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Tales of Xillia 2 Review

After many hours of battling monsters and learning about the plights of some weird and wonderful characters take a look at our Tales of Xillia 2 review which looks at the European release on PS3 which is out now.

 

 

Tales of Xillia 2 Review:

Today we take a look at the European release of Bandai Namco Games’ Tales of Xillia 2 which has been available in Japan for quite some time and now has a fully localized version for PS3 gamers. The story is set one year after the original which brings us to the first point to consider: Whilst it’s possible to enjoy and understand the story and its characters, some elements might have less significant impact if you’re not familiar with the first game. That said, as it stands, jumping in to the story of Ludger Kresnik –  the lead character – his relationship with a girl called Elle and the fate of worlds is easy and not taxing in any way due to its light hearted presentation. There’s quite a simple story here that ties two worlds together and addresses some political conflicts as well as moral dilemmas with its odd cast of characters.  As an overwhelming underlying theme Ludger gets into serious debt from the offset and throughout the remaining game has to repay this to progress the story. It’s an interesting mechanic which serves its purpose to keep players at suitable levels before they move on, but also acts as a barrier to complete freedom making the structure feel a bit rigidcin its opening hours. So, in between the main story chapters, players can embark on numerous side quests to gather items and much needed coin. There’s a main job board that carries over to every settlement which provides a selection of side missions where  a maximum of five can be undertaken at any given time. Jobs range from collecting items, making deliveries and hunting down specific enemies including several boss characters who pack quite a punch but open up routes and net some excellent profit if defeated. It’s an interesting way to keep players busy with a bit more purpose aside from simply hitting the danger areas and grinding for hours even if  the variation is limited.

There are other layers to the job missions as well in which specific items have to be collected by using the game’s infamous fat cat Rollo. Early on in the game you’re tasked with an overall goal to find and bring in 100 lost cats, which double up as minions to send out in the Kitty Dispatch mini game. The more cats found, the better items can be brought in and settled at the job office. It’s a neat distraction which ultimately is optional but does yield some excellent financial reward, and in this game, you’re going to need every penny you can get.

Meandering around the story based on how much cash you’ve managed accrue, players can also learn a little more about the assortment of characters who are swiftly introduced to the growing team during the story. There are a number of side bonus quests to undertake which are unique to your party characters and offer a bit more depth to their personalities. The rather good characterization is further exemplified with the use of optional skits which are full of humour and awkward moments that might raise a smile or two.  The cast are a varied bunch but work together exceptionally well due to the well polished and performed script which does provide amble moments of comedy alongside its more serious undertones.

From the very beginning, players are thrust into the game’s real time team based combat which makes for a far more action orientated experience overall considering how much fodder is laid before you at every turn. Players can attack with up to three weapons using Ludger including blades, guns and a hammer or can switch to any of the other characters in the party for a bit of variation. Attack moves are pretty simple to execute with no complex combos to learn aside from mastering the chained attacks with team mates,  customizing the character’s moves beforehand and appointing skills when players level up. With basic blocking, dodge and attack moves assigned to the thumbsticks players can make light work of most opponents although if there’s any complaints here is how the lock on isn’t as handy as it could be and becomes an issue when lots of enemies are on screen and you end up attacking air.  There’s a bit of menu viewing to get by but these options are pretty straight forward  and a necessity in getting the most out of the team, although it’s possible to ignore some of the deeper aspects and just dive in.   Across the many hours of the adventure, there are optional encounters  with enemies littering the highways and fields .Players can avoid contact or sneak behind for an ambush advantage. For the most part, the open nature of  areas means there’s choice in whether to engage or avoid but it has to be said, the difficulty tends to fluctuate which means upping the battle difficulty in most instances and perhaps lowering it against more troublesome story based  foes. Unfortunately, the game does throw the odd spanner in the works with over-powerful bosses where luckily the unprepared are not left high and dry and can retry whilst making some menu based adjustments. There’s options to save game at various points in each area, but a quicksave feature at any time in the field is quite useful especially if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew or want to try your luck and then back out if needed. That said, it pays to save often and be well stocked up on items, weapons and armour of which there’s an abundance of merchants on hand to provide.

In terms of looks there’s plentiful variation with the characters and locales making for an expansive world that’s open for exploration, although the size is felt further into the game where fast travel options are available and players can move between zones via a world map. Ludger and co. traverse cold mountainous regions, sun drenched fields, forests, dungeons, parallel dimensions and an assortment of themed settlements making for a visual treat on the eyes as they are  all presented to a high standard. It’s a well thought out and realised world with a great sense of perspective and scale as players can freely move the camera at all times. For the most part the game runs smoothly, although during the more heated moments of battle where lots of flashy effects are used in combos, the game’s frame rate dips quite dramatically  but still remains playable. Aside from some weird looking  climbing animations, the game looks good in all areas.

Audio is of a high quality featuring an excellent varied soundtrack exploring several themes alongside a well crafted cast of voice actors. As mentioned, the script has very much to do with how well the game is presented and whilst quite simple is entertaining from start to finish especially when you factor in the game’s resident comedians such as debt collector Nova, fat cat Rollo and animated puppet Teepo into proceedings. Every turn has a seemingly light moment and where there’s an abundance of cut scenes to convey key happenings, players are tasked to make the odd choice here or there which is a neat touch and does have some bearing on how events play out.

Tales of Xillia 2 is a long game which will eat away the hours and then some as typical for an expansive role playing game. There’s a lot to see and do on a first play including plenty of optional elements such collectibles, character costumes to mess around with and the overload of side missions. On game completion there’s options to jump in again with a new game plus feature which allows players the choice in what bonuses carry over from the previous play and includes the weird option to add a voice to the often silent Ludger.

Tales of Xillia 2 as a standalone game offers a wonderful adventure filled with likeable characters, tight combat and a varied world to explore. Whilst the main concepts of the game can get a little repetitive, there’ s much joy to be had in mixing things up and experimenting with everything that’s on offer even if it means spending a bit of time in menus. It’s certainly not an experience to rush through and explains itself well for newcomers and vets looking to gain knowledge of everything. So in this regard is quite accessible even if the first game hasn’t been played. For action adventurers, there’s a story driven focus here which does keep its presence felt throughout, but with enough distractions to fall foul of, players after a more action filled adventure can seek it out at their own leisure. Therefore the game comes highly recommended for JRPG fans and those weaned on western based  action adventures.

Score – 8.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram

 

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