Eugene: I had previously heard of the “Tales of…” games before, all of them were critically acclaimed from a gameplay and a story standpoint. After playing Xillia, I feel that much of the acclaim is well deserved. The game follows two characters (new for a Tales game): the medical student Jude Mathis and the mysterious woman Milla, and her unseen companions. Their paths cross when infiltrating a military building, where they come across an experiment that will drain the world of its mana. The characters set off in order to stop that from happening.
Amy: Meanwhile, I had heard little to nothing about the series. I was going in completely blind, and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. The story is the real strength of this game, and it shows in the attention given to fleshing out the characters in your party. This game lets you follow the story as either of the main characters, and I chose to play Milla. I think one of the real strengths of playing her is what the game does right at the beginning, where you can feel how powerful she is, and then watch it be taken away.
Eugene: I started as Jude, where the story takes the front seat as opposed to the power of Milla. Starting with Jude starts players before Milla’s story, and gives more background to the character itself. While Jude may not be as powerful and is more of a healing character as opposed to high damage, his character has more of a transition throughout the game and has more development as the story goes on.
Amy: While the story of Xillia is strong, where I struggled most was the combat system. It’s very similar to the system from other Tales games. Playing through the battles unlocks more powers through the Lillium Sphere, which gives you points to spend every time you level up. Spells are mapped to the different analog stick directions, and by hitting the circle button in conjunction, you can cast a variety of things. Furthermore, holding down the circle button lets you cast a more powerful spell, though it’s more easily interrupted. This just turned most of my battles, which I found rather fast-paced, into button mashing extravaganzas. Especially because finishing battles in shorter times gets you extra experience.
Eugene: The battle system of Xillia is real time battle. Players who have played any of the previous Tales games, or any of the games in the Star Ocean series will feel right at home. While the battles are very repetitive and similar to each other, the system itself is very smooth. It does take some getting used too, but there are tutorials that help explain the difference between holding buttons and pressing buttons. The game allows players to control which ever character they want to control in the party, so there are many chances to play as different battle styles and different roles through fights. For those players don’t control, you can set their actions based on their health and mana. For example, players can make the AI partners use health items when a character falls below 20% health, or 75% health.Amy: A new addition this time is the linking system, which allows you to combine your spells with the spells of other characters. By using certain spells, you build up a meter that builds up to some of the linked attacks. Pairing up with different characters brings with it different abilities, and a linked partner will have special attacks that can help you out, such as a heal from Jude or a guard break from Alvin. This can help against some of the more difficult enemies, which may have elemental strengths or strong guards that need to be countered.
Eugene: Like all JRPG games, there is a stereotype of being very artsy and pretty. Xillia is no different from the stereotype. All of the scenery is beautifully crafted and inviting. Characters are atheistically pleasing and also nice to look at. One thing that this game does that most games these days don’t is they pay attention to the equipment that the characters have. Every equipment item actually changes the look of the character. Wether it’s a new weapon, a cool set of armor, or a cute plush dragon that clings to your arm: Xillia allows for a lot of unique ways to change the look of your characters.
Amy: Another little cool detail is the side conversations that you can trigger as you wander through the overworld. They’re great ways to flesh out the characters, and some are more story related than others. They’re presented in comic panel style, with each character speaking from their own slot. And most of the cutscenes are fully animated, which is a style shift from the rest of the game, but its very beautiful to behold.Eugene: The audio is also fantastic. Each musical track from any city, overworld, or battle really accents the feeling of the place or area you are in. From a noble kingdom or a quiet farm town, each area has their own personality and their own character.
Amy: I loved the music, as it adds a lot to the game. In addition, the characters are fully voiced, even in the overworld side conversations, which you should be listening to whenever the option is available. It adds so much to your understanding of the characters. I really wish I had realized that option was available sooner.