After some tough times, the outlook is getting progressively better for Tales fans. Despite some barren years, Western releases of main-stay titles in the series becoming more common place and that should be seen as a huge positive, even if they still arrive quite some time after they have released in Japan. Tales of Xillia 2 is the latest game to greet audiences and it arrives exclusively on the PS3. It looks to expand the story of the world, but from a new, silent perspective.
Tales of Xillia 2 takes place shortly after the events of the original game and starts out with a rather unorthodox premise. You see, the main protagonist, Ludger Will Kresnik, is injured while trying to save Elle Mel Marta and ends up in debt to pay for his medical bills. This single event creates justification for the rest of the game, but it also helps to stunt it too.
Those with poor financial situations have their travel restricted, so while Ludger was free to travel around at will before the incident, he now has to worry about accumulating enough cash to unshackle himself. This acts as a natural blocker to the story, as you will need to accumulate cash in order to progress any further. Such a mechanic isn't uncommon and it will often be used to help teach gamers about different systems through questing. And that's exactly how Tales of Xillia 2 works "“ you will undergo quests and exploration to generate cash so you can progress with the story. The main problem is that the amount of cash required increases by considerable amounts, but the ways to earn it don't have much variety.
In truth, the story isn't all that bad and the themes explored by the financial implications of the world are quite interesting. They are just hampered by systems that do nothing but look to draw things out and make it all seem rather unnatural. The one crowning glory is that when you are able to progress with the story, you feel like you have earned it, but it can still be hard to enjoy the progression.
Despite offering a rather lengthy experience, everything feels like it could have been condensed to create a much more coherent and enjoyable product. Why impose monotony just for the sake of adding a few additional hours to the game "“ do the developers feel that there would be outcry if it isn't a certain length? It all comes down to what's asked for the time that's invested and what the rewards will be. If the monotony comes in the form of optional endeavours, that's fine. However, when it is forced to progress with the story, that is when it becomes a barrier and makes for a more painful experience.
On the positive side, by using the Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System, Xillia 2 looks to try and expand upon what is arguably the series' best point "“ its combat. As has been the case for quite a while now, you are joined by AI counterparts in battle and they follow tactics that are outlined beforehand. There are always some frustrating moments in this type of combat situation, but on the whole the battle system does itself proud. In easier battles, you can often just leave the AI to mop up, as is often the case. It's only in the tougher battles when things become a bit more hectic, but some additional levelling will often change the balance of power.
Despite its complicated nature, standard battles don't require much input most of the time. The special moves help to make things a bit more interactive and performing unified attacks does help to liven things up and this is one of the game's strongest points. You can turn into a roaming death machine and you can do so with minimal effort "“ it never loses its impact. However, while other franchises have really tried to expand their offerings when it comes to their battle systems, Xillia 2 seems like only a mild progression over its predecessor.
The system is still very functional and it has, of course, worked very well for the Tales franchise. Indeed, it still does with Xillia 2. It would just be nice to see the developers try to break the mould a little bit more "“ we want to see something fresh and innovative.
Sound and visuals excel and despite the game releasing towards the end of 2012 in Japan, the character models still look crisp. It won't be up there competing with powerhouse titles for graphical prowess, but it achieves its goals well. The same can be said for the game's audio, with another soundtrack provided by the legendary Motoi Sakuraba. Despite composing hundreds of tunes for the Tales series, Sakuraba still manages to keep things fresh, with a few new gems appearing in the Xillia 2 score.
Despite its struggles with pacing and monotony when it comes to progression in the story, Tales of Xillia 2 brings plenty of positives to the table. The combat system, while perhaps lacking a bit of innovation, still delivers a fluid experience and the presentation continues to exceed expectation. However, it's difficult to ignore how restrictive the game is made due to the barriers placed on progression and we can all but hope similar systems are not employed with the next installment into the franchise.
|Sakuraba has composed another great score.|
|Visuals are vibrant.|
|Combat system is quick, punchy and effective.|
|Blockers in place to prevent story progression.|
|More could have been done to expand on the combat.|
|Too much monotony with quests.|