Hey! Hallie here!
I haven’t done a video game review in far too long. For some time I lost some of my motivation to get up and turn on my PlayStation, but I’ve been slowly gaining that motivation back and with that comes exploring new games! One of the major games that’s been on my radar this year is ‘Tales of Arise’, a new addition to, and a soft reboot of, the ‘Tales of’ series. I had played a couple ‘Tales of’ games in the past and I loved ‘Tales of Berseria’ in particular, so a new addition to the series definitely wasn’t an offensive idea to me. The fact that this game is also a soft reboot of the series, allowing the creators to connect future games in ways they hadn’t completely done before, really intrigued me. Plus if you’ve heard anything at all about this game from the gaming community, you know practically everyone’s singing this game’s praises right now. So how is it? Did I agree with the majority of opinions on it? For starters I’m going to say I recommend this game. But know there are story SPOILERS in the rest of this review, so be sure you’re comfortable with that before venturing forward.
I play games mostly for the story, but no one wants to play a game with horrible gameplay. Fortunately for you, this game is really fun. ‘Tales of Arise’ is a real-time combat heavy game. So that alone should help you decide if this game’s for you. Like other ‘Tales of’ games, each character has specific attacks that you can link to different buttons on your console to customize your play style. Either way it gets button mashy, but I really don’t mind some button mashing as long as there’s variety and there’s plenty of that in this game. There’s also various kinds of special attacks you can unleash at certain points in battle that come with visually stunning animations to make it feel even more rewarding. Overall, combat feels very smooth and fun. It’s challenging enough to make me feel accomplished after I defeat every boss, but not so challenging as to keep me on one singular boss for hours or make me feel as though I need several hours of grinding to move forward. That’s another thing I loved about this gameplay. Grinding didn’t feel like a chore. In many games such as this, the game encourages you to fight every single enemy in an area in order to properly level your characters up. Not only that, but running into one enemy will be deceptive, as when the game takes you into a different area to battle, more enemies will be present. None of this occurs in this game. When you see two wild beasts grazing in the grass, you can trust you’ll be only fighting those two for the time being. And the game encourages you to keep an eye on how exhausted your characters are far more than it encourages you to fight every enemy you see. This way you can level up your characters while still taking breaks and avoiding some battles, and you don’t have to feel guilty for it.
This game has some excellent world building and the focus on it is where this story shines. The first thing this game establishes are the twin planets of Rena and Dahna. Rena is a world full of the rich and powerful whose main form of entertainment, and means of choosing a leader, is something called the Crown Contest. This contest sees lords from various houses on Rena being sent down to Dahna, a world full of poor, subjugated individuals, to prove themselves. They do this by being assigned to one of the five realms in Dahna and using the citizens there as slaves in order to harvest a type of energy from them. The lord with the most energy by the end of the competition is named the leader of Rena. Obviously, the inhabitants of Dahna are pretty tired of this arrangement. Especially our main character, Alphen, who starts the story off as a slave with no memory of his past and an inability to feel pain. By chance he meets a Renan girl names Shionne, who was ostracized by her own people for having a curse called Thorns. This curse makes it impossible for her to touch anyone without harming them, but Alphen’s inability to feel pain immediately makes them the perfect match. Well, that and the fact that both are hell bent on taking down all of the lords stationed on Dahna, effectively ending the Crown Contest and destroying Rena’s power over Dahna. Throughout the game you visit each of the five realms on Dahna, all gorgeously animated and perfectly unique. Each area is also based off of the four elements with light and darkness added onto them.
The game starts out in Orbus Calaglia, a sandy wasteland with volcanoes to indicate its fire origins. Cyslodia, a largely snowy forest with a beautiful medieval town in the center, is the land of light. My favorite area, Elde Menancia, a beautiful land of rock formations, farmland, and a grand and festive town, is the land of earth. A destroyed town surrounded by marsh and run by windmills represents air. And finally, Ganath Haros always has rainy weather, is surrounded by rivers, and has a giant castle of mostly reflective designs to indicate its water origins. All but one is a ruled by a cruel lord (I’ll get to that in a moment) and to get to the realm of darkness one only has to hop a spaceship and fly to Rena. Because of course they represent darkness. Each area has a unique story and each lord rules in a very different way to keep your attention throughout the game. My only gripe here is that, in much the same way as ‘Kingdom Hearts’, this game’s story gets too complicated. After the first part of the game, where you defeat the five lords, the game jumps you straight into part two. Part two info-dumps on you all the information they didn’t tell you in part one. And it gets ridiculous. From the fact that both planets are technically sentient but in different ways, to a ritual meant to pass energy between the two planets, to the complicated identity of the Sovereign and who holds the Sovereign’s powers, to a strange connection between Shionne and one of her ancestors. It makes your brain hurt by the end of it and I really wish they would have taken out at least one of these story elements to clean it up a little.
Here’s where my attention usually lies. Characters are what really attach me to a story and I had high expectations for all of the characters here. Some of them lived up to my expectations. Alphen, our protagonist, gets introduced without his memories, a mask covering all or part of his face, and the inability to feel pain. You’d think that would make this character interesting. Unfortunately, Alphen acts like every other “determined” anime protagonist you’ve seen. He’s nice, but only because he keeps reminding you exactly what his morals are in each scene. He gets a moment to be angsty halfway through the game, but only so he can come off as a bit of a dick to the audience before he goes back to just being himself. There’s nothing interesting about Alphen. As for Shionne, she’s a much more interesting protagonist. She’s used to fending for herself because of her curse, so she finds it difficult to work in a group. She’s also a badass that often serves as a voice of reason in the group. However, Shionne gets knocked down several pegs for being damseled multiple times in this game. Not only is she kidnapped halfway through the game, but in the final battle she gets trapped in a “mystical battle”, effectively removing her from the final fight with the main villain. Really? At least the romance between these two is cute.
Along with our main characters we have four side characters. Law is introduced as the son of a character who has so many death flags on him once you meet him, you’d have to have not consumed any media ever in order to be surprised by his demise. Law plays a hand in this death, but quickly changes his ways and tries to save his father right before it occurs. This moment is cool, but unfortunately we don’t get much for Law after this. However, he’s saved by being hilarious and completely relatable. Rinwell is introduced to us as the last of the Dahnan’s who have the ability to use magic. She’s also a complete Renan hater due to her parents’ murder. Towards the beginning of the story I got really tired of her constant anti-Renan dialogue. However, the second half of the game sees her change her ways and connect a lot more with the main plot, making her a far more likable character in the process. Next we have the lady knight, Kisara. Like Law, Kisara doesn’t get much. Her brother dies and her entire world view changes because of that, but afterwards we only get a lot of her being the anime overbearing mom trope. I want to like her, but I’ve seen it all before. And finally, I saved the best for last, let’s talk about Dohalim. Dohalim is the one kind lord ruling in Dahna. He doesn’t want to win the Crown Contest and so he doesn’t enslave his people. But it turns out Dohalim made this choice because the suffering of the slaves reminds him of his trauma, not because he’s a nice guy. He understands that’s not great of him though, so he spends the game trying to make everything right. He even gets an entire area dedicated to an additional part of his backstory later on, painting him as even nobler. In my opinion, Dohalim steals every scene he’s in.
Those are my thoughts on ‘Tales of Arise’! This isn’t a perfect game. As I said, part two can get complicated and sometimes quite dry. Additionally, some of the characters aren’t all that amazing. But the gameplay is great, the world building is incredible, and with such a large cast, you’re bound to find at least one character you can connect to. Overall, I really enjoyed this game. I’m excited to see what Bandai’s planning to do with the next game, as well as how they’re going to go about connecting the games now that they’re re-establishing a universe for them to exist in. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!