Tales of Xillia - PS3 Review
It's safe to say that I'm an RPG buff, and have been for years. It's my favourite genre, and I enjoy all different varieties, from Final Fantasy to Disgaea to Elder Scrolls. It's with some minor shame then, that I admit Tales of Xillia marks my first foray into the 'Tales' series, a series that has been around since 1995. I'm glad I finally broke my duck though, as Tales of Xillia is an entertaining and lengthy RPG that will likely appeal to all RPG fans.
|Tales of Xillia is a good looking game.|
Tales of Xillia is set on the world of Rieze Maxia, a world where spirits and mankind exist in harmony. The story follows Jude Maxwell, a promising medical student and Milla Maxwell who just may the human embodiment of the Lord of Spirits. While it's true to say that spirits and humans co-exist peacefully in Rieze Maxia, that might be about to change with the advent of a weapon known as The Lance of Kresnik. The Lance is capable of sucking mana from the world, destroying spirits and perhaps the entire the world in the process. Milla is determined to destroy it, and when Jude bumps into her he decides to go along for the journey.
Your first choice when starting a new game is whether to play as Jude or Milla. The story is much the same for both characters but there are a number of exclusive events that only appear when playing as Jude or Milla. Whoever you choose you'll soon be running around the map investigating shiny spots for hidden loot, picking up bags of goodies and fighting anyone foolish enough to get in your way. It's worth pointing out that enemies are clearly visible on-screen, and there are no random encounters. If an enemy spots you they'll chase after you, but it's quite easy to get around them if you so choose. This is a refreshing change from games that force you into battle every 15 seconds or so.
|One of the numerous battles in Xillia.|
Combat in Xillia is entertaining and the developers have given it a very fancy-sounding name; the Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System. Apparently all Tales games make use of the Linear Motion Battle System in one form or another, so returning Tales players should feel right at home. Newcomers shouldn't be put off by the intimidating name though, because combat is both simple and deep at the same time.
Combat takes place in a wide, open area, with boundaries that become visible as you approach the edges. You're free to run around by holding down L2, and it is quite possible to get behind your enemies. Your standard attack is done with the ‘x' button, you block by holding square, and can dodge by holding square and moving the left-analogue stick in any direction (or just flicking the stick). You'll auto-target an enemy, but you can change that any time by holding R1 and selecting the enemy you want.
|Character design in Xillia is great.|
As you level up you'll learn artes, both magical and physical, that can be used in battle. On the magical side of things you've got fire, water, earth and wind-based attacks, as well as recovery and buff artes. The physical artes are punishing multi-hit attacks that deal significant damage. Up to 16 artes can be mapped to shortcuts, some as simple as pushing the right-analogue in one of four directions. It quickly becomes intuitive and the fast-flowing nature of combat makes things very entertaining.
As you make your way through the story your party will grow, and up to four of your group step onto the battlefield for each fight. Once you have at least two people in your party you learn how to link to one of your team-mates. Linking provides many advantages, for example your partner might block incoming attacks, or they might help you surround an enemy.
The biggest advantage to linking though, are link artes. Each character can pull off link artes with the other characters in the group by performing a standard arte, then hitting the trigger (R2) when the prompt comes up on-screen. Link artes are extremely strong, and just like artes themselves, some are attacking while others are focused on healing and buffs. I could talk about the combat system for the whole review, but let's not do that. Suffice to say that combat in Xillia is like a breath of fresh air compared with most RPGs out there.
|Tales of Xillia is a PS3 exclusive.|
I mentioned earlier that there is plenty of loot littered around the map, and it serves a practical purpose. Unlike most RPGs where successive towns offer you better equipment, in Xillia you have to upgrade shops in order to access better gear. Upgrading shops is done by giving stores loot you've picked up n your travels- the more loot you give them, the better stuff they'll have available. It's a great system because it encourages you to explore the world to find items, and in turn explore Rieze Maxia itself.
If there's one knock I have on Tales of Xillia, it's that the story often intrudes on your gameplay. Like most RPGs there are a ton of cut-scenes (they can be skipped though, which is a BIG plus), but Xillia also has ‘skits', which are conversations between party members that appear quite frequently. Often these have to do with sub-quests, while others exist just to show the bonds of friendship developing between your party members. There are something like 220 skits in the game, so they pop up often. The one upside is that a few of them are quite funny, but they are still a bit too common / intrusive for my liking.
|Is he even trying to battle?|
A couple of other minor issues are that the ‘Lilium Orb' screen where you unlock new abilities when you level up quickly becomes much too large to really investigate and choose abilities wisely. In the end I auto-leveled up all of my characters, and while it's great there's an option to do that I'd have preferred a less overwhelming display.
It's also a shame that for much of the game you're so overpowered that battle doesn't require much thought. That makes the few bosses that give you a tough fight even more jarring. Certainly the difficulty spikes for certain fights, and you'll be found out if you haven't become proficient in link artes, something you don't need much outside of these few fights (though link artes are well worth learning!).
Visually Tales of Xillia is excellent, with a wide variety of environments, each of which look beautiful in an anime way. Nia Khera is a quiet town that has grassy hills dominated by thrusts of rock that jut out of the ground and reach for the sky, while Leronde (Jude's home town) features paved roads and neat, tidy buildings. Xian Du is a town built into cliffs with a picturesque canal running through the middle of town, while Kanbalar is built so high up in the mountains that snow piles are a permanent fixture in its streets. The diversity on display can't help but appeal to you as you explore Rieze Maxia.
|Another Tales of Xillia battle screen.|
Characters look great too, and they move fluidly in battle. Their magical artes are simple but effective, while the physical artes that have your character launching large combo attacks flow seamlessly.
Throughout your travels you'll find a stack of equipment items that are used for nothing more than customizing your characters' appearance. There are some genuinely odd items, such as the ‘Drippy Nose' that makes it look like your character has a huge string of snot dripping from their nose, and others such as devil wings, various hats, sideburns, all manner of glasses and a few eye-patches among other things. Not everyone will want to dress up their group, but if you do there is no shortage of comical options available.
The sound is also a high point, with a more than capable crew of voice-actors assembled, and music that suits the game well. At a guess I'd say roughly 90% of the story is spoken and almost all of it is well done. There are only a few boring characters (Jude's dad for example), but luckily none of them play a prominent role in the game. Music in RPGs can get old quickly because you spend so much time in any one area, but that's not the case here as tunes are long enough that they don't repeat too often.
|Overall Xillia is an impressive RPG.|
Tales of Xillia is an entertaining game that blends old-school RPG story-telling with a dynamic battle system that is both simple and deep at the same time. Xillia has a story to tell, and while it didn't engage me all the way to the end it's enjoyable for the most part. Despite spending 30+ hours on the game so far I'm keen to get back to it, and that speaks volumes. Tales of Xillia is a game I'd recommend to any RPG fans out there.
Review By: Mike Allison
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|GRAPHICS||The visuals are simple but really well done, and feature great diversity in environments. Could use a few more enemy types though.||83%|
|SOUND||Excellent voice-acting, and good music and effects.||81%|
|GAMEPLAY||While the story intrudes a bit too much for my taste the combat system is enjoyable, and a refreshing change from much of what is out there.||83%|
|VALUE||The story will take around thirty hours if you're thorough, there's post game content, new game+ and a second character with exclusive scenes to try out. So yeah, it's big.||86%|
|OVERALL||Tales of Xillia is an entertaining game that all RPG fans should consider adding to their library.||83%|