Status: Completed main quest, second quest… mehbe later
Most Intriguing Idea: Essentially eliminating “mana” and cooldowns.
Best Design Decision: The dodge/cc-regeneration mechanic.
Worst Design Decision: Pretty much everything else.
Thanks to Tales of Legendia, Tales of Graces f is not the worst game in the Tales series, but oh how close it came. That’s through no fault of the combat design; I found the battles to be exceptionally slick and with very few exceptions very enjoyable to play. By removing the separate “mana” gauge and linking all combat actions to a single, recharging counter, the battles gained a lot of rhythm and a focus on dodging that made them feel significantly more tactical even within the series’ trademark chaos.
Unfortunately, that tight, muscular combat is buried in a metric ton of lard, including an inscrutable synthesis system and a deluge of titles. The idea of learning skills from titles appealed to me at first, but it boiled down to a second experience system that allowed for player input, which just made me wonder why the primary experience system wasn’t doing that. The Eleth mixer, which spot-cooks dishes in combat, is extremely handy, but breaks the common-sense ideas that sustained the otherwise silly cooking system, in my opinion. Also, I kind of missed looking for recipes. The Eleth mixer’s other ability, to generate raw materials, just felt like an admission that the devs hadn’t really checked to see whether the synthesis system was balanced or interesting.
Then there is the story, a stock Tales tale in which the evil but sympathetic whosiwhat is going to suck up all the jujubaba, thus destroying someplacia, starring character archetypes who have recognizably been imported from previous Tales games. The incredibly cramped world features completely de rigeur settings with practically no interesting visuals, and it’s all backed up with a score that has been competently recycled by Motoi Sakuraba from his previous works. It’s all quite gallingly lazy and I’m beginning to think I haven’t the time for it anymore.
If you can’t say something nice… Dodging at just the right moment to completely load up your gauge for a counterattack is so great.