Review: Tales of Xillia

Like everyone else in this blog, I have went on hiatus as well. Well besides rl stuff, you probably expected me to have a huge amount of time to go watch anime and play VNs. Well as it turns out, I actually have been holding back on watching anime the past few weeks. Why you ask? Well, something much more important came up, namely the next Tales of game (sry I’m a huge fanboy of the series). As a result I thought it was necessary to review it for whoever was interested…. (I doubt many of the people of this blog will read it, but whatever)

Sorry for low quality pics. I didn’t stream myself so I had to get most things off YT. T_T

Storyline:??????

I don’t understand Japanese like Seele does so all I got from the game was a bunch of cutscenes that said Gaius was cool and Tipo has a bad end T_T (You can probably get a lot more reading the translated summaries that people already provided, so go to them if you care a lot about storyline)

For those wondering how long it takes to get through the storyline, on average, the game will take about 30-35 hours to clear the main storyline assuming you actually read/watch all the cutscenes/dialogue..

Gameplay:

If I didn’t get the game for storyline, why in the world did I buy it? Well, the reason many ppl buy Tales of games is for the gameplay, mostly the battle system, but lets take the time to explore every aspect of this wonderful game. I know I am going to skip over a few things, but I will try my best to cover everything, expect a rant xD.

Towns:

Like many other modern day RPGs, Xillia has a few towns to visit where you can talk to people, collect quests, advance storyline, buy stuff… you know the normal stuff. What did you expect xD? (unless the only RPG you played is FF13 where they decided to remove the standard town from the game entirely, for some strange reason) Since towns are pretty much standard, lets just see how they did here.

City design is fairly decent in Xillia but it misses some of the details needed to make each city special… That sounded incredibly vague, so please give me some more time to explain. Unlike some previous Tales of games, Xillia’s cities try to look more like a real city with many random NPCs about town giving you the feeling that people actually live there. With more people though, you start running into the problem of making dialogue for all of the NPCs, so the developers took a few shortcuts and made it such that you only talk to NPC’s with a happy face or exclamation point bubble on top of their head (more on what this means later). Overall, the tradeoff was worth it because I don’t think everyone would talk to you in a real city. Beyond that, the cities each have a unique layout and a few details that relate to its location (such as canyons, snow), but as stated Xillia falls short in making distinct and unique cites.

Unlike Graces, Xillia had towns that felt quite similar. Whenever you visited towns, you saw a unique housing style and a slightly unique environment, but there was nothing too great to make each town unique (besides the 1st and third town). Most towns were a shopping district with a middle class feel and not too much else. I could barely see how rich some towns, or how hot the desert was nearby. Where were the frozen towns with wooden huts, or the beautiful oasis paradise that Graces had? I might have been expecting too much or not understanding the reasons for the city layout contained in the text(sorry can’t read jp), but I really missed the sharp contrast between towns.

Another cause for towns not being as unique as they could be is the new shop system. To get around the idea where towns later on the game must have better gear for some strange reason (why do poor towns later in the game have better gear than the capital city you visited early on?), Xillia made a shop system where the shops upgrades what they carry by giving monster drops to the shop (It works by having the shop gain levels in certain fields (recovery items, weapons, armor, food, and accessories when you invest your monster drops into that field). The tradeoff though is that all shops carry the same gear regardless of where you are, removing the typical town selling equipment that relates to that town. To help lessen this problem, if your shop level is equal to the level at which you are recommended to be at for the town, the shop will carry the themed gear of that town. Sadly, your shop level will probably not match it and you could end up with gear from a town you visited before or a town after the one you visit. As for myself, I like the new shop system since it makes a little more “sense” than the old system and gives you a reason to use monster drops in a way besides fusing.

Now, what is the major thing you do in towns that I have yet to cover. Quest obviously. We love to  go around and  collect quest. This game doesn’t deviate much from the typical pattern in RPGs fro quest. In Xillia, you go around town looking for people with exclamation points on top of their head. If you talk to them they will give you a short thing on what they want or what the scenario is (note: There is very little voice acting in these sidequest, so it is a little annoying).  Then you go around and do the things they want such as kill monsters, collect items, and find people. Nothing really unique, just a way to add a few hours to gameplay xD. My only annoyance about quest is that the game doesn’t give you markers saying where to go for quest. Games like Xenoblade Chronicles and FF13 at least had markers telling you where quests were and where places related to the quest were (I know Xenoblade only did it if you were in close proximity, but it was more convenient than this). Oh well, I guess quests are meant for people who can actually read the story.

Fields/Dungeons:

Now that you finally got out of town, you go into the field and  go fight xD. (Note: The fields in this game are not like Symphonia or older RPGs where you see a zoomed out version of the whole world, instead you go from one open field to the next like in Graces)

Like most Tales of games monsters roam around the fields, and if you touch them you get into a fight with them. Now in Xillia, they actually have 4 different ways you can encounter the enemy. approach from the front/side, approach from a sideways back, approach from the direct back, and have the enemy approach you from the back. All of these will yield in different results at the start of battle, so it is a nice touch. Besides that, you can also have link encounters in this game. If 2 enemy sprites are close enough together when you touch 1, you have to fight both sets of monsters.  Yay!

Besides fighting monsters, the game also offers plenty of treasures to find both in the fields and in dungeons. Treasures are separated into 3 forms, random treasures, treasure chests, and rare treasures (not sure of the exact name of these rare things, but this will due). The random treasures are random generic items  symbolized by shape of bags or shiny dots that can be picked up while you are in a field, and they respawn every time you leave and reenter the field. Treasure chests are your typical one time obtainable item that are placed around dungeons and fields. Rare treasures are hard to find items (they tend to be placed in areas you won’t normally search like backs of pillars) that reward you with costume accessories (change the appearance of your character) or some other nice things like large sums of money. Like treasure chests, rare treasures are one time only, but they are fun to collect and give you a reason to check around every route of every map (there is a guide saying where all of them are, but lets assume you don’t use that). The coolest thing about the treasure system is that all of the treasures I listed above are documented are you mini-map with a separate icon for each of them so you can easily find out what you found and how to farm more of those random treasures.

Seeing that you might not have to fight battles all day, the game also offers a few small puzzles in dungeons to keep them unique. These are all really simple puzzles that tend to involve pushing boxes or breaking stones, but they tend to be annoying to do because of the slightly annoying control scheme (the typical hold a button to push boxes, mash a button to break stone). These things tend to feel more tedious than fun. I guess they serve as a break from the typical gameplay, but I think it could have been implemented better.

Leveling

The system is also called the Lilial Orb, but I want to avoid confusing ppl too much.

Before talking about the battle system, I want to do a quick thing on the leveling system in this game. Besides just gaining stats when you level up, you also get GP (growth points when you level up) GP can be spent on a hexagonal grid (the grid looks like a vibration from something that hits the water except all the shapes are hexagons) that each character has. On this grid, you can choose to raise your stats, get HP, TP, or get SP (You will get everything by level 99, the max level). SP???? What is that? Well, to get artes, magical guard, moving assault (this game’s sidestepping), AP, and much more, you need SP, but the things I mentioned aren’t unlocked right away even if you had enough SP. To get a lot of the characters artes, and various special movements, you have to complete certain portions of small trapezoids within the hexagons. When you complete a trapezoid, you get whatever arte, move, or thing is inside it, easy right? This leveling system might be a little annoying for some, so the game allows you to automate it  (they basically pick the worse stuff first), but if you are willing to spend the time, this system offers a fair amount of customization for your character. Finally, lets move onto battles.

Battles:

The reason why people buy tales of games xD.  If you are new to the tales of series, here is a quick run down (skip to the next paragraph if you played at least one tales of game before). The main Tales of battle systems all are based on the concept of free movement along a line. Along the line is you, your opponent, and whatever else might be there. From there you are given free reign to attack, defend, jump, cast, taunt, etc. until you defeat your opponent (There are no turns!). The older games had the entire battle system happen on this one line, but these days we need 3d, so how did it expand? Well, the battle system stayed the same to a point, Instead of one line, lets have a chord of this circle that connects you and your opponent be your line. Also, if you want to, you can move around the circle and have a new line will form whenever you stop moving. This line still serves the same purpose as the older games, but know you can move around the stage like most other 3d games. That is the basis of the the Linear Motion Battle System that the Tales of series has. I admit my explanation is sort of confusing so I advise you watch a few videos to get a better idea of what I said before moving on.

Xillia, what makes this one different than the rest of the Tales of games? Well, lets get started with the latest battle system Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DR-LMBS). The only word that needs to be point out is the word “double.” That means that you use a DS to control 2 different characters at once right? While that might be interesting, this game is for the PS3 so nothing of that nature comes up here. Instead, we have something called the link arte system.

If you have been following the news, Namco has been teasing a lot about this system, so what is it really. Well, during a battle you can form a link of sorts (not sure how to describe that) with another teammate by helping them fight the same enemy, healing them, or curing their status effects. After this link forms, the fun starts with your ally becoming your personal servant. First, they can be your personal healer, giving you items and casting spells as needed. Second, your partner will attack the same enemy as you, and not just attack, your partner will try to get on the other side of the opponent and perform a sort of combination combo with you. (The combination consists of normal attacks that will juggle the enemy between the 2 characters and usually end with one partner hitting the enemy up to be knocked right back down afterward) Now, for the most anticipated aspect of the new system, link artes. Link artes are special continuation to normal artes that you can do while in a relationship. These artes get a special animation and add some extra dmg xD (downplaying it since it is not that special imo, but it looks cool)

Now the battle system doesn’t only consist of team battles, I think… so what is the rest of combat like. Like, hearts, this game is a collaboration between the Symphonia and Destiny team, except this time the Symphonia team was the main force in making this project. As a result, we now have a fusion of the AP / TP system. In this system, all skills cost TP, all normal attacks gain back TP, and all moves in general drain your AP by only 1. Note the  1 TP cost for all moves, this means that you can really spam your strongest physical skills as long as want as long as you have AP and TP. Sadly, AP is a little hard to get in this game (AP also cost SP xD), and you’ll probably end up with an AP of 6 or 7 when the game ends.

Next, guarding. In Xillia, when you try to guard, it actually takes a little under half a second for your guard to go up, making you have to prepare in advance to guard. Also, when you jump forward and backward, your guard becomes undone and you have to wait for your guard to reform when you land (there is an aerial guard but I don’t think 20sp is even worth it). Overall, this makes guarding a lot less useful in this game and forces players to play a much more aggressive style or guard preemptively.

Another cool feature unique of the game, is that each character now has some form of special action they can do in battle. For example, the male lead can teleport behind the enemy if he dodges an attack by back-stepping (a lot of videos showed this), another can switch out with her doll (sort of), and another can choose to either chant cast a spell or use an alternative form that is instant. These are minor things for the most part, but they do make each character a bit more unique.

For those who played ToI (or want ToIR), you’ll be happy to know that ToX also implemented ToI’s hot swapping the active character. You can now switch which character you are in control of by pressing 2 buttons (not this cost SP as well xD). You can also switch out with characters who are not on the field as well, making it feel like everyone is involved in the battle.
In the name of faster battles, most the hi-ougis that were found, as of the time of writing, are really short and not as impressive as the lvl 3/4 ones in Graces. Whether you like this or not, I am not sure, but I know I loved some of the extended animations Graces had to offer.

Okay lets stop talking about all these features and talk about how it actually comes together. Normal battles are a blast to play. You can just go all out aggressive, smacking things up, combo them, form a link with someone, get a cool combo with the enemies flying up in air, and repeat. Like a lot of the Destiny’s teams games, battles are fast paced with very fluid animations. Adding on the ability to switch hot swap characters and a variety of different moves, the game will continue to provide you new things to experiment with.

For better or worse though, boss battles are quite different than normal battles in this game, so it gets its own section.

Bosses

Why are boss battles so different? Well the first major difference you will see in a boss battle is that you can’t really combo bosses… Scary right xD. Like in some previous tales of games bosses can a free unstoppable attack if you hit them too many times, except in this game, that threshold for when a boss can get an unstoppable attack is about 8 hits, meaning that it is hard to get a combo beyond 10 hits on a boss. Some will complain this is a way to artificially raise the difficulty, but in another sense, it forces you to be a lot more aware of the boss’s attacks and play more strategically. I’ll let you decide how you want to interpret this.

Now remember that this game focuses on link artes, so wouldn’t it be unfair if bosses can not take advantage of this as well. Wait a minute though, aren’t bosses usually a 1 boss vs pty fight, well not so much in this game. A lot of the later bosses in this game will come as a pair or larger groups. During the battle, they can form links and use the abilities associated with it, including the ability to warp in and defend their partner and perform link artes. Because of this, some bosses can become really annoying because they can have one guy warp out to protect his ally half way across the arena and force you to reposition to compensate. Still, it really gives you a sense that you are really in a large fight with so many things happening in so many places with so many opponents. The boss really felt epic and climatic with these team boss fights. (Also, the fact that there are so many enemies mean that boss fight are a fair bit harder than before with the possibility of your healer(s) getting pulled into the fight by the person you are not attacking)

Last off, a lot of the late game bosses can heal themselves or their allies quite a bit. You will frequently see bosses heal 5k of their 50k health bar and various things like that, making boss fights very long if you can’t stop this. As a result, being underleveled in this game makes the game a lot harder than it does in many other RPGs. If you can’t kill or even harass the boss enough, they can heal back everything they lost from you and more, effectively restarting the boss fight except you have fewer items than before. To get pass this problem, you need to be able to do a sustained amount of damage for a short period of time (continuous bursting)… How do you do that? well, there are 2 ways I learned, either spam and abuse skills, which will probably result in getting countered by an unstoppable attack by the boss, or use a link arte if you have one available since they do a surprising amount of dmg.

Boss fights in this game made me play the game in a fairly abusive manner. I played with various strategies like keep away or abusing long ranged attacks because the boss’s autoattack tend to be close ranged. Still, the fights were quite fun with multiple opponents combined with a serious level of difficulty (this is probably one of the harder, not hardest, tales of game I have played so far).

Graphics:

Yay ufotable! For the first time in a Tales of game, ufotable was in charge of making the anime scenes for the tales of games, and it turned out fairly well, but it seems to be lacking a bit at times sadly. For example, there is one scene where a ship explodes. In this scene you could see great animation and details as the ship falls from the sky and into the sea before exploding. The problem was that when you see the ships parts explode, you see a semi realistic explosion with very little particle effects. I am not sure who to blame here, but there were quite a few scenes where they could have been more epic if certain details were added in such as the metal of the ship as it flies off. Still, the anime scenes only take up about 15min of gameplay, so lets talk about the rest of the game’s graphics

The normal gameplay’s graphics are decent and fluid but nothing special for this current time. Whether you are looking around the world or running around towns, they are quite realistic places with all the details need to make up each location whether it be crowds of bustling people, or mobs of monsters running around. Still, if you compare a game like this to FF13 you will notice a few things. First off the character models are not as clean as they could be, some of their hair looks a bit rough (I am not talking about the stylistic tufts of hair that some of the characters have), and there are frequent overlaps between clothes and hair. If you played FF13, you can see every strand of Lightning’s hair as it falls naturally on top of the clothes which is a more than what ToX had to offer (note: the cutting happens even if you don’t have accessories, but the accessories do make the effects very noticeable). You could say that it is unfair to compare CG to the more animated style, but I know that the current art direction could go a lot further in character designs. Beyond that, the physics and lighting effects outside of battle could have been  a little better. For example in cutscenes, you will see the hair move but stuff like perms and other things don’t move in the wind like they are supposed to. Again in comparison to FF13 where stuff like physics of hair is done amazingly.

As I stated earlier, battles look great in this game. All of your actions and animations look fluid and the large variety of animations (due to links and various moves) give an immersive feel to the battles.

In summary, the game has solid graphics but FF13 set the bar too high to give ToX an amazing rating in the graphics department.

Music:

(I noticed that I am fairly incompetent in this subject, so this won’t count toward the final score)

I didn’t notice too much here at first. The music was just here, nothing special, nothing intrusive, maybe it was because I didn’t pay enough attention though. Then “progress” kicked in, and I was so absorbed in that song and the opening animation (the first 15s of animation which look amazing xD). Then the music was back to being just back background music that I didn’t pay much attention to at all. Going through lands of snow, I didn’t the cold chill that ToG’s soundtrack gave me (or any other feelings for that matter). After going through most of the game, I finally noticed some of the music in the final few dungeons. These were weird pieces with a melodic piece being played with a jazz style. It seemed like it was trying to give it a classy yet sort of sad feel, but combine that music with an enemy battleship and a rundown library, and you really wonder what to think. The music was probably not the best fit, but I want to actually know the storyline just to make sure I didn’t look over the emotion these pieces were supposed to invoke. Still, moving on, I finally hit the final dungeon and it a had solid rock piece that energized me and made me anticipate the final fight, a great way to end the game.

Extras: (Replaying and Sidequest)

Sadly there is not too much to do in the post-game. Besides playing the other path of the storyline, you can do coliseum, go through the extra dungeon, do sidequest, or collect trophies. I guess this is what you would do in any Tales of game but the problem is that coliseum is fairly short with 5 different rounds available (3 solo and 2 team ones), with 2 of the rounds repeating the previous round and adding a few opponents to the end.

Moving on, the secret dungeon is a 30 floor dungeon that is fairly straight forward, except the first 2 times you run it, you can only get to the 20th and 25th floor respectively before fighting the secret boss and sending you back to the top again. On the bright side, the secret boss is one of the harder Tales of secret bosses I have fought due to his “final form” (you can probably guess by the stuff I wrote about bosses what type of tricks this guy has, but I don’t want to spoil too much)

The next major thing you can do is sidequest. Not really much to do here. You can go up to those people with exclamation points over their head and talk to get some quest asking you to fetch something, kill some monsters, rescue a person, etc.  Some of these sidequest contain some backstory for the characters, but even those quest are really short.

Trophies, we all love acheivements, right? Well acheivements in this game are a little weird because all minor achievements in this game basically just give you grade, more significant ones might net you trophies. As a result, you probably you might not get a trophy until you are at least 10 hours into the game, Not that there is too many problems with that. The trophies themselves aren’t too hard to get during post-game with most of them being doing certain moves repeatedly during battles, and raising the levels of various things. Not the coolest thing in the world, but it works.

Probably the biggest downfall of the post game is how short it was and how rushed it feels. Excluding replaying the other storyline for the last few trophies, you can probably do everything else in 10-20 hours, and most of the time is going into battles and getting the many battle related trophies. To make matters worse, there is not much depth to the secret dungeon. There is a quick storyline with it, but none of it is voice acted. As a result, the postgame feels like it was tacked on more in the last moments rather than being fully developed.

About replaying:

If you want to replay the game without care for acheivements in the like, you can enjoy unknown difficulty and going around in all the cutscenes with your cool accessories. This is a fun activity (esp if you have some Star Driver dlc), so show off your bishonen power as you go around crushing mana cannons.

If you want the platinum trophy (basically 100% completion) for this game, the gameplay length about doubles to 60-80 hours (didn’t do this myself at the time of writing, but counting the fact that you need to beat the game twice, do a secret dungeon, and repeatedly do certain things in fights, I got about that estimate) There are Tales of games with more gameplay, but I guess this length will due.

Conclusion and Final Rating:

Storyline: -100/10
Blame Tipo’s end. (In actuality this is N/A because I don’t know the storyline)

Gameplay: 9/10
I had a lot of fun while playing, so starting this off at a 10. Still, some of those boss battles forced me to be incredibly abusive to win, so dropping half a point for that. Beyond that, dropping another half point for not having some of the features I want in the minimap, bringing it to a 9

Graphics: 8/10
Fairly solid graphics overall, so lets start this off at a 10. Not having amazing physics or great details in body motions and related things during cut-scenes will cost one point, and dropping a half point for various elements cutting into each other. Rounding down, it gets a decent score for graphics, but Xillia is not a game meant to take your breath away every time you look at it.

Extras: 6/10
Why did they do such a poor job with the post-game content? When the entire game looks so polished with voice acting and cool battles, this seriously felt tacked on. Sidequests are fairly standard and the lack of content doesn’t help, so starting this off at a 4. Adding one point for having a fun and difficult boss to the secret dungeon, and adding another point for some of the enjoyment your accessories and clothing can bring to the second run to bring this to an ending total of 6.

Overall: 8/10
It may not be the greatest Tales of game ever but it is probably up there as one of the better ones.

Wow, that a long article with way too many comparisons to  FF13… Oh well, I think it gives a decent idea of how this game performs. Besides that, this game was an enjoyable way for me to pass the time. Whether or not it was worth taking a break from everything else, I am not sure, but 30 hours is not that bad of a commitment (I know your eroges will be much longer). Whatever, I hope that you enjoyed this review and I guess I’ll go back to a normal schedule afterward, onto next season.

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2 responses to “Review: Tales of Xillia

  1. Thanks for the review.

  2. vincent petersem

    i am glad you mentioned that it is possible to get everything (skill wise) when you get to level 99, now i will never got to that level obviously, but i don’t like feeling pressured to only pick a couple and risk choosing the wrong thing and not being able to turn back after saving (i hate you deus ex human revolution X( )

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