The long wait is finally over for the seventeenth entry into Bandai Namco’s Tales of Series. Tales of Arise is the series first foray on next-gen consoles with the developers looking to attract a new generation of fans while also commemorating its twenty-fifth anniversary.
The story of Tales of Arise follows the iron masked warrior called Alphen, who like a lot of JRPGs is trying to regain his memories.
Working as a slave on Dhana, a planet that has been taken over by Renans from the opposite planet Lenegis, Alphen strives for the chance to free his people.
After an eventful encounter with Shionne and the Crimson Crows, Aplhen finds himself on an adventure to liberate his fellow Dahnans while unravelling the mystery of his past.
The plot may not be highly original within the genre but with the many plot twists, empathetic scenes and highly energetic action sequences it’s a very entertaining rollercoaster.
Like other games within the series, the Tales of Arise is filled with an eclectic cast of characters who all show admirable character development from start to finish.
Tales of Arise is the best looking game in the series by far, using Unreal Engine 4 has really allowed the developers to reach new visual heights. Playing on the Playstation 5 I was constantly left in awe by how stunning each locale and its inhabitants looked.
The main visual feast lies within combat, and the Tales series has always been known for its stylish attacks but it’s been taken to a whole different level in Arise.
Cutscenes also follow suit with glorious action scenes and near-perfect lip-syncing. The opening sequence is an anime work of art produced by Ufotable who have worked on previous Tales games.
There are anime cutscenes thrown into the mix but not nearly enough as I was hoping. Tales of Arise looks stunning and players will have the option to either prioritise graphics or frame rate.
The graphics are already amazing, so choosing to prioritise the frame rate is probably the best option as the battles will feel faster and smoother than ever-improving the overall experience.
The soundtrack is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who has worked on many JRPGs in the past but is most recently famous for his work on the Dark Souls Trilogy.
Here the soundtrack is an ensemble of grand orchestral pieces that admirably accompany the corresponding visuals. Whether it be an epic battle theme or a tranquil melody they add an extra layer to the overall experience.
Exploration will take place within multiple open areas, so whilst there isn’t a huge world map to explore like games of the past, players will still marvel at the grand design of each location.
Each area is filled with sub-quest, enemies and cute Hootle Owls. There is a very fine balance between actually adventuring and combat which is great. The world opened up even more once players gained access to the map action.
Sub-quests will play a massive part in your character’s development as players will be rewarded with new titles that will grant them access to new skills and artes by gaining. So even though they are optional the game is really enticing you to tackle them for the generous rewards.
Skits have slightly changed from previous games as they were normally played out by the anime counterparts of the characters, now they will be acted out with the full 3D character models.
They have less of a visual novel aesthetic to them and feel more like a manga with each scene being acted out on a different panel. I feel like they are less comedic than before and convey a much more emotive style of storytelling.
If you have played the Tales Of games then you would know that combat is one of the biggest features of the series, mainly due to its fast pace real-time gameplay.
Battles will be initiated by making contact with the enemy, and this time there aren’t any links or favourable encounter features to aid you in battle. Some fans might have seen these as gimmicks of the past and welcome the more somewhat realistic open-world experience.
Battles will once again be real-time and take place in a 3D arena, where players can string together combos, the limit can be increased by learning certain skills and levelling up.
Each character has their own unique fighting ability that links to their fighting style. Shionne is a long-range fighter who will target flying and astral Arte-wielding enemies, as well as foes with lower HP during combat.
Players can once again choose different strategies for the characters to follow during battle which is nice as it means you can control your item and Artes usage.
The game has made this much easier to control than before, where you had to give each of your characters specific instructions, now they affect the entire team.
Artes are the special attacks that can be used to extend combos, you can only perform a certain amount before the Artes gauge will have to fill up again.
Artes can also be chained together into combos, while others will have secret enhanced versions or Perks that can be unleashed.
A nice feature to stop players from being cheap and spamming powerful Artes is that the penetration of each attack will decrease, making them less effective on enemies. This will force players to learn how to utilise different Artes.
Artes with healing and support effects will consume Cure Points as well as deplete the AG. This just means healing and map actions can only be used if you have enough Cure Points. Cure Points can only be filled by sleeping at the campsite or Inn.
This new system does add a little more will stop players from being too gung-ho in battle to preserve these points. However, it would’ve made things a little more difficult if players weren’t able to stock up on Orange Gels and be able to heal their Cure Points before every boss battle.
A crucial part of combat is mastering the evasive controls which will also allow players to pull off counters and minimise damage. It’s especially crucial for certain characters like Law who power up from dodging enemy attacks.
New to the series is Boost Attacks which allow characters to unleash a powerful attack on the enemy. This also allows characters who aren’t in the party to take part in the battle for a brief moment.
All characters will be able to perform a Boost strike, which is a one-hit kill attack on the weaker enemies. More than anything they look amazing and really show off the visual capability of Tales of Arise.
One downside to combat is the enemies who aren’t as strategic as they could be. Other than the Giant Zegules who have a more formidable attack pattern players will be able to cruise for most of the exploration parts of the game.
That being said players can change the difficulty level when they want but even then the enemies just take more of a grind to beat which can become tedious.
What also may sadden long time fans is the omission of the post-battle victory screen. This was great to see some extra character interaction. But as this is a game aimed at a new audience and a fresh start it’s understandable that something would be left behind.
Tales of Arise combat is a visual spectacle that tries to recreate the high-speed battles witnessed in anime shows. It may seem like a button-mashing affair from early on, but as players delve deeper into the game, the mechanics become more complex but still remain intuitive at the same time.
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Tales of Arise is an amazing addition to the series that will serve well as a great entry point for newcomers without isolating long term fans. I was blown away by the amazing visuals and fantastic soundtrack.
The combat was always the best feature of the series and it’s great to see that the developers haven’t really sacrificed any of its charm or complexity to attract a wider audience.
I really think the developers have done a marvellous job reinventing this classic series for a new audience without compromising much of the key elements. Tales of Arise is sure to cause a massive stir amongst JRPG fans and the gaming community
Tales of Arise is out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows on September 10th