Into the Abyss

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Tales of the Abyss; the RPG that Namco released for the PS2 to commemorate their own 10th year in the video game industry. Before we say goodbye to 2015, allow me to review this game to the best that I can.

The Tale of the Red Haired Brat
Tales of the Abyss tells the story of Luke Fan Fabre, son of a duke who has been confined to his manor ever since his kidnapping 7 years ago. After the unexpected appearance of an intruder who broke into his home who accidentally whisked him off in a far off land, he now begins the journey of his life through discovery and experience- the hard way.

The majority of the main characters in the Tales series are shown in the most heroic way in which they are brave, have an iron resolve, strong conviction, have their own beliefs and principles, and are willing to fight and sacrifice their own lives for a cause. Well, you won’t find these traits on Luke since he is a spoiled, arrogant, whinny and selfish brat thanks to his upbringing and confinement in his home sweet home.

I was mildly amused with this character for the first few hours of playing Abyss and I don’t understand why Namco opted to have this idiot to be the poster boy for their 10th anniversary game. Perhaps they were trying to use a new formula whereas the main character is different compared to the stereotypical hero who has all the good qualities everyone should be seeing and admiring for a main character. This also made me ponder a certain question as well: “Should all heroes in all RPGs start strong to begin with?”

I think we all have different tastes for heroes and Luke is just unfortunate to have all the bad qualities to begin with. However, what I do like about Luke is that he is the personification of every person out there that people can change only if they work hard to do it. After a series of bad decisions in which he inadvertently caused thousands to perish, Luke did everything in his power to atone for his sins by changing into a better and saving the world from certain catastrophe, even though he feels there is little chance of redemption, and I admire people who still manage to recover even with a hard fall. With this, Luke is a hero on his own right and for my opinion may be the most realistic hero out there who slowly builds character that made him strong to deal with his problems.

Of course, no strong hero will exist if it weren’t for the cast of characters involved in the story and helping him out as well. The other characters in the story include Tear, the mysterious intruder who has her own agenda why she went to the world above; Guy, the loyal servant of Luke with a dark past; Jade, the serious colonel whose wit and sarcasm has yet to fail me to laugh; Anise, the lovable yet sly guardian of Ion whose cute smile and charm will ease anyone’s fatigue; and Natalia, the energetic princess who sometimes gets overboard with her strong sense of justice and duty. I don’t want to tell more about the other characters’ background just to prevent spoilers, especially for those who have not yet played the game.

Good 3D Graphics
3D graphics is not the best attribute for the Tales series although I admit they are better when it comes to 2D. So far, the graphics of Abyss is the best when compared to Tales of Symphonia and Legendia. Character models are more human like which can be found in both battles and in towns and cities as well. Namco really made careful considerations for the amount of detail of how everything looks like in which this will reflect the use of vibrant colors and art design found in any place; may it be grasslands, deserts, or a simple village. This may not be the best 3d graphics during its time compared to its competitors but one will notice the fluidity of the game during battles in which I can testify that Namco finally perfected that kind of animation in which they will use as the catalyst for future Tales games.

Sounds Good
I’m not really great when criticizing music in real life of or in games but so far, Abyss’s sound track is great and pleasant to listen, with the exception with the mushroom land stage; it is really terrible even for my ears.

Great Controls
The controls in the game, especially in battles are very responsive to your button inputs. Perhaps the only issue I can see here is if the players’ hands are either too big or too small to grasp the PS2 controller. Players can use either the control pad or the left analogue stick to maneuver the character in the playing field however the left analogue stick must be used to execute the free roam.

Going 360 and other Battle Elements
The Tales series is known for its trademark real time battles in which it is both fun and sometimes chaotic for first time players. Players can use normal attacks or artes (skills) in which it can either be strike artes or fonic artes (healing or magic spells). Each arte requires TP (Tech Point) in which it recovers when you strike enemies. New to this game is the FR-LMBS (Flex Range- Linear Motion Battle System) in which players can move the character they are using in full 360 degrees in any part of the playing field.

This adds strategy to the game since players can now position their characters where to strike foes or when to evade their enemies’ fury. Also you can chain the attacks made by each character so as long as you keep on increasing the combo count, the more damage you will do and the easier it will be, especially for boss battles.

Field of Fonon or FOF (they resemble colored spheres) can sometimes be seen on the playing field in which this can be generated by fonic artes or strike artes. Players can now initiate a FOF change by going inside this FOFs and using an arte that is compatible to it.

Take for example the arte Fang Blade; use it when inside a strong wind FOF or a strong light FOF to unleash the devastating Lightning Tiger Blade to smite and electrocute enemies. Also, when doing a FOF attack, the character initiating it will be immune on being K.O. so it is both powerful and beneficial at the same time.

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h20m14s214vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h20m01s113Players can also customize their artes by going to the FS chamber in which one can either make the arte deal more damage, consume less TP, execute a FOF attack even when inside a weak FOF, etc. However, players need to collect the required charmine chambers before customization can commence.

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h18m41s89vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h19m19s197Capacity cores found in the game can improve the attribute of the characters when leveling up like additional stats for attack, defense, fonic attack, etc. It is just bad that you cannot buy these in shops since I find it rather a tiring task of finding them all which are scattered across the game world. Also, you can only assign one capacity core to each character without a duplicate so to build a well balanced team, one need to equip that capacity core to the next character before leveling up to get the desired attribute increased.

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h17m51s70vlcsnap-2015-12-29-09h18m04s218AD skills also improves your characters effectively in battle in which after leveling up, your characters will get like an additional physical attack, recover half the amount of the HP lost, have the ability to be automatically be resurrected when K.O., just to name a few. The only thing I don’t like about this is that the AD skills will only get unlocked if the required attribute increases using the capacity cores so even how many times you level up your character, those AD skills will not be unlocked if the player will not satisfy the needed requirements.

Cooking allows you to whip up delicious meals while getting extra benefits like additional TP, HP, or having an increased stat on the next battle. Cooking can be done given that you have the required ingredients and have the recipe for the dish.

One of the best things about Abyss is the introduction of the Mystic Arte; devastating attacks that can only be executed when in Over Limit. There is one for each character but will gain another for other characters on the next play through, while others needs to get a certain weapon before it can be used.

As for sidequests, there are plenty of that here in Tales of the Abyss. Some will flesh out more on the background of a character, while others are rewarding in which you will acquire a new skill, weapon, or a new costume for you to use on your character.

I can go on and on for hours explaining all the wealth this game has to offer but I guess it better to experience it firsthand instead of reading this. Play this game and I’m sure you won’t regret it. Again, thank you for reading and have a great new year!



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