Monday, October 23, 2017

Tales of the Abyss (3DS)


Tales of the Abyss on the 3DS is a port of the PS2 game, with no extras except for the 3D effect.  The 3D effect itself is fairly weak but is still immersive once you've played it for a while.  There are several traditionally animated cutscenes which are played in 2D, and thanks to the fantastic art style, even though it's a PS2 port, the game looks really good.  The only thing letting it down is the low resolution of the 3DS screen which means that character models are heavily pixilated and hard to make out any sort of detail when the camera is zoomed out.  The game is voiced in English and the majority of the dialogue is voiced.  However, Skits, which are short optional scenes shown using character portraits, are not voiced.  It isn't so bad except for the fact that they were voiced in the Japanese version and thus you cannot manually advance the dialogue, you have to wait in silence until the dialogue automatically advances.  The battle system is called the Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System.  You control one character while the AI controls the other three.  You can perform physical attacks, Artes (which are placed in a shortcut which involves a direction of the circle pad plus a button, and you can assign four to the touchscreen, for a total of eight) and block.

A unique feature in this game is Field of Change areas which appear as highlighted circles on the battlefield.  If you use an attack corresponding to its element within them, it'll change your attack into a more powerful version.  You can freely run around the battlefield and change targets in this fast-paced action oriented battle system.  Each character can go into Overlimit which prevents staggering, reduces damage and allows the use of Mystic Artes (the ultimate attack for the character).  It is a solid battle system overall and doesn't get boring even in the late stages of the game.  There's a bit of customizing going into each character, as you can equip Chambers to Artes for additional effects such as increased knockback and heavier damage.  Then there are Capacity Cores which gives additional boosts to certain stats when that character levels up.  While the game is linear, there are various points in the story where it gives you the freedom to explore the world.  There is a world map, as well as typical towns and dungeons.  The game has a fixed camera in dungeons and towns, while on the work map, you can freely rotate the camera using the shoulder buttons.

There are no random encounters as the monsters are on the screen, or spawn near you on the world map, giving you a chance to not engage them.  It's a bit more annoying on the world map though as enemies spawn frequently and more likely than not, they run faster than you so you cannot avoid them.  Most of the dungeons are short but filled with typical annoying JRPG "puzzles" involving switches and backtracking.  As each dungeon is separated in various screens/areas, it's good that not all monsters respawn when you return to an area.  As a result of the relatively short dungeons, you will be moving through multiple towns and dungeons in quick succession from the very beginning of the game.  Despite that, the story is extremely slow to start, and takes a long while before it actually becomes good.  You control Luke, who himself is unlikable at the start since he is rude to everyone thanks to his sheltered life up until now.  He starts changing over the course of the story but still isn't too likeable as you will find him annoying for different reasons.  Eventually, an even more stubborn character shows up, but otherwise, the rest of the cast are strong.

The chemistry between the party members is fantastic and is one of the game's strongest points.  It is littered with funny dialogue although sometimes there will be a serious scene followed by a cheesy or funny one, which can clash against each other.  The plot begins with Luke, who one day while training with his Master Van, is warped with a mysterious woman named Tear outside of the castle he lived in.  He ends up travelling around the world in order to return to his home and of course, gathers up a party and ends up saving the world.  The world is special in that there is something called the Score, which is a sort of prophecy but in much more detail.  It is a religion but the difference is that what is written in the Score actually happens and people live their lives according to it.  It explores the theme of predetermined fate and trying to escape from it.  As mentioned, the beginning is slow but it picks up pace after the first 10-20 hours.  This is because the game infodumps a lot of specific terms and concepts about this particular world that takes a bit of time to fully sink in.  Afterwards, while there are still detours to the main plot like all JRPGs, it tells an engaging story and you grow to like the characters.

Thanks to the character development, there are many scenes where it takes a turn to the emotional.  These are the best moments of the game, and as the characters come to understand greater things, so too are their scenes more memorable.  The ending was typical and it doesn't try to throw in any massive twists, but it works well.  Most of the story is told via cutscenes using the in-game engine, but there will often be animated cutscenes, which, to be honest, looks worse than the rendered scenes as the animated cutscenes are blurry due to the low resolution of the screen.  Couple all this with decent music such as the world map theme, and catchy battle themes and you have a solid game.  The game is long, if you use a walkthrough, then it is beatable within 40 hours.  However, play it blind and it'll take you 50-70 hours.  Afterwards, there is a New Game Plus with a new dungeon, a few new moves and the Grade Shop which provides bonuses to gameplay.  Overall, Tales of the Abyss is a hidden striker.  It seems to bide its time and hooks you when you least expect it.  Persist through the beginnings and while nothing in the game is revolutionary, it does everything well from the battle system to the story, that it's a satisfying game to complete.

-----------------------------------------------------

For other game reviews, have a look at this page.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blogger Widget