Tales of Arise is finally here after the excellent Tales of Berseria released in 2017 in Europe! 4 years can be a long time, but when it’s a new game from a much-loved series, it usually is worth the wait (Duke Nukem Forever not included in that statement!)
The ‘Tales of‘ series always follows a main character through an epic story. Sorey in Zestiria was to become a Shepard, Velvet in Berseria was set for out-and=out revenge, and in Arise you have Iron Mask, a slave that gets caught up in the local resistance and ends up fighting for the freedom of his oppressed home world.
300 years prior to the events in the game, the technologically-advanced Renan enslaved the small Dahna planet. The people were put to work from a young age till death, serving the five lords. Each of the lords have their own specific area, in terms of the way they do things under their rule. Iron Mask (Alphen) has amnesia, while the iron mask he cannot take off, is until he goes up against the first lord.
During an early mission on a train, he finds a Renan woman Shionne and ends up helping the resistance when their underground base in a mine is attacked by overwhelming forces. He teams up with Shionne, and the story truly starts out here. Alphen wants to take out the lords and stop the 300 year occupation of Dehna, while Shionne just wants to take out the lords. They make quite the unlikely pair, given their backgrounds and have to learn to get along over the course of the game.
Gameplay sees you entering a self-contained area which will lead to another, rather than being open-world much like the earlier games from PS3-era onwards. There are plenty of monsters and enemies scattered about to tackle while you explore. Additionally, you’ll occasionally encounter a monster which has such an extremely high level, that you will need to stay away from until you reach a much higher level, yourself, and then venture back to take care of it. Thankfully, there is a fast-travel system which usually has a point near the start and end of each area, which can be used rather than having to fight monsters etc which are way below your level and a bit pointless fighting for experience.
Once you reach towns and areas of interest, you’ll come across side quests from some of the locals that can take you back to a previous area to collect or kill something. If you have already explored the previous area fully, I found that some of the collection quests can be completed immediately.
Each district has it’s own setting. The first area serves as a tutorial and set the story in motion as it has a Fire lord, and the locale has fire pits with everything overshadowed by a red hue. The second district you visit is permanent night and snowy with a new set of enemies occupying the areas. It makes exploration interesting, and keeps you hooked, not forgetting while out exploring, you have the skits the series is known for, where the gameplay stops for comic book-style frames of conversation between the characters.
The combat plays similar to both Zestiria & Berseria in that during an encounter with an enemy, there’s a circular arena in which you will battle. You have your standard attack and dodge, as well as being able to jump and attack mid-air enemies. Time a dodge just right, and the action slows for a few seconds during which you can counter for extra damage. Alphen is you typical warrior-type character, while Shionne is range-based with healing. As well as the standard attacks you learn different artes (essentially magic) and new attacks. You can set the attacks, and artes NPCs like Shionne & Rinwell will use during battle automatically, so it’s best to remove the lower power level stuff once you get powered up attacks. For Alphen, on the other hand, you can set 3 attacks A, X & Y on Xbox, which use the diamond gauge above your health.
Run out and landing normal attacks refills them pretty quickly, ready for the next powerful volley. Whilst battling, you’ll get powerful attacks you can launch on an enemy by pressing the right direction on the D-Pad for the character that has their gauge filled up. If you manage to stagger an enemy by filling the blue outline, round the lock-on cursor and you’ll briefly see a blue ‘plus’ symbol appear. At that point, tap the D-Pad and you’ll perform a dual attack with another character, which will obliterate anything in it’s path, finishing a battle in most cases in spectacular style.
Levelling up sees you receive points for the enemies killed, allowing you to buy various skills with these points from the different discs on the character profile. It is pretty simplistic, but in a great way. On top of the skills, you can forge new weapons, armour and accessories (or upgrade accessories if you have the right components) from the different vendors. New weapons have higher damage stats, armour has better protection, and accessories will cover one area such as attack damage or resistances. Again, it is quite simplistic, but it is all you need, spending less time tinkering with items the more time playing!
A great addition to Tales of Arise is being able to select how your character looks, no matter what armour you are wearing. This covers Samurai-styled armour sets and beach wear etc for Alphen, plus numerous dresses, school uniforms and beachwear for the female characters. The same customisation is available for the weapons in the game, if you don’t like the way something looks. Additionally, you can select different head models for Alphen if you don’t like the part-broken iron mask after you take out the first boss. Keep in mind, however, that for story cutscenes (not skits), Alphen will have the correct clothing item showing that you have selected, but he will have the half-broken mask.
Visuals and sound are absolutely stunning. The sound is best described as rock opera which you experience in a lot of Japanese games and it sounds excellent. The visuals for the characters look rather cel=shaded, but not as much or strong as something like Borderlands. Backgrounds and the world around you look awesome, with the detail and being able to traverse up and down ladders and foliage to get to new areas, or find a chest. It all just gels together perfectly and is supported with some beautiful Manga-style animation for some scenes like the intro.
Tales of Arise marks the 25th anniversary, and the 17th game in the long-running series. I have experienced no bugs, crashes or frame rate issues in the time I have played, and I’ve loved every minute of it so far. The live combat – with the artes and powerful twin attacks – is something to experience, and the first time you see them it leaves you in awe. If you have never played a ‘Tales of‘ game, then this is a great starting place, and if you love the series like myself then you will fall in love with it all over again.
It just goes to show that amazing single-player experiences are still there for us all to enjoy.
Just to finish: You NEED to pay a visit to the owl grotto…….
A big thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment for supplying us with a code for the PC to be able to review Tales of Arise.
- Developer: Bandai Namco Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Players: Single player only
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!