The release of a new “Tales of” game, in my mind, has always been nothing more than a foregone conclusion. It’s like how sports gamers expect another NBA game every year or how I would wait for another Just Dance game to play near the holiday seasons. However, unlike those games, a new Tales of game actually means having a brand new story with a set theme and with the classic mechanics that may or may not be that much different from its past titles.
But after going through the game’s demo twice, it’s safe to say that this might actually be the most ambitious of any Tales of game yet with its stunning visuals brought to life by Unreal Engine 4, unlike previous titles that used a dedicated in-house engine while also boasting the high-quality animations created by Ufotable. And if you’re not aware, it’s the same studio behind the animations of the likes of Code Vein and the God Eater series while also taking credit to other Tales of titles like Zestiria and Berseria. The move to Unreal Engine 4 also allows for a much higher graphical quality compared to earlier entries which also improved character models and movement so you can definitely feel the difference from one to the other.
Tales of Arise is made by a team of newcomers and series veterans that even dates back to Tales of Phantasia. With the art director and character designer role going to Minoru Iwamoto who had worked on both Zestiria and Berseria, the first time both roles are filled by one person, Bandai Namco aims to unify the game’s theme and art style where its world design takes on a darker direction compared to earlier titles. Here, Arise takes place in a setting divided between two worlds: the medieval world of Dahna and the more technologically advanced world of Rena. And with Rena being the planet in the sky, revered as the land of the righteous and the divine, Dahna has been pillaged for its resources and its people stripped of their dignity and freedom for 300 years.
And our tale begins with two people, born from different worlds, each looking to change their fate and create a new future. The game’s general theme seems to revolve around challenging the fate that binds them and how they can change it for the better or at least that’s how it looks like to me. Alphen who is your typical sword fighter with an array of close-quarters based artes fights with swift strikes and the evasive maneuvers of a nimble acrobat while Shionne who came from Rena is a long-range gunslinger who boasts astral artes that not only devastates its foes from a distance but can also support the team through healing arts. They are joined together with a vibrant cast of characters like Rinwell the mage that mainly casts astral artes or Kisara whom is probably the most unique part of the gang that fights with a hammer but also brings a giant shield to the battlefield.
Arise is a new game that still tries to keep the classic combat in check but as for how much is the real question here. The game definitely stays true to the gameplay we all know and love but it’s not to say it’s the same brand we’re all familiar with because combat in Tales of Arise takes on new elements like Boost Strikes where the use of normal attacks against enemies build up a gauge that when full allows you to do powerful finishers performed in tandem. Characters also have a set of three ground-based artes and three aerial artes that can be casted using the three face buttons depending on whether you’re grounded or in the air. These can be casted by using up your Artes Gauge located on top of your health bar that refills overtime while support and healing artes are casted when you have enough Cure Points which is located on the right side of the screen and above the health bars of your allies. However probably the most different aspect of this whole system is that Kisara with her overgrown shield differs from her peers in which she blocks instead of evades attacks and a perfectly timed block/evade negate any damage taken. Meanwhile you also get access to Boost Attacks which initiates the corresponding character’s special move when used or if used alongside with the left shoulder button would also allow you to switch control to that character after a boost attack.
Along with the demo is a tiny snippet of what you can expect from the game. You can eventually fish although it didn’t seem like you can do it right away. There’s also some accessory crafting involved if you talked to the NPC near the campfire which you can use to equip with your characters that can boost your stats and cooking is still a major form factor to the whole adventure. Skits however is taking a major overhaul where instead of it just being tucked away in the corner of the screen becomes a much more involved process where you’ll be stopped in your tracks to see a whole skit play out in a comic book style arrangement. It’s definitely not for everyone but it’s a nice change although I can’t say it’s for me specifically. What is amazing though is the visuals and the character models and how fluid the game transitions from the exploration to the fight segments.
Tales of Arise is definitely something new and fresh that longtime fans and newcomers alike will definitely appreciate whether it’s through its beautiful and vibrant visuals or the flashy and fluid combat without being too different from the classics. As someone who’s played through a number of other Tales of titles, I am very excited for its release much more than I anticipated. The game is set to release on September 10 on PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
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