[PS3 RPG Review] Tales of Xillia
Tales of Xillia follows Jude Mathis, a clever medical student attending school in the capital city, and Milla Maxwell, a mysterious woman accompanied by four unseen beings. Players will be able to choose either Jude or Milla at the outset of their adventure through the world of Rieze Maxia, where humans and spirits live together in harmony.
Tales of Xillia is the latest Japanese-RPG from Namco Bandai Tales Of Studio and is also a milestone for being part of the 15th anniversary celebrations of the “Tales Of” franchise.
I played a lot Tales of Graces f last year, and loved it! When I started playing Xillia, I was wondering how (and if) this game could be even better than Tales of Graces was.
After having played through it, I can say that not only is Xillia way better than Tales of Graces was, but I would even say that this game ranks among the best JRPGs of this generation!
To get things started, check the following trailer, so you have a better idea about what this game looks and how it plays.
Tales of Xillia – Launch Trailer
Right at the beginning of the game, I was asked to choose to play with one of the two main characters of the game: Jude Mathis (a clever medical student) or Milla Maxwell (a mysterious woman). The story follows the same main path, but from their different points of views and motivations. You’re free to select which of the two stories you want to play, but take note that Jude’s story is more coherent for a first run.
Tales of Xillia takes place in the world of Rieze Maxia, a world in which humans and spirits co-exists in a mutual relationship. Milla Maxwell — the “Lord of Spirits” — notices that a lot of spirits are dying in the city of Fennmont and, as a Lord since her duty is to protect everything that resides in the world (both humans and spirits), she goes in that city to investigate this anomaly. On her way, she’ll meet up with Jude, who is quickly impressed by her great power: she can control the Four Great Spirits of the world: Efreet, Undine, Sylph, and Gnome.
Tales of Xillia is a typical JRPG, in which we wander through the world, explore cities and dungeons, and fight enemies with the very impressive new battle system. The story element of the game is very strong, and I got surprised more than once by the turns of events. I won’t spoil anything more here, so you’ll have to discover the story yourselves!
The first thing that stunned me is how mature the cast of characters and the overall tone of the game is. This is a huge contrast with Tales of Graces f because, while Graces was very good, the cast of characters was featuring a crew leader who is very naive. I didn’t really notice it when I was playing Graces, but after having picked up Xillia, the contrast is evident!
One of the other things I noticed is how huge of a world Rieze Maxia is. It features a lot of different zones, and a few of them are quite big. Hopefully a fast-travel feature is available really early in the game which allows you to move to whichever zone you already discovered instantly. And when I mean instantly, I really mean it: this game is also built on a game engine that has almost no loadings (while traveling the world and even when entering in a battle)!
The zones and dungeons level designs are great, and while I thought that some zones where on the slightly-too-big side, the enemies are always visible on the map, so when you’re tired of fighting, you can just quickly go to your destination!
The game also features dozens of side quests and a few hundreds of skits, which are small and hilarious cutscenes typical to the Tales of franchise. The game also features a very clever shop unification system: all shops in the game sells the same inventory, and you get new items to buy once the global shop levels up. This is one of the cleverest idea I have seen in a JRPG because this fixes the issue with having a “traditional” shop where you would usually wait for the next city to gear up. Now, with that unification system, each shop in Xillia sells the same inventory so you can gear up wherever and whenever you want without feeling like you missed a particular item in the shop of a previous city.
Tales of Xillia‘s very fast-paced battle system is called the Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DRLMBS). This system evolves over the typical battles the “Tales of” franchise has gotten us used to. In simple words, you can “Link” with another party member and use him/her as your helper during the combat. This is a little complex to get the hang of at first, but feels natural and is very rewarding once you realize it’s potential.
Each party member has a few artes (skills) that can be learned (around 10-15), instead of having a whole lot (75+) like in previous Tales. The big difference with this battle system is that when characters are linked together, they share a common skill tree specific to those two characters. Linking Jude with Milla for instance will yield a skill tree that is offensive, and changing the Link dynamically with another character in-battle (which is done simply by pressing an arrow on the D-Pad) yields a completely different skill set.
When I was fighting bosses for instance, I often switched from a Link with Milla when I wanted to damage the enemy, to a Link with Elize (the healer), when I needed to replenish health quickly. This feels very dynamic, and hopefully, the characters controlled by the AI are very smart and can be completely relied on while you take care of some other aspects of the battle. Each character also have their own combat style, and the game encourages you to control a different character and try their different and unique gameplay features!
Fighting the enemies while linked also raises an Overdrive Limit bar (displayed on the left side in the screen shot above). The bar is divided into 5 segments, and it’ll reach a level as you attack the enemies, and then will let you launch a “Link Arte”. Those artes are special skills that use an arte from each of the two linked characters, and yields an even stronger attack. And then, when the Overdrive Limit bar is filled, you’ll enter in Overdrive Mode in which you have a few seconds to “Chain Link” a few Link Artes to deliver devastating attacks! It might seem technical, but the in-game explanation about all these elements is wonderful, and can be referred to if you want to adapt your combat style on-the-fly even in battle.
The game is also well balanced, and I thought it was even relatively easy on a harder difficulty level than the default one (difficulty can be changed anytime). The last quarter of the game ramps up the difficulty with a lot of consecutive boss fights, but it never felt unfair.
In Tales of Xillia, the skill tree advances via Lilium Orbs. Those are spheres (somewhat similar to FFX’s Sphere Grid) that allow you to choose how you want to spend your Growth Points (GP) earned when a character levels up. If you don’t want to invest time manually building your characters, an Auto-Level feature is also available to automatically distribute your points. And since each character still gets full experience even if they’re not in the active party, you’ll never get under-leveled characters when you spent a while without them!
Game engine and soundtrack Tales of Xillia uses a really good looking anime game engine that runs at a solid 60 frames per second without any drops even in some really intense battles. The game is not as gorgeous as Ni no Kuni was earlier this year, but is the best looking Tales Of yet! There are also a few anime-style cinematics at major story points.
The voice acting is practically perfect and makes all characters very credible. The soundtrack is another great work by Motoi Sakuraba (which did most of the other Tales Of OST, and a lot of other excellent games soundtracks), but I somewhat preferred some of its previous works. Only a few of the musical themes in Xillia stands out (namely the opening theme and a few battle themes), and strangely even the Audio CD that came out with the Limited Edition didn’t contain the best themes available in the game soundtrack.
If you think that a Tales Of game finishes when you’ve beaten the last boss (I clocked this at around 60 hours), you’ll be happy to know that once the game is completed, a quite long new dungeon opens up! A New Game+ playthrough in which you can play with the second character also becomes available, and since their stories are similar but not identical, you can still expect to have a few surprises playing the other side of the story.
Finally, the Platinum Trophy is not that crazy to achieve (Tales of Graces f took over 160 hours to achieve), and will be awarded to gamers who mastered each feature of the battle system.
Tales Of Xillia is an awesome game! The story is great and holds many surprises, and the gameplay is fantastic. The anime game engine is also beautiful and features almost no loading. And while the soundtrack is okay, the voice acting was superb.
Of course, Xillia is 100% Japanese RPG. If you canâ€™t stand playing games with an anime style, I’m pretty sure this one won’t change your mind. On the other hand, if you’re into JRPGs, you just have to try this game (though it’s sad that there isn’t a demo available on the PSN).
Finally, a sequel titled Tales of Xillia 2 has recently been announced and is coming in 2014, so there you have another good reason to pick up Xillia!
[review pros=”Excellent and lengthy RPG
Tons of content and shops unification
Almost no loadings” cons=”While still being good,
the soundtrack felt sub-par
compared to previous Tales games” score=92]
PSN Game size: 6.2Gb
You can purchase Tales of Xillia from Amazon.com here or on the PSN.
Disclaimer Total amount of time played: 70 hours. Game was completed before writing this review.