Tales of Xillia 2 is a rare direct sequel for the Tales series that starts one year after the final events of Tales of Xillia, in similar fashion to the second section of Tales of Graces F or Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World. If you haven't beaten the original Tales of Xilla and want to know absolutely nothing about that game's storyline I'd suggest skipping ahead a paragraph.
It should come as no surprise to those of you that completed the first Tales of Xillia that Tales of Xilla 2 is set in Elympios. It's a technologically advanced world that uses spyrex instead of mana from spirits. Unfortunately, nature has also subsided due to the side effects of spyrex usage. According to what I could glean, the characters from the previous game (at least Jude) are trying to find a new alternative to spyrex that will be less damaging to nature.
The main characters are both new: a 20 year old named Ludger Kresnik and the 8 year old Elle Marta that has ended up in his care. Elle's father died setting her on a task, and while trying to get to where she was meant to go her train is involved in an accident and Ludger is forced to take care of her. This leaves Ludger in massive debt to the person who saved his life (apparently not a great guy). While playing you'll be tasked with paying off this debt and as you pay off more you'll be allowed access to more areas, since your loan shark becomes more trusting. It's an interesting system that I'm curious to see develop throughout the game. An affinity system has also been added for each character, which affects the linking artes available and was mentioned - jokingly - as the game's “dating system”.
Ludger's brother is named Julius and he's the head of the largest corporation in Elympios. Ludger seems to idolize his brother but according to some snippets from later on in the game I doubt this continues for long. There was lots of talk at E3 of a decision that Ludger will have to make, perhaps between saving Elympios or saving his brother, so conflict between the two brothers seems to be a major theme.
Usually Tales games have ridiculous names for their battle systems and Tales of Xilla 2 is no different. Get ready for the Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System, or DRLMBS for short. They need to work on their acronyms. Mostly it's the same system as before, but Ludger has a few unique abilities. For example, he can use three different weapons (dual swords, hammer, dual guns) and switch between them during battles. It's not an instant switch that you could do in the middle of a single combination as far as I could tell but it gives Ludger a bit more flexibility. Ludger can also transform into a Chromatus form which gives him a different moveset and more power but can only be used for a limited time.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Tales of Xilla 2 is the inclusion of transitional segments from the first game. Character chapters for each of the returning characters are spread throughout the story which you can use to find out what these characters have been up to during the year between the two games. We were told that these chapters can be extremely long and you can pick and choose which chapters you want to go through. Costumes purchased for the first game will also be useable in the second and costumes purchased for the second can be used in the first game. You will also get a bonus for having Tales of Xillia save data on your console.
Tales of Xillia 2 is one of my most anticipated games of the Summer and I'm really happy to see that Bandai Namco is becoming more reliable with their Tales localizations. Hopefully we'll hear about even more localizations for the series before long.