A Second Look At Tales Of Vesperia

By Louise Yang . September 24, 2008 . 11:45pm

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For those who want the condensed version, Tales of Vesperia can be summarized in one simple haiku:

Anime story
doesn’t add much to the game,
but battles kick ass.

 

The long version: Tales of Vesperia has a drab storyline with some very predictable anime archetypes such as the naive goody-two-shoes and the reluctant rebel with a heart of gold, but despite these cliches, it’s very hard to stop playing because the battles are just so satisfying and rewarding.

 

The fact that RPGs with mediocre plots and writing are a dime a dozen these days may turn players off from Tales of Vesperia within the first thirty minutes, but those who persevere will see their perseverance pay off. There’s such a variety in how to deal with enemies in battles that I would be surprised to find someone who isn’t satisfied with fighting in Tales of Vesperia.

 

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The different aspects of battle are slowly introduced to the player through well-paced fights.  Players who have not played a Tales game before may feel overwhelmed by the real-time aspect of fighting, but it only takes a couple of fights to get the basics.

 

While the player can directly control only one character, he has the freedom of choosing which character in the party it is.  I usually like to play the healer or mage class, but I wanted to take advantage of Tales’ battle system so I chose Yuri, the main character, to play through most of the game.  I used him to knock down enemies as well as lure enemies away from my mage and healer characters so that they would have sufficient time to cast their magic.  What I love about this game is that even though I control the melee character, I can still pause the game, go into the Artes (special attacks/spells) menu and issue commands to my magic classes to cast damaging spells on the enemy, or heal an ally.

 

In addition to regular attacks, players can also use Artes to deal more damage and even cast elemental damage.  This may seem trivial at first, but tacking on an Arte attack after a string of combos makes me almost feel like I’m playing a fighting game instead of an RPG — immensely satisfying.

 

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I can go on and on about how great the battle system is or how it took me about 20-something tries to beat a certain boss and I couldn’t tear myself away even then, but I do need to warn readers about the story and characters.  For anyone who has played a a couple of RPGs, the plot will not contain any surprises no matter how many twists the game tries to throw at you.  I can excuse this if there’s good character development, but Tales of Vesperia is lacking in that area as well.  Each character is about as one dimensional as a line.  If it were not for the fact that Estelle was my main healer, I would have loved to leave her behind in the first town.

 

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If it were part of any other series, I would have put this game down a long time ago, but the fact that battles are so engaging in Tales games has prevented me from doing so.  The game does a great job of dangling the carrot of acquiring new skills and Artes in front of you.  While Tales fans will surely enjoy this addition to the series, I can see players new to the series getting into it as well. There’s also free DLC in the form of synthesis ingredients and skills, which may help out new players, but aren’t so useful as soon as players progress pass the second town.

 

Images courtesy of Namco Bandai.


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  • alice

    How does it compare to Infinite Undiscovery which also has a real-time battle system (although different from Tales of Vesperia) but what I think might be a little better than average story?

  • Chris

    Hey, Tales of Vesperia may have the same sort of cliche plot we keep getting from Japanese RPGs, but it executes the cliche better with a better cast than any game in years. It more than clears the admittedly low bar for RPG stories.

    I don’t like Infinite Undiscovery’s battle system. It’s like they had a lot of good ideas but crammed them in so densely they become burdensome. (Then they have stuff come at you so fast all you have time to do is run and frantically hack at stuff). Also, IU’s plot may be slightly less cliche, but the characters are all lifeless stock characters. I’d take Vesperia over Infinite Undiscovery in a second.

  • Al

    While I concur that the overall plot is kind of mediocre, some of the characters are great.
    Yuri is easily one of my favorite RPG protagonists in recent memory. He’s not an annoyingly loud kid, or a “cool” angsty type, or any other typical RPG hero. His mature personality, vigilante tendencies, and overall manner are quite refreshing. I remember one interview with the developers likening him to an RPG Jack Bauer, which seems to be a pretty good comparison. Judith, Rita, and to a lesser extent Raven, are also quite likable in my view.
    I agree that Estelle is lame. However, some of her interactions with Repede and Judith are pretty funny.

  • thaKingRocka

    i absolutely adored grandia II for its battle system. i don’t remember much of anything nowadays about the story, but i still remember the battle system very fondly. i think i’ll give tales a go sometime. thank god it’s region-free.

  • G

    This is a must buy for me… sadly, I must wait for the release (I live in Europe). I’ve seen so much about this “Tales of…” and read so many good things… as an RPG fan, I’ll get it the first day after the release date.
    Thanks Louise.

  • http://www.nakedsushi.net/ Louise

    @alice: I haven’t played Inifinite Undiscovery yet, but from what I’ve seen, upon touching an enemy, Tales goes into a separate battle screen while IU has the player fight enemies on the same screen.

    @Al: I can see Yuri as a Jack Bauer type. I didn’t like him at first, but he slowly started to grow on me.

  • nika

    So far I’ve liked most of the Tales games plots, so I think that won’t be a problem this time either. (mediocre plot or not, as long as it’s not a bad plot I’ll survive)

    and I love your haiku.

  • King of Bandits

    I personally am a fan of the Tales series but since I don’t own a 360 I won’t be playing this one. I tried out Infinite Undiscovery at a friends and did not like it at all, the battle system was OK but if you think Vesperia’s story is weak ten from what I seen you will fall asleep for IU.

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