Tales of the Abyss is the third fully 3D installment of the Tales of series. In Japan, it marked the 10th anniversary of the Tales of series with its December 15th, 2005 release date. In the US, it was released on October 10th, 2006 for the PS2. There is also a 3DS version released in the US, Japan, and Europe, making it the first European release of the game.
Like most other Tales of games, the music was composed by Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura. This time, however, Motoo Fujiwara also composed a few tracks. He is part of the band Bump of Chicken, who performed the opening song of the game, Karma.
Luke fon Fabre, a young Kimlascan noble, was kidnapped by the empire of Malkuth seven years ago and retains no memory of his life before then. Worried for his safety, his parents have since forbidden him to leave his mansion, and he has become spoiled and ignorant of the world outside the mansion walls. He has only three people he can really consider friends: Guy, his servant and closest friend; Master Van, Commandant of the Oracle Knights, who trains him in swordplay; and Natalia, princess of Kimlasca and his childhood friend, with whom he made a promise that he can no longer remember.
Luke's boring life quickly goes awry when a young woman named Tear appears in his mansion and attempts to kill Master Van. Luke defends his master, and when Luke and Tear's weapons clash, a hyperresonance teleports them far away from the mansion. Luke demands to return home, and Tear, blaming herself for what has happened, agrees to escort him back to Baticul. They quickly discover that they are farther away than they thought, however--all the way in Malkuth, a country on the verge of war with Kimlasca.
On their way to Baticul, Luke and Tear meet Fon Master Ion, head of the Order of Lorelei, and Luke ends up unwillingly gaining the service of a young Cheagle named Mieu. They are then arrested by a Malkuth colonel named Jade, and a Fon Master Guardian named Anise. Jade and Anise, it turns out, are escorting Ion to Kimlasca to deliver a letter of peace, in hopes of avoiding a war that Grand Maestro Mohs is attempting to start. They ask Luke for his help, but before he can decide, the six God-Generals of the Oracle Knights attack their ship. They manage to escape with the help of Guy, who has come from Baticul in search of Luke after he disappeared. Anise, however, falls off the ship during the battle, and so they set out in search of her.
They finally reunite with Anise in Kaitzur, where they also run into Asch the Bloody, another of the six God-Generals. Asch mysteriously attacks Luke, but is stopped by the arrival of Master Van. Van states that the God-Generals, who are supposed to be his underlings, have abandoned him and are acting under orders from Mohs. He agrees to help the party in their mission of peace, although Tear accuses him of being the one acting to start a war, and they resume their trip to Baticul.
Along the way, Luke experiences crippling headaches that cause him to hear voices and even lose control of his body. Van explains that these are the result of Luke's unique power: the ability to create a hyperresonance by himself. He says that this power is why Malkuth kidnapped him seven years ago, and that Kimlasca has kept him trapped in his manor since out of desire to use him as a weapon. He outlines a plan for Luke to stop the war, become a hero, and escape his life of confinement, which Luke eagerly agrees to.
Upon arriving in Baticul, Luke's father and the king ask him to travel to the mining town of Akzeriuth to serve as an ambassador. The town is currently in danger due to a poisonous miasma leaking from underground. The king also informs Luke that he is the hero foretold in the Score. He will lead Kimlasca to great prosperity, beginning by traveling to Akzeriuth--or so the Score states. Luke agrees and the party sets out to Akzeriuth, joined by Natalia along the way.
During their travels, spoiled and egotistical due to his dreams of being a hero, Luke manages to alienate the rest of the party, remaining close only to Master Van. Upon arriving in Akzeriuth, Van leads Luke underground to a massive structure called a Sephiroth. Telling Luke that it will neutralize the miasma and save the town, Van talks Luke into creating a hyperresonance and destroying the Sephiroth. Far from saving the town, however, it causes Akzeriuth to crumble and fall into the miasma-filled Qliphoth, destroying the town and all the people in it. Only the party are saved, thanks to Tear's fonic hymn safely transporting them underground.
Luke then discovers that he is actually a replica of Asch. Asch, the real Luke fon Fabre, was kidnapped by Master Van seven years ago, and the replica Luke replaced him in Baticul so as to avoid suspicion. Luke, in shock and unable to accept the truth of the events that have just transpired, ends up in a comatose state. The rest of the party leaves him and travels with Asch in search of Van. Tear and Mieu are the only ones to stay by his side.
The rest of the party, with Asch, discover Van's true plan. Having read the entirety of the Score, he has discovered that it actually foretells destruction for the world, rather than prosperity. Believing that replicas are free of the Score, he plans to destroy the original world and create replicas of the world and all the people in it. Then and only then will mankind be free of the influence of the Score--or so Van believes. To this end, he is traveling around and destroying the Sephiroth, hastening the destruction of the world by causing the Outer Lands to fall into the Qliphoth.
When Luke regains consciousness, he accepts responsibility for the mistakes he's made and wants to save other towns from being destroyed. Vowing to become a better person, he cuts off his long hair as a symbol of this vow. He and Tear eventually meet up with the rest of the party once more, minus Asch. Together, they travel to the various Sephiroth, attempting to stop Van's plans. While they are unable to prevent towns from falling into the Qliphoth, they are able to lower them slowly and safely, preventing people from being killed. Finally, they battle and defeat the six God-Generals, followed by Van himself. Van dismisses Luke as a weak replica and falls off a cliff into the core of the planet itself.
A month later, various signs are beginning to hint that Van's plan may still be in effect. Luke leaves his manor once more and meets up with the rest of the party, and together they chase Asch, who knows more about what's going on. They find Asch, and discover that against all odds, the six God-Generals are still alive--and worse, so is Van. Worse yet, Van has absorbed Lorelei, the incarnation of the Seventh Fonon, into himself. Unless they can free Lorelei and defeat Van for good, the world will be in danger once more. However, in order to free Lorelei they will need the Key of Lorelei, a sword in Asch's possession, and the Jewel of Lorelei. The Jewel is nowhere to be found.
Anise surprises everyone by betraying the party and delivering Ion to Mohs, who forces him to read the Planet Score. The effort of reading the Score kills Ion, but not before he is able to save Tear, whose life was threatened by the miasma she had absorbed into her body. Anise, as it turns out, was blackmailed by Mohs and forced to serve him in order to save her parents. While she feels terrible, blaming herself for Ion's death, the rest of the party forgives her, and they set out to discover a way to neutralize the miasma that now threatens the entire world.
The many replicas created by Van willingly sacrifice themselves to aid Luke and Asch, who together manage to make a hyperresonance that successfully rids the world of the miasma. Luke then discovers that he has had the Jewel of Lorelei all along, having absorbed it into the fonons that comprise his body. He also realizes that his fonons are beginning to disintegrate, and that he will eventually disappear. He hides this fact from everyone, although the party members gradually catch on.
The party travels to Eldrant to defeat Van for good, free Lorelei, and save the world. Along the way, they defeat the six God-Generals, and Asch and Luke end up falling into the same trap. Realizing that the room is set up so that only one of them can get out, the two duel not only to determine who has the right to go on, but to settle their differences and their identities as two different people. Luke wins, and Asch gives him the Key of Lorelei and demands that he go on to face Van. Left behind, Asch successfully manages to hold off a horde of replica soldiers, but is mortally wounded in the process, and dies.
With the help of Tear's fonic hymn and the completed Key of Lorelei, Luke is able to defeat Van and free Lorelei. He does so even knowing that using such power will cause his fonons to completely separate, making him disappear. With the world safe, Luke disappears into the earth, along with Asch's body, where Lorelei informs him that he has done well.
Two years later, the party members have gathered together to celebrate Luke's coming-of-age ceremony, in his memory. They are taken by surprise when a mysterious man joins them, saying that he had a promise to keep. The man appears to be a combination of Luke and Asch. Fan theories are divided on whether it is Luke in Asch's body, Asch in Luke's body, or a combination of the two.
Tales of the Abyss uses an action-based battle system called the Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (FR-LMBS), which is almost identical to Tales of Symphonia's Multi-Line Linear Motion Battle System. The main difference is the addition of the Free Run ability, which allows the player to move freely on the battle plane. More information can be found on the Linear Motion Battle System concept page.
The game also features several gameplay elements that are common to the Tales of series, such as:
- Cooking: The player can gather various ingredients throughout the game and combine these ingredients to cook recipes in between battles. Each recipe has a different effect, such as restoring HP, raising Attack, etc. Each character also has their own level of cooking skill, and a recipe may be more or less effective depending on which character cooked it.
- Skits: Skits are optional scenes that occur in between cutscenes, involving animated portraits of the characters talking to each other. Some skits are serious and relate to the events of the main storyline, while others are irrelevant and comedic. They are fully voice-acted in the Japanese version, but not in English.
- Grade: After every battle, the player is awarded a varying amount of grade depending on actions taken in the battle and how well they fought. Grade can be used after the end of a game to buy various bonuses for a second playthrough.
- Titles: Characters can gain several titles throughout the game in various ways. Equipping a title can have a variety of different effects, from changing battle stats to changing the costume the character wears.
The game also features a complex economy system. Both storyline events and actions taken by the player can alter the economy of various regions, changing the prices of certain items and/or making certain items easier or harder to buy. The game also has four difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Unknown.
When the game was released in North America, it received several tweaks and additions over its Japanese counterpart, such as:
- Guy, Natalia, Van, and others have new Mystic Artes.
- Nebilim received a new Mystic Arte and the ability to use Mystic Artes of several other playable characters.
- Luke and Tear gained extensions to their Mystic Artes.
- A handful of minor monster statistic changes, such as a reduction in Unknown Mode's stats multiplier from the Japanese version's x4.0 to x3.5.
- Load times experience a significant decrease
- Previous lag witnessed during the console version has seen a decrease with the 3DS Version.
- Multiplayer mode has been removed.
- 3D has been implemented throughout the game, except for fmvs.
- Palettes have suffered from compression due to limitations of the 3DS cartridge; as a result, colors of the game do not stay true to the original, and look washed-out.
An anime series based on the game began airing in Japan on October 4, 2008. It was produced by Bandai Visual, Namco, and Sunrise. The opening of the game, "Karma," was reused as the opening of the anime, and most of the voice actors voiced the same roles. The anime ran for 26 episodes, and the last episode aired on March 28, 2009. Since then, Bandai Entertainment has bought the license for the anime and plans to distribute it in North America beginning on October 11, 2011.