A good ending to a good game.
I finally wrapped up Tales of the Abyss about a week ago, after about 60+ and maybe a month and a half of playing. Never was it so gripping that I lost track of time, but it was a good game to pick up and play for an hour or two at a time.
Typical RPG themes of personal discovery, growth and redemption, but I thought TOTA did a really nice job of building a world and some really interesting characters to move the story along. I also like that the story didn’t follow the clichéd pseudo-Catholic is totally screwing the whole world up plotline.
The characters were the best part of the game. And Jade, the sarcastic and macabre Colonel, was probably the the best of them all. But they all had their good parts, and were the most part were believable, likeable characters. Luke, as the main character, undergoes the most character development, as expected. Tear also serves as his straight (wo)man and his sort of love interest. Natalia strays off the standard spoiled princess route very early in the game. Guy has quite a dark backstory as Luke’s best friend. And Anise was probably the second most hilarious character in the game, as the cute, but only-sometime lovable kid of the group. Voice acting for the main characters was excellent as well. As good as I’ve heard from a J-RPG translation. To the point where if the TOTA anime was released in the US, and they used the same VOs, I’d have no problem watching the dub.
This is unfortunately, arguably one of the weaker points of the game. I read some stuff about bad loading times, and I’d say it’s only partially true. In the overworld, yeah the load times are horrible. Eventually, I got a bunch of holy bottles just to avoid any enemy encounters. But within the dungeons and cities, load times are pretty good, and I never really felt like my patience was being tested.
If you’re familiar with the Tales series, you know it functions almost like a 2D fighting game, and TOTA was really no different. Usage of the “Artes” is necessary to win the more difficult battles quickly, but a lot of button mashing will get you through 95% of the game. There were only a handful of battles where I had to develop a strategy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun. But it doesn’t break any new ground.
The only Tales game I’d played before this was Tales of Symphonia, which was pretty solid from what I remember. I think story and character-wise, TOTA is a little bit more interesting that TOS, but I remember TOS’ gameplay being a bit more interesting. All in all, if you’re in the mood for a JRPG with fast-action fights and you got time to burn, I’d highly recommend TOTA.