Compared to square enix’ indomitable final fantasy series, the tales games tend to be suffixed with a fantasy namesake like “symphonia” or “Vesperia” rather than a solitary digit. this generally reflects the game’s theme or location and is a sure sign that the story, while sharing certain elements with past entries, will be fairly self-contained. With Tales of Xillia 2, however, namco has done something it hasn’t attempted since Tales of Destiny 2 on the Playstation 2 back in 2002.


it has developed a direct sequel to Tales of Xillia, a Playstation 3 exclusive title that focused on the mismatched Jude mathis and milla maxwell as they travelled across the warring empires of rashugal and auj oule. as a sequel that’s set a year after the first game, it’s clear that namco is targeting Tales of Xillia 2 squarely at fans of the original and yet, even though the game is set to feature many familiar faces (including former antagonists that now fight with you rather than against you), the new protagonists are less invested in past events.

Ludger kresnik is a mild mannered chef who lives in trigleph city with his brother Julius and their overweight cat, rollo. But when a chance encounter with elle marta (an eight year old girl searching for the fabled Land of canaan) inadvertently lumbers him with a medical bill for the sum of 20,000,000 gald, he has to find a way to repay the debt and get back in the black. it may sound like a gimmick on paper but having the loan company hot on your heels is an interesting way of restricting Ludger’s movements.


When we first started the game we could only access a few areas that were populated with some cannon fodder enemies, but as we completed more jobs and opened up more of the map we were able to pay off larger chunks of the debt while making headway with the central story. it remains to be seen whether this to ing and fro-ing between debt repayment and hunting down the next cut scene will make for a satisfying gameplay dynamic, but it’s fair to say that the tales games have always impressed more through their battle mechanics than through their anime stereotypes.

in this regard, namco has chosen to play it safe by sticking fairly rigidly to the established script. rather than the “Double raid Linear motion Battle system” from the last game we now have the elongated “cross Double raid Linear motion Battle system”. the art of linking up with an ai companion so you can combo with basic attacks and the series’ signature artes is much the same as before; the main change comes courtesy of the new trio of weapon types that work alongside the elemental magic system. Ludger can switch between his swords, hammer and guns on the fly, and by putting a stronger focus on exploiting an enemy’s weakness rather than spamming a few favoured attacks,  the combat feels less formulaic  than before.


Having only invested a handful of hours into the game so far, our main concern is Ludger’s wooden personality. Unlike Jude and Milla, Ludger is a predominantly silent protagonist who communicates through Zelda-esque grunts and facial expressions. The only time he contributes to the conversation is when the game presents you with two choices. This could be something minor like cooking with or without tomatoes (it seems Elle isn’t too fond of fruit) or it could be something more significant like agreeing to track down your fugitive brother. Namco insists that these decisions will have a meaningful impact on the game’s story but we’d be surprised if this amounts to more than a few alternate endings.


When the Nintendo Wii reached its twilight years (as the PlayStation 3 is doing now) it bowed out with Xenoblade Chronicles. That game was no less than the most impressive action-RPG of its console generation. It seems all but impossible that Tales of Xillia 2 could topple this achievement not because it’s a bad game but because the ambition and originality aren’t comparable. Namco is billing this as a continuation of the Xillia saga and it looks like that’s exactly what we’re going to get. So even though the man adorning the box has a different haircut to the one that preceded him, this sequel is all about telling a new story through an existing world and a familiar framework… that and the finer points of debt consolidation.

WE LIKED
Battle system holds up
Intriguing storyline elements
Pairing with Gaius and Muzet

WE DISLIKED
Sticks to its guns
Bland new characters
Japan got this two years ago

Ever since Tales of Symphonia introduced the Tales series to the West, Namco has been reluctant to shake the boat too rigorously. Tales of Xillia 2 is the 14 th main entry in the series and it only takes about five minutes of play to realise that this isn’t a Final Fantasy XIII or Dragon Quest IX moment. The subtle changes have built up over the years but the core mechanics and systems will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s experienced a Tales game before.