Tales of Xillia is the latest game from the popular Tales series, which has been kicking about since the mid-nineties when it made its debut on the Super Nintendo. As far as RPG franchises go the Tales games don’t have the clout of Final Fantasy, but a vocal fan base has gradually convinced Namco Bandai to release more of its titles over here in the west. Xillia became available to buy in Europe back in August 2013 (two years after its Japanese release) and anyone who enjoys it will be pleased to learn that its direct sequel is scheduled to get a localisation sometime in 2014.
Xillia takes place in the world of Rieze Maxia were humans power their technology via a symbiotic relationship with spirits. The game’s leading characters are a Kung Fu fighting medical student named Jude and Milla the boobilicious Lord of Spirits. The two meet one day when Milla infiltrates a research facility with the aims of sabotaging the Lance of Kresnik (a spirit guzzling cannon) that is housed there. Things don’t go as planned however forcing the pair to retreat after the aforementioned lance drains Milla’s powers. Players must then lead the protagonists on their quest to prevent the Lance’s misuse, which could trigger a world war, in an adventure that spans across parallel worlds.
Along the way Jude and Milla join forces with a bunch of other heroes, forming a balanced party of playable characters. The first of these is the pistol totting mercenary Alvin. How this treacherous gun for hire doesn’t kicked out of the group is beyond me, as he has a reputation for openly betraying allies. Next up is the spunky staff-wielding nurse Leia who has had a crush on Jude since childhood (awww.) As someone who likes little girls (okay that came out wrong) my favourite character is the adorable spell caster named Elize. Although she is shy her lack of speech is balanced out by her floating mascot Teepo, the comic relief who is blessed with the gift of the gab. Rounding off the party is Rowen an elderly butler who used to be an accomplished tactician.
In terms of game play, based on my limited experience of the Tales games, Xillia’s combat system feels much like the earlier entries in the series. Unlike Final Fantasy, which alienates fans by constantly reinventing itself, Namco knows what its buyers like and makes sure not to deviate from it. Walking into enemies on the field triggers battles where your playable character and up to three A.I controlled allies are plonked onto a small battle arena. From there you get to use the face buttons to execute various attacks, in real time, with your computer controlled partners following whatever tactics you set for them in the strategy menu.
Assaults with regular attacks costs AC, which replenishes over time whilst performing special skills requires technical points, which can be recharged by hitting enemies or using restorative items. Xillia also introduces a link system that allows two characters to team up in combat, granting them bonuses and allowing them to perform combo arts. To be honest, as someone who prefers turn based combat, I had a tough time getting to grips with Xillia’s battle mechanics, so I just turned down the difficulty and button bashed my way to victory. Anyone willing to master the combat system will however be treated to a fast paced, yet tactical, experience that rewards players for cleverly countering attacks, exploiting elemental weaknesses and juggling foes in the air.
Outside of combat players are able to customize both their party’s gear and how their fighters develop. As Jude and Milla trek across the land they will pick up items, from defeated foes or harvested from the land, that can be donated to stores in order to unlock more powerful weapons and armour. Winning battles on the other hand allows the group to level up, earning them points that can be used to activate nodes on a web shaped sphere grid that bestows characters with new skills and boosts to their attributes. Who says you have to study hard to get smart? In RPGs murdering crabs is a perfectively viable way of raising ones intelligence.
All things considered I think Tales of Xillia deserves a score of five stars out of five. Thinking back at the games released during the Playstation 3’s life cycle I would have to rank it as one of the better RPGs to come out on the system. Some diehard Tales fans may accuse it of being more linear than other games in the series, but it can’t be doing too many things wrong as I played it through to completion, a first for me as far as Tales games go. Even if Xillia is fairly short, when compared to other Tales games, there is some replay value to be had. The game sports a new game plus mode and upon starting your adventure you need to select whether to focus the story on Jude or Milla. To see everything the game has to offer you’ll therefore have to play through the story twice to experience both paths.
Graphically, Xillia opts for anime visuals to bring its world to life. I like the character designs and the animated clips that play during key events, although the in game graphics aren’t quite as impressive as other titles on the market. Story wise Xillia’s narrative is your usual JRPG fare, but it never gets dull thanks to the enjoyable cut scenes you are treated to during your journey. These sequences are a joy to watch as they flesh out the cast with comedic banter, insights into their back-story and even their culinary opinions on the meals they recently consumed. If you are interested in trying out a Tales game I can highly recommend Tales of Xillia. It ticks all the right role-playing boxes and as I jumping on point for newcomers I would have to say it is the most accessible Tales game I have played to date.