Tales of Xillia 2 Preview
Tales of Xillia was a godsend for Japanese role-playing game fans everywhere. It included many of the features these passionate followers crave, and they’re hoping to get another gem when the sequel arrives. It will launch in North America for the PlayStation 3 some time later this year and ideally, those fans will receive something familiar yet refreshing. The familiar part is a given, as the developers don’t wish to alienate their fanbase, but new gameplay elements will make an appearance. Whether or not they’re improvements…well, that’ll be up to you.
The story is more surreal this time around, which could prove immensely interesting. See, there are parallel universes that are expanding rapidly and dangerously, thus creating a divergent timeline. Your job is to entire these individual pocket universes, locate the cause of the problem, and eliminate it. Of course, what you’re essentially doing is destroying other worlds just to save your own, a moral dilemma the characters face throughout the adventure. It certainly sounds promising but whenever you start fiddling around with the concepts of time and space, things can get a little muddled.
Here’s hoping the writers produce a script that isn’t too ridiculously transparent, and manages to simultaneously question and inspire. As for combat, franchise fans will recognize the battle mechanic, but there are a host of additions and tweaks. For instance, enemies will now have weapon weaknesses (in the first game, they only had magical weaknesses). This means that some foes will be more resistant to swords than hammers and vice versa, so you’ll have to continually assess your opponents. The cool part is that the protagonist, Ludger, can actually switch weapons on the fly when engaged in battle.
Unfortunately, the other characters can’t, which means Ludger may be your only salvation if you’re ill-equipped for a particular encounter. This may have a direct impact on the overall balance, as players may see no benefit to using any other character. Don’t forget that Ludger is also the only fighter that can use the new “limit-break” style setup. Once the gauge fills, Ludger transforms into something completely insane and he deals crazy damage, which ought to come in handy for tougher enemies. Still, once again, this begs the question: “Why would we ever use any other character in combat?”
Maybe they’ll have individual skills and abilities we’ll want to access manually, I don’t know. I know it’ll be important to forge solid relationships with your allies; this can be accomplished by making the right choices during dialogue sequences. The freedom of choice can be found in just about every video game these days, and hardcore RPG fans usually appreciate the option. That being said, JRPG fanatics are often very traditional and if too many choices are deemed superfluous, it will feel like an unnecessary and tacked-on feature. Still, I’d rather be optimistic.
One last feature to mention: At the start of the game, you’re saddled with a $20 million debt that you must pay off. After a set amount of time passes, you need to ante up, so you need to save your bucks. Depending on how the developers approach this, it could end up being a worthwhile addition to the adventure, or it could wind up being outrageously annoying; i.e., grinding and drudgery just to earn money that’s going to be taken away, anyway. This all being said, I applaud new ideas because without ‘em, we’ll get the legions of cynics going, “I’ve already played this before!”
Tales of Xillia won our illustrious Role-Playing Game of the Year in 2013. Will the sequel have a shot at the title…?
2/26/2014 Ben Dutka