When a franchise spans many years, has seventeen games, and several spin-offs, you know it has a fine pedigree. However, what you won’t know is how good the latest title will be and if the developers have gone off on a tangent. The Tales series has been running since 1995, and the latest addition is the beautifully expansive and captivating Tales of Arise.
Developed and published by Bandai Namco, this is a massive action role-playing game. It has captured many fine qualities from its predecessors and has created a story that caught my attention almost immediately.
Tales of Arise covers some hard-hitting topics while transporting you to a bleak fantasy world.
You explore a bleak landscape between the world of Dahna and Rena. The Renans conquered Dahna and subsequently enslaved its population across five realms. They are run by five Lords who compete to become the Renan Sovereign. No-one stands in their way, not even the lives of the Dahnan people. They extract Astral Energy from the surrounding world and the Lord who holds the largest amount is declared the high-ruler.
The oppressive regime causes pockets of resistance to form and the people begin to fight back. One group, known as the Crimson Crows, rescues a cursed Renan called Shionne. Her ‘thorn’ ailment hurts anyone who touches her making her an outcast. As the Crimson Crows rescue her, a masked slave nicknamed ‘Iron Mask’ helps. His bravery doesn’t go unnoticed and the rebels recruit him to assist their cause. This man sadly has no memory of his past and he has no knowledge of his identity. He feels no pain and is the only person who can wield the fire sword produced from Shionne’s Master Core. The two, alongside others, decide to capitalise on the situation and work together to take down the cruel Lords once and for all.
A cold relationship that thaws.
If you love slow-burning bonds that evolve across a full playthrough, then you’ll adore Tales of Arise. The icy start to the protagonist’s relationship thaws and matures as game-defining events occur. The Tales series is renowned for its captivating plots, and this one is no different. The friendships that form and the secrets that are exposed will keep you interested throughout. I enjoyed how Iron Mask’s identity (Alphen) is unveiled and how his past is a key component in driving the story forward.
You will love how each character’s traits and flaws define the pace and direction of the story. With many players adding to the plot, there was potential for confusion and a lack of direction. However, Bandai Namco cleverly maintained focus upon the two heroes and their reasons for wanting to break the system down.
Combat, Artes and Skill Points.
Tales of Arise has a heavy focus on combat and levelling up. Utilising mechanics first seen in Tales of Grace, this instalment has polished up those already loved elements. Dodging and evading strikes are rewarded with a slow-motion counterattack sequence, and many abilities focus on combos and timing. This smooth gameplay is a noticeable improvement over the rest of the series and was a pleasure to experience. With much of your time spent tackling foes for minimal rewards, you’ll at least enjoy slashing up your enemies.
The already badass combat is helped by Alphen’s expansive range of Artes and Mystic Artes. These special attacks are learned when completing quests and other events. SP or Skill Points can be spent on new Artes from any title that is obtained. This was a wonderful way of making the combo heavy combat more expansive, and I loved how new moves altered your approach. The mystic Artes are your finishing moves that trigger cut scenes for a truly OTT experience. They are a great way to end any battle and a staple within the Tales series. They add to the already polished combat and made it a much more enjoyable spectacle.
It never feels like a waste of time.
I’ve played many RPGs that have felt like a grind! Collecting resources, venturing into the wilderness, or completing side quests simply doesn’t appeal and you ignore a large portion of the game. However, that never happened, and exploring the vast world was always pleasurable. This was helped by the wonderfully challenging big monster battles. These encounters are tough and will test your patience, equipment, and level of skill. Having your arse handed to you is a genuine concern that haunts you throughout. Therefore, mastering the combat mechanics is a must if you want to take down the gargantuan beasts.
These were complemented by the big boss battles that test your teamwork, planning, and guile. The horrendous encounters ramp up the difficulty thanks to their greater skill level and a wider area of attack. You must craft and equip the best gear possible to survive and this loops back perfectly to why you need to explore the world.
Exploration helps to gather resources to vastly improve your chances of survival. It allows you to use the cooking mechanic for buffs, and to craft stronger and better equipment. Hunting larger prey drops rarer items and better weapons, and so every journey feels necessary and I never once complained about my time being wasted.
Tales of Arise is set in a stunning world.
Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder, and I think every element of Tales of Arise is beautiful. No matter the landscape, the finish and quality are phenomenal. The wonderful Anime and Manga inspiration transports you to a surreal world that is part fantasy, part reality. The striking character models and a mixture of vivid colours and pastel tones help to set the scene while enhancing the emotional layers within each scene. The polished combat is helped by the free-flowing camera that assists with the fast-paced nature of each encounter. The expansive nature of the world combined with the hectic gameplay could have been a messy affair, but I experienced no issues or frame rate drops throughout.
The audio is dominated by some incredible songs and a variety of styles. With so many hard-hitting and emotional subjects to cover, the developers needed a varied soundtrack to enhance the range of emotions. Fortunately, the music delivered a dynamic selection of songs that worked perfectly with each scenario. You’ll enjoy some heavy tracks during combat scenes and softer music when moments are emotionally charged. JRPGs are renowned for their loud sound effects and strange noises, and Tales of Arise doesn’t buck this trend.
Many combos and commands to work with.
This isn’t the easiest of games to play, but thanks to its thorough tutorial, you soon become comfortable. However, the heavy reliance on combos and timings makes this tough to master. Subsequently, I struggled to keep on top of any new elements and the many core concepts. Fortunately, a range of assist options within your team reduces the difficulty and will help until you become familiar with its finer points.
This massive addition to the franchise is full of replay value. With an enormous world to explore, many quests to undertake, Artes to unlock, and more, you’ll be kept busy. Its large achievement list enhances the replay value further, and completionists will be kept busy trying to finish this off.
Tales of Arise reignites an already great series.
The Tales series is held in high regard, yet Tales of Arise has enhanced its reputation further. It’s a fantastic addition to the series and one that brilliantly polishes some of its much-loved mechanics. If you are looking for a touching and well-polished title with excellent graphics and intelligent audio, then look no further. I adored it and recommend you to buy it here! Uncover the secrets that each protagonist hides, explore the beautiful world, and overcome the five Lords.