The Tales series is one of the few JRPG franchises that boasts well over a dozen games under its belt. It’s also one of the few series that stands alongside other juggernaut titles such as the Final Fantasy series. This is because each new iteration improves on the last, introducing a slew of engaging stories, improvements, and other additions. This remains true for the latest title,Tales of Arise. The game has been in development for some time now, and it’s finally here. After finally getting my hands on the game, I can wholeheartedly say it was well worth the wait.
A Tale of Two Worlds
Tales of Arise tells the seemingly simple yet incredibly complex story of two polar opposite worlds: Dahna, a simple medieval world, and Rena, a highly technologically advanced civilization. Due to their advanced superiority, the Renans invade and enslave the Dahnans, using them to harvest their world’s resources. The game follows two individuals of these opposing races. Alphen, a mysterious man from Dahna with an iron mask, no memories, and the inability to feel pain, and Shionne, an equally mysterious young Renan woman plagued with a curse known as “The Thorns,” which inflicts pain on whoever touches her.
After a series of events, the two form a party together based on their aligning goals. Alphen decides to fight the Renan lords to free the Dahnans, whereas Shionne helps him for her own ulterior motives. As the game progresses, the two find more willing allies of varying backgrounds to join them on their quest.
Narratively, Tales of Arise offers arguably the most engaging story in the series thus far. The game highlights the stark differences between the Renans and Dahnans in a compelling manner by displaying the ugly side of segregation and all the grey areas in between. It also boasts a slew of endearing characters, especially in its two contrasting leads, the valiant and righteous Alphen, and the cold, calculating, and mysterious Shionne.
The Arte of War
In terms of combat, Tales of Arise still sticks to its core elements while sprinkling new additions into the mix. Fights still take place in expansive areas and dungeons, mostly against monsters, each with different weaknesses. Those familiar with the Linear Motion Battle System of the series will feel right at home. Fans of Tales of Berseria will likely be happy to see the return of the Soul Gauge system, and now we even get an all new Cure Points system for all healing and support Artes.
Players will start with the Alphen and Shionne, but will then have more characters join their party with time. Shionne takes the back seat in combat by offering a range of both healing Artes and ranged attacks with her rifle as well as a slew of elemental bombs. Alphen instead opts for full-frontal attacks with his sword alongside his varied arsenal of closed ranged elemental Artes. His most useful tool is his Blazing Sword, which offers devastating flame attacks working simultaneously with other Artes by holding their assigned button. It’s worth mentioning that all Artes can be swapped at any point in battle, and can be assigned to any button.
Life of the Party
The game’s list of six playable characters allows for more freedom in conducting strategies. Characters like Alphen, Law, and Dohalim use close to mid-range attacks while Shionne and Rinwell provide support with ranged attacks. This leaves Kisara serving as a tank with her shield. It’s a great balance that allows players a lot of freedom in how they want to play. Another significant element of the game I’d like to highlight is its impressive AI.
Aside from other JRPGS that make conducting battle strategies with AI teammates an insufferable ordeal, Tales of Arise instead gives the player a stress-free experience as its AI is probably the most responsive I’ve seen in any game thus far. Dangerously low on health? Shionne will make it her priority to heal you in between her ranged attacks. Going full aggro? Then characters like Law and Kisara will back you up with supporting attacks. Players can also set their AI teammates to act a certain way from the in-game menu like being more aggressive or defensive to match any situation. And like many other JRPGS, each of the four active party members can also be swapped out with the two reserve members at any time.
Give Me A Boost
Boost attacks, the game’s new combat feature, is a welcome addition to the series. They provide either a little supporting boost of extra damage or a useful skill depending on the character. My favorite new addition by far, however, is the highly devastating and visually stimulating Boost Strikes. You execute these with two players in the party once an enemy takes enough damage. Players can also expand their arsenal of Artes by defeating monsters and clearing quests to unlock skill branches. Overall, its safe to say that gameplay in Tales of Arise is a well-oiled, highly customizable machine that provides avenues to both engage and challenge the player.
The game also provides a lot in terms of visuals and aesthetics, with detailed and attractive 3D models, vibrant colors, stunning effects, and mesmerizing environmental design. Those running on higher end platforms can even enjoy a boost in resolution or performance. Additionally, the game boasts impeccable sound design. From the chirp of birds and the crunch of snow, to the rattle and jingle of armor. The level of detail and work put into the game frankly astonishes me.
When players aren’t fighting enemies, they’ll be engaged with the many features this highly developed world has to offer. Some include the ability to gather ingredients to cook meals, talking to party members at campsites to increase their bonds, finding cute owls that give you cosmetic items, and watching the newly remodeled skits, which are now more animated, providing dialogue and humorous scenes between areas. These are but a few examples of what you’ll be spending your time doing in Tales of Arise. The game has a lot of content to offer players narratively or otherwise with a long play time to boot.
There honestly isn’t much to complain about in the game aside for some tidbits. Audio cuts and glitches exist during character dialogue, which can quickly get irritating. The game cuts out multiplayer entirely, though it really does work strongly as a single player experience. One worrisome aspect of the game is how progressively harder it is to level up your party. This isn’t much of a surprise, as XP boosters are included in the Ultimate Edition for a smoother ride. It’s not exactly new for the series, but it does make for a minor inconvenience for those with the Standard Edition.
Issues aside, Tales of Arise masterfully blends its elements to produce a truly captivating experience. It’s surprisingly turned out to be my favorite in the franchise thus far. It may be lacking the multiplayer of its predecessors, but that doesn’t diminish the overall journey. As the first Tales game of the new generation, we’re already off to a fantastic start.
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