Tales of Arise is the seventeenth main entry in the Tales series and it promises to be just as grand as its predecessors. The renewed visuals and mature story full of twists makes this a very classic Tales of title, with new additions that make it an even more memorable experience.
Story – Dahnan Slave Meets Renan Royalty
Tales of Arise takes place in a setting divided between the medieval world of Dahna and the advanced world of Rena. Rena’s superior technological and magical advancement cause it to hold power over Dahna, taking its resources and treating its people as slaves. The protagonists are a young man native to Dahna and a young woman from Rena who travel together to bring down the Lord in each realm. Along the way, characters from both Dahna and Rena join them in an effort to free the Dahnan people from Renan rule.
The game starts out hot and messy when the masked main character defends a fellow slave from a brutal guard in a mining labor camp. There are always dark elements weaved into the Tales series, and players get a full taste of that off the bat in Tales of Arise. In this world, the Dahnan race is forced into slave labor by Renan rule. Soon after saving a boy from being crushed, it becomes readily apparent that life as a Dahnan isn’t so great. There isn’t any escape from the heat of the Calaglia Mines.
However, that changes soon after the masked man finds himself in a rather thorny situation. Such leads him to bring about the downfall of the Renan rule in Calaglia, thus beginning the heroes’ quest. The path forward is to continue disrupting Renan rule across the realms, with only a handful of detours and sidequests along the way.
Every realm has its own unique problems that impact the personality of each character you encounter. The different characters reflect just how broken their realms are through their actions, and each character handles the despair of the world in their own unique way; it’s refreshing to witness character development across all characters. There are distinct character changes even amongst royalty.
However, there are times when the story is very linear and bland. You watch one cutscene, beat up a few enemies, and the next thing you know you’re watching another tumultuous cutscene. The spacing between battles and cutscenes seems short, and the time-span between battles and cutscenes get even smaller once you have reached the second realm. By the third realm, the game started to feel very rushed along.
Gameplay – Exactly What You Would Expect, But New and Improved
There’s a lot to learn within the first several hours of gameplay. The real-time combat battle mechanics become more in-depth the stronger you become, and there are several typical RPG elements to unlock such as skill trees, a title system unique to the Tales series, unlockable costumes, crafting and cooking, and more.
The Tales series has always featured complex combat systems that adapt to attract a new audience with every release with intricate mechanics introduced over the years. Tales of Arise does a great job welcoming new players to the franchise, with an abundant amount of tutorials along the way. Through some of the early tutorials, the main character is untargetable, making it easier than ever to learn mechanics without feeling the pressure of the health bar.
Bandai Namco released a video earlier this year with the Tales of Arise developer team to discuss the new battle system and characters. In this video, the developers state the focus on revisiting “the complexities and the balance of attacks and evasion”. This includes a new “Counter Edge” dodge mechanic that will become more essential as battle difficulty progresses with a steady increase of battle difficulty throughout the game. There are several battle mechanics additions such as “Boost Attack”, “Boost Strike” and more.
The changes to the battle system are reflected progressively throughout the game to ease players into battle mechanics. With this approach, developers have created “an action RPG that can be enjoyed by everybody” while also staying true to individual character personality and specialties.
In Tales of Arise, the strategy menu allows players to further control how characters will perform in battle, making combat strategies and formations even more customizable. Also, if you purchased the Ultimate DLC, the game is made even easier—players who purchase the Ultimate DLC can access the system menu to unlock bonus items, such as 100,000 Gald (in-game currency), advantageous recipes, glamorous outfits, and more, making the experience for new players even easier.
Many early sidequests require backtracking and killing off some enemies, turning the quest in, and moving on to the next area. After reaching the second realm of Cyslodia, there isn’t much free reign as all paths seem to be linear; there are only a few sidequests such as finding the hidden Dahnan Owls scattered throughout the different realms that offer respite from the main story. The lack of extra content made the game very linear and repetitive at times.
Audio and Graphics – Enthralling and Immersive
Combat can be monotonous (I’m so sick of Alphen screaming the same thing over and over), but that’s an element that exists throughout the Tales series—characters make the same grunting noise in every battle, and yell the same incantations over and over. Thankfully, this can be muted in the settings menu. Additionally, both the English and Japanese voice overs for Tales of Arise turned out really well! There are a few typos scattered throughout the English text, and the NPCs can be a bit atrocious, but both the English and Japanese audio sounded great in cutscenes, skits, and dialogue.
Tales of Arise didn’t skimp out on graphics, either. There are several beautiful and rewarding cutscenes after each progressive moment in the game. The art style in this game is stylized and unique as well, and you can really tell the art team spent a lot of time per character getting their personalities just right. Inside dungeons can be a bit boring since every room typically looks the same, but that’s a minor detraction from an otherwise stunning visual game.
Skits have received a welcome animated enhancement opening a window into character interactions and personality, but Tales of Arise has lost a few key features from the Tales series that fans may be familiar with such as the grade point system, cooking skill level, useful items such as magic lens (an item used to reveal an enemy’s weaknesses during combat), and extra side quests.
Tales of Arise was reviewed on the PS4.