Published on October 4th, 2013 | by Illiya Vjestica0
Tales of Xillia Review
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Friendship: it’s that special bond that ties us together, a defining factor separating us from co-inhabiting one planet with a mere bunch strangers. It’s a simple mutual affection between two or more people, and the characteristics it creates within us – affection, trust, commitment, empathy, compassion and most importantly, sharing a similar conviction – are at the heart of every Tales of game. In Tales of Xillia, you’ll need your trusted friends more than ever if you’re going to stand any chance of making it through the struggles that lie ahead.
You can choose between two protagonists at the start of the game: either the smart, educated, nerdy, yet brave and compassionate Jude Mathis, a medical student training in the heart of the Royal City of Fennmont; or the Lord of Spirits herself, Milla Maxwell, the cool, calm, strong willed heroine who happens to be a human incarnation of a god in control of the Four Great Spirits: Efreet, Undine, Sylph, and Gnome. The game plays out differently from each perspective, either that of Milla’s or Jude’s, which adds a nice amount of replay value to an already lengthy title.
Your mission is to save the world of Rieze Maxia from total dominion, servitude, corruption and utter universal sovereignty. One blood-thirsty, power hungry King provides a potent catalyst for the challenges that lie ahead. The story isn’t too cliché and it’s certainly gripping enough to keep you wanting more, though it’s far from being unique or different from the typical RPG norm. You’ll also have to invest at least 15+ hours into the game before things really kick off, which is a major gripe that I find with a lot of JRPGs these days.
During your adventure, Jude and Milla will be joined by a cast of willing companions. Unfortunately, Tales of Xillia is one of the few RPGs I’ve played where I didn’t immediately fall in love with the supporting cast members (though they do get more likeable the more you play the game).
First up there’s Alvin, a young lovable mercenary who’s just trying to earn a fair living as a sell sword and who is arguably the most likeable character in the game. Then you’ve got Elize Lutus, a young innocent girl and a master of spirit magic; she begins as a fragile, scared individual at first but her character develops further into the plot; however, the decision to add her side kick and animated doll Teepo into the mix is an infuriating one. And that’s because Teepo will go down as having one of the most annoying voices in any RPG ever made – trust me. You’ll also be joined by Rowen J. Ilbert, a butler to the noble Sharil family, who acts as the father figure of the cast. Finally, Leia Rolando rounds up the team, Jude’s childhood friend and also a nurse working at the Mathis family clinic. Frustratingly, the main characters Milla and Jude take the most time to warm up to, which significantly hampered my initial enjoyment of the story.
Tales of What?
If you’ve never played a game from the Tales of series before then let me fill you in. Tales of Xillia is the 13th game in the series which kicked off with Tales of Phantasia for the SNES back in 1995. With each brand new title in the series Namco Tales Studio has always tried to keep things fresh by making the core gameplay, namely the combat, more interesting and fluid. This is not a series that rests on its laurels by simply adopting the tried and tested turn-based combat found in most JRPGs. Fast, furious action and the thrill of combat is what you’ll find here, and this is what makes every combat encounter in a Tales of game thoroughly enjoyable, even during the necessary level grinding that’s usually required to defeat the harder bosses later on. So, if you’re a bit tired of turn-based combat, Tales of Xillia will be right up your alley.
Battles can be initiated by running into the many monsters that appear on the field; you can also gain a competitive advantage if you manage to catch an unsuspecting monster from behind, although this isn’t as easy to do as it may sound. Occasionally, said monsters can get a pre-emptive strike on you meaning your party positions will be jumbled up making it harder to fight the enemy at hand. Sometimes, this can lead to some real challenging moments, depending on what difficulty you are playing on. During combat you’ll also be able to do more critical hits if you can get behind the enemy. Foodstuffs are also available to consume before battles giving you a boost to your stats or effects for a certain number of encounters, so it’s wise to think twice before rushing in.
There’s a surprising amount of depth to the combat. Fans of the series will find much familiarity here but with some fresh additions that keep the battle system current. The all-new Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System allows for two characters to form links allowing them to use Link Artes and perform multiple combos. The AI character will also provide support, for example: Jude’s secondary technique ‘restore’ allows him to heal his partner should he or she be knocked down by an enemy during the battle.
This is one of the most impressive new features in Tales of Xillia and adds an extra level of strategy to the combat not found in the previous games. AI characters will also use more items this time round; you’ll see your party using items regularly to heal themselves or help out allies when they are down or in trouble.
You also have the option to switch characters in and out during battle, giving you more options and strategies against the tougher bosses and providing you an opportunity to use every character in your party regularly.
The controls are easy enough to get to grips with, but some of the more advanced moves may prove difficult to newcomers. I found myself struggling at times to remember which move sets can be chained together when performing Linked Artes. An intuitive tutorial system takes place during certain battles which expands on the gameplay and moves to the more advanced features the further you progress through the game – so it’s not like you’re completely on your own. Namco have to be praised for not throwing everything at the player all at once and it will allow players not familiar with JRPGs to give this title a real go without succumbing to early frustration.
Let’s Take It To The Next Level
You can upgrade your abilities and stats by using GP gained in battle on your Lillium Orbs. This works similarly to Final Fantasy XIII’s crystarium system. As you progress you’ll be able to unlock more, attributes, abilities and base skills by activating nodes on the web of skills. You’ll also be rewarded on your ability in combat, depending on the time it took, amount of combos you performed or if you received any damage. Titles also make a welcomed return from Tales of Graces F, however, they take more of a back-seat this time around by simply serving as in-game achievements and rewards rather than adding specific abilities and artes as was the case in Tales of Graces F.
Shops can now be expanded upon by upgrading them with gold or the many items that you collect in the game from the spoils of battle. With each increase in level the shops will offer higher quality stock to purchase. It’s a welcomed change to proceedings and prevents you from having to travel to certain towns or cities shops just to get locale-specific weaponry.
In terms of graphics, the overall art style is what you’d expect from a Tales game. Much like Tales of Graces before it, Xillia plays out much like an interactive anime. The game’s initial area of Fennmont will have you panning the camera in awe, taking in the breathtaking skies and luminous city areas. Sadly, though, the other levels and areas of the game later on seem toned down, lacking detail or thought. Most are either your typical generic grasslands, beaches or your standard, uninspired city. And it’s a real shame because it just seems like a missed opportunity when compared to Fennmont.
Kiss My Skits
‘The Skits’ in Tales games have always been one the features that made them stand out. The story or side quests will be progressed by watching cutscenes of Skits – the Skits often keep the humour of the game flowing and they are extremely well animated, improving with each new title. The voice acting is also solid throughout, aside from the grating Teepo.
Musically, Tales of Xillia also shines with its grandeur and majestic soundtrack that really complements the on-screen action well. Composer Motoi Sakuraba always delivers themes that drive the gameplay forward, the battle theme is certainly the stand out track this time around.
Another Tale Told
Summary: Tales of Xillia proves to be another solid JPRG from Namco and rewards you the more you play. There’s enough depth to keep long time fans of the series entertained, whilst providing an opportunity for newcomers to delve straight in without feeling too overwhelmed. JRPG veterans won’t find anything new here but Tales of Xillia will provide a warm, comforting embrace that only a true friend can deliver.