THE long-running Tales series has never have achieved anything more than cult status besides the monster-sized Final Fantasy franchise. But it’s always been reliably entertaining for fans of Japanese RPGs thanks to distinctive real-time battles.
Tales Xillia 2 is a direct sequel from last year’s well received instalment, albeit with different characters facing a new threat in the same universe. However, tweaks to the gameplay and a multi-layered structure to the story have not produced a markedly improved experience.
In many ways, ToX2 feels like a retrograde step, rendering it less than essential for JRPG fanatics who like to buy into the story and are fond of deep character progression.
First impressions count and ToX2 struggles to hold your attention initially. Opening on the faintly ridiculously named Ludger, we find ourselves trying to save the world from alternative dimensions by destroying them (and everyone in them – did they ever exist, should we care?).
The introductory sequence – a glorified tutorial for the superb battle system – simply outstays its welcome with identikit enemies and a surfeit of button-mashing.
But the entertainment does pick up soon enough as Ludger and his pals roam the lands fighting non-random battles and exploring the alternative dimensions. The storyline never amounts to much, even if the voice acting can hold its head high.
If you can devote the time to mastering the complexity of the battle system – with its character-linking special effects and range of weapons – the effort is rewarded.
But some of the enjoyment is sapped by the currency-grinding required to unlock newer levels and the linearity of the plot.
Still, if JRPG fans can find Xillia 2 on the cheap, they won’t be too disappointed with the adventures of Ludger. Less committed gamers expecting the high-gloss bombast of Final Fantasy should look elsewhere.