So, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to Bandai Namco Games UK’s office this week to preview Tales Of Xillia 2. Not willing to say no to such an opportunity, I grabbed everything I needed and hopped on the train to London on a surprisingly sweltering summer day. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by Kazuya and Jin in their combat gear preparing to knock ten bells of sh*t out of one another, father-son style, which I’d love to show you but sadly the use of cameras was prohibited. Indulging in a little Tekken Tag arcade while I waited for the others, it wasn’t long before we were brought into the preview area – a room lined with televisions and PS3’s.
After a brief and fair explanation as to limitations and rules, we – myself, a freelancer and a couple who I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to talk to – got right down to it. I’ll confess that, I have not actually played the previous Xillia title, but nonetheless jumped straight into it with ease. I’m a big RPG fan and, while not a fan of the term, even more so of JRPG’s. I’m disappointed in myself for not having got into this series sooner and hope to rectify this in the month before its EU and NA release. Check out the trailer below.
Taking place a year after the events of the previous Xillia game, the story picks up almost anew. Familiar characters will make an appearance along the way, but I don’t believe any of them did during my time with it. Players now assume the role of Ludger Resnik, a tentatively employed resident of Rieze Maxia. After waking up from a nightmare in which his brother, Julius Kresnik, had made an attempt on Ludger’s life, he makes for his first day at his new job at the train station. Upon arrival he is accused of an attempted kidnapping by the young girl in the trailer, Elle Mel Marta, and then witnesses the train being hijacked. He quickly boards the train in the hopes of protecting young Elle in spite of her actions and it’s when on the train that the combat tutorial and intriguing intro into the story begins.
With a lot of developers making great efforts to turn the turn based system on its head – for instance Ni No Kuni and Final Fantasy XIII, to name only two – Xillia has its own great little innovation in that regard. Essentially, this is controlling a single character amongst a group of allied party members. The core components to combat include strategy, positioning, synergy, timing and button pressing order. While the character can freely roam around the combat area and switch between targets, I found the former, at least in the early stages of the game, to be largely unnecessary. By default, Ludger will operate in a single line, able to block, attack, use Artes and skills and hop backwards evasively. The combat is, at least for me, very gratifying. It’s not dissimilar to Dynasty Warriors in that a lot of it comes down to mashing one particular button until the most opportune variable can be thrown in. Unlike Dynasty Warriors, however, is the wealth of background aspects unaccounted for. With party members, you are able to issue orders and link between them which will cause, among – I assume – many other things for yourself and a team member to attack an enemy from the front and back simultaneously. Elements play a big role, not only in the standard lowered or heightened damage effects, but also in your and the enemies ability to stagger, and other opportunities to create the advantage during combat.
Storywise, there’s a lot going on and lot more to be involved in the latter portions of the game, all of which I am officially fascinated to discover. Shortly after the events on the train, Ludger and co awake in a new location, albeit still within the limits of Rieze Maxia, and having had their medical concerns taken care of. Ludger, however, has been lumped with an incredibly high debt for services rendered. It’s from here that you head out with free reign of all laid before you to start seeking and completing jobs, missions and quests in an effort to pay back the large debt you have been lumped with. Feeling guilty, the people amongst you decide to stand by Ludger in this time as the debt covers their medical care, too.
Now and then during dialog, courtesy of the Resnik family trait of being able to reshape and even destroy timelines and parallel universes, you will be given the choice to pick one answer/reaction/decision or another, which the game boasts will dramatically affect the outcome of the story, though such promises have been made many times before and very rarely lived up to this promise. I don’t intend to assume one way or the other, but my lax understanding of the franchise as a whole convinces me to give it the benefit of the doubt despite not having seen my decision play too much of a role in the first few hours of the game. This an RPG after all and a couple of hours doesn’t scratch the surface. I will admit that Tales Of Xillia, both the first instalment and this one, looks to be like a definite purchase in my book
Tales of Xillia 2 releases in Europe on the 22nd August (19th August in the US) on the PlayStation 3. Bandai Namco Games UK provided the opportunity to check it out at their offices in London, all costs were covered by myself (except the biscuits, I destroyed them!).