August 13, 2013
The story follows a young medical student named Jude Mathis and mysterious woman named Milla Maxwell. The two become acquainted at the beginning of the game but before you even start to play get to choose which character you want to control.
Each of the main characters is down to earth and carries the plot along nicely. Some might be put off by Milla’s skimpy get up. but this does little to make her seem less serious. It's also great that each of the characters support each other and have you questioning their loyalty to the rest of the group. These scenes can be a bit too talky for some, but it is optional and overall, they don't seem out of place.
Tales of Xillia sees a plot that is well put together and is never confusing. While brining in those typical tropes of war and magic, all of the small details given really make this world’s workings believable. If an important word pops up during dialog it is highlighted so players pay attention to it thus wanting to know the full story.
Sometimes when traversing through the overworld you'll have a small message appear in the corner of the screen. If you press the select button it takes you to a skit. The characters involved will exchange in conversation talking about their pasts, details that aren’t explained the main story, and silly musings that keep the team together and strengthen their bond.
One of the most interesting things about the world map is that it actually shows the elevation of the current city or field. By moving the right stick up and down you can view the different part of a cliff or the raised sections on the field. On a related note, when you pick up a random item the map marks its location and when you return there will be a new item in the exact same place.
In combat you can move freely by pressing R2 as you run. It gives you full movement over the battlefield. You have four characters out at time, being able to switch control of each with L1 and the directional buttons and replacing one character with another in reserve with R3. You can’t however switch out a character if they are dead, which makes difficult boss battles a bit frustrating.
Each character has their own ability that affects their arte. For instance Jude can perform snap pivot. After evading an enemy’s attack he quickly circles around giving him a brief opportunity to attack the foe while it's defenseless. Milla has her sprit shift ability that lets her use a different arte if you press circle instead of holding it.
A element to Tales of Xillia's battle system is linking. This is where two characters work together and can combine their artes to form a more powerful attack. Healing is shared and you can change the battle strategy so that your linked character backs you up. You can also have it so two AI controlled characters do the same. Each character has a support power that comes in handy in a pinch. Some of the abilities range from stealing items and draining HP and TP from enemies.
Moving away from the battle system, let's talk about side quests. these are a good way to earn money and take a break from the main story. You’ll be tasked with slaying some monsters, finding a specific item, or going back to a previous dungeon to investigate the surroundings. When you see an NPC in town with an exclamation mark over their head go and talk to them to start a quest.
Sadly the quests in Tales of Xillia aren’t that challenging and only a few of them are interesting. It's not that much of an issue, but since there is less influence on side matters you’ll always be inclined to keep on track with the main story. The only up side to them lies in the rewards you earn. Most of them come in the form of accessories that you can use to customize all of the playable characters.
Attachments were introduced in Tales of Graces f, but the amount of them that you could find in game was very minimal. By completing quests or finding them in special chests you’ll earn them easily. Attachments range from glasses, elf ears, headbands, and small plush animals. There is an entire menu for positioning and changing the color at your fingertips. They don’t affect your performance in battle but it's a fun little way of giving the characters cool appearance enhancements or just seeing how ridiculous you can make them look.
Titles in the Tales series have been used to strengthen character stats and where unlockable through battle. In Tales of Xillia however, titles can be described as achievements that go towards your grade. What is grade you may ask? Grade is used to carry over different aspects of your playthrough to the next one. Want your level and arts carried over? You’ll need enough grade points to be able to do so. Some of these titles are the actual trophies that you can earn. They can include pulling off each character’s special ability a certain number of times or trade jet black feathers to a merchant.
Since titles don’t enhance your stats and help you learn new artes, there is the brand new Lilium Orb. It's a web like network that has stat boosting nodes. When your character levels up they gain points that you can use to activate these nodes, but you can only activate the nodes that are connected by a previously activated node. Once you activate enough you’ll unlock new artes and eventually new layers of the web.
We also have the inclusion of upgrading shops with materials that you find out on the field. In previous Tales games there was always the issue of stores not selling the same thing in different towns. The upgrade system fixes this so that you’ll always have all of the items available in each town. As long as you are frequently picking up random items on your travels, you should have no problem upgrading the shops.
Food in Xillia can be bought in stores or found in chests, but you need to use them before a battle. Cooking has also been removed this time around but it isn’t too much to be upset about. In Tales of Graces f you could set them to auto when your health is low. This is replaced by auto-items. In the strategy menu you can set up what items the AI controlled characters will use when lets say your health falls bellow 20 percent. This is a much better system as you don’t need to constantly charge it for it keep working as we saw in Tales of Graces f.
Tales of Xillia has plenty to offer for the JRPG community and has more than enough unusual moments to keep the player moving forwards. The graphics are beautiful, from the colorful anime cut scenes to the breathtaking landscapes. Tales of Xillia never strays from the seriousness of our main character’s mission and doesn’t hesitate to throw in some goofiness from time to time. Overall, a solid installment into the Tales franchise and well worth the wait.