I’ve finished the first part of the game (though I’ve no clue out of how many), and my party finally has all of the playable characters in it, so I thought I’d collect my thoughts.
First off, I got one of the first print copies; these included a Cless costume for Jude and a Stahn costume for Milla. My preorder was also early enough to get me a bonus cell phone strap dongle, which was Jude in the Cless costume (the other three possibilities were Milla in her Stahn costume, and both characters in their regular costumes).
When you start the game, you see a short anime intro for for Milla and then one for Jude; after those, you pick which you want to use as the main protagonist for this playthrough (when you get separated, your control reverts to that character, and you will miss out on various events that only happen to one or the other). I chose Jude, and after wandering around the medical school he’s a student at, I ran into Milla and followed her into the first dungeon.
Once you finish that dungeon, you’re done with the prologue, and the actual opening animation plays; depending on your chosen protagonist, you get either the Jude version or the Milla version.
The whole game looks gorgeous; Ufotable’s animation is excellent, and the in-engine graphics are extremely well-done. The environments are large and detailed.
The combat is a combination of Tales of Graces’s CC system (though in ToX, the points are called AC) and the more traditional Tales TP system; each attack, regardless of type, costs one AC to complete, and if it’s a special attack (an arte or a magic attack or whatever), it also costs TP. Regular melee attacks regen TP, and, depending on your skill selection, you can regen AC when you hit critically or dodge (you also regen full AC when you guard briefly, or after pausing in your attacks).
Instead of the overlimit gauge we’ve had in the past few games, system in ToX is conflated with what they call a Link Artes system; your character is joined to another in your party by an ephemeral blue line, and when the overlimit gauge has been filled 20% (and the icon is flashing), after an appropriate arte attack the two linked characters can combine their powers and do a linked attack (generally combining the attributes of the individual attacks). When the gauge is completely full, instead of just one linked attack, it’s possible to chain them; “chain chance” will flash on the screen just after the attack, and if you hit the button for a different arte (that has a link arte with the character you’re linked to), the pair will execute that linked arte without having to do the regular arte first. You can swap your linked partner on the fly with the D-pad, even during chains; if you time it right, you can get in four or five linked attacks before the gauge empties.
In addition to being able to change your linked partner during battle, you can also swap in characters who aren’t in the active party; by pushing R3 and the corresponding direction on the D-pad, one of your backup party members will take the place of an active one. This is a first for the Tales of series, I think.
The crafting system isn’t as extensive as it’s been in the past several games; it’s practically nonexistent, in fact. Instead of collecting raw materials and using those to upgrade various items, you use raw materials to upgrade shops, and those shops then sell new items (you can also spend money to upgrade the shops as well, but it’s a bit expensive; you get XP multipliers for shops, making it far easier to use items than gald).
So far, I’m very pleased with the game; it could be the best Tales of game yet!
The forums at NeoGAF have a long thread full of screenshots and gameplay information, if you’re interested.