The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The original Tales of Xillia won me over with the mature issues it tackled and
the enhancements to the series' real-time battle system and overall structure. This sequel continues to build on its interesting characters while adding
some new gameplay features, but Tales of Xillia 2 stumbles compared to its
Tales of Xillia 2's issues first appear in the pacing; the
plot starts slow, taking about 10 hours to get interesting. Part of this is due
to a debt-paying mechanic introduced early to get players to engage with the side content and to better prepare for
the challenging battles. The debt plays into the story and begins as a great
way to get acquainted with the world, but later it becomes an annoying
roadblock since you can't progress unless you pay off a portion. The
frustration mounts quickly, since the side quests rely heavily on fetching
objects and hunting monsters, which is not engaging. The only worthwhile extra
content is the side chapters for the returning characters.
The narrative improves as it progresses,
and held my interest more than its predecessor. Set a year after the events from the first game, Xillia 2
has interesting beats (like exploring alternative timelines), but its shining
stars are the character
relationships. The new protagonists, Ludger and Elle, have a growing, heartfelt bond that's fun to watch. Elle stands out as
a child dealing with the hardships of
losing a family member and finding her place in the world, quickly
becoming my favorite character. The returning cast is also redeeming. I thought Leia was dead weight in
the last entry, but Tales of Xillia 2 makes her much
more interesting as she strives to become a successful journalist. Moments like
these make me recommend playing the first game before entering Xillia 2. It's
not required, but one of the highlights is seeing how the old cast has grown.
Tales' action battle system, which plays out like a fighting game, continues to improve, and is more
fun than ever. Battles are fast-paced and frantic, and you're equipped with a
wide variety of skills to handle the baddies. You can swap weapons this time
around, taking down enemies
with dual blades, a sledgehammer, or guns akimbo. Each weapon plays differently and works better for certain enemy
types. In addition, a
transformation skill also provides more powerful attacks for a short period, saving you from jams during tough boss battles.
Bandai Namco also brings back the wonderful link system, which pairs up
two characters for bonuses as they flank enemies. The longer Ludger links up
with another character, the more his affinity increases. Affinity also
increases based on your responses in dialogue, giving you a reason to choose
your words carefully. The affinity system is an excellent addition, as building
relationships nets you new combat skills.
Learning special attacks and skills has changed. Instead of Xillia's
sphere grid-like upgrade system, which I enjoyed immensely, this entry's
progression system focuses on elemental properties. You equip orbs, each with a
number of the six elements, to learn and upgrade attacks and skills. Some orbs
contain overlapping skills, so if a character already knows an ability, the new
orb improves it. I didn't enjoy this as much as the previous streamlined
system, but it's solid nonetheless.
Tales of Xillia 2's biggest crime is how much it reuses
content. You visit new places in Elympios, but the Rieze Maxia environments are
ripped from the first game. On top of
that, you visit dungeons, towns, and fields multiple times, and it's even worse if you factor in the
side content. Many of these places aren't anything
to write home about, as the majority of dungeons are linear affairs devoid of puzzles. At least
fields are cluttered with collectibles that help for customization and
upgrades, but the lack of new environments is disappointing.
Tales of Xillia 2 has its flaws, but it also has plenty of what fans of
the series love: Challenging battles, great character interactions, and a story
full of twists. I'm still continually lured in by the series, I just wish this
entry felt like more than a sideways step.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.