My Thoughts on Tales of Graces f
It’s been far too long for a proper Tales game to come out here in North America. The last big one was Tales of Vesperia back in 2008 and after sinking almost 200 hours into that one I was looking forward to Graces very much. Long story short: it was worth the wait.
There is so much to say about the gameplay in this Tales game so I guess I’ll just start off with the combat system. You have your A Artes and your B Artes. A artes have a combo tree that you can work your way up with each move. B artes are basically just the same as regular artes in Vesperia (choose a direction with the left stick and attack). Each arte (A or B) you perform takes a certain amount of Chain Capacity (CC) to pull off. CC replaces TP in battles this time around and it’s not a very high number. The highest I ever saw someone’s CC was about 20 but don’t worry, it replenishes fairly quickly and there are skills you can get to increase it’s regen as well as increase the max/min amount you can have in battle. So for A artes, the first move in your combo will cost 1 CC, then 2 CC then 3 and then 4. Each B arte has it’s own amount of CC assigned to it. In addition to A and B artes there are, of course, mystic artes. These artes can be pulled off by holding in L1 during “Burst Mode” (more on that in a sec) and are high damaging attacks that include some cool animations to watch. Burst Mode is the overlimit of this game. At the start of each battle you and your enemy have an Eleth meter which gradually fills up by taking and receiving damage. Once this fills you automatically enter Burst Mode. In this mode all artes cost zero CC and each combo you do fills up the Burst Level. At level 1, you can do a level 1 Mystic arte, level 2 can do level 2 mystic artes and so on.
I felt that the combat system in this game was very fun. It was fast paced and entertaining to watch although sometimes I had no idea what was going on with everyone attacking the same monster at once. One thing I did not like was the automatic triggering of Burst Mode. I would much rather have the ability to choose when I activate it so it didn’t go off just as I was ending the battle.
The Title system returns in Graces, however it plays a much bigger role to play then it did in Vesperia. In Graces, titles are how you progress each party member. Each title has 5 different skills to learn and each skill costs a certain amount of SP (earned in battles or by completing inn requests). Skills learned can include stat boosts, new/improved artes and costumes. Each title is earned a different way. Some are earned from progressing the main story, some through side-quests and others just from playing the game (using an arte, walking for a certain amount of miles etc). Personally I loved this system, it was pretty addicting and I found myself checking the new titles constantly to check what else I could get for my party. It’s a great way to progress as it offers some customization and also gives collectors something else to go for.
Synthesising is back, but in the form of Dualizing. Monsters drop shards and you can use these to dualize with your weapons and armour. When this is done, the shard permanently adds some base states to the item, as well as adds a boost to 1 stat (attack boost, HP boost, etc) for as long as the item is combined with that shard. After you win enough battles with your dualized weapon, it becomes tempered and you can dualize it with another shard. Dualizing isn’t only used for weapons and armour though, it is also how you create new items as well as cook different dishes. I didn’t really like this system for a few reasons. First, you can potentially just keep upgrading the same weapon/armour over and over again so it’s the best weapon/armour in the game, which means finding a new weapon/armour isn’t as exciting. Also, in order to dualize a tempered item with another shard, you need to dualize it with another tempered item first. This process takes the best stat from each item and creates an equipable gem. Sounds good to start, but I found that I just had so many useless gems and it was very hard to keep track of. Thankfully there is no limit to the amount of these you can carry, otherwise it would have been a huge pain.
The Eleth Mixer is a new addition and one I enjoyed a lot. If you have an item in your Collector’s Book you can add it to the mixer. Each item does something different. For example, you can place a Rice Ball into it and during battle it will auto-cook a Rice Ball once when you drop below a certain level of HP, giving you a nice heal. Other items duplicate themselves randomly as your walking around, some resurrect fallen members etc. Each item consumes a certain amount of Eleth from the mixer. You can replenish eleth via items, treasure chests or at inns for a price. This is a great addition to the game as it adds more customization to your play style.
One more thing worth mentioning is that you can skip any and all cut scenes. I’m not sure if you could in any other Tales games, but you couldn’t in Vesperia so this was a VERY welcome change.
The story in Graces f was nothing spectacular in my opinion. There’s a great evil threatening the world and you set out to stop it. There was a small twist near the end that I thought was pretty cool but it was pretty predictable for the most part and honestly I found myself falling asleep in my chair when there were lengthy conversations. I also managed to figure out main plot points in the story hours before the characters did which was a little frustrating at times.
One thing I love about the Tales series is the skits, and they are back for Graces f. Every so often if you’re in the right location at the right time, you can view a skit that has something to do with what’s going on at that moment. These aren’t necessary to understand the main plot at all, but they give some good background info and occasionally just serve as some comedic relief. I watched every skit I could and enjoyed them all.
The story is broken up into 3 sections: child arc, adult arc and future arc. I felt that this style of story telling worked pretty well for some of the characters as you get to see what they were like as children and watch how they change as the adult arc moves in. Sadly not all the characters are seen during the child arc, so it doesn’t help their progression much but I still think that most of the characters were pretty interesting and worked well together. The one issue I has was with the main character, Asbel. I just found that most of the time he was whining about how he wasn’t strong enough to save this person, or about how he should have done things differently. Sometimes I wished I could just reach inside the TV and smack him so he would stop crying!
I felt that the world of Efinea was very well put together and I enjoyed exploring it. There are snow covered mountain ranges, lush forests, dry, gasping deserts and ruins all over the place to explore. It also has it’s fair share of cities and towns to run around in, where you can rest at inns, purchase items at stalls and talk to everyone you see (people marked with a smiley face are quest givers).
At first the world does seem a little small when compared to Vesperia and I was a little disappointed when I found out there was no overworld map to traverse. But don’t let that worry you, there is still alot to see and to do in this world and you could easily sink hundreds of hours into this game trying to discover everything.
This is a very pretty game. It’s all cell shaded so you get that cartoony look and everything is bursting with colour and looks magnificent in HD. That being said, it is a port of a Wii game so it doesn’t look quite as good as it could. The main issue I had was with the character models, which were good, but you could still see a little bit of jaggyness on some of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a big issue by any means and I still enjoyed what I saw every time I booted up the game.
The music in Graces f was composed by Motoi Sakuraba (he’s done most of the Tales music) and it sounded alright. It was nothing super awesome but at the same time I don’t feel like I want to rush out and find a copy of the soundtrack. It did it’s purpose of setting the mood for a scene but that’s about it and I found that some of it sounded pretty similar to what I heard in Vesperia.
The voice acting was well done in my opinion. There were a few familiar voices, including Laura Bailey (Serah from FF13/13-2) and Jamieson Price (Duke from Tales of Vesperia) and it was a pleasure to hear them lend their talent to this game. There were also some I didn’t recognize, but I felt each actor did a good job at bringing their character to life. One minor issue I had was with Asbel’s voice actor (Bryce Papenbrook) as he tended to pause for too long after saying the word “but”. Not a huge issue by any means, but it tended to make a scene drag on.
Overall I enjoyed this game start to finish. There were no huge spikes in difficulty and the ability to skip cut-scenes kept the frustration to a minimum. Also, if you’re the type of person who likes a good bang for their buck, this is the game for you. Aside from the 60ish hours you’ll spend on main story alone, there are all sorts of things to collect. You’ve got hundreds of titles for each character, costumes/accessories, a collectors book, a monster book, a dualize book, a discovery book, and a side quest book. There is also a card game to play and if you beat a certain enemy type enough times you get it’s Soul Gem. From what I can tell these don’t do anything, but for a collector it’s a must have.
I will say that I did not finish the future arc. Not because I got bored or hated the game or anything like that, it’s just that by that point I had already pumped 60 hours into it and there were other games I wanted to play. If your’re a fan of JRPG’s and you own a PS3, this game is a must have for your collection.