Review by thecrobar
"A great game that gets dragged down by little flaws."
Tales of Vesperia
Tales of Vesperia is the most recent title in the long running Tales of franchise. The franchise has long been known for providing long, substantial action RPGs that mixed up their respective combat systems with each generation. Tales of Vesperia continues that trend with fun, if slightly flawed, gameplay.
The story of the game will be the main draw for most people. The main character, and then you'll most likely control throughout the game, is Yuri Lowell. Yuri is a swordsman and former member of the Imperial Knights (Think military) who became disillusioned with the organization after his brief stint working for them. The game's plot begins with him setting off to retrieve a stolen Blastia (a buzzword you'll hear many times throughout the game), a magical stone that provides water for the poor section of the Imperial Capital he lives in.
The story launches from there are gets ever gander as the plot moves on. The story is split into three distinct parts, each one taking roughly 15-20 hours to complete. The plot itself, like with most Tales games, eventually becomes much bigger then when it starts out as you gain new party members from different factions around the world and delve into politics between the Empire and the rival Guilds, the great war that took place ten years prior to the events of the game, and various myths and legends that might not actually be all that false.
The plot is interesting enough to keep you going, but it is fairly cliche and predictable. If you've ever played a JRPG before you can probably guess most of the major plot points before they happen. Thankfully, the main party is perhaps the best in recent memory. None of the characters feel like a third wheel that was only inserted to cover some missed archetype. There is some pretty great characterization as the game goes on, and characters develop quite a bit by the end of the game when compared to their early game selves. A major negative is the lack of any real interesting villains. There is really only one of the many minor villains that comes off as any more than your typical I want to be powerful because I am evil sort of personalities.
The gameplay is polished and well thought out, though it isn't amazing. It moves in your fairly typical town-dungeon-plot development-new town style, but the objectives are kept varied enough so that it doesn't feel like each area exists solely for you to solve puzzles in. The puzzles themselves are easy affairs that will be similar o anyone who has ever played a videogame ever, but they don't overdo it and there are a few interesting sections.
Combat is really the highlight of the game. Your moves are split between basic combos and artes, and can be combed into each other depending on certain skills (more on that in a second) that you have set before hand. The artes are fun to use and quite varied, as are the characters themselves. Each of the seven playable characters is a valid choice to use in combat, and each plays differently from one another.
Skills are set before battle, and can really change how the game is played. Each weapon on the game comes pre-equipped with skills, and using the weapon enough will allow you to learn them and use them yourself. Each skill costs a certain number of points- the better the skill, the more points- and you gain the ability to equip more as you level up. Some of them are passive- like giving you a certain extra percentage of health- and some give you new moves or abilities. Each character can learn different skills throughout the game, and they allow you to customize characters for specific actions, like training Yuri's dog Repede to be amazing at using items or giving the mage character faster casting times while sacrificing power. Skills are fun to mix and match, and they really capture that one more level mentality as you learn more and more of them. The only real downside is that they need to be micromanaged. You earn so many (each character easily has over a hundred) that you need to constantly swap skills as the games AI auto-equips them whenever you gain new ones.
Weapons are gained through an item creation system that can be done at any shop. To get new weapons, you will need materials dropped by wild monsters. You will also typically need another weapon, as most synthesized weapons are simply different versions of ones you already have that give you new skills. The synthesis system is fairly straightforward, but it can be easy to lose track of what weapons need to be synthesized into what and so forth. It's especially bad for certain weapons, where you'll end up needing numerous copies of weapons to get all of their different forms, sometimes up to 3-4.
The game's presentation is nice, but there's nothing really exceptional about it. The environments are nice, but none of them really take a chance with any of the visual elements. It's all dark caverns or forests and the like, all things you've probably seen before. The music is similarly bland, and other than the theme song lacks any real ear-catching songs. The voice acting is great, but certain characters might get on your nerves after a while thanks to some high pitched voices. (I'm looking at you, Karol). The only real graphical highlight is the game's models, which look fantastic and have a wide range of motions. The only problem with the models is that the game criminally overuses them. I don't mind a re-skin or two when the models look this good, but the game's nearly 400 different enemies are comprised of about 50 different models. Some of them are absolutely ridiculous; there are a couple that are used upwards of twenty times, sometimes using two different re-colors in the same fight. It would have be much nicer to see a smaller number of models that were more varied: halfway through the game, you've basically fought all of the different enemies other than the bosses.
My only other comment about the game has to do with the side-quests. Most of the game's side-quests are timed, meaning that you can only access them at certain parts of the game. While some of them have reasonable triggers, like talking to a certain person in a new town, some of them have insanely specific triggers that no normal person would ever consider doing. A lot of these have to with sleeping at specific inns at certain times, sometimes as many as four times in row. It wouldn't be bad if you were given hints to how to activate these quests, but you aren't given anything what-so-ever. If you want to get everything, you are basically required to use a guide. Really, this is sad because the side-quests themselves are rather entertaining.
Overall, Tales of Vesperia is a great game despite some of the faults it might have. It is overall a very solid and fun experience thanks to the interesting characters and fun combat system. The real negatives of the game are a mix of small issues that, individually, wouldn't make much of a difference in the quality. When combined, they result in a lot of little but very annoying issues that drag the game down and keep it from being really amazing. Tales of Vesperia is a good game if you like JRPGs, but it's not a game that will convince you if you didn't like them in the first place.
-Fun cast of characters that works well together
-Plot that'll keep you interested
-Interesting combat and skill system
-Cliche, if interesting, story
-Terrible Side-quest system
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/03/09
Game Release: Tales of Vesperia (US, 08/26/08)
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