Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Release Date: September 2008
Set two years after the original Tales of Symphonia, Dawn of the New World is the first direct sequel in the Tales series of games. As the story goes, Lloyd, the hero of the first game, was able to reunite the worlds of Sylvarant and Tethe'alla by replacing the dead Kharlan Tree with a new one. However, in the ensuing two years, the inhabitants of both worlds have grown wary of each other, and monsters are roaming the land. Only the spirit of Ratatosk can restore balance and save the world.
Emil and Marta are the two lead protagonists in Dawn of the New World. Emil starts on his quest after witnessing what appears to be a massacre of innocents by Lloyd while Marta is on a quest for Ratatosk. The developers have said that Emil and Lloyd will meet, though there has been no confirmation on whether their conflict is a misunderstanding or if Lloyd has become a villain. In addition to Lloyd, a number of characters from Tales of Symphonia are slated to make an appearance in the game.
As in previous Tales games, your active combat party is limited to four, though you can have up to 10 characters in your selectable group at any one time. This is due to the new monster capture system debuting in the game.
The battle system allows for repeated encounters with the same monster to end with the player eventually capturing the creature and taming it. You can increase your chances of capturing a monster by using elemental attacks and aligning the active elements with the primary element of the monster. Once captured, a monster can be trained, fed and evolved. It's not quite up to Pokemon levels, but the producer demoing the game did promise a great deal of depth in this area. For example, each monster has individual needs which are communicated by a thought balloon above its head. Feeding a favorite food helps a monster grow and increases the chances of it evolving into a more powerful form.
Combat occurs in real time and allows for four player co-op, much like Tales of Vesperia. Fighting relies heavily on the previously mentioned elemental attacks (matching elements gives your attacks a boost, opposing elements hinders your attacks) as well as charging up the combo meter to perform unison attacks with multiple party members. This is similar to the unison attach mechanic in the original Tales of Symphonia.
While the game mechanics seem solid, the build we saw was a bit rough around the edges visually. We're not sure if this is due to limitations of the Wii hardware or if it was simply an artifact of an early build, but the dungeon combat scenes displayed a good deal of pixelization. Hopefully, things can be polished up a bit before the game hits shelves in September.
One point of note, players will not have to worry about random battles. Roaming monsters can be seen on the world map, giving you a chance to avoid them if you're trying to quickly navigate from point A to point B. Key battles will be impossible to circumvent.
Dawn of the New World still has a ways to go before completion, but we're pleased to see that the development team is taking a few risks with the formula. All too often, sequels are retreads rather than innovations, so we're looking forward to seeing how this one shapes up. If it works out as planned, Wii players might just have one killer RPG on their hands.
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