grunt, when there’s supposed to be a proper response. What you end up getting then is an odd set of interactions with Ludger. Secondly, the game is a sequel to Xillia 1 and it came out one year later. As a result many of the assets - actually almost all of the assets - are reused and recycled. There are only a handful of new things visually so it might disappoint in that regard.

Tales of Xillia 2 is a great game and one to keep an eye out for in the future, or if you’re willing to import it will most likely be worth it. Stay on the lookout for a review posting on the blog and RPG Site.