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Tama-Neko's Tales of Xillia Game Review

Tales of Xillia game Review

Story & Playability

Tales of Xillia is a fantasy RPG for the PS3 by Namco Bandai games, as part of their expansive Tales series. Xillia follows the stories of doctor-in-training Jude Mathis, and Guardian Spirit Milla Maxwell, as they try to understand what is killing off spirits in their world and restore the balance of magical power.
In Xillia you get to choose who is your main protagonist: Jude or Milla. In order to experience the whole story you will need to play the game twice, once as Jude and once as Milla. In theory it's a cool idea to experience the story from two perspectives, and it offers Tales players their first chance to play as a female protagonist, but in practice the balance is quite skewed. The story is the same for 3/4s of the game when the two characters are working together. However, Milla, being the independent and always-busy Guardian, tends to run off and do her own things, leaving most of the character/story development in Jude's section. When she rejoins the party they try to fill her in but you miss significant events and a lot of the time you just end up rather confused. Additionally it kind of sucks playing part of the game solo when the fighting engine is built on party/coop battle. For first time players I highly recommend choosing Jude first, and then you can fill in the gaps by running through a second time as Milla (and with the grade shop, you can make your second playthrough a lot easier with various bonuses.)
The main story itself follows a fairly expected Tales story arc, with a mysterious threat to the balance of mana in the world; a destructive weapon (the Spear of Kreshnik) that is destroying spirits; a plucky party that sets out determined to make things right; various countries at war with each other, inevitable betrayal by a party member you thought to trust, etc. You have a standard party composition: Jude as the idealistic young warrior, Alvin as the battle-hardened veteran, Elise as the innocent genius, Leia as the plucky happy-go-lucky best friend. Rowen is a bit of a departure, being in his sixties and retired from any active role until being dragged into conflict. Milla as a magic swordsman is also a bit new; as a Guardian Spirit she has power and experience unparalleled to the others, but she has rarely interacted with humans, leaving her surprisingly (and amusingly) naiive in some areas.
All in all the story is nothing spectacular, but it drives along at a decent pace and gives plenty of time to explore the world and the characters in it.

Rating: 7

Graphics

Xillia is the first Tales game designed specifically for the PS3 (Vesperia was ported from the Xbox 360 while Graces F was ported from the Wii) so it's the first Tales game to really take advantage of the hardware specs.
If one word could be used to describe Xillia it would be 'cinematic'. There is a lot of depth in each shot and sweeping views are the norm. Also, unlike many previous Tales games, dialog is presented as lines of subtitles at the bottom of the screen instead of in cartoony speech bubbles near the characters' heads.
Environmental settings take full advantage of the PS3 specs; lighting is spectacular, especially in the perpetual twilight of Il Fan and the fire/ice lit caves near the Zaira forest. You have full control over the camera (finally!) so you can fully explore and appreciate the background. Instead of a world map you have access to fields which connect between towns/dungeons; these are pretty much all the same with slightly different skins on them (tan skin for desert, green skin for forest, etc). Dungeons and towns are far more interesting -- each has a distinct style and personality that suits its purpose in the game.
Character rendering is so-so; they went with a more realistic 3D shading style (versus the 2D anime style shading of Vesperia or the watercolor shading of Graces) and while it looks better than Graces, it's still rather clunky. Hands are generally animated as the whole hand instead of individual fingers; hair is animated as several blobs instead of fine strands, etc. Monster designs are better handled; there is little need to have such fine-tuned detail on a monster design so they can get away with being a bit rough around the edges. A lot of monster designs are recycled from previous Tales games (you have a pretty standard set of Tales monsters, and some of the boss monsters seem directly pulled from Vesperia's Giganto monster set) but they have been tweaked to work well in this updated art style.
The 2d animated cut scenes are the best that I've seen in a Tales game. Unlike previous games which were primarily handled by Production IG, Xillia's cut scenes are animated by Ufotable, and they are amazing. Ufotable's style tends to eschew flats for subtle gradients to emphasize lighting. The camera angles are dynamic and the camera is always in motion, swinging around a character during a fight or zooming into a clash of armies on the battlefield. They are a delight to watch; unfortunately the game does not offer an easy way to review animated scenes post-game, so if you want to see them you either have to play through again, or do a search on Youtube.
In short, the 3D CG is a bit hit or miss, but nothing that seriously detracts from the game. The 2D scenes are phenomenal, but you can't rewatch them in-game.

Rating: 8

Sound

Xillia's opening theme is Progress by Jpop queen Ayumi Hamasaki. It is a rich power ballad that is a nice change from the sweeter JPop stylings of many other Tales games, and helps set up the game well.
In-game music is pretty typical Tales fare. A lot of electro/synth-pop, nothing that stands out but it serves well enough to set the mood of a scene or setting. It should be noted that the battle music is markedly different between Jude and Milla; Jude gets a lot of electric guitar while Milla gets a lot of violins and string instruments. Milla wins this round!
(The following section refers to the Japanese release of the game. I've only seen a few videos on Youtube about the upcoming English release, so I have no idea how that will sound.)
The game is fully voiced, at least where main story is involved (some sidequests and character episodes are not voiced, but all skits are voiced.) This is a lot of work done by a strong cast. Miyuki Sawashiro does a great job bringing out the inherent strength and fortitude in Milla, ranging from a deep, almost masculine voice when Milla is trying to prove a point or facing opponents, to a more laid-back and casual voice when she is just chatting with the party. Tsubasa Yonaga brings a gentle, light-hearted demeanor to Jude, which is occasionally annoyingly too polite. The rest of the cast also have strong voice work that highlights the personalities of their characters.

Rating: 7

Fun

Tales of Xillia is a romping fantasty RPG for the PS3 which will appeal to Tales fans (and JRPG fans in general), but probably won't win over anyone new. There is nothing groundbreaking in any aspect of the game, but it is a solidly built title that showcases all the standards the genre encompasses. In the end my major issue with the game is a lack of balance.
Character balance: For most of the story, Jude and Milla travel together, and the story moves along at a brisk pace. However, in the areas where Jude and Milla are off doing their own things, almost all the character development happens in Jude's section as Milla likes to run off on her own to handle matters. When the party meets up again you get a brief recap, but this does nothing to explain the actions and their consequences on the rest of the party.
World area balance: In the first four chapters of the game you explore a fairly broad, but limited set of areas. In the fifth and final chapter a whole new area, equal in size to the first, becomes available. The game ends almost immediately after. The new area has one town, two dungeons (one of which is completely optional) and feels terribly barren.
Battle balance: In Xillia battles, your party members can 'link' together and work in concert to fight enemies. Linking gives you access to special dual-member attacks. As the protagonists, Jude and Milla get a lot of dual link attacks. They have 2-3 times as many dual link attacks as all other character combinations, meaning if you're not playing as either character you are pretty much hamstringing your fighting capability. This is especially apparent in boss battles.
In the end these don't detract from the fact that this is a fun, fast-paced action RPG put out by people who have a lot of experience building fast-paced action RPGs. The world is broad and fun to explore, the characters are varied enough for everyone to find someone to like, the battle engine is challenging but a blast to use. Tales of Xillia is a solid RPG, even a good RPG, but it's nowhere near being a great RPG.

...that said, Tales of Xillia 2 did a lot to smooth out a lot of the issues in Tales of Xillia. But that will have to wait for its own review...

Rating: 7

Final Verdict

7.17 (above average)

Reviewed by Tama-Neko, May 01, 2013

Comments

  1. Tsasu May 23, 2013

    This game sounds realy good and i was having dout if i should buy this one or just wait for the second game. I'm still not sure if but i still have time befor it's out. btw great review.

  2. rotten180 Jul 20, 2013

    I have heard from my friends that this is a great game? What aspect would you say makes this one better than others?

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