A game that shouldn't be left in any kind of Abyss.
Tales of the Abyss starts its lengthy story off, with you in the shoes of Luke Von Fabre the son of a wealthy noble in the country of Kimlasca-Landveldear. Where he is basically under house arrest until he turns 20. Luke has got an attitude problem, to sum it up. He is most likely one of the most spoiled, arrogant, annoying, and introverted characters you'll ever come across in any game. But you can understand his situation, being locked up in a mansion your whole life, not being able to leave for anything. During one of his sword training exercises with his swordmaster, Van, they are attacked by an unknown young woman who is after Van's life. There, she goes after Luke when he tried to stop her and they cause a hyperresonnace and disappear into the sky.
The story is one of the best points to Tales of the Abyss. It's constantly evolving so you're never really bored with the game. The political aspect of the story is probably one of the better ones in recent years. Final Fantasy XII could probably have learned a thing or two from it. The story is moved along by some very fleshed out and interesting characters. One thing that worked well in Symphonia as well, a cast of characters that made you get attached to them. Who could ever forget Guy and his girl phobia? Or Jade and his sarcastic, yet witty, comebacks? Or Anise and her attempts to marry into nobility to get cash? Each character is very memorable and will make you want to complete the game to see what happens to them afterward.
There are times in the story where you pretty much do nothing but run from place to place watching story events though. This can be kind of boring at times, as you aren't really doing all that much. But luckily the story is so intriguing that you shouldn't feel bored while watching the events play out. The backtracking is VERY high though. So if you aren't a fan of backtracking to old areas or town, then you may want to avoid Tales of the Abyss.
The dungeons aren't as satisfying as other Tales of games either. In most dungeon like areas, you don't spend more than maybe 10-15 minutes walking through them, with not much challenge to get past the puzzles. There are a couple exceptions, but for the most part, dungeons in Abyss are pretty mediocre. They just kinda leave you with a feeling of, "Wait...did I just go through that whole area and not really have to do much besides fight a couple times?"
The combat system is pretty much like most of the other Tales of games. You control one character, unless you have friends who will play with you and control, up to, the other 3, and fight in real time battles. Like the other Tales of games, there are special attacks each character can use, in this case Artes, that you can combo together to do massive damage. The one major difference in Tales of the Abyss though, is the Field of Fonons that appear on the battlefield after an elemental attack is used. A Field of Fonons is a circular area that forms on the field after an elemental attack, like Ground Dasher, is used. These fields, when powered up enough, will allow a character to use a Field of Fonon Change attack. Depending on the Arte used, a different, more powerful, elemental attack will be used. For example, if there is a Wind Field of Fonons in an area and Luke uses Fang Blade in it, the attack will be powered up to Lightning Tiger Blade.
The Field of Fonons is an intersting, yet confusing at first, system that can change the tide of a battle. There are also more powerful attacks that can be used using Fields of Fonons. Such as Mystic Artes or Arcane Arts. Again, each of these requires a certain Field of Fonons in order for the attack to be unleashed.
Also, as with other Tales of games, after a battle is done, you have the option of cooking something to replenish HP/TP. Depending on the recipe you have equipped, and to what character, a different dish can be made each time with different status results. There are also Titles to give each character as the game progresses, though they don't seem to affect stats like they did in Symphonia. The GRADE system is also back for the New Game + feature. So if you want to play through Abyss again, just with 1/2 HP or gaining 10X the experience from each battle, you can. The Sorcerer's Ring is also here again, but this time it's on a small, but outrageously cute, creature named Mieu. The Ring has two main function, it allows Mieu to breathe Fire or Ram his head into an object and break it. Not too many functions, but they are key to getting through dungeons.
The graphics are very pretty and anime-ish. The facial expressions are quite detailed and give you insight as to what each character is thinking if they aren't saying anything. The character models are quite detailed and the environments are all pretty well designed to make each one unique and interesting to look at. The spell and attack animations are also very pretty, though they can make battles a bit too clustered sometimes and you can't see what's going on.
The sound is on par with the graphics. It doesn't really try to overwhelm you, but it doesn't hold back either. The soundtrack basically does what it's suppose to do, make you get into the game more without trying to sound over dramatic or just annoying.
When you finally reach the end of Abyss, you probably won't really believe you reached the end. As it always seems like there is more story to tell (which really there is, sequel Namco?). If you like an RPG with an immersive story, memorable characters, and a fun battle system, then Tales of the Abyss is a sure buy.