Reviews: Tales Of Xillia 2
The Debt System Really Hurts The Pacing
First off, I haven't played Xillia itself yet, so I went into Xillia 2 only knowing what little spoilers or twists I snatch up here and there off the internet or on TVTropes itself. So, this is basically a review of someone who doesn't 'fully' know the background to everything. Xillia 2 changed a few things, with Ludger being a Heroic Mime. Why? Because his voice would be a huge spoiler for much later in the game, at which point you likely have figured out the obvious plot twist ages ago. You do have the option to 'turn his voice on' during New Game Plus when picking his dialogue options. But the absolute worst thing from Xillia 2, is the Debt System. It not only leaves you strapped for cash for majority of the game or is a poor excuse to railroad the game. The problem comes from the fact that the debt ruins the pacing. One cannot proceed early on, unless a certain amount of debt has been paid off. So one is stuck grinding for money, until one can proceed. Later, your 'travel restrictions' seem to be forgotten, as you can proceed to huge chunks of Rieze Maxia and nothing is stopping you. And then the plot will only advance, if you make a payment to your debt. While this does give the player some time to focus on the Character Episodes for the Xillia cast, it also backfires horribly. The player could spend hours doing nothing but Character Episodes, grinding some monsters, making new equipment, whatever they want and the plot won't advance, until you pay up. And the plot-mandated sections of the game are pretty short, which makes the money you grinded up to waste on that obnoxious debt seem even more like a waste, because you just spent 100.000 Gald for about 25 - 30 minutes of plot. Now, don't forget that the next plot event will only appear if you pay another large amount of money! Repeat for majority of the game, until practically the end of it, and you can see how annoying this is. And a minor thing, I hated the game shoving Milla-Jude as a couple into my face for his later Character Episodes. Their voice actors have no chemistry, the scenes are awkward and it is a waste of time. His arc was not about romance. Stop trying to convince me it is.
A sequel that does a lot of things right, but some wrong.
Again, I'll start with the negative to end on a positive note. Xillia 2 stars Ludger, who, in a rarity for a Tales game, is a Heroic Mime. And I don't really feel that suits a series as character-driven as Tales. You do get a good enough feel for Ludger's character purely through his actions and dialogue choices... but the real jarring area is Skits. A Heroic Mime just REALLY sticks out like a sore thumb there, and makes most skits involving him feel really jarring. (There are occasionally funny dialogue choices though) Second main flaw of the game, I feel, is the way it's divided into "chapters". In theory, giving the player dedicated "story time" and "sidequest time" works well, and warning the player when the story will move on is a good move. (to help avoid quests being Lost Forever) They just could have done it better, the whole "main chapter, debt grinding, main chapter, more grinding" structure results in the main plot feeling really disjointed and fragmented. Sometimes you can come back from a grind and think "wait, what was happening next again?" The plot itself overall is good, if Darker and Edgier to the point of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy sometimes. It doesn't have as many good twists as I've come to expect from a Tales Of game though, nor is there all that much Deconstruction: the whole Humanity on Trial thing is pretty much played as straight as they come. But the game's Wham Episodes are very, very good, and a real highlight the game. It also fixes the major flaw in Xillia 1 by giving more focus to Elympios and its culture. But its real strength, I feel, is the Character Episodes. Think Social Links from Persona, but with gameplay, these are sidequests that add huge amounts of Character Development. The ones that involve fractured dimensions are particiulary good, using For Want of a Nail very creatively to show the development of the cast since the last game. Also, if you disliked Mila or Alvin in the last game, you'll probably change your opinion here. The battle system adds a few new innovations, like physical "elements" to make party members more unique, and a Power Hit Chain mechanic that's much more intuitive than Graces', making combat feel fresh since Xillia 1 while still keeping the same feel. Overall worth checking out if you liked the original.