A rarity in the JRPG genre, with a stable story and innovative game-play.
The main character, Luke Fon Fabre, Male, 17 years of age, and a narcissistic Noble that is in love with his teacher, "Master" Van.(*Not True, but really close) Joking aside, he really is a jerk, as this trait is shown in multiple scenes at the beginning of the game. Albeit, he is an amnesiac adolescence who was kidnapped 7 years beforehand, most likely suffering of traumatic experiences, you'd believe he'd have the right to be this much of a pansy. *cough* You be the judge. In any case, during one peaceful afternoon, as master Fabre contemplates the sky, his estate gets a visit by said teacher, Van Grants, who is of high status as the Commandant of Oracle Knights in the sect "Order of Lorelei". He comes in to speak matters with the Fabre family, but as soon as he is about to depart, he is attacked by a woman named Tear. Luke noticing his Master about to be assaulted, he intervenes with said woman and they resonate and teleport into an open valley, miles away from their original location.
*Of course, you can tell because of said teleportation magic, that a sort of force is involved in the game, and that is called Fonons, a basis for the universe's existence. Split into 7 different categories, these "fonons" are the elements themselves: Darkness, Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Light, and Sound (Sound being an extra special case because of it's rarity in people). The setting is the world of Auldrant, and what makes this unique compared to all the other "Tales" planets, is that everything that inhabits said world is pre-destined. This is caused by the "Planetary Score", a prophecy of sorts that has never been wrong in the entirety of it's existence. This is a driving factor in the story as major events relate to this concept, a person's future, advantages in disputes of world leaders, contrasting perspectives in the reliance of said score, so on and so forth. The main point is that this one specific ideal directs everyone's decisions in life, whether good or bad.
As Luke and Tear put aside their hostilities of their initial meeting, they attempt to travel back to Luke's home all the while meeting new characters, discovering the tensions between nations, and figuring out that the Score has predicted Auldrant's destruction, as a simple journey home is turned into a life-changing epic to save the world.
Traditionally, the game has it's similarities to it's previous names, moving town to town, talking to people and obtaining quests for certain items to help you on the main objectives. A problem though is that there are certain times where it was difficult for me to locate the next town/dungeon I was supposed to be heading towards to. Some directions are very unclear, leading to much exploring around the open-world, leading to wasted time.
With the art style, character's are rendered as if they are in an anime itself, creating a sense of story, as facial expressions are clear, making a character's action very life-like and less staggering as to CGI scenes of games at the time. A recurring feature such as Skits are implemented again, which helps deepen the bonds a player can sense between involved characters, whether for comedic purposes or simple dramatization.
The combat system is where the game truly shines. As "Tales" games are known for the unique concept of multi-play in their games, though the genre is of an RPG, a person with 3 extra controllers can local-play with others as different characters in the battlefield. With Tales of Symphonia being the first the implement the multi-linear 3D game-play, Tales of Abyss adds onto it's predecessor, improving the maneuverability greatly, and with the new "Free Run" ability, players can freely run in any direction they choose. This however comes with a catch, the game itself doesn't implement certain configurations until you reach major points in the story. This is very large smudge to a somewhat spotless game, as the ability to "Free-Run" isn't unlocked until you reach a certain level of the character. Another example is, to change the character on the open-world, you would need to obtain a Flag in a beginning forest, and most importantly, you'll be unable to play manually with others until you beat the first boss of the game. Just some elements that annoyed me that if I wanted to play the game with a friend at the beginning, I'd have to go 1-2 hours into the game beforehand to unlock said manual play.
The combat system has a familiar feel to past "Tales" games, as some moves are related back to other predecessors, with the classical skills and spells based on certain elements, in this case fonans. Additionally the concept of "Field of Fonons"(or FOF) is introduced. If a character uses an arte based on a specific fonan, a circle based on the fonan will appear on the ground of said character. As the color of the circle gets brighter, this will notify that an FOF change is available. As a character stands in the circle and performs a certain skill based on the color of said circle, a stronger version of the skill is released. Another new feature is "Capacity Cores" which are items that provide bonuses in certain stats as a character levels up. A previous element from past games, "Over Limit" is also a part of the game. This provides the characters use of their Mystic Artes (Hi-Ougis), special skills that can deal the highest of damages and can only be used when the character is in Over Limit and performs a High Fonic Arte.
A story that truly is unique contrasting to it's predecessors, with elements such as loss of innocence, a journey that leads to growth as an individual, a political meltdown that could spark a war, and to top it all, a world that completely predestined itself for destruction. Though I will say it was a bit of a slow start, it definitely hits the right parts mid-game all the way towards the end. Same thing with the game-play, initially very slow, being unable to do major actions that should have been available from the start, yet as you unlock said actions, you grow as a player with the story, and really experience the game at it's fullest. To able to play with other people during battle as the cherry on top, a rarity amongst JRPGs, giving many chances of re-playability, as a "New Game+" leads to extra content that would never be unlocked on your first play-through, adding even more hours of game-play. All in all, a fantastic game to play and own, very innovative and a breath of fresh air to any RPG fan!