Review by methedemon

"If you liked Symphonia, you will love this one."

Story- When people buy an RPG they expect a great story, interesting characters and good gameplay. Some RPGs have those qualities but need some time to show them. This is the case with Tales of the abyss, the game starts very slow with the main character being extremely boring. His name is Luke, he is the son of a royal family. His parents have kept him in the castle for the last seven years, because they are worried about him. Something has happened to him when he was a kid, and has lost his childhood memories. One day a woman comes to the castle trying to kill Luke's mentor, in the process Luke and the woman wound up in some place far from his castle. Now they woman promises him to bring him back to his family. The story may seem very boring and cliched at first but if you keep playing you will see how it turns out to be one of the best stories in the series.

Gameplay- Tales of the abyss has a very unique battle system. You will be very familiar with it if you played TOS. Battles are played in real time, you control only one character (Luke) while the AI controls the others. You can set strategies on how you want the AI to play. During a battle, you use the X button and the O button to perform normal and special attacks. You can use the left analog stick to make different combos. The magic in this game is presented as artes. As you level up your characters learn new skills and artes to use in battles. A major improvements in the battle system is the ability to freely move in different directions. In Tales of symphonia you could move in a straight line only, making it hard to dodge attacks. This time around you can dodge attacks, and take advantage by attacking enemies from behind.

Battles can get chaotic at times, because you will have 5 or 6 characters fighting at the same time on the screen. But the fun part is you don't have to worry about other characters . The AI plays a major part in the game and thankfully it is intelligent. Your allies will actually hold their own and help more often than not, but you may have to revive one of them in tough boss battles.

What is an RPG without dungeons and cities? Tales of the abyss has a lot of these. Cities and towns are usually big and filled with all kinds of different shops. You can buy and sell weapons, trade items and rest in Inns. There are tons of weapons, armors, and items to power up your characters, but money is scarce so you can't just buy good equipments to every character. Dungeons are usually long and not very linear, with some simple puzzles. Also the game requires you to backtrack a lot, but thanks to the no random battles it never feels too frustrating.

So what are the flaws? Two words: load times. The game loads after every battle, and each time you enter a new room/area it loads. The load times are not long but very frequent. The other major flaw is also a technical one: Slowdown. You will experience lots of slowdowns especially while traveling on the over world map.

Graphics- The graphics are a mixed bag. The in game visuals are nice and very polished. Cities and towns are colorful and really pretty. Now the over world map graphics are simply terrible, there is absolutely no effort. The map is just a green background with blocky structures. The battles graphics are not so good either, mainly the backgrounds. Every now and then you will be treated with an anime-style cut scene. Those cut scenes are stunning, I wish there were more of them.

Value- This is a pretty long game, I would say around 50 hours for an average gamer on normal difficulty level. The replay value? High, very high. There are tons of side quests and special bosses/dungeons and combine that with the grade system and you get at least two play throughs out of it.

Overall- This game exceeded my expectations. When I bought it, I was expecting an average RPG nothing more. But it turned out to be my favorite RPG this year. The story is semi-cliche but the battle system is fun fun fun you won't even care.

Final score- 10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/04/06

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