The biggest change to the combat, however, is the linking and linked artes system. During battle, characters can “link” with another character, drawing a blue or green line between the two. When linked, two special things happen. The first is that the character that was linked will perform special actions from time to time on the shared target (e.g. Alvin will break guard, Leia will attempt to steal an item). The second, and most exciting, benefit to linking is that the linked characters can perform special artes entirely dependent on which two characters are being used (so Jude and Milla get a different set of linked artes than Jude and Elize, for example).
Rowan and Jude executing a linked arte
Linked artes are much more powerful than normal, individual artes, so they can’t be triggered all the time. Players will have to pay attention to the Overlimit Gauge on the left side of the screen, which is divided into about five segments. Once a segment fills up, the X at the top will begin to flash, allowing one linked arte. To trigger a linked arte, the player must use an arte that combos with an arte of their linked partner (so you’ll have to look this up and remember it to make combat run smoothly) then hit R2 when a gold X flashes over their avatar. Once a linked arte has been triggered the Overlimit Gauge will continue on to the next segment. When the Overlimit Gauge is completely full, a linked arte will trigger Overlimit. During this time the bar will turn completely gold and begin to slowly deplete. During the time of depletion, players can trigger as many linked artes as they can fit into this time, ideally chaining them together. Mystic Artes are also available only during Overlimit, and must be triggered by special arcane artes.
Leia, starting up her Mystic Arte
It sounds extremely complicated, but it’s pretty easy to pick up on and master during play. Just keep in mind that players can look at their linked artes by going to a character’s artes screen and hitting R2. This will bring up a table (which can be sorted by character) of all the linked artes they can perform with all other characters, and which artes they need to use to trigger them.
The linking system is a pro and a con at the same time to Xillia. On the one hand, I found it to be extremely fun and add a strategic layer to the game. On the other hand, it effectively makes it so Xillia is best played with two players in co-op instead of three or four. The reason behind this is that when a character is linked by another character, the linkee can’t really control their character. Linking basically has the second character follow the first character’s lead, and begin to auto trigger certain skills and artes based on what the linker is doing. Players certainly could play the game without linking in a three or four-player scenario, but I feel this would really take a lot away from the battle system.