Review: Tales of the Abyss (3DS)

Starting off this review by saying this is the most fun I’ve had playing a RPG that I also thought was dragging on too long.  How did this conclusion come about?  Let’s start by first diving into the people that make up Tales of the Abyss.  The central character (for 95% of the time) is Luke.  He evolves from a whinny brat that you want to choke to someone who truly understands sacrifice by the end.  The other three characters that revolve around Luke are Tear, Guy, and Jade.  Tear is female for obvious but unstated reasons, Guy is Luke’s childhood friend, and Jade is the cold stone of reason for the party.  The development of relationships between the four is really good and Jade’s comments throughout the game keep you awake during some of the longer scenes.  On the other side you have Luke’s “twin”, Asch, whose dialogue and scenes with Luke was so cute and hilarious to me!  There’s also his mentor, Van, who is an important piece of the story.  It surprised me how well Van’s image and actions were thought-out through the game. Van and the God Generals round out most of the other important plot pieces in TOA.  The depth of 3D in the top 3DS screen makes foreground dialogue with background characters during storytelling more pleasant.  The music does a good job of capturing emotions during cut scenes, heightened moments, and environments.  Outside of the story drivers, the world of Auldrant is a vast ranging place to explore with plenty of extra quests.

From icy mountains to windy deserts, you can expect every type of terrain in the game.  As the story progresses, new vehicles are made available to your party and side quests appear on the map. The types of enemies the cast encounters are randomly listed but visual on the active world map.  Battles are handled in real-time and you can control the path your character moves in a 3D angle with the right shoulder button.  You select the party lead and what level of manual/AI control you will have over him/her.  Artes are listed on your battle command section of the main menu and you choose which will be active and which are on the Quick List.  The main source of special abilities in the game is called Fonons, which has a complicated explanation but it’s just a source of Mana.  There is also the usual RPG stats of HP/TP which control your Health/Artes (For Magic/Melee) respectively.  Each character can equip Capacity Cores to enhance abilities and Fonon Slots to enhance Fonon Artes.  Besides Battle Commands, you can view other sections such as Items, Equipment, previous locations of towns/dungeons, etc. from the main menu.   Additionally, TOA also shares other features from previous titles such as the Sorcerer’s Ring, Cooking, and the GRADE system.  Just to note here that I found the dungeons were not terribly long and had a great length to them.  In a lot of ways, the story and battle system allowed the game to have some great times.  Unfortunately, this is where we start getting into some factors that didn’t work in TOA‘s favor.

The biggest complaint would be about the game’s length.  Someone pointed out that the story was like “A good night that had run too long”.  I didn’t agree initially but I can understand some of the frustration.  The story hits its peak and then instead of the final conclusion pivot… it went on… and on… and on.  I was like ‘WHEN IS THIS?!JDFD! gonna end??’.  You had connected with the characters, ran all over the world, and were ready to be done after 40-45 hours!  Not sure why the developers decided to drag this out to a 60 hour title.  They really need to get better about pacing and filler… anyway.  The second most irritating complaint would be the loading times.  The cut scenes and battles sometimes took a while to load up.  It was a living pain sometimes if you died in a previous battle.  A third issue is with the way it was implemented on 3DS.  Outside of changing the fore/grounds, I didn’t see the 3DS being utilized much outside of that.  It could have been a DS title (if the hardware was powerful enough).  The last complaint would be that I didn’t like how you had to hold down the shoulder button on the 3DS to move your character around the battle field in 3D directions.  This was really annoying and cramped my poor finger in the longer battles.  Despite all of that, I am grateful they released TOA on the 3DS.  This is not because I don’t already own a PS2 but the benefits of it being a portable title in general.

This game is a good title to play when visiting others or late at night for a few hours before bed.  Yes, it was dragged out too long and had some annoying features, but it was one of the few well featured 3DS RPGs I’ve had a chance to try out.  The characters develop very well and the dialogue was funny and nicely voiced throughout the storyline.  It’s usually a good story and/or battle system that keeps everyone playing RPGs.  In the end, it was the story that led me to finish Tales of the Abyss.  I give it a high B rating.

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