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Tales of Xillia Review


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On 08/28/2013 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

A Triumphant Tale, Indeed.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of RPG's. Tales Veterans and Newcomers alike will find something to enjoy.

As a huge fan of the Tales series, I was obviously excited for Tales of Xillia, but I also came to the game with some skepticism. I was worried that some of the luster of the franchise was starting to wear off for me, as I didn’t get into last year’s Tales of Graces f as much as I thought I would. However, I was pleased to see that the series still has more than enough kick left in it. Tales of Xillia is one JRPG that shouldn’t be missed, despite some flaws.

Tales of Xillia has many positives that help it hold up in comparison to some of the better games in this well established series.  The first is the strength and overall presentation of the story. This is the story of two protagonists with their own narratives. Upon starting the game, players can choose to see the game through the perspective of the young, meddling medical student Jude Mathis, or the human incarnation of the all-powerful spirit Maxwell, Milla Maxwell. Playing through the story from each perspective helps flesh out the story in a way that is unlike any Tales game before it. I played through Milla’s story my first time through, and many of the scenes emphasized her growth as a character. There were many sequences where the party would split up, and while I would only see one perspective of the story, it was clear that other events were playing out with Jude.

At times, this was a bit jarring for me, especially in the late game sections. During some of her narrative, I felt like I had missed a huge chunk of the core story because Milla was separated from the party for a somewhat extended period of time. That being said, the characters do a decent job of filling you in, though it is heavily encouraged that you play though again to experience the opposite side of the spectrum. Not to mention, specific bosses and side-quests are exclusive to each side, so if you intend on getting everything out of the game, a second play through is a must.

This isn’t a bad thing, thanks to the returning Grade Shop. Like past games in the series, you earn Grade by achieving merits during your play through. This time, Grade is given by achieving Titles, which are now similar to achievements rather than being character specific. Each Title can be earned and awards Grade that can be used to help carry over your progress from your previous play through. If this sounds like a grind, it is. Fortunately, the gameplay is so fun and addictive that the grind goes by rather quickly.

Tales of Xillia has a very strong battle system, which plays out in real time. The Tales games have been praised for their fast paced and flashy battle systems and Xillia is no exception. The newly implemented Link System adds a lot of depth to each battle. Linking with partners in battle gives you access to extra strategy options and passive abilities which are sure to help situations that are usually cumbersome. For example, linking with Alvin gives him access to the Guard Break ability. That means that if you are attacking an enemy who is guarding your attacks, Alvin will flank the enemy and hit him with an attack that decimates his guard, giving you an opportunity to continue your offence. Taking advantage of these bonuses is essential to making the most out of the combat. Being linked also gives you access to linked artes, which are special combination attacks. These are powered by the “Overlimit” gauge, which fills up as you use linked artes. Unfortunately, there is no way to access “Overlimit” without using linked artes and long -time Tales fans might find that a bit disappointing, but its implementation does encourage you to be proactive, and offensive more often..

Additionally, the cast of characters is generally awesome in combat. Previous games would usually have cast members that were useful in the hands of the computer, but in the hands of a human they were either boring, or just not fun to play as. From my experience, each party member has strengths that make them easy to recommend. This is partially due to character powers, which are unique abilities that are available to each member. Jude’s Snap Pivot automatically flanks the enemy after a successful backdash, and Rowen’s Arte Turning adds as small mini-game that enhances the effects of each spell. These abilities give every character a unique flavor, and encourage people to have fun trying out each character. I had fun using a vast majority of the cast, which is something I couldn’t say for even my favorite entries in the series.

Not only were these characters strong on the battlefield, but outside of battle they were memorable and likable. The story revolves around Milla’s hunt for the super weapon, The Lance of Kresnick and Jude’s decision to help her on her quest. While the story isn’t as complex as some narratives, the plot is cohesive and continues to get interesting throughout the quest. I found myself invested in Xillia’s narrative, and while many of the plot points are tropes of anime and Japanese culture, it was a nicely told story with well-acted dialogue. I didn’t see every turn coming, and was surprised by how funny, or even how dark the game got. There were many character moments in the main quest and even in side events that were memorable, and fleshed out the characters in ways I didn’t expect. A lot of the characters like Alvin and Elize are very complex, while Rowan and Leia have personal issues they must overcome in order to continue on. Their tales were just as satisfying to see grow into fruition as the two main characters were.

Though the game has plenty of strong points, there were also some problems with the game that were too frequent or obvious for me to ignore. The game features many re-used assets from previous Tales titles. This means that enemies that you have seen from games as early as Tales of Symphonia will be back in full force. While some creatures are back because of tradition, it would be nice to see more enemy variety, instead of a whole bunch of re-skinned creatures with different elemental properties.

The same goes for the environments, which I found to be very odd. The towns and most dungeons were very distinct, but the ports, field map, and a small amount of dungeons were literally carbon copies of each other. There were too many occasions where I felt that I was seeing the exact same area, with a different coat of paint, or a few different characters. Another deficit was in regards to level design. Most Tales games provide at least some level of puzzle solving to break up the gameplay, but Xillia rarely dips into that, save for a few (very) optional box puzzles. While this might have been done for pacing purposes, it bothered me that they didn’t focus on that area of the experience. It was easy for me to overlook, but I would have appreciated its inclusion.

The most bothersome problem for me came in the form of severe slowdown in battles. Tales is known for being flashy and fast paced, but since the battle system requires a certain amount of timing and precision, things like slow down can really interrupt the experience. There were many times where slowdown caused me to miss inputs, or drop combos which I found to be overwhelmingly frustrating. I noticed this especially when playing co-op, or when using slower characters like Alvin – the slowdown makes him very uncomfortable to play as.

Despite those issues, Xillia has a wealth of value to it that makes it extremely hard for me not to recommend. The interesting story, the multiple side quests and addictive gameplay make Xillia one of the most interesting Tales titles in some time. As an added bonus, knowing that Tales of Xillia 2 is right around the corner, it became interesting for me to speculate where these characters will possibly go in the sequel.

I went into Xillia expecting to have a fun 40-50 hour experience. By the time I finished my first play through, I had clocked in over 75 hours, and I plan on spending even more time in the game, with its wealth of post-game content as well as seeing what I missed in the Jude side of the story. I can’t say that Xillia was my favorite Tales game, but I can say that it’s a great one, and any fan of the series should pick this one up. I feel that even newcomers to the series would get a great introduction to a well-established RPG franchise that is more than 15 years strong. So, if you own a PS3, and dig RPG’s, Tales of Xillia is one that you should strongly consider checking out.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

jgusw

08/28/2013 at 05:12 PM

I have to get this game.  Funny thing is, I own more than a few Tales games and I hadn't played any of them. Tongue Out

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

08/28/2013 at 06:14 PM

well, you've got a lot to get through then!

Keegs79

09/05/2013 at 09:51 PM

I am not a huge Tales games and haven't played most of them but I really loved Tales of Graces F. That was a good game and loved the story and how the lead enemy evolved. I am enjoying Tales of Xillia right now but the dialogue is pretty bad on many occasions. The story isn't as good but I like the combat system and still really fun.

Our Take

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

09/05/2013 at 10:14 PM

I suppose it depends on personal preference. I liked Graces f overall, but I felt like Xillia was a lot better. Some lines were dull, but overall I thought Xillia's dialogue was way more engaging than Graces, especially in the later parts of the game. The plot for Graces kinda fell apart for me about 35/40 hours in. Xillia i was engaged the whole time. However, dont get me wrong. I respect your opinion. Graces just didnt work for me the same way.

Keegs79

09/06/2013 at 06:12 PM

Well I am sure the story will likely pick up for me. I have a long ways to go and look forward to playing it through. I am some major plot twists because the transition of the bad guy in the Graces I thought was interesting, impressed that it continued on. I haven't hit any major milestones yet. I could say with Alvin but his role seemed pretty predictable. I have a long ways to go to form a definite opinion of what I really think.

Beerfan

08/29/2013 at 07:29 PM

I am about 45 hours in and I have to say this is one of my favorite Tales games.  I wish Squeenix would take note.  It is possible to move a series forward without forgetting about what made the series great.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

08/30/2013 at 04:15 AM

totally. While I respect them for trying new things, I feel like they've strayed a bit too far from what made FF great, and hopefully they find a way to get back to it. FFXIII and even FFXV dont scream FF to me. Not saying those games are terrible but they aren't what comes to my head when i think of the series. Tales has a spark that stays true through most of the titles, even the side ones.

KnightDriver

09/06/2013 at 04:29 PM

I've only played Tales of Phantasia [GBA] and didn't get how the battle system worked. I expected turn-based but you can move around within the battle screen. I need to go back and figure it out because the game seemed really good if I could just solve the battle system.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

09/11/2013 at 09:21 PM

Well, Tales of Phantasia is a little odd in comparison to the current Tales games. Combat is a lot slower, and is more about going up, Attacking, and running back to safety as opposed to stringing combo's together. It takes some getting used to, but its not so bad once you get used to it. That said, anything from Destiny onward would probably be easier to get into. I personally recommend Symphonia for a jumping on point.

KnightDriver

09/12/2013 at 01:36 AM

Oh good. I have Symphonia as a matter of fact.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

09/12/2013 at 09:16 PM

Awesome. I def recommend giving it a go, its definitely worth it. 

xDarthKiLLx

05/07/2014 at 11:30 AM

i know i'm really late to comment on this review, but since i'm playing this game currently i thought i'd throw in that in the latter half of the game, the story is infinitely more interesting than the first two chapters.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

05/07/2014 at 12:24 PM

yeah I definitely agree. It does a good job picking up in the latter half. I'm playing currently working on my Jude NG+ playthrough. The power of the Fell Arms totally breaks the game in an interesting way. I haven't had a fight that has lasted me more that 20 seconds xD

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