As promised last week, this week I’ll be reviewing Tales of Xillia 2, an excellent game and what a sequel should be.
While lacking some cohesion initially Xillia 2’s story is what a sequel to an RPG should be like, especially one with quite a closed ending like Xillia, it builds upon the pre-established world in a way that doesn’t make you wonder why some things never came up before, and treats the returning cast members in a way that makes them seem like they are there for a reason, not just because this is a sequel. The story itself is very interesting, offering both questions and answers at a consistent rate, and the cast of characters both new and old are well developed, and work well within the story, even if it is painfully obvious which characters are going to turn out evil.
That the characters are well developed actually creates some of the problems with the story, as the story is separated into main chapters and optional character chapters. While I would never say not to do the character chapters, as they add a lot to the story and offer a great deal more insight in to the characters then Xillia ever did, their frequent tone shifts, particularly early on, make the flow of the story a little awkward, and create a few instances of greatly inconsistent characterisation.
Gameplay-wise Xillia 2 takes everything from Xillia, fixes the bad things and then polishes it to near perfection, that it is to say, it’s a very fun game. These improvements are most noticeable within the combat, they’ve taken Xillia’s fun but somewhat clunky battle system and completely revamped it, the AI has improved, link artes are more easily accessible, there are new physical weaknesses, and the awkward camera angles are gone. Furthermore the switch from the Lilium orb to the Allium orb, makes obtaining new skills and arts so much more pleasant.
One of the other areas where the differences between Xillia 1 and 2 are most apparent is in how they handle exploration, while in Xillia exploration was both story driven, and a necessity, to gather resources to level up shops, in Xillia 2 it’s very much up to the player’s own volition. The shop leveling system is gone, and while you can use the resources for synthesis, they are not nearly as necessary as they once were. Side questing does put a little bit of emphasis on exploring, and it is very helpful for certain aspects of the game, but ultimately if you didn’t want to, there are some areas you could go most of the game without seeing.
The only negative aspect of gameplay that I can think of comes from the difficulty, or lack there of. Tales of games aren’t difficult, but usually approaching endgame I’ve encountered at least one boss that has given me some sort of trouble, in this game not so much. It’s not a huge concern for a game that is otherwise excellent but it is somewhat disappointing.
Hard to go wrong when they ripped pretty much everything from Xillia, very disappointing though, as the soundtrack is one of the things I look forward to the most in a new game. It’s still a good soundtrack, I enjoy hearing it, and the new pieces are excellent, it just would have been nice if there had been more of a change. I also think some different background sounds would not have been remiss, if I hear “Fresh mutton!” one more time. Aside from that there is very little I can complain about in terms of sound, even the voice acting is excellent, though it is to be expected from a Tales of game.
Again it’s hard to go wrong when they ripped pretty much everything from Xillia, and while it is a little disappointing, it is at least more forgivable then with the soundtrack. Despite how few of them there are, the new areas are nice, and had I not seen them all before, I would have been equally impressed with the returning ones, it’s a very pretty game. Also, this could just be me, but the character models seem in much better scale with the world then they did in Xillia, where they just seemed a bit to big.
Ranking within the series:
Vesperia > Symphonia > Xillia 2 > Xillia > The Abyss > Eternia > Graces F > Symphonia : Dawn of the New World
Xillia 2 is an excellent game, and if you played Xillia, I would definitely recommend picking it up. If you haven’t played Xillia, I would still recommend it, though I would recommend playing Xillia first if you wish to derive the most enjoyment from it.