Review – Tales of Graces f [PS3]

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Playstation 3, Reviews
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The more recent games within the Tales series are instantly recognisable, whether it is from its distinct graphical style, the familiar sounds which comprise each soundtrack to its unique battle system – you always know what you’re getting yourself into. But is that always a good thing? Do you yearn for change in a stale genre format? Thankfully, Tales of Graces f gives you a satisfactory dose of old with the new.

The old comes to you in the recycled story of neighbouring kingdoms not getting along for various reasons but must later join forces as an even bigger evil threatens to destroy the world. As with many RPG’s the main character is annoying as hell as he spouts self-righteousness about how friendship makes the world go round, how trust makes the sun set in the evening and courage makes the sun rise in the morning. Say hello to Asbel Lhant, son of Lord Lhant. In the short phase you play as Asbel as a child he’s a reckless kid fooling around with his younger brother Hubert and when the young Prince Richard comes to visit, they encounter an unknown girl who they name Sophie before exploring an underground cave and discover a mysterious evil. The ensuing battle defeats the creature at the cost of Sophie’s life. Right off the bat there is an instant mystery surrounding the story. Fast forward seven years and Asbel is now a knight in training and Richard has never been the same since that fateful encounter. Soon monster appearances are on the increase and are threatening the Valkines Cryas in each of the three kingdoms, which provide the source of life known as Eleth. The mysterious Sophie reappears with many questions left unanswered until several hours into the game. It’s these sorts of hooks which make a game like this so addictive to play.

The impressive character development which is standard in Tales games is once again highly detailed and well worth watching the entertaining skits which pop up during the game. To dismiss these informative and amusing moments would be a crime and you would miss out on the cast being given proper depth to their characters which makes the Tales series far outshine any other RPG in this field of character development in a world of average RPG personalities. Now they are all full screen and fully voice acted. The voices are hit-and-miss with Prince Richard and occasionally Asbel sounding flat in their delivery but the rough sounding Captain Malik and the hilarious Pascal more than make up for it.

The large overworld is now replaced with direct paths between every city and dungeon so getting lost is reduced to a minimum at the cost of increased repetition as you walk the same tired paths. But there is an adequate amount of various interactions to be had along the way that this sense of dullness doesn’t feel as boring as it could. Every town and city is booming with life with the occasional side quest popping every now and then.

New titles equal new attacks. All look graphically impressive.

The battle system has been given another alteration and this represents the biggest change to the familiar free-run battle system from previous Tales games like Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Vesperia and Tales of The Abyss. In previous titles a normal attack would cost you nothing, with more powerful attacks and Artes coming at a price of Technical Points (TP). However normal attacks and those which used TP have now been combined into Chain Capacity (CC) with every attack costing a certain amount of CC in a system similar to that first introduced in the PS2 game Tales of Destiny. Early into the game, combo attacks are impossible as you simply don’t have enough CC to chain it all together. By levelling up and achieving certain skills does your CC limit rise to a level high enough to use the more powerful Artes. Tales of Graces f has taken away the previous luxury of button bashing because when you run out of CC, you can’t attack at all. The only course of action is to either block incoming attacks or run away as your CC points recover. This proves most aggravating in the earlier stages as the main strategy involves hitting once or twice, then waiting for your CC to return as your enemy attacks, but later on it becomes second nature as you dodge around monsters, drawing their attention from your comrades as they charge up a tasty looking powerful Arte to cast in their direction whilst your CC regenerates. It’s this demand of extra attention which keeps the format fresh as well as keeping you on your toes.

Another element which requires constant attention is the title system. Throughout the game your characters will earn many titles which can be equipped each with five upgrades each which may be status boosts or new attacks to learn. By earning SP from battles you can earn these bonuses but you aren’t attached to a title until it’s fully complete, you are free to switch at will. Only want to reach the third upgrade? Fine, as soon as you reach it – switch to another title and enjoy the benefits that it has to offer. With over 100 titles for each character including some which you won’t be able to unlock on your first playthrough, the amount of choice on what stats you want your team to have is simply phenomenal.

The unusual addition of the letter “ƒ” at the end of the title apparently means “future”; this is because of the “Lineage and Legacies” storyline added to the game, something which was not included in the Wii release (which was never released outside of Japan). Taking place six months after the original game it clears up many of the mysteries the original game left behind in a brand new storyline. This is certainly a game which can see you playing for hours as you become immersed in the rich world Tales of Graces f has to offer.

The Lineage and Legacies storyline adds at least 10 hours extra gameplay.

As Tales games go you’re getting a lot for your money with the addition of a brand new storyline which is by no means a short venture and hours of replay value if you want to unlock everything. Tales of Graces ƒ once again shows that the RPG genre isn’t always stale when you change the gameplay mechanics. And if you invest in the Day One package you’ll have the extra luxury of an art book, behind the scenes footage, a small soundtrack and some bonus DLC.

A] Refreshed battle system
B] Gorgeous graphics
C] Huge amount of customization available
D] Heavy character development

A] Constant backtracking can get annoying
B] CC system does require some getting used to
C] Standard Tales storyline

Graphics 4/5
Sound 4/5
Gameplay 5/5
Playability 4/5
Lifespan 5/5

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