So I spent another weekend playing Tales of Graces F

by wfgodbold

And after putting ~50 hours into the game (not all this weekend), I can say that it’s pretty good; the plot is decent (though some of the dialog is a bit rote), the graphics aren’t terrible (they’re ok, but you can tell that they were limited by the source material having been developed for the Wii), and the combat system is great.

As in other Tales of series games, Graces has a semi-two-dimensional combat system.  The party character you control (you only control one at a time; adjustable AI handles the other three party members, but you can switch to whomever you like mid-combat via the D-pad) generally only moves towards or away from the current target in straight lines; you can block with the square button, attack using A style arts with the X button, and attack with B style arts with the circle button (the triangle button calls up the menu for changing equipment, AI, and using items).

Instead of TP (the Tales of series version of magic points, consumed when abilities are used), each character has a pool of CC.  This pool starts low, and is increased by upgrading weapons and learning new skills.  Each ability (A or B) uses a set amount; A abilities come in four tiers, the lowest costing 1 CC and the highest costing 4 CC, and when you combo using A abilities, you combo from cheaper into more expensive abilities; a four-move A ability combo would then cost 10 CC.  Like A abilities, B abilities also vary in CC cost; however, there is no set order for using them, and you can follow any B ability with any other, as long as you have the CC required for its activation (B ability costs also vary from 1 to 4 CC).  Once CC has been used, you can either guard (by holding down the square button) or just stand around and it will naturally return.  Backsteps, charges, and sidesteps (all done by holding down the square button and pushing the left stick in different directions) all also cost 1 CC each, and free running (instead of directly towards or away from your current target) gradually consumes CC as well.

Obviously, your combo opportunities early in the game are limited; once you’ve upgraded your weapons and learned some of the skills (via the Tales of ubiquitous titles; this time, they’re not just for costumes!), you can chain together longer and longer combos.  Initially, you are only able to perform longer combos when you fill the arles gauge (yes, arles; I don’t know how they come up with this crap) on the left side of the battle screen.  Once the party’s arles gauge has been filled, they will enter Arles Rise (it’s very similar to the overlimit in previous games), and become uninterruptable; CC meters disappear in the arles rise mode, and you can combo to your heart’s content (once the proper skills from certain titles have been learned, you can hold down L1 during combos in arles rise mode to use the player character’s Blast Caliber (this game’s Hi-Ougi special attacks)).  Arles Rise mode only lasts for a few seconds, and then the gauge must be refilled.

Just under the party’s blue arles rise gauge, though, is an orange one; when filled, the enemy monsters can also enter arles rise mode; certain enemies, in this mode, can use their own Blast Caliber attacks, so be careful.  Like party members, monsters in arles rise can not be knocked down or interrupted.

I haven’t done very much with the dualize system; Tales of Graces crafting consists of going into the dualize menu at vendors or inns and then combining pairs of items.  This is how you cook and upgrade items, and while I have done a bit of cooking (since thanks to the arles pot, cooked items can be used in battle and not just afterwards), I have done pretty much no armor or weapon crafting.

The arles pot, as I mentioned, is an item you get early-ish in the game that starts off not very useful, but gradually becomes more important the more it’s used.  It has slots (how many depends on how much it has been used; it gradually gains experience and levels up automatically when it’s used), and in these slots you can equip consumables, food, crafting materials, or grimoires.  Equipping consumables or crafting materials increases the chance for those specific items to drop, and so it’s not very useful (unless you need a specific crafting material).  Where the pot really shines is with the food and the grimoires; each recipe has a certain activation condition (some when any character is below a certain percentage of their health, some when battle has gone on for a certain amount of time, and others after battle when a party member is KO’ed or the battle was finished within a certain period of time), and an energy cost.  If you have a recipe that heals all party members for 20% of their health equipped to the arles pot that costs 15 energy and activates when a battle has lasted 10 seconds, then once the battle has lasted that long, it will automatically be used (as long as there is energy in the pot; the maximum energy starts low, but when the pot is used during and after battle, the maximum energy increases).  Grimoires have varying effects, but all regularly consume energy from the pot, so with low max energy values it’s best to focus on using more recipes (to level the pot).  The energy can be refilled at inns and at any vendor.

I’m not going to go into the plot here; while it’s nothing to write home about, neither is it flat out awesome (like Tales of Vesperia was; I really liked that game).  The combat system (and crafting, I suppose) is where most of the gameplay is at (unlike certain other franchises), and figuring out how to string together longer and more impressive combo attacks (and unlocking new abilities) is where I get most of my enjoyment in the Tales of games.

The CC system and the two different styles of attacks each character has really make the battle system in Tales of Graces enjoyable, though; if it had a plot on the same level as Tales of Vesperia’s, I’d say that this is the best Tales of game yet.  As it is, it’s merely got the best combat system yet; though the combat in Tales of Xillia looks pretty interesting.  We’ll have to see how well it holds up (whenever it ends up getting released; Namco’s site says 2011, but they could release it at the end of December and still meet that goal).

Update: I forgot to mention that there is no overworld (or world map, or what have you) in Tales of Graces; all traveling is done either via boat, giant turtle, or foot (with an airship available later on), and when not traveling by foot, you choose your destination from a list of options and are transported there instantly.

It’s done pretty well, but there isn’t much of a sense of exploration to the game.  Paths between towns and dungeons don’t really branch (though dungeons themselves still do).  The main downside to this is that it is harder to grind levels and SP (skill points, used to level up aliases and learn skills), since you can’t just run around on the world map fighting random monsters.

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6 Responses to “So I spent another weekend playing Tales of Graces F”

  1. where do you live? you got tales of grace f a YEAR before us? i live in Canada and the game just came out march 13

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