So currently I’m in the middle of Chapter Four on Milla’s story in Tales of Xillia on my first playthrough (haven’t played Jude’s story yet) and here’s how the experience has been for me so far.
The graphics are amazing and the anime cutscenes are very well rendered as well. Tales of Xillia ditched the cartoony graphics of its predecessors in favour of more realistic 3D sprites and environments; a very good improvements I’d say. The detail on the characters, monsters and environment are beautiful.
The music of Tales of Xillia is epic. The town, dungeon and world music each capture the feel of the environment, be it haunting, dreary, lively and even sorrowful. Sadly, the battle music isn’t as well done but still bearable.
Now that my party is at maximum level, combat feels more enjoyable due to having more artes to combo and link with. However, it still feels restricted compared to previous Tales games. At maximum level with all AC skills equipped, your character only has 7 AC (and if you equip the accessory Exceed which adds 2 AC, that is a maximum achievable AC of 9). Compare this to Tales of Graces f where my characters had around 24 to 28 AC. Lack of AC makes it harder to string together long combos; my combo count rarely hits 5 in Tales of Xillia unless I’m in a boss battle.
Unfortunately, Tales of Xillia seems to have taken a step back in party combat AI. Party members controlled by CPU tend to ignore whatever strategy you set for them and often times stand around getting hit. Their reaction time is slow and when a battle starts, it takes them like 4 to 5 seconds to start moving. This is even worse if you link with party members. If you link and cast a spirit arte at a distance, your link partner will just stand idly next to you without engaging the enemy.
As fas as shops and equipment progression goes, Tales of Xillia has one of the most grind-worthy systems I’ve ever seen. To buy new items and equipment from shops, you have to donate materials or gald to them to level their shop expansion. The sheer amount of materials needed just to progress from level one to twenty will take you close to ten hours of constant farming. And you can’t completely ignore this part of the game either, as it is the only way to buy better weapons and armour. While farming is part and parcel of every RPG, the amount of farming the game forces you to do also has a side effect of overlevelling your party. By the time you unlock level 10 equipment, you could already be level 30+, and this leads to steamrolling through the next few bosses. Since most battles will end in less than five seconds when you’re overlevelled, combat is no longer fun and becomes a chore.
Skits in Tales of Xillia aren’t as fun to watch as in previous Tales games because most of them are serious and lack comedy. While this coincides with the story and atmosphere of Xillia, it somehow detracts from the overall experience and you no longer get as excited whenever you uncover a new skit.
I still have one and a half chapters to go, and the bonus dungeon as well. Hopefully things will pick up in the final chapter.