Bennu Reflects on "Tales of Xillia"
Recently, I had the pleasure of playing through a game that’s been sitting in my collection for a while. Although I’ve started it briefly in the past, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the game through to completion personally prior to this reflection. My sister first had the honour of finishing the story several years ago; and now, I suppose I’m playing catch-up of sorts. Although my heart still longs for the sequel, I decided to pay respect to the base roots of the fantastical world that makes up Tales of Xillia.
Developed by Namco Tales Studio and published by its parent company Namco Bandai Games, Tales of Xillia went on to achieve considerable success in the gaming market. Originally published in Japan in September 2011, Western fans would finally have a chance to play through the game when it was published in Europe and North America in August 2013.
Set in the beautifully lush world of Rieze Maxia, Tales of Xillia follows the journey of Jude Mathis, a medical student, and Milla Maxwell, the Lord of Spirits, as they attempt to stop humanity from using a dangerous and sacrilege technology known as Spyrix. Along the way, Jude and Milla are accompanied by several more companions who assist them in their endeavours. There’s the reserved mercenary for hire known as Alvin; the shy artes caster known as Elize; the refined butler and tactician known as Rowen; and the spritely nurse known as Leia. All six characters have their own reasons and motivations for going on this journey which are gradually revealed and explored over the course of the game.
Despite Rieze Maxia’s rich environments, the two central countries that make up the land are on the brink of conflict. Although the game’s narrative begins in the south, the party will frequently be traveling to and from each country in order to pursue objectives and continue the main story. For the discerning trophy hunter out there, Tales of Xillia provides a full trophy list that is mostly time-consuming as opposed to challenging. The secret super-boss might prove challenging but can be defeated through grinding experience, stocking up on recovery items and having a solid knowledge of the game’s combat system.
As mentioned before, Tales of Xillia is set in the lush world of Rieze Maxia. This world is further divided into two central countries; Rashugal in the south and Auj Oule in the north. The country of Rashugal is led by King Nachtigal, a fierce king who has recently been focusing on improving his country’s technological prowess. Rashugal is home to the beautiful merchant city of Sharilton and the esteemed night-city of Fennmont, where our first protagonist Jude Mathis currently resides.
Meanwhile, the country of Auj Oule is led by an equally fierce and intimidating man known as King Gaius. Contrary to Rashugal’s more refined political system, Gaius serves as the king and leader of the various tribes of Auj Oule and commands with a stern but fair rule. Auj Oule is home to several notable cities including the mountainous capital city of Kanbalar, the ancient battle city of Xian Du and the quiet but sacred village of Nia Khera. The village of Nia Khera serves as the home of our second protagonist, Milla Maxwell, and the Four Great Spirits that she commands.
Tales of Xillia presents its story through the lens of both Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell, with players selecting one at the new game screen. While most of the story is the same, there are some bonus scenes and scenarios that only take place when playing as a specific character. In order to experience the full game, it’s recommended that players explore both character stories. Based on my experience, I’d suggest playing through Jude’s story first and then Milla’s. Jude’s story feels more nuanced towards new players while Milla’s fills in some more gaps on a second play-through.
Tales of Xillia is divided into four chapters, with each chapter focusing on a particular challenge or struggle in the overarching narrative. The first chapter focuses on the player being introduced to each member of the party and exploring a fair chunk of the world of Rieze Maxia. Each subsequent chapter further expands on the world exploration while also focusing on a specific struggle localized to that chapter. Without going into spoiler territory, each chapter feels fairly rewarding and satisfying upon completion as the party manages to remove another major threat from their checklist of adversaries.
On a separate note, the third chapter also holds a massive bombshell of a twist that both my sister and I were impressed by when we each did our respective play-through of the game. While role-playing fans will likely enjoy the game regardless, gamers seeking a solid story with strong narrative twists and emotional depth will find themselves somewhat impressed by what Tales of Xillia has to offer. Granted, the game doesn’t always deliver on every story thread it presents; but what it does focus on it does fairly well.
Jude Mathis is a fifteen-year-old medical student residing in Rashugal’s capital city of Fennmont. While working on his studies at the Talim Medical School, Jude also helps out his professor by taking on practical work at the local clinic. It’s on one such shift that Jude’s story begins as he ventures into the city to search for his professor who has been away for longer than normal. This eventually leads to him encountering Milla Maxwell, his fellow co-protagonist, and sets up the beginning chain of events that lead him on his journey.
As a whole, Jude is a solid lead character as he faces some tough hardships over the course of the game. He’s quick to help others and is very knowledgeable about science but is a little naive about the ways of the world. In combat, he uses arm bracers and acts as a sort of monk/healer hybrid. He’s able to dish out solid damage and is arguably the fastest character in the party based on natural stats.
Milla Maxwell is a twenty-year-old woman living in a shrine just north of Nia Khera prior to the events of the game. Having been tasked with protecting the life balance of humans and spirits, Milla’s journey takes her to Fennmont as she senses a great loss of lesser spirits originating from that area. This eventually puts her into contact with Jude Mathis, who accompanies her on her journey as they become fugitives and attempt to help both humankind and spiritkind.
Overall, Milla is arguably the central lead character in the game as her journey makes up the bulk of the narrative. That doesn’t lessen Jude’s involvement, however, as he is an integral part of the story and is essential for Milla’s journey. However, if I had to try and describe who the main character was to someone, I’d probably say Milla was the more prominent lead character. She’s confident, focused on her objective and will do whatever it takes to accomplish her task.
In combat, Milla plays as more of a balanced/red mage type character. She’s proficient with a weapon, able to cast artes (this game’s version of magic) and is an all-round solid party member. She also has some unique aerial combat abilities which make her a viable option for players who prefer to mix things up. Much later into the game, Milla gains the ability to summon the Four Great Spirits Undine, Efreet, Sylph and Gnome in combat which adds a further level of strength and strategy to her already formidable presence. That being said, she also suffers a little as she’s unable to naturally heal without the use of recovery items or a fellow party member. Also, her balanced stats means that she doesn’t particularly excel in any area either unless augmented with weapons, equipment and permanent stat-increasing herbs.
Alvin is a twenty-six-year-old mercenary who joins the party in Fennmont after helping Jude escape from the Rashugal military. Despite his cocky and suave attitude, Alvin is a more reserved character than first meets the eye. Out of all the main party members, Alvin is easily my least favourite of the bunch. That’s not to say that I hate him or anything as he’s actually a well-designed character. He’s arguably the most emotionally complicated of the lot. Without venturing into spoiler territory, let’s just say that his goals don’t always align with the party’s best interests.
Being a mercenary, Alvin operates as the party’s strongest physical attacker. He also has a suite of skills that he uses to adjust his battle style to the situation at hand. That being said, his primary focus is on physical combat and he only has one healing ability on hand to use. In the early game, players will be focusing on either recovery items or Jude’s healing abilities to get by. However, for those players who enjoy warrior/knight classes, Alvin is a pretty solid fit with a sidearm on hand to shoot from a safe range if needed.
Elize Lutus is a twelve-year-old girl who resides in the small Auj Oule village of Hamil during the events of Tales of Xillia. Despite meeting the party fairly early in their journey, she doesn’t officially join the roster as a playable character until a few hours later into the story. Personality-wise, Elize is a fairly shy girl who doesn’t really talk much. She’s accompanied by a magical talking doll named Teepo who voices her innermost thoughts and feelings.
That being said, Elize gradually begins to open up more as she spends time with the party. She has a bit of a tragic backstory which coincides with several key events in the game; including her strange and complex relationship with a man named Jiao who acts as both a surrogate guardian to her and an occasional adversary to the party.
In combat, Elize is proficient in casting dark spirit artes along with healing artes. In essence, she acts as both a white mage/necromancer hybrid of sorts. As a whole, Elize has the second-highest magic stat in the game but is the party’s best natural healer. She can recover varying amounts of health, heal status ailments and revive fallen party members with ease while also dishing out strong dark elemental damage. Elize also has the highest magical defense stat in the game, which affords her good protection against arte casters but unfortunately makes her susceptible to physical attackers.
Rowen J. Ilbert
Rowen J. Ilbert is a sixty-two-year-old butler currently in service to House Sharil in Sharilton during the events of Tales of Xillia. The party meets him for the first time in the market place in Sharilton while accompanying Lady Driselle of House Sharil and soon befriends the party during their stay in the city. Accompanying the party on several errands in Rashugal, Rowen acts as a supporting character for the latter part of the game’s first chapter before certain events lead to the party’s disbandment and reformation in the following chapter.
Despite his supportive nature, Rowen is a central character in the overall narrative of Tales of Xillia. Without venturing into spoiler territory, he’s forced into some fairly tough predicaments as his past inevitably catches up with him. Despite this, he’s a loyal person who cares deeply for those around him and is a tactical genius on the battlefield.
In combat, Rowen acts as the party’s black mage of sorts. He’s able to cast varying elemental artes from five of the six primary elements and wields a saber and throwing knives in combat. Rowen has the highest magic stat in the game and works extremely well as a mage killer. Despite this, he has the lowest natural maximum health alongside Elize which makes him susceptible to dying easily. Keeping Rowen at a distance and utilizing spirit artes is the best way of ensuring his safety and proficiency in combat. On a personal note, Rowen is also my favourite character to play as in combat as I enjoyed playing him as a Water Mage.
Leia Rolando is a fifteen-year-old apprentice nurse who lives on the island of Leronde with her parents who run the local inn. Being a childhood friend of Jude’s, Leia works part-time at his parents’ clinic and swiftly joins the party upon Jude and Milla’s visit to Leronde. Leia is a spritely, upbeat young woman who takes a shining to Milla upon meeting her and helps both her and Jude find some important items needed for them to continue their journey.
Leia joins the party late into the game’s first chapter and ultimately winds up joining the party permanently early in the game’s second chapter. In combat, she wields staves which help balance and augment her physical and magical abilities. Despite her balanced combat prowess, Leia acts as a Thief of sorts as she’s able to pinch items from enemies that are knocked down using her special ability. Additionally, Leia is also able to cast some basic forms of healing magic and has the power to revive party members naturally without recovery items.
All in all, Leia acts as a supplementary polar opposite of Milla. While Milla is a balanced fighter skewed more towards aggression, Leia is a balanced fighter skewed slightly more towards defensive play styles. Although some gamers may find this a turn off due to how late she’s acquired, Leia is a solid party member who can fill a variety of supporting roles if needed.
Gaius is the thirty-two-year-old king of the nation of Auj Oule, making up the entire northern province of Rieze Maxia. Wielding a katana in combat, Gaius has a storied history throughout Auj Oule as the man who unified the tribes living there and rules the kingdom from his palace in Kanbalar. Despite his status as a royal, Gaius is met several times throughout Tales of Xillia and serves a dual role as both a powerful ally and an occasional adversary.
Despite never joining the party, Gaius’ influence is a central factor in Jude’s character development. His fierce determination to protect his people and do what’s needed rings eerily similar to Milla’s personality; a trait which occasionally puts them at odds. Gaius is supported by his elite guard known as the Chimeriad, a group of four powerful warriors who are encountered repeatedly throughout the game. There’s Wingul, his right-hand man and military advisor; Presa, a powerful mage and spy; Jiao, who serves as the Chimeriad’s brute muscle while also having an affinity for animals; and Agria, a former Rashugalan noble who serves as an assassin.
Muzét is a twenty-year-old Great Spirit and Milla’s estranged sister who is introduced fairly late into the narrative. Harnessing the power of dimensions, Muzét has the ability to freely teleport anywhere that she pleases as she attempts to serve Maxwell’s divine will. That being said, she is also a somewhat sensitive and fragile soul who finds herself needing others to give her purpose.
Despite her relatively positive relationship with Jude and the rest of the party, Muzét does not formally join the party as such. Instead, she acts as a summon that Jude can use temporarily for part of the game as he direct-tethers with her to supply her with mana. After certain story events, however, Muzét leaves the party and becomes an adversarial force to both Milla and the others as a result.
Utilising her hair as a weapon in combat, Muzét is a competent fighter who acts as a powerful summon during her time with Jude but is also no pushover when battled against. Commanding power over many different elemental artes, she possesses incredible magical power and supplements her allies with solid healing and recovery artes. Personality-wise, Muzét is occasionally cheeky and flirtatious but also has a terrifying sadistic side when left to her own devices.
Nachtigal I. Fenn
Nachtigal I. Fenn is the fifty-two-year-old king of Rashugal during the events of Tales of Xillia. Serving as a major adversary to the party for the first half of the game, Nachtigal is a rough, brutish man who has powerful ambitions for his nation. Despite this, however, Nachtigal is a bit more complex than he initially appears to be. His story coincides directly with Rowen’s, who serves as a narrator to the party to explain the hardships that Nachtigal endured in the past to get where he is today.
Wielding a giant spear-like sword in combat, Nachtigal uses brute force to decimate his foes. He’s also capable of casting some elemental artes but generally prefers to use physical force. Although Rowen has mixed feelings towards his old friend, the party ultimately view him as an antagonistic force who needs to be stopped. Nachtigal is supported by the Rashugal military and his mysterious right-hand man known as Gilland.
Of Combat and Exploration
In regards to the gameplay, Tales of Xillia boasts a real-time action combat system in which players control a party member to run around the battlefield and attack enemies. Having six party members to choose from in a party formation of four members, Tales of Xillia manages to combine elements of fast-paced action gameplay with tactical command-based menu selections if required. Players can select abilities and artes to place on their character through the use of shortcut commands which can be set to specific buttons. I personally prefer using the right analog stick to shortcut my four favourite commands to use as needed. Players can also link characters together in combat using the directional buttons. By linking characters, party members can protect each other from behind and perform combo arte chains by using the linked artes meter on the left of the screen.
Outside of combat, players can control one party member as they explore the various environments that make up the world of Rieze Maxia. On occasion, players will need to input a command to climb up, jump down or move certain objects to proceed onwards. In towns, villages and cities, the party can rest or buy ready-made meals at a local inn and purchase new weapons, items and equipment from merchants. Once the player has access to the city of Xian Du, the party can compete in recurring battles at the local coliseum for experience and gald. There are even a few joke weapons that can be won from certain solo combat challenges.
Aside from boosting character stats with new weapons and equipment, Tales of Xillia also includes a level-up system that rewards each character with a set number of GP that they can use on a special web board known as the Lilium Orb system. The Lilium Orb system allows characters to spend their GP into acquiring various orbs that improve stats and sometimes include bonus abilities, skills and artes when linking a full web. Over time, the Lilium Orb web expands to include more selection for characters to choose from. By the end of the game, players will have filled out two full Lilium Orbs for each character upon reaching the maximum level of 99.
While fun at first, the Lilium Orb system does become a bit more tedious in the higher levels. It essentially goes from being a fun and significant investment of time to a slow crawl where players are basically just investing GP to finish the orb instead of actually enjoying it.
There are a plethora of side quests in Tales of Xillia. Known as sub-events, these range from bonus cutscenes through to item fetch quests, hunting local enemies and even battling secret bosses. Most sub-events do a great job of expanding on the lore of Rieze Maxia and further fleshing out certain characters’ roles and motivations. Jude and Milla have several unique sub-events locked to their individual stories but, for the most part, a majority of the game’s sub-events are accessible in either version.
Quite a few sub-events are time-limited though and require players to access them before certain main story points or they’ll be lost for the remainder of that play-through. This can be a bit disappointing for players as there’s no real visual clue where these sub-events can take place unless one has already started a particular one or stumbles upon it by chance.
In terms of music, Tales of Xillia has a solid soundtrack that is enjoyable. Unfortunately, a fair few tracks are re-used quite frequently on the various roads, paths and caves between towns and cities which gradually diminishes their appeal. That being said, I did enjoy a select few songs that are available in the game. Specifically, ‘A Royal City Enveloped by Night’, ‘Losing the Battle’ and ‘The Wavering Spirit World’.
A Royal City Enveloped by Night is a particularly atmospheric piece that plays whenever the party visits the capital city of Fennmont throughout the game. The visual aesthetic of the city mixed with this song reminds me of Christmas. I’m not sure if other people feel the same way but this tune just evokes that wintry Christmas vibe that you see in all those holiday films. It’s certainly a welcome and heartwarming tune that feels like classic nostalgia.
In contrast, Losing the Battle is a more poignant, sombre tune that plays whenever the party dies in battle. Those of you who know me are aware of my love for sombre music and this song ticks that box for me. It’s a slow, short piece that leaves just as soon as it plays. In a sense, I imagine it as what the people of Rieze Maxia hear in those moments just before they pass away. A quiet, haunting yet magnificent song.
Finally, I’ve selected The Wavering Spirit World. This is perhaps my favourite track in the game as it’s both hauntingly eerie yet soothingly calm. This particular song plays in the final chapter of the game in Milla’s story when she pays a visit to the spirit world alongside her friends Undine, Efreet, Sylph and Gnome. It’s a beautiful piece that doesn’t overstay its welcome and really sets the mood of the realm.
Overall, Tales of Xillia is a great JRPG filled with good music and a gripping narrative. The world of Rieze Maxia is brimming with natural beauty and is supported by a diverse cast of interesting and complex characters. Jude and Milla make solid lead protagonists with enough differences in their respective stories to entice players to play through again for the full experience.
That being said, some of the environments and character designs are recycled a bit too much with some palette swaps being used to induce a sense of variety. While I appreciate the attempt, it does come across as a bit lazy or simply that the developers ran out of time to implement something more. The Lilium Orb system is mostly fun to use although it does become more tiresome in the later levels.
Regardless, I’m definitely looking forward to playing the sequel sometime in the near future.
Rating: 8 / 10
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