2013 man, I gotta say is quickly shaping up to be one of my favourite years of this generation. With Tales of Xillia finally making it’s way west. Is only making it easier for me to say that. Hey Tales fans, buy it.
Tales of Xillia doesn’t exactly offer a unique story. Broken down to it’s basic elements, it’s quite common. Without going into too much detail and giving out spoilers left and right. Here is more or less the situation the game puts you in. The world of Rieze Maxia is one where spirits and Humans coexist with each other. It’s gotten to the point where humans have developed magic, or artes in this case. So far that the lord of spirits Maxwell has decided to take human form known as Milla, to intervene before this technology is used to bring harm to humanity.
Naturally, things go awry and Milla is drained of her power and is forced to flee. Dragging in a young medical school honor student named Jude, who just happened to stumble into this mess with her. Then starts their journey to find out who is responsible for this device capable of destroying the world begins, and must stop them before whatever dastardly plan they have with it begins.
Along their journey they meet up with all sorts of characters that become their companions and want to help save the world. On the surface it’s a simple story, and easy to follow. The part that I enjoyed the most was the interactions you have with your party as you journey through out the world, and see how they develop and deal with their own issues they have while going on this perilous journey.
Outside of the main cutscenes and story talk on how the group presses on with their goal. You get a whole plethora of sub events that unfold as short little skits throughout the entire 50 hour campaign. This isn’t exactly new in the Tales franchise, but it is still as pleasurable as ever. All sorts of random chitter chatter happens in these. From the disbelief of how evil the wanted posters make them look, to how a callous god (Millia) Deals with back messages but sending quakes and burning their spine. without these skits, travelling through out the world would just be get boring, and feels like they are all placed exactly where they need to be, and always relevant to the current situation at hand.
Tales of Xillia is not a new game, in fact it originally came out in japan in 2011. Sadly, it shows it’s age. The character models look aliased, environmental textures look flat, the first few combat areas are boring, and the animations in cutscenes can sometimes look stiff, robotic even. Despite all these flaws, I feel like I can still call Tales of Xillia a beautiful game. While the first few areas are generic forests and open plains the game takes you to all sorts of mystical and beautiful areas, the world of Rieze Maxia doesn’t exactly put it’s best foot forward first, but that doesn’t mean it’s a world lacking artistic visuals. Not to mention a absolutely superb soundtrack. Sure everyone has a different taste in music, for my tastes however especially for the track below. I love orchestral scores and the mixture of JPop makes it so much better. It’s even my ringtone. I really regret not pre-ordering the collectors edition now.
[youtube id=”Fw2uoeLAzXo” width=”600″ height=”350″]
While the characters are typical JRPG tropes we have seen before, their design matches their personality perfectly, from the Merc “With a heart of Gold” Alvin to the Medical Honor Student Jude. The fact that the characters also reference their own appearances through out the game in sub events. Revealing the intentions and why they dress the way they do is not necessary at all, but it’s a nice little piece of minutia that makes you appreciate the character design all the more. Overall while the game’s presentation isn’t technically brilliant, it does a lot to make up for it and helps overlook some of these other flaws.
Most tales fans would still probably call me a newbie. My first Tales game was Tales of vespiria on the Xbox 360 a few years ago, since then I have played tales of the abyss and gone back to play Tales of Symphonia. Sadly, I missed Tales of graces f. So, why the anecdote? Well it’s to prove that, when it comes to tales I have a fair bit of experience. So I can say with confidence that Tales of Xillia is my favourite tales game yet. In the past the Tales franchise has had trouble in explaining certain gameplay mechanics and systems. Tales of Xillia fixes all of that. While also streamlining a lot of previous other elements. Cooking, party management, character growth and combat.
Something to keep in mind is that, streamlining does not mean a loss of depth. Well maybe in the cooking area, but the character growth is one one of my favourite parts of the game. When you level you don’t get skill points, you get GP, which lets you advance further on a system called the Lillium, which is akin to the Final Fantay X Sphere grid.
The Lillium Orb system is laid out like a Hexagonal Spider web, each joint of the web is marked by an orb, which you spend GP to acquire, the catch is that you can only acquire orbs that is connected by a previous unlocked orb. Once you enclose an area of the web with orbs you unlock a skill a passive improvement, or a new arte, a new move. For the most part the Lilliummorb let’s you spec out a character however you want, to expand the web you have to enclose two of any outer section of the web, and one specific section which is marked by a silver border. It eventually gets to this balancing act of whether you want to expand the web, or grind so you can get better stats in more areas before you move on.
Yes, this is an RPG there is grinding. If you want to avoid it however, you can. On the fly difficulty adjustments are available. You will find that grinding and exploring will benefit you greatly. All the shops, from general items all the way to weapons have levels. Every time the shop levels up, the more items, weapons armour, etc , you get. You can level the shops up by either purchasing items from them multiple times, or the faster way is to donate Gald or materials you find around the world. These materials are not rare, you can get them in combat or exploring the open areas, they are littered with them. So a little exploring wont hurt.
Last but not least, you have the addictive, Quick, and deceivingly simple fighting system. A smash brothers-like attack scheme, unique character style that make it worth trying every character, linking with other party members for tag team super moves and unique benefits, chaining those super moves, easy and quick party switching mid match and trying to use each skill you unlocked in the Lillium orb effectively, are all things to learn while going through the game, with all the side quests and other content in the game, you have plenty of time to learn.
On its on merit. Tales of Xillia is a fantastic RPG. It’s age shows through in the the technicality of it’s visuals. But thanks to a deep streamline battle system, loveable characters, a fast travel system that allows you to avoid hours of back tracking, and a great story. It’s easy to over look the flaws. Even though I do miss the overworld system of the previous Tales games. Tales of Xillia is a fantastic package, and my favourite Tales game to date