Tales of Xillia Review

Tales of Xillia is a gorgeous and fast-paced Japanese role-playing game that suffers from a few questionable design choices.

Namco Bandai's Tales series of role-playing games has had a long, strange, on-again-off-again existence outside of Japan, with the series being localized in bursts only to subside in years-long lulls. Fortunately for fans, the series seems to be back in on-again mode, starting with the Tales of the Abyss 3DS rerelease and last year's Tales of Graces f for the PlayStation 3. Now, almost two years after Tales of Xillia's Japanese release, Western gamers get to play the game, the series' 15th-anniversary project. But while Xillia has high aspirations, some issues keep it from being the exemplary Tales release that its high profile might suggest.

Milla's hair also doubles as an awesome fishing lure.

Tales of Xillia is unique in the series in that it lets you select one of two protagonists at the game's beginning. Jude is a young medical student with some combat training who stumbles upon a dark secret at his school, while Milla is an almost godlike being who is being guided by the world's great spirits to destroy the foul experiments. The two first cross paths as Milla is invading the school's research facility, and a twist of fate results in Milla losing control of her immense powers and the pair going on the lam to escape military forces. Along the way, they meet a variety of enjoyable supporting cast members as is typical for the Tales series: a mercenary with ambiguous motives, a strange little girl with a boisterously chatty (and combat-capable) stuffed critter companion, the girl-next-door best friend/unrequited love, and--perhaps the most interesting of the bunch--a gray-haired, sophisticated combat butler.

One of the series' greatest strengths has always been its character interactions, and Tales of Xillia does not disappoint on this front. Cutscenes for important story events are plentiful and are depicted either through animated sequences or well-choreographed, in-engine scenes with full voice-over. Besides presenting story information, these scenes play out in a way that adds a lot of depth to the cast. Optional skits you can choose to view throughout the game use the more typical Japanese role-playing game method of mostly still character portraits augmented by fully voiced dialogue. These skits usually expound upon events encountered in the game, elements of the environment, or particular character quirks. They add a great deal of personality and appeal to the characters. Of course, these wouldn't be as effective if the characters themselves weren't enjoyable to be around. Everyone has a distinct, pleasant personality that makes you want to see more of their exchanges.

The world itself is interesting, thanks mostly to the stunning visuals. Tales has always gone for a colorful, anime-inspired look, and the graphics in Xillia play into this perfectly, featuring gorgeous, vivid landscapes and striking architecture. Character models are lovely, with things like Milla's outrageously poofy hair being rendered down to minute details. The camera isn't fixed like in other games in the series, so you can freely explore and enjoy the world's sights from almost any angle you please. There's a ton of in-world terminology being bandied about from the game's outset, but the most engaging element of Xillia's setting--and perhaps the biggest reason to save this world from ruin--is simply how visually sumptuous it is.

Sometimes you really do just want to stop and absorb the scenery.

Fast-paced, real-time combat is another of Tales' defining elements, and Xillia does not disappoint on this front. You take control of a single character, while the CPU controls the other three based on settings and commands that you specify. Party members and enemies roam freely around the battlefields, exchanging attacks, dodges, and guards with real-time controller motions. Positioning and area-of-effect spells play huge roles in fighting well, along with chaining basic attacks into considerably more damaging (but resource consuming) arte strikes. In addition, some characters can perform "shifts," where certain commands transform an arte into a completely different (and generally more powerful) ability in exchange for making you more vulnerable to enemies.

New to Xillia's combat is the ability to link to another party member. By linking to another character, you gain specific benefits, the most immediate of which is that character's support proclivities. Linking with Jude, for example, has him helping to flank enemies, healing you when your HP runs low, and helping you recover from knockdowns. Meanwhile, linking with Rowen allows him to help protect you from foes' magical attacks. A gauge in the lower left corner of the screen fills as blows are traded, and when it reaches certain points, you have the chance to execute a powerful link arte at the end of combo strings with your linked partner. When the gauge fills completely, you can go into "over limit," which allows unlimited link artes to be chained together for a brief period of time. Links between your controlled character and others can be swapped at will during fights--even during link chains, with the right timing--so learning to use them well adds a great deal of depth to fighting.

There are some questionable design decisions that make the experience less than what it should be.

Outside of combat, character abilities can be augmented through individual characters' lillium orbs, which are geometric grids with stat gains, skills, and combat artes nestled within a series of orbs and webs that you connect from points gained from leveling up in combat. The system offers some element of customization, but since certain areas of the orb need to be unlocked to expand the grid, you tend to be biased toward enhancing the particular stats the game's designers emphasize. There is a small amount of freedom--for example, since Elize can swap between being more physical or magic-oriented during combat, you may try to focus on which one you prefer for her--but most players will find that their parties' skill sets are similar at game's end.

No static talking heads for major cutscenes; everything is done in-engine.

But while so much of Xillia is impressive, there are some questionable design decisions that make the experience less than what it should be, particularly for longtime franchise fans. The most glaring is the dual protagonist system, which sounds like a fantastic idea on paper: you pick one of two main characters at the beginning and get to see the game's major events through that character's eyes, which increases the incentive to come back after you've finished the game to revisit the story from the other character's point of view. Unfortunately, it's handled poorly: since Jude and Milla sometimes partake in completely separate activities, when they reunite, you're stuck hearing an all-too-brief summary of what important events happened to the other person. When you have drastic, story-altering events such as party member recruiting, double-crosses and shocking twists, and character deaths happening offscreen, only to be given a CliffsNotes version after the fact, the plot starts to feel confusing. It's especially bad toward the game's end, when huge things happen for both characters; not seeing the whole story makes the all-important endgame revelations incoherent. It's practically required to play through the game twice if you want to have any idea of what happened.

Much like Tales of Graces f, Xillia lacks a world map, though fast travel becomes available fairly early on in the game. Instead, areas are connected by stretches of land filled with roving beasts eager for a taste of your party. The game's structure, however, boasts none of the dungeons and accompanying puzzles, another beloved staple of the series. While the connectedness of the game's major locales makes the world feel more engaging and coherent, the lack of distinct, dangerous locales to solve mysteries in takes some bite out of the exploration element. Most of the puzzle-solving and big-monster-killing is instead relegated to sub-quests in preexisting locations, meaning that you'll see a lot of the same places over and over if you're a completionist. It's a real shame, since the beautiful graphics leave you eager to see what more could be done to make the world come to life.

A girl, a goddess, and a rampaging plushie--the ultimate team-up.

Other odd changes include new systems for shopping and cooking. The previous Tales release, Tales of Graces f, featured a fun system where you could find materials to upgrade items, transforming weak gear into powerful equipment, and it made you carefully consider your options before buying and selling old stuff. Tales of Xillia feels like a step back in this regard; all of the stores in the game feature the same stock of goods, and you instead contribute supplies and money to help "upgrade" the shops so they will carry new stuff and offer discounts. Besides not making much economic sense, it strips away a fun element of visiting RPG locales: seeing what new and unique goods each town has to offer. In addition, the traditional cooking system where you learn recipes and use ingredients for combat-enhancing boosts has been replaced with buying premade dishes, of which you can hold only one of at a time. It's a strange change that reduces the enjoyment and effectiveness of a long-established series element.

Tales of Xillia is certainly a solid game, but it feels like it could have been better. The visuals are fantastic, the combat is great, and the characters are wonderful, but the lacking story presentation and exploration elements drag down what could have been one of the best JRPGs on the PlayStation 3. Tales of Xillia 2 has already been announced for an English release, so there is hope that the sequel will fix this game's issues, but for the time being, we have the original game in all of its fun-but-flawed existence.

The Good
Gorgeous visual style
Engaging, endearing central cast
Fast, fun action-based combat
The Bad
Confusing story that practically requires two playthroughs
Shop upgrade system and lack of dungeons dampen exploration
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi Kemps likes long role-playing games, intricate fighting games, and all things Japanese.

Discussion

168 comments
paulpenichet
paulpenichet

I´m sort of an RPG fan, specially before FFX.  I been playing Tales of Xillia for about 20 hours and I have some comments about it. It´s a game with it´s pros and cons, as a Japanese RPG game it has a good story BUT with many boring dialogs that are not needed at the history and make it annoying; Hoppefuly it let you skip it at any time, so I spent more than 60-70% of the game skipping part of them when I saw that the dialogs were talking me to nowhere with irrelevant non main history info, they remind me at Persona´s 3 dialogs. 


The fighting system is fluent, you can switch techniques, select items, change arts an comrads very easy and fast, you can fight an enemy and skip quickly to a next fight so you can upgrade your characters in no time. The co-op fighting is a great idea and changes the way you enjoy the game. 


There are only 6-8 kind of enemies and they are changed in some ways that the development team re-use the structure and do some adjustments, so there´s a sense of no variety.


Part of the history is predictable with less surprises than you expect, but the lenght of the history and the characters involved makes you feel that there´s a lot to process with many sporadic irrelevant events are characters. The fighting camrades are linked to the history to soon, you gain the hole team at the earlier 7 to 8 hours and spect to change or gain more of them further, and that doesn´t happened.


I try not to comment about games but I felt a resposibility to tell this, I´m not square thinking that FF is the only good RPG, there are memorable games as Ni-No-Kuni that are the proof of that, but I suggest that if anyone is interested in buying this game, try to do it when the price drops, its not an collectible RPG game and there are many games to come that may requiere your money to be spent.


So here is my rating / 1 to 10:


History                             6                         

Characters                      6

Graphics                          7

Fighting sytem                 8

Memorable game             5

Uniqueness                      4


OVERALL:                        6

paulpenichet
paulpenichet

I´m sort of an RPG fan, specially before FFX.  I been playing Tales of Xillia for about 20 hours and I have some comments about it. It´s a game with it´s pros and cons, as a Japanese RPG game it has a good story BUT with many boring dialogs that are not needed at the history and make it annoying; Hoppefuly it let you skip it at any time, so I spent more than 60-70%% of the game skipping part of them when I see that the dialogs are talking about something that were not relevant for the main history, they remind me at Persona´s 3 dialogs. 


The fighting system is fluent, you can switch techniques, select items, change arts an comrads very easy and fast, you can fight an enemy and skip quickly to a next fight so you can upgrade your characters in no time, the co-op fighting is a great idea and changes the way you enjoy the game. There are only 6-8 kind of enemies and they are changed in some ways that the development team re-use the structure and do some adjustments, so there´s a sense of no variety.


Part of the history is predictable, there are less surprises than you expect, but the lenght of the history and the characters involved makes you feel that there´s a lot to process with many sporadic events are characters. The fighting camrades are linked to the history to soon, you gain the hole team at the earlier 7 to 8 hours and spect to change or gain more of them further, and that doesnt happen.


I try not to comment about games but I felt a resposibility to tell this, I´m not square thinking that FF is the only good RPG, there are memorable games as Ni-No-Kuni that are the proof of that, but I suggest that if anyone is interested in buying this game, try to do it when the price drops, its not an collectible RPG game there are many games to come that may requiere your money to be spent.


So here is my rating / 1 to 10:


History                             6                         

Characters                      6

Graphics                          7

Fighting sytem                 8

Memorable game             5

Uniqueness                      4


OVERALL:                        6

thefyeman
thefyeman

Just finished Milla's story, I liked this game a lot.

CrazyDutchwoman
CrazyDutchwoman

This game waas for sale on Dutch website for 60! euro but now they go for 40. Still playing Tales of Graces f but I am enjoying the game so planning on buying Xillia too. Which game do you prefer of the 2?

Kituco
Kituco

Game is fun but not the best of the genre.

sisyphusRex
sisyphusRex

Accurate review, although I would have touched on the terrible pacing problems as well. After Symphonia and The Abyss, Xillia is a disappointment.

santinegrete
santinegrete

The userbase rates this game almost 2 points higher than the site's review. Just like graces.

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

As someone who's never played a Tales of game before, would this be a good place to start? I know all the stories are independent from game to game.

Romangelo
Romangelo

7 is too high. I gave it a 6.

Suporex
Suporex

good gamespot has gamers score on side as well...

Agent-Smithy
Agent-Smithy

Ought to be around 7.5 -8.5 score in my opinion .Its a rare few decent jrpgs in the decade .

advocacy
advocacy

Somehow, I think this game is better game than "Gone Home" because it has actual gameplay and long-term re-playability, but Gone Home got a 9.5

thezhe
thezhe

the graphic is good. hmm.... so good

VdarklordV
VdarklordV

i just Finished playing this game and it was quite Good! i loved the battle system which was really fun and active heck i was fighting alot of mobs and rarely skipping any and im the type who gets kinda annoyed if i play final fantasy and some random encounter hits me while im searching a dungeon.

plus you can play with your pals in the same time in combat as you can choose from 6 characters each with different fighting style and magic and join up as 4 players at the same time kicking monsters and bosses ass

Music was awesome and so is the characters i love jude's fighting style millia's way of doing things and how cute Elize is

bottom line
game play and combat      9/10
story                                       8/10
music                                    8/10
side quests                          7/10

all in all this game was a blast and im glad i played it and still playing doing side stuff and optional bosses

KingofCabal
KingofCabal

Just another JPRG, same look, same over complicated confusing story, same school girl characters. Just like the other million JRPG's.

thompson20
thompson20

I liked this review, but it's not even accurate enough. Xillia has an AC (Assault Counter) feature that deplete 1 AC by attacking. When leveling up, you earn GP to spend at the Lilium Orb. However, I'm still playing it.

D3dr0_0
D3dr0_0

If it was Final Fantasy it would have gotten an 8 no matter how bad it was.

ivan_osorio
ivan_osorio

To say that the lack of dungeons dampen exploration is pretty... Wrong. The game is FILLED with open fields and various branching paths that you can either pass right throw or take the time to explore and find random loot and gathering points, as well as chests and the occasional ridiculously overpowered enemy in the form of the Devil's Arms.

dark_kartos
dark_kartos

First off, I reject your opinion of this game. This reviewer is completely narrow minded. The game deserves at least an 8. I don't know which part of the story was confusing, even after one play-through. Clearly the reviewer didn't play the whole game.

I am beginning to see that gamespot is not a credible source for game reviews. 

moonBlade35
moonBlade35

Doesn't even come close to ni no kuni, that game was a masterpiece within a masterpiece!

Princess_Rectum
Princess_Rectum

@paulpenichet  Try playing the game longer than 20 hours before you decide if it's a good enough game.  Judging by the fact that you decide to rate the game before you play the entirety of it is pretty indicative that you're not really an RPG fan to begin with.  The "irrelevant" dialogues serve to help you better understand what type of personality each character has.  That's pretty typical with a lot of JRPGs.


Sure this game does have its share of flaws, but only a few that you listed are really applicable.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@mav_destroyer  yep, it's a good place to start. Just expect a story more focused on character development, and set the control to manual (I think is in the artes menu) if you like to have full control of your characters.

Warsilver
Warsilver

@advocacy Although I do believe that Gone Home should have received a lower score, you are really comparing apples to oranges with these two games.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

@D3dr0_0 That just crtics, they are fooled by it's crapness that it now provides.

fefisgbf
fefisgbf

@D3dr0_0 *sigh* 

FF XIII-2  7,5 

FF XI 6,0

FF II Anniversary 6,0

FF Anniversary 6,5

and many others got between 6 and 7,5 you're just whining...

Warsilver
Warsilver

@dark_kartos One person's 8 is another person's 6... I think 7 is a proper rating for this game.

ZipGalaxy
ZipGalaxy

@moonBlade35 Ni No Kuni had a boring story. Esther, Swaine, and nearly every other character besides drippy had such an insignificant role that it was pretty much pokemon - and I was following around Ash on a quest to find his Mom and defeat the bad guy.

roosteraxe1
roosteraxe1

@moonBlade35 I felt ni no kuni missed it's mark honestly. While the art style was absolutely beautiful and the story had a lot of deep potential, the majority of the game kind of glosses over that potential. While Oliver never actually forgets why he's on his adventure, he never seems truly driven by it. Like he's got ADD and gets easily distracted from saving his mother. Combat was pretty boring. Mr Drippy is the only truly engaging character and he gets a little tiring at times. The rest are just kind of stand-ins. It could just be that I was expecting too much from this game. Level-5 made some of my favorite rpgs on the PS2. Rogue Galaxy, Dragon Quest 8 and the Dark Cloud games were all amazing and had fun, memorable characters. I guess with them working with Studio Ghibli I was expecting something truly epic and just got a solid rpg with gorgeous visuals instead. While the Tales games are pretty much decent games at best gameplay-wise, they've always offered interesting and engaging characters that you remember long after the credits roll. I'd say the two games are about even all things considered.

mystic_knight
mystic_knight moderator

@moonBlade35 I dont know i like Ni No Kuni, but tales games stick with me more. 

Now im a massive JRPG fan, and while this Tales game may have felt a little peculiar in its direction, its still a greatly told game. ( i still cant get my head around maxwell being a girl.. Maxwell used to be an orbal element in Phantasia LOL).
Ni No kuni is a beautiful game to look at, but several child like features felt like it held the game back from being wonderful. the combat system was not without its faults as well, navigating through battle menu's in Ni No Kuni was a nightmare. But with those faults it still remained a visal masterpiece.. I still believe Tales of Vesperia is the JRPG of the generation.

toshineon
toshineon

@moonBlade35 Oh, man. I keep hearing that Ni No Kuni is a great game, and I've yet to play it :P

CrazyDutchwoman
CrazyDutchwoman

@santinegrete @mav_destroyer  I assume you can control just one character and set the other ones on automatic with the strategy you want as with Tales of Graces. (I ask because I am playing the latter right now and tried to play around with semi automatic and so)but if I understand correctly you can only control one character manually cause it is real time in battle. The monsters do not wait for you to pick your move as in FF.

ZipGalaxy
ZipGalaxy

@fefisgbf @D3dr0_0 Preach it, my sister.... brother?

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

@roosteraxe1 @moonBlade35 you know i've been going back to a bunch of ps2 games lately, and difficulty back in that era was definitely a big step up from what we have now. i'm having way more fun playing ps2 games these past two weeks, and when i do get a current-gen game i have to start on the hardest difficulty for it to not feel like a drawn out interactive linear movie...and actually feel satisfying. although i did just start dark souls again, which is an exception to the current-gen hand holding trend..

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

@mystic_knight @moonBlade35 i have to agree, ni no kuni looked a bit too kiddy for my tastes. tried the demo on psn and it just enforced my prediction. i don't care if miyazaki did the cutscenes, if the game is meant for kids, then i'll leave it to the kids to play and find something a bit more interesting for someone who isn't a tween.

moonBlade35
moonBlade35

@mystic_knight @moonBlade35 All u are referring to are hiccups in comparison to the grand design of the game. If you play the game Just for the sake of casual fun then its probably not for you, but if u really love jrpg , you would try to get platinum, which i did and believe me if u are having trouble just navigating the menus then getting platinum is impossible for you, so yeah if u are a lover of jrpg then u CANNOT miss ni no kuni!!

santinegrete
santinegrete

@CrazyDutchwoman @santinegrete @mav_destroyer  you maybe correct. Hell, you can even change wich character to control in the middle of the battle. But methods to do so change from Tales to Tales, some let you do that when you wish, others demand an 'valuable everlasting item' to let you use this function.

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

@moonBlade35 @ZipGalaxy dark souls was a masterpiece, the last story was a masterpiece as well as xenoblade chronicles...these were all japanese developed titles and they surpass the tales series in story (as tales series has always gone for the cheesy, predictable dialogue, often with no choice in where the next destination is and so forth), visuals (well maybe not this one, as i haven't seen it for myself yet), atmosphere (am i the only one who thinks this is important anymore? cuz jrpg games npc's tend to be pretty robotic and unhelpful besides some random witty tongue-in-cheek quips), although the one thing i'll admit the tales series has going for it is the star ocean-esque battle system...and i'm happy that it's in real-time. i may give it a try just for the combat system.

roosteraxe1
roosteraxe1

@wizardboyus @roosteraxe1 @moonBlade35 There were a few games this gen that challenged. Not many though. Lost Odyssey and Resonance of Fate stand out as a challenging rpgs that don't hold your hand. There are a handfull of others, but they are few and far between. I remember wasting dozens of hours on PS2 era rpgs. Getting stumped on monsters, exploring every nooka nd cranny, not just for bonus treasure, but because I needed to find my way and buying strategy guides when I couldn't. Rpgs this gen all seem to follow the same idea. Go towards the marker on the map, watch a cut scene or two, fight a boss or two and go to the next marker. Even open-world rpgs like The Elder Scrolls have fallen into this hand-holding. God I must have put as much time into Morrowind as I have with Oblivion and Skyrim combined. I have kept my PS2 hooked up the entire time I've had a 360 and PS3. It hasn't just been sitting there collecting dust, I've been playing it along-side all the current games and it's still my favorite system.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@moonBlade35 @mystic_knight  I'm a FPS nut and I love this series because it has all JRPG goodness without the only thing I hate: uninteractive menu based combat. Like Final Fantasy, but fun :)

Tales of Xillia More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    Tales of Xillia draws players into the grand adventures of Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell whose paths fatefully intertwine as they learn that the kingdom of Rashugal has been willfully experimenting with a powerful device that has effectively been draining the mana from the world.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 316 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Tales of Xillia
    Developed by:
    Bandai Namco Games
    Published by:
    Namco Bandai Games, Bandai Namco Games
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Mild Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence