Written by Twisted Ideas
The latest of the Tales series chosen to be localized outside of Japan. Tales of Xillia along with the series bridges the gap between traditional JRPG’s and action games while not favoring one over the other. Originally released in Japan in 2011, Tales of Xillia is the highest rated Tales game. Does Tales of Xillia live up to its praises?
What is it about?
Jude is a medical student who stumbles across a mysterious girl while looking for his professor. Milla enters a laboratory that is conducting experiments on humans and developing new and dangerous weapons. Jude joins with Milla to find answers but the duo fail to destroy the weapon. Wanted and lost, Milla has to rely on Jude to complete her mission while Jude decides to help and find answers to many life changing questions.
How does it play?
Tales of Xillia is a JRPG with an emphasis on its action heavy battle system. The main quest guides you through towns, dungeons, enemies and bosses while giving you some space to do side quests. There are no random encounters. Enemies are visible on-screen and contact with them starts a battle. You fight in a 3D arena with up to 4 party members (Player or A.I. controlled). You fight in real-time using normal attacks and artes (special attacks) to stagger enemies giving them less time to attack. You move back and forth between a targeted enemy but you can switch targets and use Free Run to move freely.
Storywise, you are able to choose either Jude or Milla as the main character. You will see the game through their perspectives, changing and altering many scenes. Skits return providing the usual serious and fun entertainment and now there’s travel dialogue so you don’t have to stop every time your party has something to say. Certain boss battles will have your character’s portraits pop in talking with the enemies even if that party member isn’t participating.
The fundamentals of the battles system is similar to Tales of Graces f. You Assault Counter allow you to string together attacks in a combo until depleted. You can now combo artes into normal attacks or even the same artes without special skills. Each character has a unique character trait differentiating them from each other. For example, Jude’s “Snap Pivot” to appear behind enemies after a successful evade and Milla’s “Spirit Shift” allows her to cast spirit artes (magic) early for a weaker arte or charge it for a different but stronger arte. Inactive party members can be swapped in during battles as long as their not KO’ed.
The newest edition to the battle system is Linking. Two party members attack as a unit while supporting one another. Linking allows for new normal attacks, a unique support skills and Linked Artes. The Unison Gauge is composed of 5 segments and fills when you are linked. When one of the segments fills you can use a specific arte to trigger a powerful Linked Arte. Linked artes allows for the next segment to fill. When filled the next Linked Arte activates Overlimit allowing for multiple Linked Artes, chained Linked Artes and Mystic Artes for the Duration.
Linked Artes in action.
When you level up you earn GP (growth points) instead of stats and skills. GP is used in the Lilium Orb which is a web connected by nodes. Each node grants stat boosts and filling a segment of a web unlocks new skills or artes. The Lilium Orb expands when you unlock a special node plus two additional nodes on the outer most section.
Sidequests are move obvious than before but they aren’t centralized. As you progress through the game NPC will have explanation marks over their heads indicating a side quest. They then to be easy and simple allowing for quick rewards. Some skits inform you about character specific side quest revealing more about them and the people and places you’ve visited.
There are five different types of store and they get more inventory when they expand. You can expand a store by donating materials, gald or by buying items. These all give experience to the store. When a store levels it discounts older stock and/or receives new items. Stores give bonus experience for a certain type of material at any given moment.
How does it look
As with all 3D Tales games, Xillia uses traditional anime styling with cel shading to make the drawings come to life. Characters and environments have are very detailed but there’s a limit on how good it will look. Regardless, the game still looks great for what it is. The graphics are bright and vivid even if the environment are lacking. Battles are incredibly flashy especially when they get busy. The animations are more dynamic than ever. The camera is no longer locked. This allow for full use of any given area. However, this makes the game harder to navigate. Areas are larger and the minimap is zoomed in too close to be helpful. There are some unlockable costumes in-game but several accessory items allow for more specific customization.
Leia is more interested in Milla’s hairdo than anything Jude has to say.
How does it sound
The soundtrack doesn’t vary much game to game. Battles tend to have upbeat tunes while towns and field music has fitting yet familiar music. The amount of voice acting in the game is high. All scenes, skits and battles are voiced and everyone pulls their weight. There are token characters that have voices that are either suited or unrealistic for themselves. That’s not much of complaint but there’s not too much new you haven’t heard from other Tales games.
What do I think?
The Tales series has been my favorite JRPG series since Symphonia. The games are action packed, it’s loaded with content along with new game plus and the characters are more developed than character from most games. Fundamentally the games feel similar but the new additions change the game fairly significantly. You never feel crippled by not learning the new battle system immediately. Battles are long enough to be enjoyable while allowing for practice. The free form combat is great allowing you to play how you like but you can burn through TP very quickly.
Xillia gives you a lot of small rewards frequently. You get several GP when you level to so the massive Lilium Orb isn’t as daunting. You will earn more artes and skills than you will know what to do with. The “Expand” system lets you get strong item early without the need to grind. Sidequests aren’t creative but they can be completed without too much trouble. Titles no longer augment stats but there are more than ever. Several titles have multiple tiers, reminding you of its progress. Cooking is simplified to item use but it saves on resources when you are doing a lot of fighting.
The pacing is better than previous titles. The story doesn’t linger often even when introducing the world and the laws of how it works. Skits and travel dialogue intelligently keeps unnecessary scene and dialogue out of the main scenes and allowing the additional character defining scenes their own time in the spot light. What hurts the pacing the most is the amount of treasure and loot available. Loot that respawns when you revisit an area. They are in plain sight and takes you off your path. It doesn’t help that some areas exist only to house more loot and treasure. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the treasure was more valuable. Given the way the “Expand” system works treasure chest rarely give you worth while gear. Loot becomes invaluable when obtaining better gear so it’s easy to become distracted.
I forgot that the character you chose at the beginning of the game changes scenes. I originally started with Milla and found it strange that Jude show up with little context. I switched to Jude soon after but forgot about this until the game got more plot heavy. Milla would occasionally split from the group and have thing happen around her that you would never see. The tries to get you to play through the game twice to see all of the scenes. I was already going to play the game again after but a second playthrough is where most people would be skipping scenes that they have already seen. I appreciate the effort and it does make the game feel bigger, it’s just that the game is very long and I have less free time now.
Should you get it?
If you’re looking for a fast paced action game that won’t end in a weekend then yes. If you’re looking for a JRPG that isn’t overly-complex or takes style over substance then yes. If you’re already a fan of the series then you don’t even need to ask. Tales of Xillia may be the best game in the series. It’s more focused on getting to the point while simplifying some of the more tedious mechanics of the series. I said in my Tales of Graces f review that the series needed more support so more titles get localized. I’m not sure but I think Namco Bandai is taking it more seriously as they are releasing the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2 this upcoming year. This is the perfect time to be a Tales fan.