Tales of Xillia is the thirteenth main installment in the Tales Of series and marks the series’ 15th anniversary in North America. As a milestone game, Namco has taken this opportunity to experiment with the formula so ingrained in their games, to prove the Tales Of series is still capable of innovation while staying true to its roots. But do they succeed? Or does the new, modern direction clash with the classic Tales equation we all love? Thankfully, the developers at Namco Tales Studios have figured out a way to provide another stellar Tales game that’ll be sure to please old-time fans as well as newcomers to the series.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
The story of Tales of Xillia follows two individuals along their journey to save the world: Jude Mathis, a medical student who is kind and down-to-earth, and Milla, a mysterious girl who wields an astonishing power. Right from the start of the game, you can choose to follow one the two protagonist from their perspective. There isn’t too much of a difference between the two perspectives, so don’t worry about missing key plot points. Jude, especially, is a refreshing take on the JRPG protagonist as he doesn’t fall into the archetype of the brash, loud youth or the cold, emotionless “badass”, but instead is very humble and sincere. Milla is also another interesting take on the Japanese heroine, despite what her outfit may suggest. She and Jude work well together as their dialogue feels incredibly natural and their personalities mesh well together.
Additionally, Tales of Xillia also features a plot that doesn’t rely too heavily on the mainstream JRPG tropes and tools. Not once have I encountered that dreaded scene that appears in most JRPG’s where one character mutters a hint to a future twist and then when asked about what they just said, replies “It’s nothing. Let’s move on.” The developers took their time constructing a story that doesn’t rely on moments like these, that naturally reveals information rather than having it be pushed through force exposition. That being said, the story is no hard-hitting mystery or brilliant soul-moving masterpiece. It can be very predictable at times, but it does manage to propel itself higher than a majority of other modern JRPGs.
The graphics, art style and sound design, much like the plot, are beautifully crafted with only a few minor hiccups. They all follow the traditional Tales Of style in the sense of a lighthearted, bright art direction accompanied by the classic, airy score and ambient tracks. However, the graphics can be a bit underwhelming considering what the PS3 hardware is capable of; to me, the game seems on par if not slightly less impressive than Tales of Vesperia, which was released back in 2009. Similarly, the voiced dialogue for the game is excellent with the only minor hiccup being Milla’s voice actor, whose delivery of the lines are a bit clumsy. Nevertheless, these are minor faults which don’t get in the way of enjoying the game itself.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
Combat in Tales of Xillia adds a new twist on the fast-paced action RPG combat familiar to the series by introducing Linking. This system allows the party members in battle to link with each other in pairs, providing stat and combat boosts and the ability to perform Link Artes. It’s a simple new system that I’ve found to be very intuitive and a great new step in the Tales Of formula. The AI associated with this system is spot on and doesn’t falter in its execution as the computer-controlled character flanks the enemy and protects you. The combat doesn’t dull as the game progresses and in fact will keep you experimenting what it is possible with multiple link partners to customize how you fight.
The main theme of Tales of Xillia though is customization. Most everything in the game can be tailored to how you want to approach progression, from equipment to appearances to the new Lilium Orbs (a grid-style level progression system akin to the leveling system in Final Fantasy XIII). I was astonished at how much is left up to the player game, especially at the intricately in-depth customization menu for appearance items. Even the shops progress at the player’s discretion with the new Expand Shop system, which gives each shop a level you can raise by selling materials and buying items. These different systems are the biggest strength of Tales of Xillia, which are sure to provide hours upon hours of addicting gameplay.
Final Summary and Score
Tales of Xillia is a fantastic game that successfully blends the classic elements of the series with fresh, modern innovations. It’s a game that rarely dulls and keeps pulling you in to collect more, to customize and continue to progress through the game and its many side objectives. There are a few minor discrepancies and low-points in the game, but nothing too serious as to ruin the experience of travelling with Jude and Milla. If you’re a fan of the series or even just a fan of JRPG’s, this is a must buy. The game is a reminder that the JRPG is by no means a dead genre and that great titles can still be found today.
Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review