Review: Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3)
If you had to make one wish that could be used to change anything, bring someone back to life, or even change the fate of the world, what would you wish for? That is ultimately what this story is about, but getting to that point is quite the whirlwind adventure.
Having never played the first game I felt very unprepared and a little worried that the game would do a terrible job of filling me in. Unlike the Final Fantasy XIII sequels (which did a brilliant job of keeping you in the loop), Tales of Xillia 2 does not do a very good job. Although you do play as a new protagonist, who has his own story, there are things about the world that aren’t explained very well, or not at all, forcing newcomers to read a very extensive summary of the first game. That being said, details of the first game do become clearer once you’ve played the game for quite a long time.
Like most RPGs the story at the beginning of the game totally changes along the way, making it really difficult to project a specific story, but I’ll try my best. You play Ludger Kresnik , Chef/ Dual Sword wielding asskicker, who meets Elle, a cheeky little girl, and subsequently becomes her guardian. She desperately needs to find a way to the City of Canaan, a place where a single wish can be granted, to bring her father back to life. Unfortunately, their chance meeting ends abruptly when the train they’re both on crashes. They’re rescued and saved by the Spirius Corporation, but unfortunately, it comes with a price. As a result, the two (and Ludger’s pet cat, Rollo) are contractually indebted to the company and are forced to stay together until they pay off their debt (about 20 million Gald).
Along the way they meet all team characters from the first game and as well as some new team members: Muzet and Gaius. Later on the real story begins which sets Ludger, Elle (who is not a party member) and the ToX team on a journey to enter alternate dimensions called ‘Fractured Dimensions’ and destroy them. They find out that the Prime Dimension (the one they’re living in) is close to destruction thanks to the surge of fractured dimensions. However, these dimensions are just as real as the Prime Dimension, meaning destroying one is equal to committing genocide. There’s a heck of a lot of weight on everyone’s shoulders and a story that will surprise you in a few ways. But I’ll leave the rest of it to you.
Tales of Xillia 2 has a lot going for it. Like all other entries into the series, it definitely has a strong story. I can’t compare it with the first one, but I doubt you’ll feel disappointed by it. It touches on many aspects of the first game (thanks for filling me in Wikipedia) such as Jude’s work on Spirite (an artificial form of mana), Milla’s sacrifice and unification of Elympios and Rize Maxia. A lot of these extra bits are covered in your team mates’ side quests, which are very funny and never tedious (thank God). To help buff up the game as well, there are various mini quests and elite monsters to kill, which helps if you need extra experience or Gald (and trust me, you’ll need it for the Gald.)
The fighting system, which is always the highlight of the Tales series, is just as brilliant as always. It still follows the same recipe and nothing much has changed, but there is one addition to the battle system that might tickle your fancy. Ludger has the ability to transform himself into this weird spirit-like entity that can deal hectic levels of damage. It’s activated by using something called the chromatus (a little pocket watch). The power is only temporary and needs to charge before you can use it. Other than that, the combat is still the same. Skills and arts are still the main components of battle, however, developing them are a little different. In order to grow your abilities, you need to equip each member with an Allium Orb. These orbs are element specific and will, over time, teach you new moves and arts or upgrade them.
The skits are back and funnier than ever. The main difference is that the main character can interact with the characters through dialogue choices. For the most part of the game Ludger is a mute. He grunts and says a word or two on the odd occasion, but it’s balanced by the fact that you get to choose how he responds to people. This doesn’t really have an impact on the game, but it can influence your affinity with your party members. There are a few choices that impact the story, but it’s few and far between. It’s a nice touch and some of the options lead to some really memorable moments.
Unfortunately the game is also memorable for an entirely different reason. And those reasons are REALLY BAD. First off, there’s very little consequence to the choices you make in the game, even destroying the fractured dimensions seems to have little effect on all the characters. The side-missions, which often include extra fractured dimensions, are far too convenient. For example, in one of Gaius’ side-missions, he tags along with Ludger into an unknown fractured dimension where he’s conveniently reunited with his old comrades (Jiao, Agria, Wingul and Presa). What are the chances? Like come on.
The difficulty of the game is a little lopsided. Normal enemies are fine and easy to pick off, but the bosses and some elite enemies are significantly tougher. It’s not crazy, but when it takes you 20 seconds to kill a garden variety enemy and 5 minutes for a boss plus all your items and a retries, then you know something ain’t adding up. Next comes the biggest balls up I’ve ever seen in an RPG. It’s so bad that I know I won’t even bother with the new game plus. It’s around this little debt that you get yourself in. Right at the start of the game you’re expected to pay the Spirius Corp 20 million Gald, which is ton of cash.
In order to progress in the game you need to actually pay off your debt. If this doesn’t sound like a bad idea to you, guess again. Raking up a set amount of money to unlock the next chapter in the game is a total nightmare and messes with the pacing of the game, not to mention that Nova (your debt collector) is an annoying twit who constantly bugs you for money. Also you don’t get much for paying that stupid debt. By the end of the game I probably paid off 1.5 million Gald, which is 1.5 million Gald I could’ve used to buy new weapons, armour, accessories, healing items or cooking components. Do you want to know what you get once you pay off everything? Alternative costumes. However, the debt is eventually wiped clean close to the end which means all those hours spent money grinding (instead of exp grinding like normal RPGs) WAS FOR NOTHING! It’s such a stupid gimmick that I hope is never used in another game ever again.
Altogether, Tales of Xillia 2 is an interesting game with story that takes many odd turns. The relationship between Ludger and Elle is beautiful to see and how it all comes together is quite the tearjerker. I really wish I had played the first game, but I think fans will enjoy this one quite a bit. The main downfall is definitely the debt gimmick and all the money grinding. However, there’s plenty of content in the game to keep you occupied so at least you know you’re getting your money’s worth.