"It looks like it will be tough to go wrong with Tales of Xillia."
With our reviewable copy of Tales of Xillia coming in a little bit too close to the wire for a release-date review, we thought we'd still give you an idea of what you're looking at with Namco Bandai's latest RPG. So while many elements of Xillia are going to be right in line with just about every other Tales game that you've ever played, here are three things that are going to make Xillia special (and one thing that's not).
Links and Linked Artes
- Combat in Xillia is made all-new by its new link system, where two characters will work together to strike at the same enemy, while giving each other bonuses. Different characters will provide different abilities — like heals, item theft, or magic resistance — but will also share certain skills with their allies. Linked Artes can be fired off when the meter on the left of the screen glows. With a tap of R2, both characters fire off a massive attack at their enemy. If the meter is filled completely, these can be chained together in a barrage of attacks until the meter has been exhausted. Not only does it give you power, but it changes the strategy of which characters to bring to battle greatly.
The Lilium Orb System
- While Tales has traditionally had very little in the way of character modification, Xillia throws the door open with its Lilium Orb system. Somewhat akin to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, characters gain stats based on which nodes are unlocked. However, its appearance is like a spiderweb, and taking all the nodes in a particular segment will reward you with an arte or ability useful for those types of statistics. Unlock enough segments and the orb expands with a whole new set of options. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it's a nice change of pace for Namco Bandai.
Two Main Characters
- Tales of Symphonia might be just as much Colette's story as it is Lloyd's, but Lloyd remains front-and-center for the entire game. Xillia, however, is equal parts the story of medical student Jude Mathis and the mysterious Milla Maxwell. The choice to control either of them at the beginning of the game isn't just one that can be swapped as soon as you hit the menu, though — for the first portion of the game, scenes will play out differently based on which character is in control. Split up from the party? Your view of the world sticks with your chosen character.
Of course, there is one thing that will almost never change with the Tales games...
The Theme of Friendship
- Anyone who's ever picked up a game in this series knows that the recurring theme always seems to be the friendship between members of the party. Xillia is no different — acceptance remains a primary portion of many interactions throughout. As nice as this is, it would be nice to see things change up a little bit. I'm certainly not expecting our Tales characters to start eating each other, Digital Devil Saga-style, but a change of pace would be nice.
My first few hours with Tales of Xillia have been positive, and series veterans will know exactly what to expect from this entry. For everyone else, if you're looking for a lighthearted, traditional RPG with a real-time combat system, it looks like it will be tough to go wrong with Tales of Xillia.
"The in-game graphics looked crisp and colorful, and I found the new third-person camera to be an especially great way of getting into the action."
Deep within the recesses of Namco Bandai's E3 space, I got to spend a nice chunk of time tooling around in the latest Tales title, the hotly anticipated Tales of Xillia. My demo took place in an early-game forested area, though my gaggle of misfit heroes was considerably over-leveled and packed full of artes. The in-game graphics looked crisp and colorful, and I found the new third-person camera to be an especially great way of getting into the action. If you've played a Tales game in the past few years, you'll definitely know what to expect in terms of gameplay: varied locations to run through full of enemies that initiate instanced battle encounters with a tight, fast-paced action combat system.
The latest iteration of the battle system allows for a variety of different attacks. Every character has a basic combo which can be modified, a spate of special artes that can be linked together into fluid combo chains, and a new type of attack called a link arte. This new attack allows you to sync up with your teammates to unleash devastating and flashy combos. They fit into the suite of powers quite nicely, and gave the combat a lightning-fast pace and a great sense of flow. The battle graphics were equally colorful and full of special effects, stylish anime cut-ins for powerful strikes, great animation, and a rock-solid framerate.
Spending some time exploring the menus revealed the Lilium grid, a sphere-grid like progression system that allows players to custom-tailor character advancement to their liking. Stat boosts, special perks, and skills (in the vein of AD skills from Tales of the Abyss), can all be unlocked via the grid, and it seems as though it will be a fantastic wrinkle thrown into the Tales mix.
The localization was also excellent, and I found the character voices to be likable and on par with the performances in previous titles, though admittedly, my time was limited.
As a longtime Tales fan, I can say with certainty that my brief time with the English Xillia did nothing but increase my anticipation, and I'd be willing to bet Tales fans will be thrilled with this one when it finally launches this August.