The Power of Choice:
One of the main features of Xillia 2 is the choice mechanic available throughout the game. It will appear on the screen to choose either L or R for some event. It typically affects the dialogue small bits of the event, but I don't believe there are any significant changes to the gameplay. The most significant aspect gained from choices is character affection. If a choice is favourable towards a party member, their affection for Ludger will go up. More affection unlocks side chapters for those characters, and those side chapters typically unlock more affection. Maxing out affection for a character gives Ludger one of their artes and enables their Combination Mystic Arte.
A new feature replacing the Lilium Orb, which are now non-functional. Equip an Absorber and pick up Elemental Cores to level a specific element. After a certain number of points, you will be able to learn a Skill, Arte, or Mastery Levels permanently.
An example of one is mapped out here. You can use Aselia Wiki as a refernce for all Allium Orb growths.
Shown in the screenshot, the Orb is hexagonally radial. Each direction corresponds with an element, going clockwise from 12', Light, Earth, Water, Dark, Wind, Fire. Certain abilities require points in two adjacent elements, such as the one shown in the middle of the bottom right.
As you get closer to learning an ability, it will appear visible on the Orb and in the list on the left for you to cursor over it and confirm what it does, how many points it will cost, and it will disappear from the orb to remove clutter after you've learned it, going into your skill or arte list.
The list of Skills, Artes, and Mastery Levels are shown in the left, depicting what type of ability you're learning, what they do, and what element needs to be developed to learn it. The highest number of points required for each element is 16 680.
Absorbers, shown in the list to equip in the middle, with its description at the bottom, convert Elemental Cores into points to learn skills. This one shown in the screenshot converts 1 Elemental Core into 1 Dark and 1 Water Point. There are a fair number of different Absorbers, many of which have different balances for distribution. I found it pretty fun balancing them around characters to get some meaningful Skill and Arte upgrades.
Elemental Cores can be found from harvest points on the field, as well as earned from battles. The amounts found will grow with the level of the area, I believe monsters and harvest spots start by dropping 1~5ish range. Bacura drop a tremendous amounts when defeated as well, so you might want to enter the menu quick and set things up before you start a fight.
An Arte can be learned from the Allium Orb with a certain number of elemental points invested. For example, Ludger's default Arte is Azure Edge and his first two learned artes are at 15 Water points and 15 Light points.
Every arte with the exception of those learned from items has four available Mastery Levels. These are learned from the same element as the arte came from, and simply require more points. Learning these increases the effectiveness of the skill by giving it a special bonus. For example, his Azure Edge is default, but its associated Allium Orb element is Wind. At 100 Wind Points, Mastery Level 1 is unlocked. This increases the damage done by Link Artes that are activated with Azure Edge. Mastery Level 2 is learned at 610 Wind Points, and has a chance to nullify the AC cost of Azure Edge.
These Mastery Levels are an addition to Xillia 1's Arte Use Stars.
A less featured system throughout the game, Crafting is available for you to convert your materials and existing equipment into better versions of themselves. This is typically a single upgrade to create the subsequent item, or a straight up creation of a new item. It can be helpful throughout the game as equipment is far and few between, rarely ever popping up in chests in dungeons. These can be decent upgrades, and often come with special effects on the items, and I don't think the costs are very high. There are a set of end-game Tales titled weapons that can be crafted from the bonus dungeon as well, though in my opinion, they failed the design as these weapons are heavily outclassed by the Devils-arm Style weapons that are basically required to clear the dungeon to begin with, and require a ridiculous amount of time investment, for what is actually a graphically beautiful, but ultimately useless weapon.
Not sure if this is what they're really called. In every town, there is a set of missions available, typically involving killing monsters or getting a certain number of drops from them to earn Gald. As you advance further through the game, the missions can change, and some of them are time sensitive I believe. After you reach the end of the game, the missions will reset periodically to kill monsters in the bonus dungeon and final dungeon if I recall correctly.
In particular, you will receive quests to kill Giganto monsters, similar to the ones in Vesperia. There's a lot of them, practically one in every region, and at one point, they will reset with harder versions. You can accidentally walk into one and die if you're underleveled. This happened to me once, because one of them is actually really really small, and I was like 40 levels below it, so it oneshot me. I also recall another fight that I spent nearly an hour on because my last save was ridiculously far away. So really fun stuff here.
Like many of the past Tales games, you can find cats throughout the world and get some sort of a reward for finding them all. In Xillia 2, when you find a cat, you're able to feed it and send it off to scavenge items for you in the area that you found it. Basically every town and area has a cat or two. You can hear them if you pass by close enough. Each area can give different items as you send the cats out, and their success depends on the quality of food you give them. The rewards range from basic cooking ingredients, to materials and sellable goods, and rare joke weapons and cosmetics.
Imagine you got completely wrecked in a car accident and they rebuild you from the ground up. Then imagine you live in the United States with no health insurance.
Ludger is in a 20 000 000 Gald debt. As you progress throughout the story, you're required to pay some of it off. Luckily, it's not the entire 20 000 000, and you can scrape by paying the bare minimum before starting each chapter. As you pay off your debt, you will get item rewards. It ranges from a type of cat food to Intimacy Potions, to Skill Books and a "Jacket Off" costume for each character. Ludger's Devil's Arm Hammer is also here. Paying it all off shows an alternate ending to the game.
For people who have never played a Tales game before:
Tales is a JRPG that features a real-time battle system in encounters. You control your character in a 3D arena to defeat your enemies. Attacking abilities are called "Artes". They have special effects and animations, with significantly more strength than your basic attacks, but cost TP (Technical Points), Tales equivalent to Mana or Magic Points. Chain together basic attacks and artes to quickly take down enemies with style.
The Combat System uses the general engine of Xillia with several improvements. One of the best mechanics from Graces, High Chain Spell, has returned in Xillia 2 as a Skill. This allows you to convert combos into cast time reductions, allowing your spell casters to actually utilise their offensive artes, or simply chain spell better.
Elemental Weakness bonuses from Graces also returns. When you hit an enemy with something it is weak to, you gain a Power Hit, which gives a timer underneath the combo counter. While this timer is up, you gain improved damage from all sources, and if you mix a different damage type in, the timer and damage bonus increases. Enemies under Power Hit also stagger more frequently, making it a powerful option against threatening bosses.
The Link System is identical to Xillia's, with the exception of Common Link Artes. Previously, Link Artes could only be performed if the two exact artes required were available. In Xillia 2, if a corresponding unique Link Arte isn't created when activating an arte, a generic Link Arte is used instead. This improved system helps newer players or those who are unfamiliar to the characters to be able to properly continue their combos in Overlimits, without suddenly dropping it by inputting an invalid arte.
For example, none of Ludger's Dual Pistol Artes create a unique Link Arte with Jude. Instead, L Link Cannon: D (Japanese name) is used if this is attempted with Ludger as the Master, and E Link Charge: D is used if Jude is the master. The first letter denotes the element of the arte, i.e. Light, or Earth.
Also new to the Link System are Combination Mystic Artes with Ludger and every other character, which look amazing.
The entire cast of Xillia returns throughout the game. Their order is slightly different than in the prequel, and they've all received new artes to balance out their repertoire. Every character has been given a basic healing arte so you're not exclusively relying on Elize and Leia to heal in each battle. The non-spell casters also received new Arcane Artes.