Too far, the Tales series from Bandai Namco has remained true to its classic aesthetics and gameplay elements. As a result of the Anime-inspired art style, the high fantasy settings, linear motion battle iterations, and character-focused interactions found in previous entries, the JRPG series has established itself as an interesting, if less successful, alternative to well-known franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Compared to previous games in the series, Tales of Arise represents a significant leap forward. Innovative gameplay improvements, Unreal Engine 4 enhancements, and a mature story with a compelling cast of playable characters breathe new life into the franchise. The most recent Tales adventure more than lives up to expectations.
Tales of Arise has many entertaining side elements, from frank discussions over a crackling fire to thrilling confrontations with tentacled monstrosities. In my spare time, I went fishing in a remote paradise or interacted with wandering owls in return for amusing makeup to raise animals to provide stat-boosting meal ingredients for local blacksmiths.
Tales of Arise is hardly a low-stakes adventure, so having a slew of entertaining side quests is a nice respite. Many hours were spent reading about complex sociopolitical problems such as racial discrimination, authoritarianism, and mental illness (specifically, PTSD). Rather than being superficial gimmicks, these overarching themes carefully stimulate the motives of the characters.
Characters Alphen and Shionne are on the same journey but in a world of their own. The result of a centuries-long conflict between the technologically advanced Renan’s and the naturalistic Dahnans has been the establishment of concentration camps, surveillance states, and increased hate crimes. In addition, monsters created by Renan, known as zeugles, roam the remote regions of Dahna, killing everyone who crosses their path, even asylum seekers.
Alphen and Shionne are like peas in a pod despite their ethnic differences and erratic emotions for one another. The amnesiac warrior can’t feel pain, and the gun-toting fashionista only causes misery. As they struggled to effect good change, it was heartwarming to see the two of them grow closer together via petty squabbles and heartfelt confessions.
Arise’s narrative has a high degree of visual complexity that is evident throughout. Dahna’s realms are home to stunning natural features, including steaming canyons overlooking lava lakes and ice-covered winter wonderlands. One of the most picturesque views in Elde Menancia is a thriving kingdom perched above an old forest. As I walked through these microcosms, I encountered mineable crags, edible vegetation, and ferocious animals.
I didn’t have to wander too far off the main route to discover treasure boxes or hidden awe-inspiring vistas. The game’s design had some apparent weak spots, including sections set in ancient sewage systems, deserted ruins, and multi-floor castles that depended on boring puzzles to advance the story.
Combat, of course, is at the core of the game’s appeal and more than makes up for the drab settings. I would have been content even if there were no foes to contend with. To my heart’s delight, even the subquests, which consisted of nothing more than slaying zeugles, were bearable. Don’t be fooled by the combat U.I.’s simplicity; it’s more complicated than it seems to link combinations for maximum damage. Alphen and Shionne’s combat skills are still very limited, even when working together. Things start to get interesting when you include the other heroes you’ll run with along the road.
Elemental vulnerabilities, the use of celestial are (or magic), well-timed “boost assaults” that ask party members to incapacitate opponents on their own, and team-finishers referred to as “boost strikes” are the sources of victories in this game. Because of this, you can concentrate on what matters most: the colorful explosions and beautiful cinematics that result from destroying your opponents to pieces, thanks to simple button inputs and an open camera.
Flying strikes and last-second dodges add flair while also increasing damage temporarily. Because each character has unique abilities and playstyles, it’s fun to switch to one who can take advantage of staggered opponents. A wild boar in mid-air is no match for the party’s resident martial artist Law’s flying kick or your unrivaled are caster, Rinwell, hammering numerous enemies with beams of fire from atop the wild boar’s back.
Boss battles made me rethink my strategy since activating abilities haphazardly frequently resulted in quick and unexpected K.Os. Stories of Arise offers a variety of ways to prepare for the game’s most brutal battle – eating meals at rest points to gain attribute point bonuses, customizing party behaviors to prioritize healing arts and traditional grinding – all of which, when combined with “battle chain” effects, increased my chances of getting better rewards or encountering higher-tier challengers, as I discovered more zeugles in a row. Even when I won these grueling fights by a hair’s breadth, knowing that I had a variety of methods to advance was powerful.
“Titles” from previous Tales games come with new artwork and permanent stat boosts as well. With my skill points, I was able to customize the roles of my favorite party members by gaining access to new nodes for each game title. To avoid annoying ability cooldowns, I invested heavily in “arte gauge” adjustments across the board. Achieving higher levels in Tales of Arise requires a lot of micromanagement on your part. Auto and semi-auto combat control, on the other hand, may be helpful for players who are overwhelmed by having to make split-second decisions.
It is a joy to play, and Tales of Arise does an excellent job balancing old favorites with fresh new features like visual novel-inspired skits and upgradable titles. Sub-quests that include extensive world-building, even if it’s just banal conversations, help keep the plot moving and cohesive. Popular JRPG tropes like the importance of friendship and slow-burning romantic tension abound.
Even with uncomfortable pauses and clunky cutscene animations, I found myself fully involved in the tragedies and triumphs the characters experienced. A brilliant reimagining of the Bandai Namco concept, Tales of Arise is a triumph. It’s perhaps possible that this is the franchise’s most OK entry ever.