While the Tales series isn't nearly as big as other series (namely Final Fantasy), it's still a particularly fun and satisfying game to play. For one, the Tales series has always been able to bring about fantastic gameplay and expansive worlds. While the stories sometimes seem generic they're brilliantly told with fantastic characters. Tales of the Abyss is the latest in the series and needless to say, if you liked Tales of Legendia or even the far superior (and arguably best) Tales of Symphonia, you'll more than likely enjoy this game.
Tales of the Abyss follows Luke Von Fabre. A spoiled rich kid who is busy trying to regain his memories. He was kidnapped seven years ago and can't remember a thing from before then. He's cooped up in a manor, though, and is restricted from leaving. During a training session with his master Van, someone breaks into the manor and attempts to kill him. When Luke steps up to defend his master, the two are suddenly teleported to a different location. It would be pretty basic... if you didn't meet such entertaining characters along the way. Just the same, the dialog is really clever, witty and full of humor. Simply put, you'll have a ball with these characters as they go off and save the world. It overall makes what would've been a generic story very interesting. Not only that, but there are several plot twists. Many of which you won't see coming.
Needless to say it's pretty standard stuff that you'd find yourself getting into some battles. It is, after all, an RPG. Tales of the Abyss has the best battle system in the entire series. It's far more expansive and free.
Battles are pretty much free roam. It's much faster and more intense than turn based combat. At first it's pretty simple stuff. You control one character while the AI controls the other three. Usually in a game when the AI controls the characters it's not a good thing. In the Tales of the Abyss, it's not only a good thing, but easy to tweak with as well. You can change the settings if need be to the point where characters won't waste their tech points so fast, or maybe you want them to focus primarily on attacking all together. Either way, the AI works rather well for this game.
While in battle you can use artes. These are your characters special attacks and techs. You can also string them together all you want as you get further in the game. Characters have their own unique artes, and they have quite a bit of them. This makes battling rather fun. Another great aspect of Tales of the Abyss is that up to four people can play by using a multi-tap.
The game is not an easy game, however. Many boss battles are a pain and even some normal battles can throw you for a loop. Even if you feel you're not being challenged enough, you can change the difficulty level whenever you want. Upon completing the game once even more difficulty levels are unlocked.
Everything about the battle system is pretty simple stuff. There is first the field of fonons. Fonons are the elemental factors at work. When a character cast a spell of a certain fonon a field will appear where the spell struck. Characters can then use these field of fonons for certain artes to perform a much more devastating attack.
There are also Capacity Cores for your characters. You can equip them to certain artes and abilities go to work. For example, you can power up an arte, or make it cost less MP. Some will even allow you to steal or make the effects of certain status artes last longer.
Perhaps the best part about Tales of the Abyss is that it's overall a huge game. Almost everywhere you go is filled with secrets. The main quest alone will keep you busy for hours. Even when it comes to secrets, you'll have to play through the game a second time to unearth them all. This easily makes the game over 100 hours long in and of itself. Tales of the Abyss is filled with as many secrets as any Final Fantasy game.
The voice acting is fantastic. It's lively, full of heart. Even the moments where it's not to the best of it's abilities, the voice acting is good. A lot of the music in Tales of the Abyss is forgettable. Battle themes are really good and catchy, but on the field there's nothing you'll be humming any time soon.
I wish I could tell you the graphics were absolutely fantastic. They're not, unfortunately. Many of the environments are vague. When playing on an HD television the games rougher edges really come out. For a late generation PS2 RPG, Tales of the Abyss is just not pretty to look at. The load times between battles are also very annoying.
At the very least, however, Tales of the Abyss is an exciting RPG filled with secrets, side quests, and tons of likeable characters. Any RPGer would be proud to have it.