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