Unbalanced difficulty and other issues cast a shadow on Tales of Graces f, but deep combat and endearing characters still shine through.
- Deepest combat of the series
- Story breaks free of cliche
- Titles offer high customization.
- Unbalanced difficulty
- Weak prologue lasts too long.
Friendship is a fairly common theme across games in the Japanese role-playing genre. You might call it cliche to center a game's story around the bonds that form between an ensemble cast of misfits on a grand adventure, and you would not be wrong. Yet here arrives Tales of Graces f, a game that harps on those very themes while managing to avoid the pitfalls so many stories have fallen prey to in the past.
The story centers around Asbel Lhant, the young lord-to-be of the Lhant territories. After finding a mysterious girl with amnesia, Asbel sets out with his younger brother Hubert and obvious love interest Cheria to restore his new friend's memory. Any veteran of the genre likely let out a heavy and exasperated groan at that description, but surprisingly, it works.
The saving grace comes from how the story in Tales of Graces f is divided. An opening prologue sets the stage with Asbel and company mere children no older than 11. At that age, falling into such archetypes is understandable. However, after several hours of prologue, the story jumps ahead seven years, rejoining the characters as they approach adulthood.
It is one thing for a game to introduce characters as former childhood friends, but it is another thing entirely to let you experience that childhood. The prologue, though the weakest part of the story on its own, becomes a crucial point of reference even late into the game, informing actions and adding welcome depth. That depth is further expanded through the plentiful skits, a mainstay of the Tales series. These skits do wonders for fleshing out characters and locations, not to mention adding a much appreciated dose of humor and charm.
For the majority of the game there is no world map per se. Each part of this world--every city, road, and dungeon--is made up of the same types of connected routes and sections. The result is a world that feels smaller than the worlds in past Tales games, but also more cohesive. When a larger city is found, its size is all the more apparent as gates eclipse the mountain road you walked up to reach it. A map is eventually obtained late in the game, allowing easy travel to complete side quests, so completionists need not worry.
Combat is slightly altered from past games in the Tales series. Where once there were both standard attacks and artes at your disposal, the former has been removed entirely in favor of a system of A-artes and B-artes. B-artes will be most familiar to series veterans; you can customize which attack corresponds to the circle button in conjunction with the different directions of the analog stick. A-artes, on the other hand, are performed with the X button and provide a complex and progressive combo system. Which A-arte is performed depends not only on the direction pressed, but also on how deep you are in a combo. While this adds some welcome depth to the combat, it can become a hindrance later on because enemies can easily block or counter when the attack you might need to perform to target their weakness may only be available three hits into a combo.
Because all attacks fall under the umbrella term of artes in Tales of Graces f, characters no longer have a pool of spell points to draw from. Instead, each character's constantly replenishing command points (CP) dictates how many attacks can be strung together. The result is a renewed emphasis on blocking, as you alternate between an offensive stance and a defensive stance when waiting for CP to recover. However, blocking has additional benefits, with colored auras granting higher critical hit rates or even unblockable attacks depending on how long the block button is held. Tales of Graces f has the most technical and robust combat system the series has yet seen, making it a departure from the easier-to-grasp Smash Bros.-esque combat of past games.
New artes and skills are earned through titles, of which there are hundreds in the game. Titles offer yet another level of strategy in character development. Do you focus on titles that grant new skills, or ones that strengthen the artes you already have? Or do you forgo offensive abilities and level up titles that grant passive elemental resistances or character stats? Only one title can be equipped at a time, but bonuses carry over regardless of which is in use, encouraging you to experiment and find the right balance for your play style.
Tales of Graces f unfortunately suffers from painful issues stemming from its unbalanced difficulty. Standard enemies typically offer a fair challenge and can be confronted or avoided on the world map as you see fit. However, avoiding enemies isn't really a viable option, because the intense spike in difficulty that comes with each boss battle can only be managed if you grind for experience from every enemy you see, and beyond. With an uncanny knack for one-hit kills and an often endlessly respawning supply of minions, bosses can quickly become insurmountable road blocks. The need for old-school level grinding is at odds with the progressive design of making enemies avoidable on the map. It all makes for a difficulty curve that is bizarrely inconsistent at best and poorly designed at worst.
In many ways, playing Tales of Graces f is itself a parallel to the game's theme of friendship. Like getting together with an old friend, there are awkward moments when you must become reacquainted before the familiarity sets in. It's an often troubled friendship, too, with the difficulty spikes from bosses threatening to end the whole relationship on multiple occasions. Pushing through these hardships may be unpleasant, but it's worth persevering to see this charming tale through to its conclusion.
ummm ohhh tales when are you guys are going to make a good game like Tales of Symphonia, yup that was the golden day of Tale's, but nevertheless I'm still going to buy the game. I mean the only JRPG I have is Star Ocean The Last Hope for the PS3.
This review is really bad, unfair and incomplete, and most people here agree, someone on gamespot should take care of this. Personally I just love this game and I would give it form 8.5 to 9
Im a little late just got this on black friday THIS GAME IS AWESOME truly is the best battle system so far just gettin to galesyde for the first lovin it so far again got it with black friday prices but well worth the full 60$ GREAT BUY
I find the fact that he gave it the punishing difficulty badge ridiculous. Just change the difficulty level to easy in options! There, problem solved. Anyways, I'm playing on Hard, and sometimes Evil and the game is a perfect challenge.
How the hell can this be called difficult?? You just need to be a regular RPG gamer, grind away at some areas to level up and make sure you do all the inn quests to level up your titles, make sure you temper/combine and level up your weapons and that balances out the difficulty level. Seriously the reviewer is a rpg gaming lightweight.
@Banefire76 maybe he got problems with little queen, god knows everyone has problems when she goes Naruto-multiplication on your a**
I've just started playing this, and I'm enjoying it - from what I've played (roughly 2 hours into prologue), its pretty good, although I'm unfamiliar with the series - I'm enjoying it. I do think that perhaps the score is a little hard on it considering the lack of negative comments? It reads more like an 8.5 or upwards, but I guess its the reviewers discretion at the end of the day isn't it :)
7.0? really? pffft.
this game deserves a 9.0 at least; however, I understand that people opinion are different, so I think people should try the game first. But JRPG gamer will probably love this game.
Best RPG I played this year, and still haven't finished the second story. What? You say there is a better RPG released this year! EA's Origin ruined it for me.
I agree, this is a great addition to the Tales series and it's really out of place to hear the genre RPG associated with EA, they mold every RPG game they get and turn it into an action focused game instead.
I don't get this review at all...... He pointed out SO few flaws and it gets a 7? With only 2 flaws in the review, the game should have gotten a 9, or 8.5 at LEAST. I could understand if the review heavily criticized almost every aspect of the game, but no, he didn't. He complemented the story and battle system, and also the titles, but I only saw him criticize the difficult spikes (Which I didn't notice when I played the game, by the way). Oh, and also, to all Tales fans, BUY THIS GAME RIGHT NOW, IT'S SO GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't think gamespot ever gives JRPG's enough credit. This game in particular is awesome and deserves at least an 8. The combat in this game is outstanding and the story is really good as well. Another game that this site really screwed over is Atelier Meruru. Reading that review made me wonder if the guy actually played the game or if he just glanced at the cover art and documented his prejudices.
Ok this game Im almost halfway through and Im gonna call BS on this review......This game deserves an 8.5 or a 9.0. I dont get why the gripes this guy has over the so called flaws can give it such a low score when Ive played worse games than this that have 9.5 and even 10....take this review with a grain of Salt people. If you like Tales play this game!
ok finally got the limited edition ordered from eb games cannot wait till august 30th bonus storyline ftw xD
at Virus12 - i imagine the combat movement system will be the same, with you unlocking free movement a short while in to the game (like in ToV). As with the battle system, the fighting style is different. I've just ordered mine from US (seeing as the old PS3's are region free) and from what i have read, apparently there are 2 fighting styles for each character which you can switch in between while fighting quite easily, which sounds rather epic!
@wilderb33st Free movement was the best thing ever in Abyss. I haven't played ToV so I can't be sure but it was also probably pretty epic. In Graces free-run is given to you from the start but its basically useless because of the curve given to you where 1 sec of free run = 1 CC. At the start of the game you only have like 5-6 cc and you need that for dodging and attacking. You can dodge alot faster than you can free run. Only time free run is useful is for dodging area effect enemy mystic artes.
oh wow that sounds insane, i cant wait the game just looks insane im getting a ps3 for my birthday just to play this game and kingdom hearts 3 gets a release. thanks for the information sounds like this game is definetly a 10/10 quality game
wow the game sounds like it may pack a punch while at the same time delivering a compelling story and on top of that a battle system that will not get boring after 30 hrs.... having said that does anyone know if this fighting style is almost identical to ToV e.g left and right to walk then hold left trigger to move around freely... or is it completely free roam action like star ocean.... id answer this myself if the game was available in Australia :( gotta wait till september