“The release of a new Tales of game, in my mind, has always been nothing more than a forgone conclusion.” Is what I literally said in my opening sentence for my Tales of Arise Demo article. And from that demo, there were a lot of things that got me excited that there’s actually a game called “Tales of Arise”. It’s where the classic game formula meets modern technology to create something fresh and unique without going too overboard with its ideas.
It’s easily one of the most ambitious titles of the series. Jumping ship from using the dedicated in-house engine they’ve used in past titles in order to incorporate the power of Unreal Engine 4 which definitely shows the crisper graphics and a more life-like world to explore. The stunning visuals spans throughout the entirety of the game’s full campaign but where it really struck a chord with me is with the amount of foliage in the later realms during my travels. Its where, I kid you not, genuinely felt like a kid again that just got his first shot at playing a video game. The stunning visuals are way beyond what past titles have had but what really completed this package was the amount of detail work done through its high quality animations. Most of the 3D animated scenes doesn’t feel lifeless and dull but instead they act and talk like real actual humans do thanks to the addition of motion capture which made the entire slog of the text and skit-heavy campaign well worth playing out. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet and let me give you a quick rundown of the game’s theme and setting.
Tales of Arise just like every other game title in the series has its own set theme and Arise is no different. This time, it’s all based on the idea of people trying to challenge the fate that binds them. You have Alphen, a slave from Dahna that woke up one day with no such memory and with an iron mask stuck to its head. One day, he finds a woman named Shionne whom is from a world called Rena, a technologically advanced world that has long since enslaved the people from Dahna to exploit them of their resources for 300 years. But in a nasty stroke of luck and coincidence, they end up helping each other to rid of a common threat that will lead them to the truth about the two worlds. It takes a darker tone with slavery and extortion of rights being the major forefront but it really gives an impact to make you invested into its overall story especially when that cast of characters offer such great character development throughout the game’s lifespan.
The gameplay and combat mechanics is also somewhat its better selling point considering how quickly you can transition in and out of battle sequences. Battles normally play out like most hack n’ slash games as you move freely in a circular field with one button being used for normal attacks while three other buttons are dedicated for assigning artes which also changes depending on whether you are on the ground or midair. But you also get access to a jump button and either a dodge or block button depending on the character you’re using. These are the usual commands that are often similar to past titles however where it starts going a different route is its newly introduced boost mechanics.
Boost Strikes are the one-hit kill attacks that is performed in tandem with other allies and these can be done by filling up a blue meter that shows up on the target lock-on icon by staggering or launching them while unleashing a flurry of attacks before they can recover. Boost Attacks on the other hand is where you can summon an ally to do his/her unique attack once their own boost gauge is filled. This is a great tool for creating openings or interrupting enemy actions such as when monsters decide to do a charge attack which can be interrupted by Kisara’s Boost Attack while flying monsters can be brought down if you use Shionne’s attack. There’s a number of unique quirks that works quite well with each character’s boost attack so saving it for the right moment is often a great choice to stop them in their tracks before they do any serious damage to your party. While there are still a number of new mechanics, these are best left for your own adventures.
And while you’re not fighting monsters that are commonly known as zeugles, there are a number of different ways to spend your time in Arise. Gathering materials for creating weapons and enhancing accessories is one thing but you can also cook meals for your team which gives different buffs and effects or you can tend to your farm to gather meat from all sorts of animals other than engaging yourself in a fishing mini-game which is pretty much a staple for most RPGs nowadays. Title completion is also a very useful thing to manage because as you obtain new titles, you also gain new abilities should you spend skill points on it that could either let you obtain new artes or improve your damage against downed enemies. There’s an exhausting amount of things you could be doing at your first runthrough of the game that even fifty hours was only just right to get you through the game’s conclusion while skipping quite a few of its side quests and spending only a tiny bit on fishing.
The only real problem I have with the game is its overly reused enemy models which is pretty much a given for most games too but considering how great of a game this is, it becomes a bit more painful to see that there’s so little variations to its enemy types. Fights are also often dragged for too long because of how bullet-spongy most monsters are so taking advantage of the Boost Strikes is often something you’d need to fully utilize to reduce the amount of time to kill monsters. But as a saving grace, at least you can change the default button commands should you feel more comfortable using a different layout to input your attacks during combat.
While I’ve already praised the game for its stunning and vibrant visuals and environment, I would at least like to add that it’s a breath of fresh air to see that despite the game’s story being a bit more linear due to how they are going to each and every lord of a realm to obtain their master cores, there’s still quite a lot of variations to how each area is set up. Strangely enough, I was genuinely pleased that I come to a lord’s castle and I wasn’t greeted with a maze-like dungeon layout like most games would normally do. Instead it actually felt like something people would live in and I was only tasked to gather certain items or something to unlock the next area. It’s also worth noting that its music and voice acting is pretty good and never really brought down its overall quality.
In a nutshell, Tales of Arise is an almost perfect masterpiece of a game and if it didn’t have its shortcomings, I wouldn’t even hesitate to call it one. There’s the engaging yet dark story of the two worlds but also brings in some fun and interesting character development that kept me glued to their lives. Its combat offers an exhilarating risk-reward system but does get exhausting due to how fights can be dragged for far too long. So if you’re looking for a great RPG then Tales of Arise offers great value for your time and money considering how well the game is laid out.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Developers: BANDAI NAMCO, BANDAI NAMCO Studios
Publishers: BANDAI NAMCO, Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
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