The story begins with Jude, a medical student living in Fennmont, having to deliver a message to one of his professors working in a top secret research wing. He’s denied entry, and is dejectedly walking away, when he notices a girl who is not only walking on water but seems to be breaking into the research wing through the sewers. He follows her in, after some issues, and ends up discovering a massive conspiracy, where the King of Rashugal, Nachtigal, had been sacrificing people, including Jude’s professor, in order to create a super weapon known as the Lance of Kresnik. In their world of Rieze Maxia, spirits coexist with humanity with humanity using their power in exchange for giving the spirits their mana. But the Lance of Kresnik breaks that dynamic by utilizing spirits without giving them mana, and killing them in the process. The girl who broke in was on a mission to destroy that weapon, because she explains that she was Milla Maxwell, the Lord of the Spirits, and that it was her duty. Jude decides to assist her, as it seems he has no way of getting out otherwise, and they approach the Lance, but things go wrong, Milla ends up losing her powers, and they have to escape. As they’re escaping, they get cornered, but a mercenary named Alvin, who is incredibly sketchy, comes to their rescue, and helps them get on a boat to the only other country in Rieza Maxia, Auj Oule. There Milla affirms that she will stop the Lance of Kresnik, no matter what, and Jude and Alvin decide to follow along. Hence the journey begins.
During this journey, they meet numerous characters that also join them: Elize is a lost young girl that is able to use incredible artes for her age and is always with a talking toy named Teepo, but because of this she is forced to live in a cellar and is ostracized by the rest of the town. Rowen is the old butler of the Cline family that rules over the town of Sharilton, but he’s far too experienced with combat and tactics for a mere butler, and is later discovered to have mysterious but strong ties to Nachtigal. And lastly Leia is Jude’s childhood friend who works at the inn at their hometown of Leronde, who somehow became very proficient in staff martial arts, and is the reason Jude had to become proficient in martial arts as well. Together they go through their journey to destroy the Lance of Kresnik, but ultimately get caught in multiple other conflicts such as Sharilton being oppressed, Milla getting injured and going through a difficult healing process, entering a tournament to win the rights to ride wyverns, etc. but the primary conflict tying all these together is Nachtigal invading Auj Joule and the King of Auj Oule, Gaius, and his personal guard the Chimeriad, responding in kind. However, there’s also an organization called Exodus that is not only targeting Milla Maxwell’s life, but who are actually a part of a much larger conspiracy surrounding the Lance and the true nature of the world itself.
Xillia has a great story, and one of the best in the Tales series so far (though I have not played anything past Xillia yet). All of the broader goals and conflicts combined with the personal conflicts of each member in the party and the various other side characters they meet create weaves an expansive narrative fitting in terms of scale to what is expected of JRPGs. It also has the sense of adventure, the cliche character tropes, the massive twists, the random tangents, the exploration, and is just the most JRPG story ever. I loved it! Though the ending wasn’t completely satisfying, in that it really didn’t feel like much was truly resolved yet, but that’s fine because there’s a Tales of Xillia 2!
On a more specific note, I loved the cast, in terms of artistic design and character profiles. There was a lot of diversity, but all of them still seemed to mesh well together and were interesting. Jude had the most development over the course of the game, so his growth in response to the world around him to slowly become dependable was his defining trait, though that also led him to being the most melodramatic. On the other hand, Milla stayed the exact same for the entire game, and her rigidness of character was her defining trait. Alvin’s defining trait was obviously how shady and disloyal he was, but he got decent backstory in regard to why he became that way, and experienced growth in that aspect. Elize’s defining trait is harder to pin down, but it was something to the extent of being alone and confused but trying her best to address both of those. Rowen’s defining trait was his experience and past, more specifically his regrets. Leia’s defining trait was her unyielding optimism, which led to her ‘playing the martyr’ to some extent. The protagonists were interesting, but so too were the antagonists, of which there were many and were just as diverse, and really highlighted the heroes. Specifically Gaius, the chimeriad, and a certain spirit acted as a complete and great foil set for the main cast. And lets not forget the rest of the great side characters either. As a negative however, because there were so many great characters this led to some extent feeling that a lot them never really got developed that well, especially in regard to some relationships.
The presentation, a term I use very broadly, this story was wrapped in was pretty good, though with some issues. The OP was amazing, and I think I ended up watching it pretty much every time I played the game. Similarly, the anime cut scenes were also high quality. The art direction of the game itself was also great. A lot of people want to see the return of cel-shading like Vesperia, but I much prefer this. Along with the beautiful and varied design work I thought it was great in that regard, however unfortunately technically it really wasn’t all that great, and I feel that really held it back the great art. Furthermore, the animation was noticeably jarring. Just in general, but especially mouth movement, the worst of which was Teepo. I understand that it’s a much lower budget than bigger games, and I eventually did grow used to it, but its still something that annoyed me enough that I felt I have to complain about it. The voice acting for the most part I think was decent. Everyone seems to hate Teepo’s, but it didn’t really bug me. Another common complaint is that Milla’s is bad when it comes to tone, but I think those complaints completely miss the point. She’s a spirit and not human, with a very different perspective on the world and hence its supposed to be very different, and I think it fit her very well. The limited number of times she really showed emotion were actually highlighted by this. I had a problem with Muzet though, who really felt off to me in the times that she tried to show high emotion.The soundtrack itself was decent, and I appreciated the diversity towards the end, but it was pretty forgettable.
Getting into gameplay, the battle system was solid. It was pretty varied depending on the character you’re playing as, though I mostly ended up playing as Jude. It was pretty fast and action packed with a reasonable amount of depth as Tales battles should be. The world was reasonably large but easy to get around in, and had strong incentives to explore in search of materials and other items. The progression system was very customizable, in terms of character progression that utilized the Lillium Orb system that allowed a character to put stats into a very nonlinear growth tree, and also in terms of items in that shops didn’t grow on their own but grew when materials were donated to them, both of which gave the player a lot of control over the way characters progressed. Though to be honest, I think I did a pretty bad job with all of it, but somehow without having to grind at all progressing through the game came pretty easily even at the highest difficult, so I feel that there ultimately wasn’t that much of an impact. Still, filling bars and watching a talent tree grow is fun in its own sort of way.
Part of the reason it was easy may be because I did all the side content as it came, and there was lots of side content. As with tales games, it was so random that it was annoying to do without guide, so I used a guide to keep track of what sub-events were available when and what their missable conditions were, and I don’t feel bad for doing so in the slightest. There was no way in hell I would have found a bunch of them otherwise, which would have been terrible because they add tremendously to the story and are quite enjoyable in their own right. Having the skits foretell sub-events is nice, but this wasn’t a perfect implementation and they still need to work on it. Similarly, the skits were also very enjoyable and added to the story subtly, but it was even more annoying to make sure to get all the skits than get all the sub-events. Still, sidequests and content are a key aspects of what make games unique compared to anime or manga, and they did a great job of improving the game in that regard. Something else that games have over other mediums is the character choice option, but that I think wasn’t handled that well. You can choose to play as Milla or Jude, but for the vast majority of the game, they’re both together. But at the same time, there are some scenes that you end up missing from the other side. I played as Jude, and I felt that I had missed some important content from Milla’s but really didn’t think it was worth playing through the game again. I mean I love the game, but I already did everything I wanted to do, and I don’t want to play it again for just a small amount of story, but that made me feel like I lost something, so I ended up youtubing it, and it really wouldn’t have been worth it to play it again just for the story, but the division itself existing still annoyed me. The characters should either be sufficiently different, or the complete story should be delivered with one character.
Overall, this was a fantastic JRPG with an expansive story and great characters as well as good combat and progression, though marred by the standard Tales issues with side-content and while it has a beautiful art style it is somewhat lacking in technical and production values.
Looking forward to the sequel.