Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Time for new contacts

I am constantly rubbing my eyes will playing Tales of Xillia 2.

The first game was played before the launch of the current generation so looking like an above average PS2 game (or average Wii game) was almost forgivable. Lightning Returns came out after and looked leagues better but Xillia was the better game. All was forgiven and I rolled around in my favorite JRPG tropes for about forty hours. Now, having spent the better part of a year playing games either designed for the new hardware or slightly upgraded by it, Xilla 2 actually hurts. This was not an artistic choice, this was 'we have an engine that works and a bunch of assets to reuse, go for it!'

The game itself has changed, but not all for the better. Combat takes much less time to ramp up than the first game; links and multi-link attacks are available in the first hour meaning enemies get interesting just as quickly. On the flip side leveling is both inscrutable and mostly out of the player's control. Jude, the first of of what I assume will be a parade of returning characters, attempts to explain it to the new, mostly mute, hero. He doesn't get it. The tutorial tried to explain it to me and I didn't get it, either. It obscures how simple it is with big words and run on sentences. Realistically it is dropping an item on another item and killing things until a progress bar fills. Bleh.

There are also staples of the genre that may have at one time been about hardware restrictions that just don't fly anymore, the worst of which is that characters do not change visually based on their equipment, save for weapons. Part of the fun of trying out new armor is getting to stroll around in your shiny new greaves of strutting +2. It's not as if other JRPGs don't do this, it is just that Tales doesn't, and after playing through Diablo 3 (again) it is difficult to give up.

What the game does have is cats. Lots of cats, one of which follows you around, offering cat commentary of current events.

They say more than the protagonist, whose lines are relegated to surprised grunts and pointless dialogue choices.

Xilla 2 is still a shining example of its sub-genre but I am ready for said genre to evolve. There is still a place for mostly linear, overly dramatic, stat heavy RPGs, they just need to not look and play like they are ten years old.

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