In this Tales of Arise Review we’re going to be taking a look at the 17th main entry to the Tales series and what this Action-RPG has to offer. Tales of Arise is a part of the popular JRPG series of games that follows up the previous title Tales of Berseria. This is not a sequel or continuation so you don’t have to worry about not having played any of the other Tales titles when it comes to story, but you will find some familiarity in the gameplay systems if you have.
Tales of Arise Review: A Beautiful Experience
Developed by: Bandai Namco Studios
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release date: September 10th
Platforms: PC (review platform), Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Price at the time of review: 59.99 USD Standard Edition
Story & Setting
The game’s plot follows two characters from opposing worlds, Dahna and Rena. Rena has an advanced civilisation built with technology and magic, while Dahna has a more medieval society and are taken as slaves by the people of Rena, so expect a bit of a dark story here.
At the beginning, you take up the role of “the man in the iron mask” known as Alphen. He’s lost his memory and is one of the slaves that is working under Rena. He also has the awkward experience of not being able to remove his iron helmet, which he shares isn’t great for a number of reasons including eating. From the get-go, he often finds himself in situations trying to protect others, but as you can imagine can cause some problems.
During his time there, he comes across a prisoner Shionne who possesses a terrible power, which is both a blessing and a curse. One of Alphen’s unique abilities is that he can’t feel pain, which turns out to be very handy when meeting Shionne but I won’t go into too much of the story to avoid spoilers. Expect a lot of story here, as the game is very narrative-driven especially when it comes to unlocking new areas and even unlocking further skill wheels.
While Arise does have explorable areas the world is much more linear. As you get further into the Arise, you discover new areas with different climates, cultures and this is something the game does well. You will also meet a host of characters, some will become a part of your party which you can control, customise in both skills and costumes.
Combat & Gameplay
If you’ve played Scarlet Nexus you may find some similarities here in the type of action combat. While it’s not exactly the same, as in Scarlet Nexus you could switch between character’s abilities by borrowing them, Tales of Arise focuses on party switching mechanics, as well as Boost Attacks and Mystic Artes abilities. Once Shionne joins your party, you can use her Boost ability which means you can also combo her attacks with Alphen’s. You have all character Boost abilities on a wheel at all times, but you will need to wait to charge them before you can initiate them. Instead of switching characters on the fly like you do say in Genshin Impact, you can enter the main menu and choose the character to make active. This definitely took some getting used to, but makes the combat a little less hectic as you can slow down and plan your next actions.
Boost Attacks/Boost Strikes
At the beginning, these choices of abilities are rather limited, but as you progress, you unlock further Skills and gain further characters that join your party, you get to customise your combat a lot more. Customisation isn’t just limited to Skills either, as you can equip armor, and even craft Weapons to deal better damage or wield a certain element. In order to gain more Skills or boost your passives you will need SP, which is gained from progressing as well as side quests. The combat relies a lot on charging up these moves, and also hitting the Boost Attacks when it’s triggered. There are also team Boost Strikes which can be easy to miss if you don’t initiate them on time, that can feel a little frustrating if you miss them as they happen so fast, but when you do get to fire them off, are satisfying to watch. These will happen when you achieve a number of hits in a row, the more combos you achieve, the better you will do overall, earning you a better battle score, resulting in EXP and SP.
While there is a world to explore it is rather linear, with only a few paths to take in each area which are mapped out, you can climb and sometimes jump but this is rather limited. Enemies in Arise are triggered by running into them and initiating a fight. It kind of reminds of how turn-based titles such as Monster Hunter Stories 2 work, where you can run away from the encounter in real-time, but the enemies can chase you if you stay in their aggro range. The combat is a hack ’n’ slash, where you can lock on and attack, with some attacks automatically bridging the gap between you and the enemy.
There were a few instances of awkward targeting but you mostly get used to this as time goes on. Since you get both Aerial Attacks and Ground Attacks, you can often find the combat to feel a little bit like floating off the ground in some places especially with Alphen. I found playing with a controller seemed more natural for the combat style as it’s fast-paced with some button mashing when you’re trying to keep those combos going. If you are looking for more of a challenge you can select a harder difficulty, or if you just want to experience the story, there is a Story mode option. Playing in normal you will still need to grind for some levels to face more higher levelled enemies but some of these are optional or side-quests.
While enemy encounters can get a little repetitive in places, there are quite the variation as you progress more. The bosses have some interesting moves that may take some trial and error to get the right combination of abilities and some will have weak points which you can target. Strategy in this game is how your party members behave, whether they concentrate on healing you or aggressively attack enemies etc. You can use a number of consumable items to replenish health and even resurrect your party members. If your party completely wipes, you will lose CP which is used for abilities if you wish to have another go. This makes fights a slight risk, but you can always fast travel back to an inn or campfire so it’s not too detrimental but could mean having to run back if your fight was far from a fast travel point.
Cooking allows you to gain combat buffs including increased damage for a certain amount of time. You can cook food at the rest areas such as at an inn or at campfires. Each fight you will use a certain amount of CP, and time to time you will need to rest in order to replenish that CP in case you don’t have items on hand to do so. At the beginning you will find this running out rather quickly, meaning a lot of back and forth. Luckily there are fast travel points, so it makes this a little less tedious, but a little repetitive if you’re sticking around to do some side quests or farm experience.
Audio & Visuals
The graphics for Tales of Arise is a mix of 3D models with a paintbrush styled finish which gives Arise a unique look. I think this style does well to enhance the world and characters you meet. As I mentioned before, the story is told in a mix of anime-styled cutscenes and in-game cutscenes which I think does a good job of telling the story, also keeps the storytelling fresh.
At times you feel like you’re watching a high quality anime and almost forget you’re playing a game as it’s so well done. At the beginning at least the balance between story and action seemed to weigh more on the story side but the game does well to set up the premise. I should also mention there’s an amazing intro tune that’s hard not to watch and catjam to. You can play Tales of Arise with both English VO and Japanese, and both are done well. The soundtrack also does an amazing job of adding to the moment, swelling in all the right places for the most part, but can be a little intense when exploring.
If you’re a fan of character outfits you will not be disappointed as Tales of Arise has discoverable pieces in the game which you can equip for the different playable characters. What’s best of all is that these will also appear in the cutscenes as well.
Tales of Arise is a little slow to start, which makes the intro area a little boring as you really just want to get out there and start using some ultra cool moves. But hanging in there the abilities start to open up and the combat becomes much more enjoyable. The combination of character moves can result in some epic, flashy looking fights, but the auto lock-on can feel a little unnatural especially to begin with. The game reminded me a lot of Scarlet Nexus, as linear style and character ability swapping felt slightly similar, but I will say Tales of Arise feels much fuller as overall game with a deeper combat experience and more variety in storytelling in my opinion, making it more balanced and well-paced.
What’s great about Tales is that you can swap between playing characters Alphen and Shionne when exploring. There’s also a lot of great banter between the characters while you explore and at the camp areas when you rest. While the majority of the narrative is told through a mix of cutscenes, anime and comic strip styled conversations, you also get to pick up on the relationship between characters from their dialogues between these. There are also optional conversations to watch which will tell you more about the character’s thoughts on what’s going on in the story. I thought this was nice touch overall, but I could understand this might not be for everyone.
Tales of Arise offers some beautifully hand-drawn looking visuals, and definitely brings the “tales” side with the narrative. If you enjoy anime-inspired combat, a variety of customisation and can get on board with a linear world, you will enjoy Tales of Arise. You will definitely get your fill of content as there are 40 or more hours of content depending on how meticulous you are with side-quests, exploring and what level of difficulty you’re playing through.
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