Continuing on from my last blog post a bit similarly that I continued on in my gaming life, next up it's Tales of Xillia. I actually bought Xillia before Graces f, but didn't get around to playing it in a long time (mostly due to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, I think) so I had ample time to purchase Graces f and start with it before I even remembered I had Xillia too in my shelf. Looking back at it now, I'm glad I played the games in this order, since I probably would have been bored with Graces f after having grown accustomed to Xillia's battle system. This way, I managed to get completely flabbergasted by the fighting in Xillia after the logic I managed to find in Graces f...
Anyway, to get to the root of the matter. In Xillia, it is possible to choose between two main characters, Jude and Milla. Jude is a medical student in the capital city of Rashugal, a militant nation constantly squabbling over something or the other with the second nation in the world of Rieze Maxia. Milla is a spirit-made-flesh, a dashing young woman claiming to be the Lord of Spirits, who has taken a human form in order to get a better understanding of the relations between spirits and humans. I chose to play with Jude as my main character, probably because I had just finished Graces f and wanted to see how the male character differs from Asbel, whom you cannot not choose. And the conclusion is, not so much.
While Asbel is motivated by growing stronger to be able to protect everyone, Jude is motivated by his desire to help everyone he ever meets. He is a nai'ive, good-natured medical student who accidentally comes in contact with the Lord of Spirits, finds her in trouble, and decides to tag along, simplistically put. If looked at in a more detailed way, the initial contact with Jude and Milla happens through common goal - both want to get into a sealed laboratory, though both have their own reasons for doing so. Presented a way in with the help of Milla's powers, Jude can do nothing but follow, even if he has no idea who this strange woman is or whatever awaits him inside the lab. Long story short, things don't progress as well as they should, with Milla rendered nigh powerless, Jude proclaimed an enemy of state and a money-lusting mercenary aiding their escape, Jude latches on to the next best thing and decides to start helping Milla on her mission. Milla, on the other hand, is very strong-willed and charismatic person, and although her desire to understand humans is the main source of humour throughout the game, she is the one who pulls everyone around them forward.
The story has the pair and their companions run around the length of Rieze Maxia, only to return back where they started from and some more. The good part of the game is that it allows you to instantly travel to locations you've already visited already in the beginning, so it shortens the amount of running when you need to go back to the same places. In comparison to Graces f, the running around is somewhat more pleasant in Xillia, as almost every single stretch of road or dungeon is organized into three map-changes or less, so it is possible to get forward quickly enough. The scenery is nice enough and varies a lot, although for some reason I would have wanted there to be more of it - don't understand why, as I was at times bored with just moving from one place to another and then onward again - there didn't seem always to be a point to some of the places you had to go to, especially in the beginning.
Similarly as in Graces f, the plot thickens at some point and you're once again required to save the world or two. Interestingly, Xillia doesn't have an actual main bad guy, as the attention from one evil dude changes immediately to the next evil-ish dude and at the same time it becomes clear that the first evil dude maybe wasn't so evil after all, or something like that. And in the end, the main fight is between people with differing opinions on how things should be handled, really.
In terms of fighting, the battle system in Xillia differs a lot from Graces f. First of all, it is possible for you to play as any character, just like before, and change it in a similar manner as in Graces f. You again have four characters on the field, but you can also change the characters on the field and in the reserve during the battle, unlike in Graces f. One of the most important differences is the character linking, which means that you can link two characters with each other, enabling the other to use their special trick on enemies and allowing you to perform powerful duo-attacks, based on the types of artes you both know. You have normal attacks, arte attacks and skills that are selected with skill points in the menu and are thus equipped all the time. In the beginning you can choose only eight artes to use in the battle, but soon enough it becomes possible to choose twice the amount, making it a matter of headache to remember which button combination yield which arte.
The battle movement is similar to Graces f, the only difference is that there is also the possibility of free run, which breaks the linearity of movement a little. And after progressing a little in the game, you also acquire a powerful special attack, which adds a little serenity to the otherwise a tad confusing battle scene. Having now finished both games I can say that I like the battle system in Xillia better, although it was very confusing and seemed illogical in the beginning - but it is nice to be able to use the other members of the party a bit more comprehensively and at least you also need to use different artes at times, if you want to make the duo-attacks happen.
Apart from that, there are also differences in character development. While in Graces f you had the titles you got to learn skills from, in Xillia you have a point development system, where you can buy advancements and learn skills and artes whenever you complete a rectangle. For me, this is a bit like going backwards from FFX-2 to FFX - while I liked both games enormously, I still liked the character development in the second game better. Also, in Xillia you can no longer cook, the sidequests are not conveniently found at inns but are scattered around the world, which sometimes makes reporting back a pain, if you've managed to forget exactly where the quest giver was standing at the time you took on the mission... On the other hand, you can develop the shops to have more items in them and can find all of the items in all of the shops around the worlds (!) which is convenient.
To sum it all up, both Tales series games I've played so far were a good gaming experience for me. Maybe they weren't as great as I remember the best games having been (FFX and FFX-2, P3) but they weren't as boring either as some of those I've trundled through (I actually still haven't finished Rogue Galaxy... talk about running around pointlessly), but entertaining nonetheless. Maybe a little depth for the plot, more story-wise development for characters and variation to the general running around, and the games could have earned a little higher mark in my eyes. But nevertheless, I do think I might get some more games of the same series later on. Now though, my next rpg project is Ni no Kuni: the Wrath of the White Witch, so I won't probably need new games in a while.