Tales of the Abyss
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 09/08/2007

Set in a series that has suffered from some rather bland plots and simple gameplay, Tales of the Abyss manages to bring the series into a level higher than it has reached before.

The story of Tales of the Abyss starts off simply enough, with Luke, the sheltered son of a duke, going through another boring day. The pace picks up very quickly, however, as Luke gets kidnapped, warped into an enemy country, and caught up in a quest to stop a war. While the story itself isn’t really anything new, it’s in the characters, particularly Luke, that the game really shines.

It would be difficult to convey in a review exactly how entertaining Luke is. His brash, prickly personality, and sometimes witty sarcasm truly help make the game great. There are countless laugh-out-loud moments due to Luke’s personality. And this isn’t even mentioning the other characters in the game, who are almost all well-realized as well. The cast of Tales of the Abyss is certainly one of the most entertaining casts in an RPG to date. They make the story come to life.

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Sure, just abandon Luke.

As an action RPG, much of the focus of the game is on the action of the battle system, and despite the extreme ease with which players will blow through the first several hours of the game, the system manages to add a few extra subsystems into it that force players to start using strategy.

The system is essentially identical to the previous games in the series, with a basic attack combo that can be changed slightly by using the analog stick. The battles take place across a 3D plane, with players able to move pretty freely around the screen. Once fighting an enemy directly, however, the system feels very 2D, similarly to previous Tales titles. The game also has artes, which are essentially a combination of magic and attack skills. The game has some unique challenges in its battle system, however, such as fonon circles that can radically change artes depending on the elements that are present in the fonon circle and the player’s choice in artes. The enemies become increasingly difficult as well, and despite some rather questionable AI decisions, the difficulty remains fairly challenging throughout. While players can certainly choose to just hammer away at enemies with standard attacks, the use of strategy will greatly decrease their need for healing items, as well as increase their battle grades.

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The cast of characters is impressively large and well developed.

The game also has a fairly unique customization system, with players able to equip capacity cores and distribute gems. The cores each come with its own unique stat bonuses. Some provide more power for artes, while others can turn characters into powerful physical attackers. While it’s not as extensive a customization system as is present in other games, it’s still deep enough to give the player some control over development of the characters. Artes can also be improved by using gems to improve their power.

Tales of the Abyss also brings back cooking, a staple of the Tales series. Players can collect recipes and ingredients by doing sidequests, talking to various cooks around the world, or just finding them. As in prevoius Tales games, Abyss features an explorable world map.

Graphically, the game is pretty good. The world is lush, and the character models look great, despite not having too much detail in them. The graphics really help reflect the tone of the game. Musically, the game sounds decent, but nothing that really stands out as a memorable tune. The voice acting is good, but there are a couple characters that are just incredibly annoying. The characters they are for, however, are supposed to be annoying (one particularly gets Luke’s hatred often), so this isn’t a detriment to the quality.

Overall, Tales of the Abyss is one of the strongest titles in the series. While it doesn’t take many risks, the game has superb characters, a solid story, a great battle system, and solid side quests, which all come together to make a truly great game.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Very Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Good
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: 8