Tales of Graces F PS3 Review

Publisher: Namco Bandai  Developer: Namco Tales Studio  Genre: RPG  Players: 1-4  

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

As opposed to the Final Fantasy series which is constantly reinventing itself, many of the entries in the long running Tales of series have little to distinguish them from one another. Most take place in separate universes, though the mechanics remain much the same from game to game. Tales of Graces f is the latest game to reach European shores and is also somewhat of a surprising evolution for the long enduring series.

The first few hours see the sons of the lord of Lhant, Asbel and his brother Hubert, head off to Lhant Hill, where they come across a mysterious girl with (take a guess) memory problems. The first five hours or so of the game take place during the childhood of Asbel, which is a great way of developing the character, although it’s just a shame that Asbel has no surprises to match Vesperia’s protagonist Yuri.

Whereas backstory in many other RPG’s is largely an event that occurs off screen or in brief flashbacks, taking place during two periods of Asbel’s life really gives you the chance to see him grow as a character from an amusingly mischievous boy into a mature adult. The childhood arc also sets the events in motion well for the overall tale ahead, which is as well constructed as any other Tales game, and thankfully lacking the complex terminology of other entries in the series.

The characters might well be archetypes, for instance Cheria is a kind hearted healer, Hubert is a serious character, Malik is the seasoned warrior, and Pascall plays the oddball comical character. Regardless, the characters are likeable with plenty in the way of depth, and whereas most primary Tales of antagonists are forgettable, Tales of Grace’s f features one of the series most intriguing.

The battle system is as action driven as usual though this time around there are some key differences. TP, which acted as a typical MP pool in previous games, has been replaced by CC (Chain Capacity.) CC is essentially action points, which are expended whenever you attack, and once depleted you must wait for a few seconds before you’re able to attack again, though skilful play such as well timed blocks and dodges will reward you additional points to play with.

Another change is the fact that you now have two variations of artes, B artes work in much the same way as the artes from previous games, though A artes must be unleashed in a certain sequence. Provided that your CC is efficient, B artes can be worked in between offering the potential for some huge and dazzling combinations later on in the game.

The titles that have long been a staple of the series were previously superficial, though this time around, they’re tied into the growth of your characters. You’ll obtain them in all manner of ways such as defeating so many enemies, opening a certain amount of chests, chatting to so many people and so on. Each title has five skills and enhancements for the character to learn through acquiring skill points by winning battles, and once learned their effects are permanent. New titles come thick and fast, so during the course of the game there’s plenty of scope to decide how each character grows. Titles also have bonuses that come into play whenever they’re equipped, such as offering the party additional XP or granting immunity to certain status changes.

There’s also an absorbing but unwieldy crafting system that allows you to make all manner of items; be it weapons, armour or food. Weapons and armour can also be enhanced with shards and, through fighting, will eventually become tempered allowing you to combine another tempered item with it, which in turn removes the passive qualities but also produces a gem accessory which possesses properties from both.

The Eleth Mixer has slots that allows you to place any discovered items within it, allowing you to cook food during battle by meeting certain criteria, whilst other items are produced whilst you’re wandering around, with the more valuable items having less of a chance of production. Whenever the Eleth Mixer makes an item, it will gain more eleth allowing it to create better items and through the production of certain items you’ll gain more slots, allowing you to put more items into it at once.

The world of Tales of Graces f is rather small and it can on occasion get tiresome passing through areas periodically. This isn’t at all helped by the complete absence of a world map to explore. It’s a disappointing omission for an old RPG series that was previously one of the only to retain a classic overworld environment.

As with any Tales game, there’s a generous level of content, with not only a huge story in this case, but a post game epilogue that weighs in at ten hours or so. Sidequests too are numerous in number, though have too much of a reliance on fetch quests to impress.

Tales of Graces f has the best form of the series combat yet as well as some other welcome improvements, which go some way to evolving the series. Whilst not enough to ruin it, the issues that the game does have are nevertheless glaring enough to prevent it from being the apex of the series that it had the potential to be.