PS3 Reviews: Tales of Xillia 2 Review

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Tales of Xillia 2 Review

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Replay Value:



Overall Rating:       7.1



Online Gameplay:

Not Rated


Namco Bandai


Namco Bandai

Number Of Players:




Release Date:

August 19, 2014

Tales of Xillia was one of the most entertaining role-playing games of the previous generation. That’s why I was excited to check out the sequel, which takes place a year after the first adventure and follows the tale of Ludger Kresnik. He’s one of those old-fashioned silent protagonists who get caught up in a mysterious global battle. Yep, standard JRPG fare, right? The original cast of characters is once again part of the fun, so you can continue playing with your favorite faces, and the combat is comfortably familiar.

Okay, so one would assume the result is a surefire winner. …not so fast, though. Beginning with the graphics, they don’t appear to be significantly upgraded when compared with the initial entry, and I’m not as impressed with the general world design. The animations, especially during battle, are better than ever, and fans of the Japanese anime flair will appreciate this finely honed styling. Perhaps it only feels underwhelming because we’re in a new generation of consoles now, and certain PS3 games appear dated. That being said, I really do believe the developers could’ve done more with Tales of Xillia 2.

As is typically the case with JRPGs, you have to embrace the cornball acting and over-the-top caricatures. Once you do, you’re in for a wild audio ride that consists of well-produced music tracks – there’s a nice variety, too – and somewhat absurd dialogue sequences. Such sequences are common for the genre and they won’t surprise any veterans. In some ways, I actually prefer this soundtrack to the one in the original, just because it seems more diverse and has better balancing and production values. That could just be in my head, though; it has been a while since I played the first game.

One plays an engaging JRPG for two reasons: What should be a compelling narrative and memorable characters, and an in-depth, rewarding, often unique combat mechanic. Let’s start with the latter: As I said in the intro, those who played the first game will be right at home. It’s basically the same; it’s a combo-based system that features those excellent Linking mechanics, and players have to keep an eye on the Assault Counter (AC) and Technical Points (TP) used to execute various Artes. Combatants move in real-time and each character has a very distinct set of traits and abilities. It’s robust, involving and even addictive.

Linked allies can offer support, which is critical for more difficult encounters, and players can tailor their approach. If you wish to form more offensive-minded Links, by all means, go right ahead. But if you’re facing a particularly powerful foe, you might want to focus on defensive Links. This strategic element of the game works particularly well. There’s even more strategy thanks to Ludger’s ability to wield three different weapon types at once. Switching between them on the fly is quite fulfilling, especially because each weapon type has its own strengths and weaknesses.

There are a few combat tweaks, such as the designer’s decision to emphasize the Weakness component. Finding and exploiting the weaknesses of your enemies isn’t anything new for RPGs, but it isn’t always a major consideration. In this game, it really is. The foundation for this battle mechanic was extremely solid to begin with, and the minor changes and upgrades we have in the sequel only make it better. Obviously, fighting is the main draw. Unfortunately, things sort of go downhill from here, as the rest of the game feels too much like a rehash. I really hate that word but when it’s an apt term…

When compared with the first title, many of the locations you visit are exactly the same. I mean, they’re identical; they were just cut and pasted into this game. On top of which, with very little in the way of exploration, and no puzzles or mazes or anything, the game feels like a “been there, done that” adventure that starts to get old very quickly. This is more like “Tales of Xillia 1.5” than a full-fledged sequel and that’s where Bandai Namco starts to lose me. They succeeded in losing me entirely by instituting a new gameplay mechanic that reminds me way too much of paying off my student loans.

When Ludger begins his quest, he’s saddled with a huge debt, which he must pay back over time. This system permeates the entire game and there are times when you can’t even progress unless you’ve paid your latest installment. Whose brilliant idea was this? At the start of each chapter, I have to ante up or find a way to make good on the loan payment? This means accepting random jobs from the quest board, which aren’t even remotely interesting. Basically, you just go find some loot and kill some monsters, and the money you earn can go toward paying off your IOU. Grand. Not only is this immensely annoying, it cripples the pacing.

As for the narrative, the silent protagonist idea works to some extent but other than that, it’s not especially moving. Strangely, the developers implemented a choice system, where Ludger can choose his responses. This doesn’t work very well with a character who never actually speaks, though, and your choices don’t have much of an impact on the story. It just seems like a tacked-on feature that doesn’t add anything significant to the experience, and it's generally a waste of time. However, I will say that there are a few nice additions and improvements that should be mentioned.

For instance, you don’t have to raise shop levels anymore (which is good, because I always hated that), and the post-game content is better. There’s really awesome equipment to craft – the equipment synthesis system has returned – and there are some elite bosses to face. All of this makes the game a bit more appealing, but I can’t get past that awful debt mechanic, and too many of the characters are clearly pointless. Then you’ve got the rehashed parts of the game that really turn me off, so the end result is definitely underwhelming. Still, it’s always fun to fight!

Tales of Xillia 2 isn’t exactly everything you could want in a sequel. On the one hand, it does bolster the already great combat system, and there are a few nice additions and bonuses. But constantly having to repay a loan throughout the game greatly hinders the pacing and it’s a colossal irritant. The story isn’t as well-written or engaging as the plot of the first game, there are superficial characters tossed in for no reason, and the cutting-and-pasting of previously visited locales isn’t doing us any favors. If you can accept all these drawbacks and indulge in the awesome battle mechanic, well, good for you.

The Good: Great battle effects. Some decent voice performances. A few appreciated tweaks and improvements. Plenty of longevity and better end-game content. Combat is just plain fun.

The Bad: Overall design isn’t as good as the first game. Too many reused locales. The debt system is absolutely terrible. Story and characters fall a little flat.

The Ugly: “I feel like defaulting on the loan and killing the lender.”

9/11/2014 Ben Dutka

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Comments (12 posts)

Thursday, September 11, 2014 @ 10:22:17 PM

I still think I'll enjoy it more than that score suggests but I learned my lesson with Xillia 1, the price will drop.

Debt sucks but it can't be worse than time limits.

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Killa Tequilla
Thursday, September 11, 2014 @ 11:16:50 PM

You recommended me the first one. Played it recently. I really liked it. I fear I simply don't have the time to play such game : (

I will try to finish it! Some day! Little by little.

I liked it better when game development was longer. Fewer games during the months and higher game quality all lead to being able to enjoy 1 game at a time. Unlike today where there are 4 or 5 per month.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 7:20:21 AM

World it is better than the first one.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 8:29:41 AM

Glad you liked it Killa, keep in mind when you do have time that the battle system just keeps getting better and opening up all through the game so it doesn't get stale.

@sayword: Better huh? Thats a bold statement. Hope it's true.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 3:29:14 AM

Ugh, I didn't knwo this series suffered from silent protagonist syndrome, I swear it is a disease among the JRPG genre! Mass Effect proved you can have a customizable character and still have them involved with the narrative. It was a technical limitation before but we should be beyond that now! It's the reason why I will not be playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii-U which is a damn shame because Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii was my favourite game of the past generation :(

And that debt system sounds like a joke, but I suppose in this day and age with gaming we should be grateful that it is just within in game currency...

I was very close to giving Xillia 1 a try, but if it suffers from silent protagonist syndrome then I wont bother. Also I see that it had visual novel areas to cover dialogue which just looks so cheap and I despise every JRPG that does it as it completely ruins the immersion.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 5:36:31 AM

Xilia 1 doesn't have the silent protagonist problem - very entertaining game. Might pick this up at some point over the next few years, might not. Depends if FFXV is a let down or not!

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 7:19:21 AM

I cant help but sit here and shake my head whenever you post a comment. You have the lamest excuses for missing out on great games. To each their own but you come off as so entitled and obnoxious.

Btw there is no visual novel cutscenes unless you choose the optional skits. Also the protagonist may be silent in the second game but you choose dialogue options and hw does speak briefly. Please do some research before you whine about missing great games because of your lame expectations.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 9:01:30 AM

Choosing dialogue options does not make up for poor productive value. It is valid criticism towards a game. Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii was my favourite game this generation, but now I know the sequel expects me to play as a created avatar with the personality of a nodding dog, I'm simply heartbroken. I have seen this done in many JRPG's the idea that you are the character but all I see is a blank avatar, with no personality or motive within the games story. I even had the same problem with Zelda, link was just a mute and had no form of personality. What is worse is seeing the characters around compensate and talking around the problem. I see it as a technical limitation we should be beyond now and I will be infuriated every time I see it as I am tired of seeing great projects plummet through some very poor design choices.

I have seen that while Xillia 1 does have proper pre-rendered cutscenes and sequences with in game graphics it still has those awful visual novel sequences - I can't speak for Xillia 2 yet, but I would be willing to bet that it does feature them too. The problem is firstly it looks cheap. Secondly, it breaks the immersion of the game but overlapping the screen with shoddy portraits. Lastly it often ruins the sequences as you cannot see what is happening, say if it is a comedic sequences which has action, it often fails when they rely on dialogue alone. I have seen this far to many times in JRPG's and as someone who adores the genre when it is done right, I can't help but become incredibly infuriated when I see them cop out with such shoddy presentation which breaks the experience. My expectations are not 'lame', I just want to see the genre thrive and looking at last generations line up of JRPG's I think there is great cause for concern.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 10:19:18 AM

Silent Protag doesn't bug me that much, it was done expertly in Suikoden, especially part 5

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Banky A
Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 4:53:09 PM

Enjoying this so much. Got me hooked.

I read about the debt system and thought I would hate it all the way but right now I really don't mind it. Fun for me to farm for the loot because I do that in RPGs anyway to get over a certain threshold. I can see it getting old.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 @ 7:37:55 PM

Debts? one aspect of real life that we don't want on games.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014 @ 6:18:04 PM

I like Xillia 2 better than the original one. The debt system seems just fine to me. I also like that you have more playable characters, 9 characters playable, than the first one which is only 6. Story is ok to me. I'll rate this game at around 8.5

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