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A Truly Beautiful Game... Get this!!
on August 6, 2013
Ever since I first played Tales of Destiny way back in 1999 I have been in love with the Tales franchise. While not as immediately recognizable in the mainstream gaming community as the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest/Warrior RPG juggernauts, the "Tales of" series of games have always had a loyal fan base due to the great stories and combat that is the hallmark of the games. The question of whether or not to purchase the latest game in the franchise was a no-brainer for me, and I can say with 100% certainty that I am so happy that I indulged myself.
Controls, Music, & Animation
Every Tales game is painstaking in its delivery of beautiful graphics and music, and Tales of Xillia (henceforth referred to as "ToX") continues in that tradition. Simply put, this game is gorgeous and takes every advantage of the PS3 hardware to simply amaze me. The world of Xillia is bright, colorful, and varied. Environments are dynamic; each exploration area is divided by little "breaks"; while this may seem annoying, the lack of lag when going through a doorway into the next room is practically non-existent. The screen flashes black for one moment and then you are free to control your character.
In addition to the beautiful backgrounds, the characters are 3D mirrors of their anime-inspired sprites used in the cut scenes. While you do notice the difference between the 2D drawing of Milla (the female protagonist) and her 3D avatar, the seamless transition negates any of the very minor aesthetic details. Finally, each character in the game is unique, sporting their own look, and enemies are just as varied and detailed as the "good guys".
Musically speaking, Tales of Xillia boasts an amazing orchestral arrangement with songs to suit every zone in the game. It is truly beautiful and lends itself well to the atmosphere of the story. When you are in an ominous, dark dungeon the music is creepy, with violins and woodwinds playing higher and slightly off-key, creating the ambiance of a thriller movie. Sound effects cover every aspect of movement, helping to bring the world of Xillia to life. If your character is moving through shallow water, swishing noises will occur with each step. The crackle of fire whispers through a zone, subtlety lighting a path. Birds chirp. When the graphics and sound come together, you will find yourself immersed in a world of magic, mysteries, and more than a few baddies to kill.
The controls in ToX are spot-on. Combat is real-time, so players need to be aware of their characters and the baddies on the screen. At the beginning of the game you can alter whether you want harder enemies, a longer input time for combos, and your X- and Y-axis movement [meaning whether pressing upward with the control stick will move the camera up (normal) or down (inverted)]. I chose the hardest setting and kept the input time as "Normal". In the beginning enemies attack slower, which is good as it gives you time to acquaint yourself with the mechanics of combat. While pressing the "X" button will make your character charge forward and attack a target, you also have different magic/elemental-based attacks that can be access from the menu (the "▲" button) which vary based upon who you chose as your protagonist to control. Thus, combat sometimes needs a good strategy; just jumping in and whacking enemies with your weapon does not always work. In this way ToX enhances the gameplay by adding a level of strategy. Once you form a party, coming up with a plan of attack becomes critical; you will be able to combine attacks and setup AI strategies to maximize your combat proficiency (your cohorts will be controlled by AI; from the party menu you can adjust their combat focus, for instance: should that character conserve TP (mana) or go all out and cast the most powerful spells each battle? Do you want a character to heal exclusively or to heal AND attack?)..
Finally, in regard to the map and character control, Xillia has everything nailed. The camera rests comfortably in a 3rd person perspective of your character. The camera rotates freely, enabling you to see a complete map and minimizing the risk of an enemy sneaking up from behind. Since enemies are seen on the map and battles are not random encounters, this is a very important function.
ToX has an over-arching plot of determining why the elements are out of harmony and how to restore mana to the world. When one of the kingdoms in the world of Xillia experimented with powerful magic, they unwittingly caused widespread devastation by draining the world's mana. It is your job to figure out what happened and how to fix it before the other kingdoms start an all-out war.
While the story itself is your basic good-vs-evil RPG fare, the depth of the storyline, the complexity of the characters (their personalities and motives) and presented in a manner to both intrigue the player and to soldier onward to learn more. In addition, ToX gives you TWO games in one; at the beginning you choose either the male (Jude Mathis) or female (Milla Maxwell). In either case, the story will unfold from the perspective of THAT character. Thus, while you will travel with the other person regardless, you will only interpret events through the eyes and mind of your protagonist. This, of course, means that you will want to play through the game AGAIN to see another side to the story!
As the story progresses, you will find yourself watching numerous cut scenes and work to cultivate not only new abilities for combat but also the friendships of others in your party. Using a robust crafting system, ToX adds another level of depth by encouraging the player to explore and find items. All of this combined will suck you into the game and make you want to press onward (maybe to the detriment of your job... make sure that you don't miss work in your zeal to beat the game!).
To simplify this review, let's recap:
1) Beautiful combat system that keeps enemy encounters fun and challenging,
2) No random encounters! Enemies are seen on the map and can be avoided, if desired,
3) Beautiful environment, unique characters, and an amazing soundtrack,
4) Game controls are easy to pick up and play,
5) LOTS of replay value: play through the character-specific storyline depending upon the hero,
6) Wonderful and often-humorous storytelling, encouraging dialogue with others,
7) Lots to explore and many items to find; exploring the world is visually rewarding!
1) It costs money; but I guarantee that you will find this to be the best $60 spent on a game this year!
2) The cut scenes can be a little long at times, but this is a minor irritation at best,
3) That Tales of Xillia 2 won't be available in the U.S. for a while!
Thus, simply put, ToX is one of the best games that I have acquired and played in 2013. The story is entertaining, the gameplay is fun, combat isn't random and does require strategy (you can't just button-mash and expect to win), and you can replay the game a second time to see the story from another viewpoint. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the graphics are gorgeous and the soundtrack is amazing?
If you haven't already clicked that "Buy" button, you should really do so. This game is a must-have for PS3 owners, Tales franchise fans, or the RPG-lover in your life. This is truly one of the best games I have played, and I encourage you to explore the world of Tales of Xillia for yourself!