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With the taste of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of The New World still lingering at the back of my mouth, it was with trepidation that I started playing the sequel to the delightful Tales of Xillia. Thankfully it doesn’t make the same mistakes of Dawn of the New World. It has a few new ones though.

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Your new character this time around is Ludger Kresnik, who becomes a makeshift guardian to young child Elle, who has a helpful pocket watch and a desire to visit the Land of Canaan, the latter being something which takes a semi-backseat for the majority of the main quest.

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One of the new ways Namco have tried to mix up the formula – protagonist wise – is to have Ludger being a half mute. He isn’t a mute character like many RPG protagonists you can plant your name on, he still comes out with some spoken lines – “Yeah”, “What?” and even the occasional “Interesting…” as well as shouting out the names of attacks during battle. The main portion of his silence comes during the choice of two things to say which crop up many times during the game. Toted on the box as “Certain choices made at critical phases can influence his destiny”, however many of the results of these choices result in mere cosmetic changes, a character may or may not like what you have just “said” and your affinity with them will change. It’s hardly plot changing stuff and having the majority of Ludger’s vocal talents not straying far from that grunt/gasp thing people in animé and games do to express not knowing what to say during the many lovely skits has Ludger coming across as somewhat obnoxious. He doesn’t even talk when he levels up or learns a new Skill, leaving Elle to say “You’ve gotten stronger!” as if he couldn’t be bothered to say anything. It’s a bold move to allow the player to imprint themselves onto the protagonist as is done in other RPG’s, but in a Tales game, where communication is abundant, it doesn’t really work.

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Thankfully the same cannot be said for the whole cast of Tales of Xillia returning to lend a hand. This is where an obvious improvement has been made from Dawn of the New World. Instead of the original Tales of Symphonia cast returning in two’s or three’s, firmly planting themselves in your squad (because they’re far better than the monsters you’ve been training) with no decent way of customising them, the whole Xillia gang is with you, leaving you to create your own line up and kit them out however you like. The original voice cast make a return with their characters, so any niggles of “It’s not the same!” after hearing the new cast in Dawn of the New World is forgotten.

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As per custom in Tales games, there is usually two opposing nations which you move between along your journey, with the Schism broken in Tales of Xillia, the two nations of Reize Maxia and Elympios are now aware of each other in the sequel and although there is slight animosity between the two nations, it’s not enough to build a plot on. Even the two back-stabbing nations of Aul Joule and Rashugal have been united under King Gaius, so that’s out. So it’s come to the threat of parallel universes – called fractured dimensions – which threaten the existence of your world, deemed the prime dimension. It’s a clever, yet slightly annoying way of not only being able to reuse the locations as the original land is the same in the sequel, but also make you work hard in the same locations a third time. What makes this concept refreshing is that the people aren’t the same, the world is copy and paste but the characters have all new personalities which cuts down on the monotony and leaves you with a rather sassy new Milla Maxwell.

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As soon as you reach a current desired amount payment will be demanded.

This leaves the main plot with little meat on the bone, you go into a fractured dimension, do the current business and you’re off. They don’t really take that long so the game is extended by individual character side story quests which pop up occasionally and jobs which you will find yourself doing, out of necessity. You see, early in the game you are landed with a massive loan to pay back and due to this crippling debt you find yourself subject to “travel restrictions”, basically instead of being unable to move on because of some minor skirmish, something blocking the road, a ship not being built and all the other reasons normally slapped around the RPG circuit as barriers to progress it’s all under the umbrella of “Sorry, you don’t have enough money”. Another bold move to shake things up but comes off as a bit of a cop out, luckily there are many jobs to boost your bank balance, the majority of which involve killing a certain amount of certain monsters, but you have the occasional courier quest and a nice side quest involving finding 100 cats, and then using the power of the found kitties to find rare items in locations you’ve visited.

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Does it really matter?

Another new idea implemented which has been built upon the Skill customisation mechanic the Lilium Orb, which resembled a spider’s web you could choose the branch to follow outward, but was ultimately forced to nearly fill it up before the web would expand, leaving the only choice to you was in what order the Skills and attributes were learnt in. Taking the place of this is the massively customisable Allium Orb, which uses “Extractors” which are attached to a character and based on their elemental properties they will learn new things based on what Extractor is attached to them. There are many to get, all with varying speeds of learning and elemental combinations. What makes this system a little grating is that you’ll find yourself switching them between every character constantly, and the moment you get a new Extractor the process begins again. It can feel tedious at times but the creation of your very own personal fighter is very satisfying.

Battle stays true to Tales of Xillia, you can link up with a fellow fighter and receive certain benefits such as Linked Artes and whatever special character ability they each have. Another new change is that Ludger has three weapons to choose from, you start off with dual swords but later get dual pistols and a massive hammer. The hammer may be slightly slow and the guns a little impersonal but they both work against various monsters when dual blades fail. They each come with their own set of Artes, making the Arte learning even more unique to you.

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Although this review may have come across as a little negative, I am having fun with this game. Because you can take on a couple of jobs which involve defeating monsters in a certain area it feels like you’re doing it for a greater purpose than simply levelling up, you’ll get some money, maybe some rare items and feels like a better use of your time. The plot does kick up the ethical question of “Would you sacrifice an entire world to save your own?” which has all the characters second guessing themselves at various points and makes for an interesting change to the series. But it does feel like it’s missing that Tales magic, which I mainly put down to being a sequel with nearly 100% of locations being revisited. The wonder of entering a new world for the first time isn’t there anymore.

Pr0’s
A] A new story enters the fray
B] Allium Orbs offer near infinite possibilities
C] Return of familiar faces and voices to match
D] Fully voice acted skits

Cons
A] Mute Ludger makes for an uninteresting protagonist
B] Too much recycling of previous characters/locations
C] Choices offered don’t seem to influence the story at all

Graphics 4/5
Sound 4/5
Gameplay 3/5
Playability 3/5
Lifespan 3/5

Final Score

7/10

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