Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology - Staff Review  

Tales of You
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

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30 - 45 Hours
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   The Tales games have always lived or died on two things; the strength of the Linear Motion Battle system, and the depth of their characters. Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology takes a lopsided approach to this, stripping down the plot and character development in favor of a very strong focus on the combat system. The end result is a game that shows just how powerful the LMB system can be, as it all but carries Tales of the World, the lackluster plot falling almost entirely by the wayside. The game tends to have a problem with consistency, as most of the visual and musical style in Tales of the World is scraped together out of parts of other Tales games, a fact which doesn't do anything good for the game's originality. Between the cobbled-together artistic style and a cast made up almost exclusively of characters from other entries in the series, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is a game aimed squarely at series fans.

   The version of the series-staple combat system used by Tales of the World is a somewhat stripped-down version of the one used in Tales of the Abyss, called the Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle system. Combat begins when players come into contact with an enemy on the field and are dropped into a 3D battlefield with a selection of foes. The player can use the D pad to move towards or away from whichever foe they happen to be targeting, or can use the analog nub to move in 3D. The game tends to play out a bit like a fighting game, with players being encouraged to focus on forming long combos and special attacks to defeat enemies. Tales of the World's combat system isn't quite as good as the game it's borrowed from as it removes a lot of the more complicated sub systems, such as move-altering Field of Fonons effects, and move-empowering Fonon Slot Cores. It does retain the Overdrive moves of Abyss and even borrows Unison Attacks from Tales of Symphonia, however. In any case, the loss of some of the more minor subsystems is not a serious blow to the game, as it adds in a few unique systems of its own, such as an expanded crafting system and class changes.

   This new crafting system is one of the more interesting parts of the game as it includes not only the series-staple cooking, but also forging, toolmaking, and weapon and armor enhancing. As players advance in the game, they'll receive recipes for everything from fruit tarts to restorative Gels, which can be made on the fly in dungeons. With a vast amount of items to be found that can be turned into something useful, players can expect to eventually become more or less self-sufficient, living off the search points of a dungeon to create HP and TP restoring items rather than returning to town to restock. The game does limit the system a bit by restricting the player to 15 of each item, which can prove a bit of a problem during the game's longer dungeons. The inclusion of a far deeper crafting system than is normally seen in the series does a lot to liven up extended dungeon crawls, as it adds a bit of mystery as to what each new dungeon might bring.

The character creation process is reasonably extensive. The character creation process is reasonably extensive.

   Unusually for the series, Tales of the World also includes a class system that allows the player to switch between several very different character types. The different classes have a deeply visceral effect on the way the game plays, as class determines to a great degree the amount of tactical care the player will need to use during combat. For example, playing as a Thief or Ninja will make a great deal of combat whiz by at top speed, allowing players to make decisions on the fly and forcing them to react suddenly to changes in situation. On the other hand, playing as a Swordsman will mean moving a bit slower, forcing the player to make more measured tactical decisions. Playing a Mage or Priest will slow things down further still, putting the game's focus even more on foresight and careful planning. Each class levels individually, and players cannot mix and match abilities, meaning that changing classes midway through the game will require a serious bout of level building. Still, with such a vast difference in the way each class plays, it's unlikely that many players will feel the need to switch more than once or twice before finding a character that fits their play style. Overall, Tales of the World has a highly varied and entertaining combat system that does a very solid job of carrying the game more or less by itself.

   Control in combat may take some getting used to, given the differences in play between each class. Additionally, the game does tend to drop players into the deep end of combat at the beginning, although the system isn't really complicated enough for this to be a real issue. Rather than gradually granting the player access to abilities that allow for fully three-dimensional movement and similarly basic commands as Tales of the Abyss did, Tales of the World throws the combat system more or less open wide to the player within the first couple hours or so of gameplay, aside from certain advanced classes. On the other hand, the game's menus are fairly intuitive, a definite plus given how often players will be using the crafting options, and combat control doesn't take very long to get used to. Overall, control and interface are solid and workable, with a minimum of issues.

   The story of Tales of the World follows the player-constructed character, a Descender of Terresia. Descenders are creatures born of a planet's World Tree, the source of the land's life-giving Mana, to protect a world on the brink of destruction. The world of Terresia summons the player character forth in order to protect itself from a monster known only as the Devourer, a beast that eats whole worlds for their Mana. Over the course of the plot, the player will come into contact with a variety of characters from other Tales games who have been driven off their homeworlds by the Devourer, and who now work for Ad Libitum, an organization dedicated to protecting the people and defeating the Devourer. It's not a bad setup, and the plot as a whole is largely inoffensive, but it lacks any real message or impact and relies far too heavily on cast members from other Tales games to give it flavor. The story itself is driven forward by completing quests, which results in a somewhat fractured and stuttering pace, with enforced breaks in between plot points where characters will have to complete secondary quests with no real bearing on the actual storyline in order to progress.

   As with the plot, the music of Tales of the World tends to go every which way, lacking a strong unifying theme or direction. That isn't saying the music isn't good - on the contrary, some of the music is quite good, with a few of the tracks presenting an interesting and energetic Celtic style. But with most songs being only loosely connected to each other, and with a fair number of tunes from earlier Tales games floating around, the greater part of the soundtrack feels like a collection of loose ends rather than a coherent body of work. The voice acting is a bit more coherent, with it's biggest problem being a lack of returning actors from previous Tales games reprising their prior roles. The actors tend to do a fair job of mimicking the voices of the characters they are replacing, so the shift from one voice to another is only occasionally jarring, and on the whole the VAs do a respectable job with what they've been given.

There are multiple towns, but There are multiple towns, but "world" may be pushing it a bit.

   With so much of the game's content being a reprise from earlier titles in the series, Tales of the World has a definite and distinct problem with originality. Characters from earlier in the series play roles very similar to that which they played in their game of origin, with very little in the game coming as unexpected. Although the game adds in touches of its own in the way of the expanded crafting system and class changes, very little in the combat system, story, or general development of the game will surprise anyone who has played a Tales game.

   With the vast majority of character, weapon, armor and enemy designs being holdovers from earlier Tales games, the visual style of Tales of the World is the most noticeably fractured aspect of the game. What few original character and monster designs that exist are fairly solid and represent a visual style that would fit in reasonably well in just about any of the Tales games. As a result, however, the visuals lack any real punch. The game does do fairly well on the technical side of things, with smooth animation, short loading times and little or no noticeable slowdown.

   Unusually for such a combat-focused dungeon crawler, Tales of the World is a fairly easy game, with a bare minimum of EXP grinding and item farming required to finish the mainline plot. The game offers a fairly rich New Game + feature, carrying over a variety of loot and allowing the player a chance to try other classes and complete more secondary quests. Also unusual for such a game, Tales of the World is fairly short, coming out at around 30 to 45 hours, though a player could very easily spend upwards of a hundred completing the available quests and leveling each class.

   Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology has a number of flaws, but none are so serious as to make the game genuinely bad. Collectively, these flaws show that the game was perhaps a bit rushed or a bit short on inspiration, but it still manages to beat out the majority of dungeon crawlers simply by making extended dungeon expeditions interesting. Though the lackluster plot and piecemeal artistic style will most likely mar the experience of gamers who aren't familiar with the series, in the end, they aren't really who the game is directed at. With a cast of fan favorites and a wide variety of design elements scrounged from the series' more popular entries, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is a game primarily for the Tales crowd.

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