Bennu Reflects on "Tales of Xillia 2"
Over the past two months, I’ve been hard at work playing through another entry in Namco Bandai’s Tales of series. However, this one holds a special place in my heart as it was the first game in the series that I ever played.Tales of Xillia 2 is an interesting game in that it borrows heavily from its predecessor but also has plenty of new and refined content to give it its own sense of identity. When I first picked it up, I didn’t expect to love it as much as some Final Fantasy games. Yet, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the world and its unique cultures and people.
I decided to make this my tenth project and article as I wanted a chance to revisit the worlds of Rieze Maxia and Elympios and wrap up my journey with the Xillia series in a fitting and condensed summary of sorts. Plus, my little sister and I have very fond memories of the series and having played through it has made me think of her constantly and how I much I miss her. For this review, I’ll be reverting to my usual format for this article so it’s easy to navigate but also please be aware that I’ll be referring to specific spoiler-heavy events for both the original Tales of Xillia and this game. You’ve been warned.
So, without further ado, let’s pack our bags and book a return ticket to Elympios as we visit Tales of Xillia 2.
Tales of Xillia 2 was developed by Namco Bandai’s Tales of studio and was published by Namco Bandai in November 2012 for Japan and August 2014 for the Western market. Players return to the worlds of Rieze Maxia and the expanded world of Elympios as new character Ludger Will Kresnik as he attempts to secure work and start building a life for himself one year after the events of the previous game. Aside from a sombre and heavy narrative, Tales of Xillia 2 implements a heavily refined combat system, an item-search and cat-search mini-game, a poker game and a series of unique and recurring job requests that can be taken in order to earn some easy gald and job experience.
Additionally, Tales of Xillia 2 sees the return of all six main cast members from the original game along with former antagonists Gaius and Muzet as party members. Rounding out the entourage with Ludger is newcomer Elle Mel Marta, a young and sassy girl who is attempting to reach the elusive Land of Canaan on her father’s orders. While most of the cast are given a chance to shine in the main story, Tales of Xillia 2 also offers some lengthy side-stories for each member of the party. This provides players with an opportunity to increase each character’s affinity with Ludger which in turn leads to rewards and bonuses in combat and even new outfits.
In terms of the trophy list, Tales of Xillia 2 provides a full suite of trophies that are linked to various titles that can be earned over the course of the game. These range from story-related events through to maximising each character’s affinity with Ludger. There are also combat-related titles ranging from monster encounters to performing highly intricate linked arte chain combos and even returning challenges from the previous game such as performing certain unique character abilities for each character a set number of times. It’s certainly not an easy list by any stretch, but most of the difficulty comes in it being time-consuming. Upon obtaining the Platinum trophy, I had clocked in about 125 hours. Granted, I probably wasn’t the most time-efficient with everything but it is still quite a lengthy endeavour to undertake. So, take that into consideration if you’re looking at going for the Platinum.
As mentioned earlier, Tales of Xillia 2is set in the lush world of Rieze Maxia and the barren landscape that makes up Elympios. The game focuses its narrative lens on new character Ludger Will Kresnik, who resides in the city of Trigleph with his older half-brother Julius and their pet cat Rollo. Ludger dreams of working at the Spirius Corporation with his big brother but unfortunately fails the entrance exam. As a result, Ludger finds employment at Trigleph station as a cook but just so happens to start his first shift on the same day as terrorist group Exodus launches an attack at the station and hijacks a train. Upon having a run-in with a young girl, Ludger winds up boarding the train which sets in motion the events for his journey throughout the game; as he winds up with a substantial financial debt and attempts to reach the elusive Land of Canaan while butting heads with the formidable Great Spirit of Time known as Chronos.
Over the course of the game, Ludger encounters each party member from the original Tales of Xillia and becomes friends with them. Additionally, players are also able to recruit King Gaius and the Great Spirit Muzet for their team as well. This is certainly a welcome addition as I quite enjoy both characters’ personalities and fighting styles. Elle Mel Marta, the young girl who Ludger runs into at Trigleph station also joins the party as well but in a more supportive role as she’s too young to actually fight. Instead, she manages the role of being Rollo’s caretaker as the plump cat is prone to following Ludger around on his adventures.
Tales of Xillia 2 is divided up into sixteen main story chapters with a prologue and a total of five different endings based on player choices. Three of these endings are directly tied to the main story while the remaining two are post-game joke endings that are more for fan service than anything else. That being said, both joke endings are quite funny and well worth a watch if you have a chance to. If you’re going for the Platinum then you’ll have to watch them anyway as there are trophies linked to them. One ending is unlocked for completing the Illusionary Darkness bonus dungeon and the Coliseum’s Elite Party fight. The other ending is unlocked for paying off Ludger’s debt which he obtains early on in the main story after he, Elle and Rollo are given medical treatment after a serious incident.
While the main story isn’t quite as long as the original narrative, Tales of Xillia 2 manages to bolster this by introducing several side-story episodes for each recruitable party member. Jude, Milla and Alvin have the most episodes while Elize, Rowen, Leia, Gaius and Muzet all have four episodes each. These side-stories serve to not only flesh out each character’s motivations but also provide an opportunity to significantly boost their affinity level with Ludger. This, in turn, allows Ludger to learn new skills and artes that he can use on the battlefield along with unique outfits for the fashion conscious.
Ludger Will Kresnik
Ludger Will Kresnik is a 20-year old man living in Trigleph with his older brother Julius. The main character of the game, Ludger is a compulsory party member throughout the entire story and players see most of the narrative through his eyes. Although a mostly mute character, Ludger is prompted to choose a remark during many different conversations and situations. These usually vary between one of two choices which can be selected by the player using L1 for the left choice or R1 for the right choice.
In combat, Ludger is easily the most versatile character as he has access to three different weapon types. His default weapons are the dual blades which allow for fast slashing attacks. Later in the game, Ludger is granted two new weapon types – a sledgehammer which works as a heavy-hitting and defensive weapon and the dual pistols which serve as more of a ranged combat option. Each of these weapon types have their own unique artes and skills associated with them and each weapon type can be switched on the fly in battle by using the L1 or R1 buttons. In a traditional role, however, Ludger acts as more of a Blue Mage/Mime hybrid as he’s able to learn other character’s artes and skills by bonding with them and can also mimic the player character’s support skill if played in a supportive role.
As a whole, Ludger is essentially supposed to be the player’s avatar throughout the game. He doesn’t talk much but is given some moments where his own personality shines through. It’s just a shame that you can’t choose to have him voice his dialogue choices until new game plus. His protective nature of Elle is also an admirable and noteworthy part of his personality despite how often she treats him badly.
Elle Mel Marta
Elle Mel Marta is an 8-year old girl who flees from her home after it’s attacked by mysterious agents. Leaving her father behind, Elle stumbles into the city of Trigleph and attempts to board the train stationed there to find an elusive place known as the Land of Canaan. Unfortunately, this is also on the same day as the Exodus train hijacking which places Elle in danger and with Ludger rushing in to save her. From that point onwards, Elle stays more or less by Ludger’s side as they team up to find the Land of Canaan together.
Personality-wise, Elle initially comes across as sassy, bratty and quite an abrasive individual. However, over time, she begins to warm up to Ludger and the rest of the party and even goes out of her way to try and protect them. Out of the main cast, Elle arguably has the most tragic storyline as she is deeply affected by her journey. You can’t help but feel for the poor kid as she is forced to grow up and deal with some very mature themes for her young age.
Jude Mathis is a 16-year old spyrite researcher who currently resides at Helioborg Fortress with his research partner Balan. A former medical student at the Talim Medical School in Fennmont, Jude has shifted his focus into researching spyrite technology in order to provide Elympios with the means of using spirit artes without harming lesser spirits. By doing this, Jude hopes to allow the remaining spirits in Elympios to flourish and revive the barren land with their energies. Unfortunately, this task is still quite challenging for Jude and Balan and is the central focus of his side-story.
Our favourite spyrite researcher joins the party early on when he encounters Ludger heading to Trigleph station for his first day of work as a cook and teams up with him on board the hijacked train to fight the Exodus goons. In combat, Jude wields arm bracers and once again acts as a solid monk/healer hybrid with the ability to heal and revive party members with his unique Restore support ability. He’s also one of the fastest party members and is able to dodge enemy attacks using his Snap Pivot technique to teleport behind them and deal devastating damage.
Leia Rolando is a 16-year old reporter for the Daily Trigleph newspaper in Elympios. A childhood friend of Jude’s and a former nurse at the Mathis Clinic in Leronde, Leia has moved to Trigleph in order to try her hand at a new career in the form of journalism. This venture initially leads to mixed results for Leia as she struggles to craft effective articles for her readers. However, over the course of her side-story, Leia finds the motivation to work on a large piece involving relations between the two worlds of Rieze Maxia and Elympios.
Ludger first encounters Leia while paying a visit to the newly formed city of Marksburg on the border between Elympios and Rieze Maxia. Here, Leia is attempting to recover a missing kitty but soon joins Ludger on his journey after seeing Jude and uses her news contact Jolyne to help them in their search for Julius. In combat, Leia acts as a more balanced fighter by utilising staves which provide solid protection and a decent attack. She’s also capable of casting defensive artes that augment the party’s elemental resistances. Furthermore, Leia also comes with a unique Thief-like technique in the form of her Item Steal support ability which allows her to steal items, gald and equipment from knocked over enemies.
Rowen J. Ilbert
Rowen J. Ilbert is the 63-year old Prime Minister of Rieze Maxia and a good friend of both Jude and Leia. He is first encountered in the city of Duval after Ludger and the rest of the party manage to defeat a shadowy version of him inside a fractured dimension. Initially acting as an aide of sorts to King Gaius, Rowen is also a military tactician and former butler to the Sharil family in the city of Sharilton. His side-story focuses mostly on his political career and the risks involved with being a public figure promoting peace amidst a deep-seated resentment between the two worlds of Rieze Maxia and Elympios.
In combat, Rowen acts as a Black Mage archetype with his proficiency in casting potent elemental artes. This time around, Rowen also gains a healing technique in the form of his Healing Etude arte. Water is still my preferred element of choice for Rowen but he is also fairly proficient with the other primary elements of Earth, Wind and Fire. Rowen’s unique support ability allows him to automatically shield his linked partner with a Magic Shield that severely reduces any elemental damage taken from a spirit arte. It’s certainly a useful ability that will no doubt come in handy in any battle against other mage characters. On a side note, Rowen is still one of my favourite characters in the game with his cheeky attitude and personality and is always a permanent staple in my main party.
Alfred Vint Svent
Alfred Vint Svent, known by his nickname of Alvin, is the 27-year old former mercenary who has established a mercantile business with his friend and business partner Yurgen from the Kitarl clan. Alvin is first encountered at Helioborg Fortress just before Exodus launches an assault on the base. It’s during his first encounter here with Ludger that he reveals to him that he was a former Exodus agent and asks if he trusts him. Regardless of the player’s response, Alvin joins the party and assists them in fighting their way through the fortress.
Being a former mercenary, Alvin is quite skilled in combat. Filling the role of a Warrior/Knight class, Alvin is able to dish out strong physical damage with his sword and gun combo. Alvin also has one healing ability to help him restore his health and can use a wide selection of combat artes particularly those of the Fire element. His unique technique is the Breaker ability which allows him to break through enemy’s guard stances.
Out of the main cast, Alvin is still one of my least favourite characters. That being said, however, he is a lot more of an appealing character this time around as he doesn’t betray the party at all in this game. He also retains his cocky and playful personality but is tempered with a little more maturity which is a welcome addition to his character. This is particularly shown in his side-story as he struggles to build a successful business with Yurgen while dealing with some personal demons from his past.
Elize Lutus is a 13-year old Rieze Maxian student who encounters Ludger at Helioborg Fortress during the Exodus terrorist assault. Having lived most of her life as an outcast, Elize has come a long way over the past year at reaching out and making friends with people. Elize encounters the party purely by chance as they cross paths during the Exodus assault and she catches up with Jude and Alvin. Her magic talking doll, Teepo, also returns to spout more cheeky remarks and banter for players to enjoy.
Elize’s side-story deals mostly with her role as Elle’s unofficial ‘big sister’ and her mysterious pen pal named Luna. This side-story is quite interesting as it ties in somewhat to Rowen’s story as well at certain points. It’s certainly a welcome addition and a good character story for the young student.
Being a highly-proficient artes caster, Elize once again fills the role of a White Mage/Necromancer hybrid by casting potent healing artes to restore the party’s health and revive fallen allies. She’s also able to cast strong dark elemental artes that can inflict serious damage on enemies. Elize’s unique support technique is Teepo Drain, in which Elize uses Teepo to drain some mana from enemies to give to her linked partner in combat. This works especially well with arte casters who will get a small boost to assist them in casting an additional arte or two in a pinch.
King Gaius is the 33-year old ruler of Rieze Maxia. Having unified the two countries of Rashugal and Auj Oule after the events of the previous game, Gaius now commands the armies and government of both countries as a unified force. Supported by Rowen, who acts as his prime minister, Gaius is working on passing a peace treaty with the leaders of the Elympion government in order to foster healthy relations between the two nations. Gaius' side-story involves him working towards this goal while also learning about the gift of friendship; something that a man in his position struggles to comprehend.
In combat, Gaius acts as a kind of Samurai/Paladin hybrid. He's gifted with incredible physical strength but also maintains a defensive stance when in combat. Gaius' healing abilities are fairly decent, with the ability to recover health and even revive party members. He's a powerful force on the battlefield, complemented by his katana and a suite of different abilities and artes that can augment his strength and defense and dish out powerful damage to foes. Gaius' support technique is known as Chivalry, in which he appears in front of his linked partner to block incoming damage if his ally is surrounded by foes.
Muzet is a 21-year old Great Spirit and sister to the legendary Milla Maxwell. Being the Great Spirit of Dimensions, Muzet has the ability to warp herself around locations at will. This comes in handy with her unique support technique, known as Support Warp, in which she can whisk away herself and her linked partner to a safer position on the battlefield. In combat, Muzet acts as a kind of Arcane Mage/Sage hybrid, in which she has access to some of the most potent artes while also having good maneuverability. Muzet also has a rather unique fighting style, in which she uses her hair as her weapon. In order to upgrade her 'weapon', players have to equip her with different hairpins which augment her power along with any elemental buffs or resistances as needed.
In terms of her side-story, Muzet's journey focuses on her learning how to interact with others and form strong bonds of friendship. Unlike Gaius' story, however, Muzet takes a much more proactive approach, even going so far as to endanger the lives of the party just to further bolster her friendship with them and with Milla. While her intentions are good, Muzet still falls into some familiar traps that made her a scary adversarial force in the previous game. That being said, she's a wonderful ally to have in the main party and was my go-to linked partner for Ludger for most of my time with the game.
Milla Maxwell is the 21-year old Lord of Spirits. One year ago, she went on a grand journey with Jude, Alvin, Elize, Rowen and Leia to stop Exodus from using the Lance of Kresnik to destroy the world. One year later...and Milla is nowhere to be found. Not even Muzet knows where she is.
That being said, Milla is a prominent party member for much of the game, although not the Milla that everyone remembers. During the events of Chapter 7, the party befriend a fractured version of Milla who somehow survives the destruction of her own world and winds up in the prime dimension. This Milla acts as a similar version to the early game Milla from the previous entry in the series, as she is capable of fighting and casting artes but does not have the aid of the Four Great Spirits.
However, much later in the game, the true Milla Maxwell returns and joins the party - albeit at a heavy and emotionally painful cost. The true Milla Maxwell comes equipped with her fractured partner's weapons, equipment and abilities along with the Four Great Spirits; Undine, Efreet, Sylph and Gnome. In combat, Milla acts as a Red Mage of sorts as she's a well-balanced character capable of hitting hard and inflicting powerful elemental damage with her artes and the Four Great Spirits. Milla's support technique is known as Bind, in which she can freeze an enemy in place for a few seconds allowing her linked partner to inflict some serious damage without fear of getting hurt by that enemy.
Milla's side-story is actually divided into two parts. The first half focuses on fractured dimension Milla attempting to strengthen her bond with Elle by cooking her a good meal. The second half focuses on prime dimension Milla attempting to resolve some personal concerns while also helping Jude in accomplishing his goals. While it's sad that prime dimension Milla doesn't get much time with the party during the main game, it's good that she at least gets a satisfying side-story filled with some awesome boss fights.
Combat & Dialogue
Tales of Xillia 2 follows a similar design and control structure to its predecessor. It boasts a real-time action combat system in which players can control a party member to run around the battlefield and attack enemies with. Characters can link together to perform powerful linked arte attacks which can also form a combo chain to inflict truly devastating damage to the enemy. Party formations are made up of up to four members, with a total of nine playable characters available for selection. However, during most of the main story, the game locks certain characters into the main party. This is also prevalent during side-stories in which the respective character must be in the party for their side-story. Ludger is always locked in the main party until after the final main story chapter has been completed. While this is an odd choice, I can appreciate the developers wanting to give each character a chance to shine in the game. After all, there are some characters who are much more popular than others and it's only fair to give everyone some screen time.
Another nitpick that I have with the game is the lack of Ludger dialogue in the game. Given how many decisions Ludger has in terms of dialogue responses, it's a true shame that his voice is actually muted until new game plus when you have the option to switch it on. While I appreciate the developers trying to make Ludger an 'avatar' for the player, it nevertheless does become a bit jarring at times. Having the option from the start would have been a much better decision I think.
Jobs & Exploration
Outside of combat, players can explore the various terrains, villages and cities that make up the nations of Elympios and Rieze Maxia. Pretty much the entirety of Rieze Maxia returns from the previous game along with a heavily expanded nation of Elympios. The city of Trigleph is expanded upon along with the new cities of Duval and Drellin and the return of Helioborg Fortress. There are also some new and familiar highroads and landmarks that return as well in between locations.
In the cities, players have the chance to purchase weapons, armour, items and various other equipment for their journey and rest at a local inn. Cities are also where players can form their main party outside of main story or side-story chapters and can undertake job requests from a job board to earn gald and job experience. Some job requests are unique while others are marked as elite monster hunts where players can defeat powerful creatures for a significant payday.
Levels & Allium Orbs
As mentioned earlier, there are a total of nine playable characters in the party. The level cap for this game has been raised from 99 to a whopping 200 which means that players will be grinding for quite a while in order to reach this mammoth goal. Thankfully, party members automatically get HP (Health Points), TP (Technical Points) and stat boosts each time they level up as opposed to the previous game.
Lilium Orbs aren't present in Tales of Xillia 2. After the schism was dispelled at the end of the previous game, the Lilium Orbs were overloaded with mana and stopped working. Instead, this game introduces the new Allium Orb system in which the dead Lilium Orbs are worked with a series of elemental extractors to learn new abilities and artes. New extractors are unlocked over the course of the game which allow players to further customise their party by selecting which elemental path they want their character to proceed down. Given enough time, characters can learn every skill and arte that is available to them provided that one periodically changes to a different elemental extractor.
Kitty Dispatch & Poker
Tales of Xillia 2 also includes two fun mini-games in the form of Kitty Dispatch and Poker. Kitty Dispatch sees Rollo venture off to previously visited locations in order to find goods to collect and other kitties to recruit. This system also allows players to obtain rare items that can't normally be obtained anywhere else either to sell or to fulfill certain job requests.
On the other hand, Poker acts as a fun distraction. After completing a certain job request in Drellin, players have the option to challenge a gambling enthusiast to games of Poker. These games are fairly straightforward and relatively easy but the challenge lies in its game of chance, as upon winning a hand players can choose to double their earnings by guessing if the next card is either higher or lower in value. There's certainly a random element of chance to it but it is still fun nonetheless. Not to mention there's a silver trophy for having earned 100,000 chips through Poker which will surprisingly not take as long as expected.
In a similar fashion to its predecessor, Tales of Xillia 2 boasts a solid soundtrack filled with quite a few memorable pieces. Being a darker game, the soundtrack has a few more sombre themes. It also brings back some of the classic themes from the original game to mix in a sense of nostalgia as well. Of the songs in the game, I've selected three that are my personal favourites. These are 'Artes Not Yet Known', 'Inside the Vanishing Times' and 'The Proof Discovered in the End of Sadness'.
'Artes Not Yet Known' is a curious piece as it is quite different from many of the other songs in the game. Played as the background music in the Epsilla Ruins in Chapter 10, the song has a distinctly futuristic vibe to it. If I were to try and find a comparison, I would say it reminds me somewhat of Tron or something along those lines. It's a nice, mysterious tune that makes one want to continue forward in order to uncover the secrets of this peculiar place.
'Inside the Vanishing Times' is a short and succinct piece that plays as the game over theme if I recall correctly. It's a very short tune but in the thirty seconds it plays it manages to convey a sense of painful sorrow but also a deep and quiet sense of harmony as well. It's a fantastic track that manages to encapsulate the sensation of being in the void between life and death as one's first moments in the eternal abyss.
Finally, 'The Proof Discovered in the End of Sadness' is an incredibly sombre tune that plays during the penultimate chapter of the game. Here, a painful choice has to be made by Ludger and the player; a choice that will result in the death of at least one person. It's a tragic piece that manages to capture the gravity of the situation and the resolve of both Ludger and Julius as they struggle to deal with an unfortunate and uncomfortable reality. It's easily one of the best pieces out of both Tales of Xillia games and well worth a listen if one feels like that kind of sombre music.
Overall, Tales of Xillia 2 is a great game that manages to build on the foundation of the first and present an even more developed world for players to explore. The combat system is more refined and streamlined with each playable character having access to one form of self-healing arte that helps reduce the stress on healers and allows for more flexible party formations outside of the narrative. That being said, the party restrictions during the main story and side-stories can come across as frustrating and the lack of much voiced dialogue from Ludger until new game plus is infuriating.
The story is a solid entry in the series, with a shorter main narrative but is bolstered by plenty of side-story development that fleshes out characters and motivations. It's also worth noting that the job request, elite monster hunts, Kitty Dispatch and Poker mini-games all bring a sense of variety to the overall experience and help fill in the down time between main story chapters. Players may get frustrated with the artifical travel restrictions imposed by Ludger's debt but these are less detrimental later on in the story. By Chapter 9, most of the world map is accessible with players free to come and go as they please.
The presentation and music direction in Tales of Xillia 2 is great with the same voice cast returning to reprise their roles in this game. Gaius and Muzet are a welcome addition to the party and are great fun to play as. Ludger is a certifiable badass and is easily the most versatile and approachable character to play as which makes sense as he's the lead protagonist.
All in all, Tales of Xillia 2 is a welcome sequel for fans of the original game and is definitely worth the time investment. Trophy hunters may be turned off by its lengthy hunt but for Tales and J-RPG fans, it's definitely worth checking out for yourself. I highly recommend it.
Final Grade: 8.75 / 10
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