When worlds collide
One of the most decorated JRPG franchises, the Tales of… series consistently offers players grandiose stories and worlds with characters of equal caliber to explore them. The first title of what would become a two part series, Tales of Xillia combines classic but improved Tales combat with an epic and enthralling narrative that never let me go.
Tales of Xillia tells the tale of two main protagonists – Milla Maxwell, the deity of deities, and Jude Mathis, a young doctor in the heart of a big city. This marks the first time in the Tales of… series where the player is presented with a choice of which character to play as. There isn’t much difference in narrative based on your choice, however. You’ll soon discover on your second playthrough with a different character that the intro and very minor details are presented differently.
But don’t let this detract from the wonderful experience that is Tales of Xillia. Now, I know I’ve shouted about how I loathe save the world plotlines, which most Tales of… games consist of. Sometimes, these Tales plotlines blend together or dull the overall experience. For instance, I loved Tales of Hearts R, but its cliché story and obvious script made for a less enjoyable experience. And while Tales of Xillia eventually devolves into a campaign to save the world(s), the plot takes a unique twist – and its villains are a compelling bunch.
Characters are certainly Xillia’s strongest suit. The main party consists of a vast and unique set of characters from different spans of Rieze Maxia (the world). In fact, there’s a moment about 60% into the game involving one of the characters that forced me to stay awake for another few hours to see what happened. Each character is complex and seeks his/her own destination, which really creates an enthralling experience, especially given a slightly omniscient look at the exposition. With this said, Tales of Xillia features some of the series’ best villains. Gaius and his cronies, along with other sinister villains (omitted for the sake of spoilers) make you view the world of Rieze Maxia and her protagonists in a very different light. The intangibles of right and wrong begin to blur as plot unfolds; is what you’re doing correct? Can you blame members of your party or Gaius for believing and acting the way they do? The answer to these are all: no. From the perspective of each character, what is right shifts based on situation, much like the world we inhabit.
Since we’re on the topic of excellent features in Xillia, I would be remiss in forgetting to mention the improved combat system. Tales of Xillia offers the best combat in a Tales of… title that I’ve yet to play (Tales of Zestiria included). Perfecting the free run concept recently introduced into the franchise, Xillia allows for the perfect combination of strategy, brute force, and magic/summons, as well as adding an interesting link system. Outside of combat, characters level up in the Lilium orb menu. This system is set up very similarly to the crystarium from Final Fantasy XIII or a less complex version of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid. In other words, you use points to level up each piece on the Lilium, unlocking further tiers, ability, and stats. For someone who adores leveling systems like this, I had a lot of fun putting points in to my characters.
If there’s one aspect to be praised in Tales of… games, it’s that there are endless hours of gameplay to be had, and Xillia is no exception. The main storyline will run you at least 40 hours, and once you complete your first playthrough, new game plus opens. Hardcore trophy hunters will find maximum value here, as the platinum trophy requires over 100 hours of gameplay. If you find yourself in a dry spell looking for an RPG and still own a PS3, you can’t find many better (J)RPGs than Tales of Xillia.