Tales Of Xillia 2 Hands-On Preview: Familiar But Still New

Tales games don’t typically get sequels. And by typically, I mean never, at least until Tales of Xillia 2.

What made the first game special enough to warrant a return trip? According to the developers on hand at Bandai Namco’s Global Gamers Day, it was strictly a matter of popularity, and that gamers made it known they’d like to see the characters and world of Tales of Xillia again.

Fair enough. Taking place one year after the first game, the sequel explores how life has changed now that Rieze Maxia and Elympios are merged. Most of the action takes place in Elympios, and there’s a stark dynamic between one land that’s mostly urban and another that resembles a more typical fantasy setting.

Two new main characters, a girl named Elle Marta and a young man named Ludger Kresnik, move to the forefront. Also vital to the plot: Ludger’s older brother Julius, who isn’t necessarily on the same side when first encountered. Bandai Namco assures us that all of the important faces from the first game will show up, including Milla, who the story needs to deal with in a creative way since she had grown so powerful.

In terms of the chunk of gameplay I got to try, I can report that the Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System returns (and someone needs to have the courtesy to make these battle systems into acronyms, at least!), but with some additional tweaks. Foremost among those is the ability to swap out Ludger’s weapon sets on the fly. He can switch between dual swords (for short-range fighting), a sledgehammer (medium) or dual pistols (long), and since I encountered enemies who were immune to or at least highly resistant to one attack or another, that turned out to be a helpful addition.

The focus is still on links between you and your other three party members, who act autonomously in the heat of battle but follow the game plan you set out for them. The linked artes were relatively easy to pull off, even for a relative series newcomer like myself. I didn’t get to activate or see Ludger’s special Chromatus transformation ability, though screenshots of it were shown during the group sessions. In-between battles, you still move around the world on a 3D map, gathering items and avoiding or running into enemies.

In terms of graphics and sound, Tales of Xillia 2 is about what you’d expect, which is to say quite good. Because of the shift in main locales, everything is a little grittier this time out. The themes of the game are said to be choice and destiny, and the exploration of alternative timelines is also central to the plot, so there’s a slightly darker feel than its predecessor overall.

Tales of Xillia 2 is due out on August 19, and it will come in two retail versions: a standard edition, and a Collector’s Edition with a suggested price of $129.99. Goodies in the CE include a Ludger Kresnik figure, a replica pocket watch (said to be an important in-game symbol), special DLC costumes for three characters, a Rollo plush charm, an art book and the official music CD.

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