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Review | Tales of Arise

"New Tales and one of the best entries in the franchise! Well, it's been 5 years and we better get something good, no excuses! Melt into beautiful Tales of Arise and enjoy it while it lasts."

by Foggy, 23-09-2021, Edited by: Jim

When you look forward for new Tales release while playing Tales games from their beginning, you really start to feel old. Not only I’ve played almost all of them, but I’m a huge fan of the series as well. Although I personally preferer older titles and I consider them to be a true JRPG classics, I don’t mind when it comes to some new approaches and innovations for the series.

Did Arise justified my expectations? In a word: Yes! Absolutely. Do I have issues with these modern games that don’t even have world map like the old ones? Also, yes. What you can extract from this is that even though the game follows the “modern” recipe of JRPG genre, everything that was done here feels right, while camouflaging minuses with even stronger pros. Tales of Arise is a beautiful, somewhat romantic, yet dark experience that was made for new gamers, and I feel the older generation can find so much to love as well.

Modern anime quality is here! Loved the cutscenes, animations and those effects all over the place.

Don’t worry about not playing older games; this one stands on its own. Well, like them all! They are all separate stories, so you play them as you see fit. I’m a huge fan of Destiny 2 from PS1, Phantasia from SNES and the latest entry that made sense was Vesperia. Zestiria and all these newer titles wanted to create some kind of semi-open world dungeon approach, with random pickups and extensive exploration. What they did was a boring filler exploration that suits no one. All areas were lacking details, rewards were boring, I missed Vesperia, world map, all these unique perks that got lost in translation.

Arise does it well, even though I can describe the whole game as the one narrow hallway (much like FF7 Remake Part 1). They finally paid attention to details, so they made the game explorable (if that is even a word). Every map, every area you go through, is full of details and I have so many screenshots of my journey. I know you will feel the same because this game is simply gorgeous. I never expected such performance and graphics, they went beyond that and it’s safe to safe this is the ultimate cell-shading eye-candy.

I played it on PS5, but I heard good things about the PS4 version as well. Short loading times and stable FPS is what matters on PS5, and not a single bug or crash is something I will praise as long as I’m alive.

The game will make you explore everything; That is what I loved even though it's very linear - it just makes sense to watch everything and observe the surroundings.

As the game starts, you will maybe feel a bit awkward with the main character. English dub is not the best for like first 10 hours in the game. Often you will hear his awkward shouts and how he wants to save the world after just 2 hours… I felt this is going to be the worst protagonist ever, and the worst Tales story of all times.

Luckily, that’s not accurate at all. Alphen will grow into a decent person, his voice actor (Noctis from FFXV btw) will sound more mature as the story progress – even some parts in the beginning make sense when you learn about his past, and you can understand some of his reactions.

This is a game where a bond of allies goes against the planet destruction (as usual), but the storytelling is strong. The idea of 2 worlds - Rena and Dhana; is packed well and with some pacing issues here and there (in the middle), it gets the job done. I listened to all skits, all conversations, I wanted to grasp the story and I’m glad I did. I don’t consider the story the best in JRPG games, but it’s one of the strongest in Tales universe for sure. Mostly you will look at dubbed scenes, skits (comic-style animated skits) and even animation! Damn, I miss in-game animations. There are few, and they feel like watching a good anime movie.

I feel like the characters have depth, that they did good job with presenting them to us. Maybe because you only gather a party of 6, so you have time and focus to “handle” everyone.

Shionne is the main female and the main story-connected character. I love Shionne. Expect many lines to read, expect some weird scenes, and some quirky ones (the ones with the cooking were awesome). Every character is unique and equally important. I don’t want to bother you further; you will see and feel everything while playing the game.

Just awes all over the place. Kudos for introducing many areas so we can take millions of screenshots. I just lack the complexity when it comes to dungeon design, I also love to use my brain, you know?

So, I mentioned exploration factor. No world map, but instead, we got the most beautiful Tales game ever. What’s weird is that I love the semi-open world here, even though I hated that in past few titles. Every area comes with some chests, visible monsters, Owls (collectibles), random collectible items (usually materials for crafting); and with their own “souls”.

That is what I loved. You go through these “hallways” the whole game, you just go forward, but the nature around you feels alive, and the models of enemies that roams freely around you is astounding. It’s so nice, just to listed to great soundtrack (although I have a lot of problems with it - being too symphonic and that almost never changes), explore and fight; all of that somehow fits into this formula and makes your journey worthwhile.

Although it’s really hard to miss something, I didn’t had so much issues with it (even though this is always my main complaint in games). Post-game content and how they add new events to some areas is cool; the journey feels fresh the whole time and you never feel like you are backtracking. There are so many areas in the game, it’s really impressive. I do miss some confusing dungeons and puzzles in general; everything was way to simple and you can’t go wrong at all. So, it is bothering me a bit and I wished there was more to it; for sure, I guaranty it, the game would be ever better if the exploring was like in older games.

You will really want to find everything; not only it's helpful, but you will always want to see what this game has to offer in all places. 

What can you actually do in the game? Well, when not chasing the story, you can clear side-quests and try to beat Gigants. Gigants are back! Stronger version of monster, but like side-boss challenges. I loved them; I wish there is more of that kind of content.

Side-quests are decent, but there as some fetch ones inside. Good news is that most of them are related to regions and their stories, so you will learn more about some NPCs, which is always a good reason to play them. Even the fetch ones can give you a recipe for cooking, so completing them all overall makes sense. And they are all marked on your map (which I hate, takes the exploration factor away) for your convenience. The whole game is full of quality improvements, which are too much if you ask me. I love when the game doesn’t hold my hand all the time.

You can also collect recipes, you can cook, and craft. Crafting will be your main side-thing as you need stronger weapons for upcoming fights. And boy, weapons are so cool! They change visually and in scenes, and usually when you clear some new area you will start getting materials for new weapons. This is good, and bad - bad being only that you just do the same thing over and over again with them. This is where they limited us a lot, even the levels can’t be grinded early as the enemies start giving you less and less EXP. It feels like you progress slowly and then at the end – bam, level 100. Ok, I guess.

Fishing, crafting and Owls will be your main side-content. Plus the Gigants, but let's stick with some peaceful pics.

The fact that bothers me the most is the enemy variety. How the hell they came up with 10 variations of 10 enemies through the whole game? No, I don’t want to fight the same wolf but in 10 different colors, with the same move sets. What the hell? I expected Tales quality when it comes to monsters, but no, they decided to change colors so they can obviously work on their paid DLC “Add-ons”.

Did you know that 60 Skills (Skills are like nodes with new Arts and buffs for characters) out of 450-ish are locked behind paid DLC? Yep, and you can get other boost, like faster levels, less crafting materials for weapons. What the bloody hell Bandai? I can’t earn all moves in the game without paying for Deluxe version or that DLC? Screw you with this practice, it sucks, and you should suffer for doing this to your loyal fans. We are not idiots, we are long-term fans so don't treat us like we are retarded.

Ok, that was the rant. Now we can continue. Skills, like mentioned, opens as you progress the story and they will provide boosts on your counters, open new moves (Arts) you can use etc. You also need to complete certain requirements to open some, and in general, I liked this. Too bad it’s not more complicated like in Vesperia where every weapon comes with different skill you can use.

Another dose of side-content; this time Arena (great challenges if you don't overlevel yourself), Gigants (you know that some guy battled 7 hours the first gigant that is stronger 40 levels from you when you start, and beaten it) and Heal. Heal? Yeah, Shionne can Heal random NPCs on the road for some rewards. Pretty basic.

So, what’s left? Hehe, the best of it all – battles. The best fighting system in all Tales games. I loved it, it reminded me a bit of Star Ocean 4 (not the bad parts), and it’s fast, fluid, detailed… The only thing that bothered me are the effects. Man, they overdo it often. You can’t see s*** most of the time. Then again, it’s pretty, colorful, man, so pretty. I’m torn in between, so I’m gonna go with “I liked it a lot”.

Never have I ever seen such beautiful colors and effect in JRPG games. Mystic Arts are fast and cool as hell. The game also introduces boost attacks; they are like special ally attacks that you can use against certain enemy states. For example, when you face an enemy with strong armor perks, you can use Law to pierce through and stagger them. You must think fast and use appropriate boost attacks at the right moment, or parry an attack, and then counter. Staggering is also possible if you destroy weak parts on monster (I wished there was more to it), so you want to time your specials properly. And the flaming sword… Oh boy, that sword deserves so much love (it drains your HP when you use it, but its effects are worth it – Berseria anyone?). The real problem are those Boost attack that just get stale with time (and the fact there is only 1 per character doesn't help).

Overall, I feel very positive about the fighting system, and it never bored me in 80h of my playtime. Loading times are awesome; when you end the fight, the next second you run through the map. Awesome, cool stuff. Expect the CP points.

You know how you have HP and MP in RPG games? Here, you have CP, mana used only for healing, shared across the whole team. For example, you have 50 CP and resurrection is 20 CP. Bam, Orange Gel to heal it. Orange gels are 3000 Gils per piece, and you earn 12 Gil per 2 hours. You see where I’m going with this? The whole bloody game revolves around weather you have enough healing items to survive a boss fight or you’re dead. I don’t like this a lot, I think this is where they missed their point. Farming money is made by selling materials or harvesting ores, but good luck in the early parts of the game.

When you master the fights, you will start to love the game more and more. It has enough variety, even controling other characters makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, look how beautiful!

Without saying too much, I’m done talking. Some parts are better left for you to explore (like fishing, which I loved, collecting artifacts, new game plus), some I mentioned and disliked. I think this game is made for wide audience while also offering something for us (the “old” fans) to love. Still, I miss the Tales depth when it comes to content, NG+ perks, more arena fights, the world map... I feel like they wanted everyone to like their new child, but thats not how it goes.

This is a beautiful, fun, strong game and as a whole package, I’m really confident it will receive many rewards and appeal to many gamers out there. I strongly suggest this game. It’s hard to stop writing, but I have to. I want new Tales game. How long do we have to wait for now?

"If you want a modern JRPG experience - go for it. If you want old school JRPG Tales - halfway go for it. If you want a good game - just go for this one."
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