Tales of Xillia is not exactly a fresh new game for the entire world, but many games from Japan do need plenty of time to get necessary changes. It has been nearly two years since the Japanese version, but the western side of the world now has gotten their version, complete with necessary translations. With strong offerings of RPGs this year, Tales of Xillia is another title that adds to the list.
Tales of Xillia takes place in the world of Rieze Maxia, where humans and spirits share a beneficial relationship. Humans’ lives are aided and improved by elemental spirits via artes, and spirits survive by obtaining mana from humans’ mana lobes. This partnership has lasted for millennia, but recent events have made things very shaky. Twenty years prior, humans no longer were able to summon the Four Great Spirits, causing a dilemma. At the present, they have also developed technology that drains spirits to power technology, known as spirix. A young woman by the name of Milla Maxwell, Lord of Sprits, is on an adamant mission to destroy all spirix to ensure a safe future for human and spirit kind. Joining her is Jude Mathis, a good-boy smart medical student that displays difficulties with indecisiveness and growing up. With his professor disappearing, he attempts to break into a research lab where his professor was likely at. Jude meets Milla in the process. Deep within the lab, they discover a massive spirix-powered weapon that could spell doom to human and spirit life. They fail to destroy the weapon, but Milla is most insistent on completing her mission. Jude joins her, hoping to aid her on her goal. The weapon will become a major point of attention for the kingdoms of Rashugal and Auj Oule, as both seek to conquer the other to unite Rieze Maxia under one ruler. Throughout the adventure, Jude and Milla will travel with up to four other companions with their own backgrounds.
The story concept is quite good, and can feel inspirational at times. The major characters, though, make it a little difficult to fully appreciate. Some of their personalities lean on one-dimensional, and can even be called annoying at times. There is a lot of drama during important scenes, and include some baddies with over-exaggerated flamboyance. It will take some time getting used to, but things get better late-game. Thankfully, the skits between the major cutscenes are amazing with top-notch writing and excellent humor. They provide the needed depth the characters need that the cutscenes do not really give. A great voice acting performance also boosts the narrative. Story flow is decent; the game starts well enough, but there is a moderate slump during the mid-third before the final-third gets things going again for the ending. The anime cutscenes that accompany the story are fascinating to watch. There are not spread evenly throughout the narrative, as most are concentrated for the final third of the game.
Tales of Xillia has a fast-paced real-time combat system. Up to four friendly characters are on the battlefield at one time, and each uses physical and talent/magic combos to deal damage to an enemy. In addition, characters can “link” to assist each other in battle, and perform “linked artes”, where two linked characters perform an arte together for much higher damage. The battles can get exciting very quickly. Due to the fast-paced nature of the battles, the timing windows are quite small. Pulling off the many different types of attacks while trying to avoid colossal damage is going to require some work. This also contributes to a high frustration factor during boss fights, where they can pull off outright punishing attacks. Less experienced players will feel the brain cells ache from disbelief during the difficult battle encounters. The good news is a nice feeling of satisfaction after every fight, from the little traversal encounters to the end boss fight.
Characters not controlled by the player in battles are handled by a mostly capable AI. Their strategies can be changed according to party composition and compensating for potential difficulties. The player does not have to play Jude or Milla exclusively. They may choose different characters with the available party setup. Multiple players may also play the game, taking control of characters that are normally handled by the competent AI. However, setting up multiplayer is not a smooth experience and may take some battles to sort things out.
The leveling contains the usual stats, as well as the web-like progression of perks and new skills through the Lilium Orb. The web can get quite large, but there is an auto-level to help make things easier. Equipment and item mechanics work as expected for the genre, and obtaining them is usually through shops that can be upgraded through item and money donations. Activities outside the battles are rather simple. The cities are easy to get familiar with, and the map makes sure getting lost does not happen. The world layouts are somewhat basic, but exploration is greatly encouraged as items found can help with shop donations. The fast travel makes jumping across the world a breeze, and save points are abundant as they seem to be found every five to ten minutes. The game lasts at least twenty-five hours if one blasts through the story on easier difficulty settings and with little regard for side missions. Those who want the complete story will find that they will need to complete the other main protagonist’s perspective, nearly doubling play time.
The art style is a rather standard anime-turned-3D look. It is not a bad thing, as there is some great consistency between the anime cutscenes and in-game visuals. The technical implementation of the graphics is not quite as cheerful. It is adequate, but appears to be an iffy mix between Final Fantasy XIII and Xenoblade Chronicles. The in-battle effects are pretty cool, though. The major positive is the loading times are very minimal and really help maintain flow for the gameplay and story. The sound effects have a nice amount of punch to them during combat, and suit all other things just fine. The music, likewise, has a lot of intensity during battles, and does a good job with atmosphere.
Tales of Xillia is a very nice game that feels about a centimeter or two from being great. There are many things that could have been made just a little better. However, the game, as is, has some very impressive points. The story has a lot of positives going for it, and the combat is filled with a lot of energy. Tales of Xillia may not be the definitive game of its genre this year, but it is a very thrilling one.
Final Score: 8.5/10