Episodes 79 & 81: Tales of the Abyss

It goes without saying I'm a huge fan of the Tales of series. But even I've become a little tired of the newer iterations. Even the excellent Berseria, which has almost brought the series back to its glorious heights, is missing a few key components which make the perfect Tales of game. That's why I was pining to play Tales of the Abyss again.

For all of its Tales of tropes, Abyss stands out amongst the rest of the games. It was the first game to introduce free running, and the first to really hone in on its lore and story with considerable success. It balances politics, world building, and character development perfectly. Returning to Auldrant for the first time in 5 years not only showed me how well the game stood up, but how much I had changed. Characters I didn't like and situations I didn't agree with now made sense to me. Battles were still fun and frantic, even compared to the more recently favoured CC system of Team Destiny. It was fun to experiment and play with all of the characters. And who remembers the days when alternate costumes were free, and rewards for in-game sidequests?

I'll forever sing the praises of the series' wonderful characters, and excellent battle system, but Abyss contains so much more than that. For all of its 50 hours, there's very little time I spent wondering when things were going to end. If you don't like the Tales of series, then this game wont be for you. However, if you've never picked up a Tales of game, Abyss is the perfect starting place.

Tales of the Abyss

Players looking for an RPG with a character-driven plot and some seriously in-depth world building needn't look that far; while the Tales of series is well known for its fantastic cast of characters and exciting ARPG combat, they are less often credited for their storylines. Tales of the Abyss instead came out on top this time around and delivered an incredibly dense and all-encompassing narrative that towers among the series standard — maybe even amongst other RPGs in general. The game effortlessly weaves carefully crafted characters (along with some top-tier voice acting) into an epic and layered story that features war, economics, religion, family, and any number of moral/ethical dilemmas as vital themes, yet Tales of the Abyss somehow works it all in. It might fumble a few times, and if things get a bit confusing the answer is probably "fonons did it," but I'm hard pressed to think of other games that manage so much in its runtime and still wraps it up so well.

While it's hard to recommend this title strictly on the basis of gameplay (the game is almost consciously aware of how story-focused it is), it can still be fun to clean up hordes of enemies with its small but well-balanced party and a battle system that's customizable and fun to break (as you sometimes literally run circles around enemies). If that's not enough, the game also features tons (TONS!) of sidequests and even unique post-game content deliberately meant for your "New Game Plus" runs. The world of Auldrant is vast with unique NPCs, secret locations, hidden treasures, mini-games, and those awesome costume titles that you just gotta have. Abyss offers 40 hours of play if you rush, but you can easily double that should you find yourself getting hooked on everything the title offers.

The Tales of series has been delivering quality RPGs for over 20 years and is still able to find a unique style and flavour for each game without sacrificing the series' identity; and even with 20 years worth of titles, Tales of the Abyss stands as one of my favourites in the series.

Tales of the Abyss

The Tales of series of RPGs has been around for over 20 years, and its offerings have been so diverse that it's not always easy to clarify what makes a Tales of game a Tales of game. With different character artists, customization systems, and world designs over the years, Tales of series is a mixed bag of style and quality, but you can always count on them to feature dynamic combat.

Tales of the Abyss is one of the good ones. The combat is an early version of Tales of's move to battling in a 3D plane, but it's always at least serviceable and often intense. The cast of characters is diverse and likable, with some genuinely entertaining personalities (especially Jade) and impressive character development throughout (especially Luke). And it may have the best Tales of storyline ever, the political and religious aspects of which are detailed and fascinating. I say with confidence that this is one of my favorite Tales of games (it's in my personal top three) and one of the better Japanese RPGs on the RPG-rich PlayStation 2 and 3DS. I want to replay it soon just for those sweet Abyssman costumes.

Final Thoughts Archive
Episode 1: Trails in the Sky Episode 2: Final Fantasy X Episode 3: Final Fantasy Tactics Episode 4: The Last Story Episode 5: Terranigma Episode 6: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Episode 7: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Episode 8: Parasite Eve Episode 9: Pokémon Episode 13: NieR Episode 14: The World Ends With You Episode 15: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Episode 16: Xenogears Episode 17: South Park: The Stick of Truth Episode 18: Valkyria Chronicles Episode 19: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Episode 20: Child of Light Episode 21: Diablo III Episodes 70 & 71: Shadow Hearts: Covenant Episodes 73 & 75: Chrono Trigger Episodes 79 & 81: Tales of the Abyss Episodes 82 & 83: Darksiders Episodes 86 & 88: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Episodes 90 & 92: EarthBound Episodes 95 & 97: Grim Fandango Episodes 101 & 102: Final Fantasy XII Episodes 104 & 106: Digital Devil Saga Episodes 114 & 116: Breath of Fire IV Episodes 122 & 124: Valkyrie Profile Episodes 126 & 128: Planescape: Torment Episodes 135 & 137: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars Episodes 140 & 142: Mass Effect Episodes 143 & 144: Lunar: The Silver Star Episodes 145 & 146: Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Episodes 141 & 151: Shadow Hearts Episodes 153 & 155: Suikoden II Episodes 156 & 157: Mega Man Legends Episodes 158 & 159: Mega Man Legends 2

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Sunday, November 18th
World of Final Fantasy MAXIMA w/Kat • 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Darksiders w/Maxx • 12pm PDT/3pm EDT
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Threads of Fate w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Zero Escape Trilogy w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE w/Nathan • 10:30am PDT/1:30pm EDT
Zero Escape Trilogy w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Zero Escape Trilogy w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Friday Super Variety Night w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Zero Escape Trilogy w/Scott • 5pm PDT/8pm EDT

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