Choice. The constant that drives humanity forward and skews life down a path yet unseen. Be it as simple as choosing the words you speak, or as difficult as changing a life, everything builds towards a future. However, in the cruellest twist of irony and fate, when the time comes for you to lay your soul bare and grasp your own destiny, you may find that you have no choice at all.
One year after the events of the previous game, we find ourselves stepping into the shoes of one Ludger Will Kresnik, a quiet, responsible man with a penchant for cooking. One day, Ludger sets out to work, with the simple intention of cooking for his customers and continuing his life (due to him recently failing the entrance exam for Sprius, a large organisation that at least requires its agents to be able to survive monster assaults). However, it would seem that fate has other designs, as he soon finds himself aboard a train that has recently been hijacked by the radical group Exodus. It is aboard said train that Ludger meets Elle Mel Marta, a young girl who is intent on finding her way to a place known as Canaan. After a few fights, and the appearance of some familiar faces, Ludger appears to briefly transform and some sort of time loop occurs. Though taken aback, Ludger and Co. nevertheless continue onwards and halt the speeding train.
With the sudden battle having taken its toll on him, Ludger awakens to find that the injuries he sustained whilst in combat have been healed. Naturally, the kind doctor who helped asks for nothing in return except for thanks…and 20,000,000 Gald. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Twenty million gald. With no means of paying back this exorbitant fee, Ludger is forced to take out one of the largest loans in video game history. As the game itself so elegantly put it, “Oh no! Lufger has fallen into an unbelievable amount of debt. He’s broke as a joke.” Utilising this fact, Bisley Bakur, the President of the Spirius Corporation essentially blackmails Ludger into chasing after the main suspect of the hijacking, who turns out to be none other than Ludger’s older brother Julius (though since you fight him on the train, it’s not too much of a surprise). If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that all of existence is in danger of being eradicated…Bisley probably should have led with that. In an undeniable representation of choice, it would seem that there exist Fractured Dimensions, realms born when decisions cause history to take an alternate path. Though, when you think about it, this concept becomes a little…biased. With each Fractured Dimension being a complete world in its own right, who’s to say that they are less worthy of life than those from the reality we follow? Though the game does briefly reference this, it is by no means as important as it should be.
Questing across this world and others, Ludger meets a very familiar cast of characters. Namely, the main cast of the first Xillia game (it really isn’t a spoiler, they were all on the cover). For all who played Xillia, this provides players to see how much they have changed in one year. For those who wish for a slightly more in depth look, the game provides a number of side quests that explore specific characters and their particular problems. In addition to learning to appreciate your comrades a little more, these quests also net you some sweet items and add additional scenes throughout the game. These scenes are also made known via a “Bonus Scene” marker in the corner, so you know exactly what your efforts have gained you. It’s a nice little touch.
Now, let’s talk battle. Technically speaking, the combat system is known as the Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System…it just rolls of the tongue doesn’t it? In simpler terms, battles are waged by a team of four characters, with one directly controlled by you and the other three running off AI instructions (unless you utilise multiplayer and have friends control a character of their own). For more precise control over your team, the game provides a rather intricate list of customisable instructions for you to bestow upon your allies. Choose whether they play defensively or offensively, how often they should use items as well as exactly what special moves they can access in combat. It’s pretty helpful considering the potential AI has to annoy actual human players. In a similar vein, Xillia 2 pushes the idea of teamwork even further via the Link System. Feeling like you could use an extra boost? Wanna make a new friend? Then why not connect with one of your allies and dominate your foes with a show of camaraderie? When connected, partner characters will utilise their special support ability to aid you, providing different benefits depending on said character. Whilst one may pick you up when downed, another will serve as your shield or even help you dash around the battlefield. Honestly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t always be linked with someone. It also serves to add another element for your consideration when selecting your team. Although honestly, the game kinda takes that off your hands most of the time by assigning you characters for the sake of story progression. It’s actually not that bad at it either, allowing you to see the whole roster of characters in various combinations.
Within battle, each character possesses two bars that limit how often attacks can be made: Action Points (AP) and Technical Points (TP). Simple physical strikes drain the AP gauge, though to be honest it recharges almost immediately when depleted, making it serve as more a limit to your combo count than anything else. TP on the other hand affects your Spirit Artes, special skills that vary from healing moves to elemental onslaughts. Due to their power, these moves drain the gauge surprisingly fast if you don’t pay attention, though TP can be replenished through the use of physical attacks. When linked with a partner, a special linked attack is unlocked and, when sufficiently upgraded, a tremendously powerful Mystic Arte can be used as a follow up. As the main character, Ludger also possesses an additional ability: the Chromatus. This transformation ramps his power up significantly and grants him access to a number of powerful attacks that decimate foes. Combine that with the relatively fast charging gauge and you’ve got yourself one heck of an ability to spam. It’s a pretty nice crutch to have. Pretty cathartic too, what with the rapid fire assault most foes can’t stop and all.
When not fighting the monsters of various dimensions, the game utilises a traditional overworld mode. Get given an objective, walk to said objective, complete the objective, lather, rinse, repeat. Ok, that’s the basic form of most games, it’s actually way more fun than that. In regards to the world itself, I found each individual area to be surprising manageable. That is to say that, when discovered, items locations would appear on the map, allowing you to avoid paths where chests now lie empty or quickly find locations where respawnable items appear. Management of areas is also made much, much easier once the game decides to unlock the fast travel feature. Every single town, route or dungeon receives a fast travel option, often with the ability to select a specific location within it. Seriously, it’s awesome. For those who prefer the scenic route, the game also provides dash boots early in the game allowing you to, as you may have guessed, dash. Though when utilising said boot you “can’t turn on a dime” (to quote the game) and running into an enemy will result in a Back Attack regardless, causing the enemies to surround you from the start of combat. So be careful.
Though by no means bad, the visuals of Xillia 2 do leave a little to be desired. Though admittedly, this is mainly in regards to motion. Rendered in the same engine as gameplay, most cutscenes lack the fluidity and impact they require to properly convey a scene. Suffering from delayed reactions, slow movement and facial features that flip between a pre-set list, they fail to enthral you as much as the dialogue does. Though, viewed as still images, the game does a surprisingly good job of presenting traditional anime reaction faces on a 3D frame. The fact that characters appear as they do in game (wearing any combination of costumes, accessories and weapon you’ve chosen) is also a nice touch that is surprisingly rare in games. Not to sound too down on this game, its original release was in 2012, so it is understandable that the visual elements are a little dated. Time moves fast in the world of video game graphics. Certain moments however are presented via fully animated cutscenes, which really show you how the characters are intended to move. Though fairly scarce throughout the game, they are utilised at appropriate moments and indeed serve as a visual high point.
Xillia 2s audio is also worth mentioning, and not just because it probably had a little to do with the games much delayed Western release. Though I found each character’s voice to be well implemented and well suited to their personalities, I can’t help but feel that performances where limited by the games cutscenes. Just as the visual impact of scenes was limited, dialogue was also unable to present itself properly. With the slow pace that scenes transitioned, lines were noticeably broken up, sometimes leaving a simple gasp hanging isolated for far too long. This occurrence is subverted in cases where you must press a button to progress dialogue. Though not a tremendous downside, these dialogue fractures don’t help rectify the weaknesses of some visual sequences.
Overall, Tales of Xillia 2 is a solid game, though it does have its shortcomings. Controls were a little on the clunky side, boss difficulty fluctuated a bit in the early game and the plot didn’t fully explore the themes it began to present. I mean, when you think about it objectively, this game probably has the highest body count of anything ever. Entire dimensions are eradicated in almost every story mission, all through the actions of a silentish protagonist. There was just a lot of potential to continue down the darker and edgier path that this sequel began walking. Not to be too far on the negative, I honestly enjoyed the interactions between the main cast. The skits were nice little additions that added some humour to the overworld and gave a little more insight into each character. The relationships built between the main cast, especially that of Ludger and Elle, serves as a major driving force for the game and is definite mark in the positive column. At the end of the day, Tales of Xillia 2 was a fun, interesting game that definitely had its moments, but could’ve been just that little bit better.
Before you head for the Land of Canaan, why not stop by Bandai Namco first? I promise it won’t cost you 20,000,000 Gald.