Towns/Talking NPCs: The first game except for a couple brief exceptions had no towns or friendly npcs to talk to. XIII-2 has dozens of zones with friendly NPCs that you can interact with and learn about their lives, history, lore, etc. NPCs will even interact with your actions such as if your companion casts a large spell they will comment and crowd to watch which gives the towns a lively atmosphere. NPCs now also give most all of the side missions. All of the NPCs are also fully voiced which is rare for a J-RPG.
- Dialogue Choices: Yes… in some parts you can actually choose what you want to say or ask!! hooray for choice!
- Monster Party Members (Pokemans): How do you keep a three party combat system with only two main characters? ADD POKEMON!!! Well not exactly pokemon, but there is now a system of catching monsters and using them as your third party member. Catching monsters simply happens after defeating them in battle as your character has a random chance to capture a monster upon defeat. Each monster assumes a specific role (Sentinel, medic, etc.) and when you switch paradigms, your third party member switches to that monster. The monsters all share health percentages, buffs, debuffs, and ATB gauges. You can only have 3 monsters (3 roles) in your paradigms at a time, and can only fight with one monster per paradigm.
- Monster Leveling: Each monster has a unique amount of levels it can gain and amount of stats it can earn. Monsters level using items that drop off monsters or that you buy from a store. The are five levels of these items and four variations of each. One of the four items will raise all stats near equally, and the other three will each one of the stats more than the others (Strength, magic, health). In addition to this form of leveling, you can also have a monster consume some abilities of another. One monster has +10% strength & +5% physical resistance passive bonuses. You can have your current monster “eat” him to gain his passive bonuses, but the other monster is destroyed in the process. This provides a rather simple yet deep system of building the perfect companions.
- Random Spawns: Monsters are no longer statically walking on the map waiting for you to attack them. As you’re moving around monsters will randomly spawn on top of you and a count down timer will start. If you attack the monster before it attacks, you will get the initiation bonus on the monster. Initiation bonus is now 25% stagger meter and whole party is buffed with haste, instead of 90% stagger like in XIII.
- Quick Time Events: In some major battles, your characters will stop traditional battle and engage in Quick Time Events usually at the conclusion of the battle.
- Simplified Leveling: The Crystarium leveling system has been made even simpler for Serah and Noel. Each character can unlock and be all the roles in the end and you level each role from 1-99. All you have to do now is choose which role you want to level with your Crystarium points and your character will become one level higher in that role and gain abilities, stats or passive bonuses every X number of levels. At a certain increments of total levels, you’ll be able to unlock new classes or choose passive buffs.
- Item Leveling: Items don’t have levels anymore. Only certain accessories can be upgraded/altered once at the global vendor using materials looted.
- Equipment: Your character now has an accessory score and items have accessory score costs. To be clearer, your character starts with 60 accessory score (this is upgradeable to 100). Your Iron bangle has a cost of 40 Score. Your other item has a cost of 30 Score. since the total of both items would be 70, you can’t wear both items. You could wear an item that costs 20 with the iron bangle.
- Minigames/Puzzles: There are several puzzles and mini-game sections including a casino now that provide a good distraction from the main grind.
- Summons/Technical Point Abilities: Removed
The game consists of traveling between different time periods through the “Historia Crux” that lays out like a giant grid and solving paradoxes in order to gather items or unlock gates to new time periods. There are probably 9-10 areas, then 2-4 variations of each area from different time periods (i.e. Beach Zone (past), Beach Zone (Future-barren), etc.).
Even with the above changes, the combat still feels very familiar from XIII even having your third member as a monster. Most of the fights aren’t too difficult until you hit the last boss and end game when things start to get tough. I found myself having to grind to get past the final boss.
There are hundreds of monsters if you just “gotta catch ‘em all” for a trophy. There are 160 artifacts to collect that are rewarded from missions, hidden in the world or given at each of the game’s 9 endings. I beat the game’s main story line after about 25-30 hours and still have tons left to do. After you beat the main story there are a dozen of areas that are still locked and hundreds of monsters and artifacts to collect.
More info: Zelda Central