The “Tales” series has always been a bit different, often sacrificing pure processing power and flashy graphics in the name of storytelling and engrossing combat. I’ve always been a fan of Bandai Namco's series, but that doesn’t mean Tales of Xillia 2 gets a free pass.
Although Xillia 2 is, as the name implies, a sequel, you won’t have to worry about getting lost here. There’s an extensive library in game, though the characters you meet will progressively bring you up to speed too. To make an incredibly long story short, though, here’s the gist: a group of adventurers saved the world a year ago. You’re out to save it again from a new threat.
If you’ve played any of the games in the series before, you’ll notice that Xillia 2, like its predecessors, has a great sense of humor. it doesn’t take itself too seriously, granting plenty of funny moments between characters. It’s not a game you play with a hardened look on your face, like Final Fantasy. The characters interact naturally, forming and developing relationships like actual people, so you don’t feel like you’re traveling with a bunch of walking JRPG archetypes...looking at you, Final Fantasy XIII.
The game relies on a choice system; as the protagonist Ludger Kresnik moves through the story, you’re presented with choices that affect your companions’ reactions and their opinion of Ludger. Other RPGs have done this before, and they’ve done it better. But the fact that there’s even options in a JAPANESE style RPG is a big deal, since most give you a linear path to walk.
But even more critical to Xillia 2 is the combat. It’s as good as ever - it relies on real-time actions instead of turn-based, so you’re in control of how the battle goes pretty much all of the time - Ludger’s also really versatile, eventually having three different weapons in his arsenal (and god damn is the hammer fun!). Battles are frantic and fast-paced, often lasting under ten seconds - but they still require you to think. Attack with the wrong weapon and you won’t do much damage. Forget to block and you’ll be knocked on your back. And if you ever feel like really changing it up, you can control any of your companions in battle.
It must be said - the fully animated cutscenes are gorgeous. If only more of Bandai’s budget for these games went into polishing the regular environments...they could make some beautiful PS4 games.
This last “good” point I’m on the fence with - Ludger incurs a debt of 20 million Gald (the game’s currency) at the beginning of the game. It makes the money you collect a lot more meaningful than it would be otherwise, BUT it does suck to give so much of it up so often.
Man, are you gonna be grinding for that cash! Most times, you’ll have to pony up a certain amount of money to your debt collector just so you can progress through the main story, which slows the pace way down. You’re going to spend a LOT of time collecting inane job assignments in exchange for paltry sums of Gald. You’ll often replay job types too, so eventually you’ll look at the job board and sigh, “Kill these guys again?”
Worse is that you’ll be visiting a few areas for these jobs way too often, so you’ll see the same backdrops and enemies repeated ad nauseum.
Speaking of boring, our main man Ludger Kresnik is a man of very few words. He’s the series first “silent” lead, and I know it’s because of the choice system implemented in Xillia 2...but this kind of system has been done before in other games, with fully voiced lines and scenes. You get choices in most situations, but you never hear how Ludger delivers the lines...so you miss tone and emotion.
Well...just look at it. Tales has never been a series terribly concerned with graphics, but this is probably the worst-looking game you’ll see all year. Even though the game was originally released in 2012 over in Japan, Xillia 2 doesn’t even run natively in 720p, and it has a lot of blurring issues outside of battles.
I’d really love to see Bandai Namco produce a Tales game on par with current graphic standards.
If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. If you’re new, but you like Japanese RPGs in general, you’ll find a lot to love here too. But if one of your highest priorities in a game is graphics...you may want to keep moving.
Release date: August 22, 2014 in North America