Review by Careful_Crab
Far and away the best RPG I've played in years
Sometimes, after a string of average to bad gaming sessions, I wonder why I even bother playing games. When you await that awesome game release and it's less than what you expected, or a hyped game that isn't to your liking. Then a game like Tales of the Abyss comes along and reminds me why I love video games. Put simply, I play games to experience masterpiece titles like this.
An RPG really needs a decent back-story and characters, and this game has both in spades. What's interesting about Tales of the Abyss is it doesn't seem to be great at first glance. You play as the spoiled brat Luke Fon Fabre, stuck in his mansion ever since he was kidnapped as a kid and lost his memories. He knows nothing of the outside world, being stuck in his mansion. That all changes when an assassin tries to murder someone in the mansion, and due to a clash between their fonons, Luke is teleported out of the mansion into his neighboring countries land, and the political situation is tense with war on the verge of breaking out. Here starts an incredible adventure full of surprises and twists.
What I love about Luke is the fact he knows nothing about the world, so he often asks questions the player is wondering. And the assassin, named Tear, helps him along the way, and while she is quite cold, she opens up and her motivations are explained later. And Luke has the most radical character development, going from pampered brat to someone with a bit more curiosity. You'll also meet more characters on the way, and while you only get a maximum of 6 characters, they're all likeable and well-rounded.
Not to say the game is completely original. There is some classic RPG cliche material here, such as the backstabber and the too-tough guy. What keeps things interesting is how they aren't presented as cliches, merely a part of the bigger picture, and everyone seems to have a motivation for their actions.
And to learn about our interesting cast of characters, there are several skits placed throughout the game. These are times when our characters talk to each other about recent events or something comical. These range from funny to serious, and add a lot of development to the game. Too bad they aren't voiced, but you'll get used to it.
And what is a god-send for me is the characters actually think around situations. Ever get tired of characters that think they know what they're doing and leave the party only to be captured? What about plot points that are very obvious to the player but the characters are too stupid to rub two brain cells together? Thankfully some of these situations are avoided here. Take, for example, our party needs to enter a town to meet a character and the milita is looking for them. After hiding in a wagon to get past the guards, it turns out their contact moved to a different location thanks to the constant town watch. It's situations like these that make the characters think, and seeing how they react to situations is always a joy to watch.
If you're tired of the cookie-cutter characters of other games or want a decent back-story, this is your golden ticket.
--Battle System/Gameplay-- 10/10
A multiplayer RPG. Too good to be true, right? Except that's what this game has, and it rocks.
But let's get to the basics first. You're locked on a 2D plane with your enemy, and with a touch of a button can roam around in 3D. You attack, defend, use artes (skills/magic) to defeat your opponent. Much like other action RPG games, really. The action is fast and furious, with lots of attacking and special moves that sound funny (Lightning Tiger Blade!). It's an absolute blast, especially with boss battles, which are tough and take lots of strategy to win. And the real draw here is the battles are multiplayer! Up for four people can join all at once, and the action can be just intense when you have everyone working together.
My only complaint would have been the difficulty being a little easy, but you can change that in the options menu. Nice.
There are a lot of options to fiddle with too. Capacity cores let you alter your stats at level ups, so if you want to increase your attack or focus on defense, you can do that. Skills let you take certain liberties in battle (such as moving after casting a spell, or recovering HP if you hit the ground).
And for the completists out there, there are lots of side quests and bonuses for multiple playthroughs. Trying to beat the game on it's highest difficulty setting can be quite challenging, and the side quests can be both puzzling and extremely rewarding.
This game plays great. Period.
No doubt about it; this is a nice looking game. It doesn't matter if you're crossing the desert or getting mauled by a spell, the game looks great. Special effects and magics look great, and feel powerful when they hit their target. Outside of battle the water ripples gently and loose items can be found everywhere. The game seems to be using an almost cel-shaded almost realistic game engine, and it looks fantastic. What I really like is the animation and the real-time facial expressions on the character, which help enhance the situations are characters are faced with and it sucks you in. Speaking of characters, I love their design, and hopefully we'll get to see more of this talent.
This does come at a cost, however; the load times between cutscenes and stages can be a bit long, which can be irksome.
The biggest offender is the overworld. Yes, it looks good and is fun to explore, but the game's framerate can't keep up sometimes, and battles on the main field take a good while to load.
The game looks great. Would have scored a ten if not of a slightly annoying overworld.
The sound effects are equally impressive, boasting a large range of excellent sounds that are quite pleasant to the ear (especially the menu screens). Less impressive is the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong; it is great, but falls short of excellent. I'd say it's above average and better than most video game soundtracks I've heard, and is varied enough to fit any situation.
My real fascination in the sound area is the voice acting, which is nothing short of superb. You won't find a lemon of any voices in the main cast, and everyone delivers their lines with just the right amount of drama. It annoys me to no end when characters are over reactive, but the voice actors give every line exactly the right tone. The only minor gripe is the more minor, extra roles, and even then it's not too bad.
The voice acting soars above anything else and earns a 10 from me.
Tales of the Abyss has it all. For someone like me who's tired of the cliche ridden characters and boring story, this was a lifesaver. Graphic junkies and the musically inclined will love this game too. This game is worth every penny you spend on it, and I couldn't end this review without saying this; I usually don't give games a 10 score, but this game really deserves it, and it gets my highest recommendation. Go play it.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Tales of the Abyss (US, 10/10/06)
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