As a long-time fan of the Tales Of series, I’d been eagerly anticipating the release of Tales of Arise ever since the game’s reveal at Xbox’s E3 conference in 2019. Of course, the path to its release has been a slightly rocky one with a couple of somewhat inevitable delays keeping folk waiting a little bit longer to play, but it’s finally available. It marks the series’ debut on the new generation of consoles too, which is always a treat.
It also just so happens to be one of the best entries in the Tales Of series. Move over, Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia (my two PREVIOUS favourites), there’s a new king in town.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Tales of Arise tells the story of two worlds: Dahna and Rena. Rena overlooks the world of Dahna and has seized control over it for the past three hundred years, with their technological superiority and drive for resources seeing them rule over the Dahnan people with an iron fist. The inhabitants of Dahna are made to work as slaves, with the Renan lords building up their pool of astral power and vying for the role of the Sovereign. The Dahnan folk do try to fight back though, with resistance groups forming across the world that look to bring an end to the Renan superiority.
In true JRPG fashion, players are put in the role of a young amnesiac man named Alphen, who finds his fate tied with those resistance groups after helping them fight off Renan forces in order to protect a rogue Renan named Shionne who wants nothing more than to bring down the Renan lords. There’s a lot more to Shionne than meets the eye though, with a thorny-pain striking anyone who dares touch her; fortunately for Alphen, he’s imperious to pain, meaning he’s the only one who can get close to her. This also allows him to take advantage of the power of the Blazing Sword, a special weapon that Shionne can unleash that will allow them to finally take down all of the Renan lords and liberate Dahna for good.
“It makes for an absorbing adventure that doesn’t ever break the pace, with plenty of different scenarios taking place that ensure that no story beat lacks impact.”
What follows is a grand adventure that sees Alphen, Shionne, and the colouful cast of characters that join their crew venturing across the vast world, all whilst taking in its remarkable sights, learning more about its history, and uncovering the many twists and turns that weave through the tale. It makes for an absorbing adventure that doesn’t ever break the pace, with plenty of different scenarios taking place that ensure that no story beat lacks impact. Everything feels meaningful, whether that’s when joining the uprising for the first time, suffering a tragic loss, seeing how the different regions of the world cope with the Renan rule, or even encountering a Renan lord whose heart seems to be in the right place – that’s just within the first ten hours of the game too, with plenty to keep players engaged right until the very end.
It’s all complemented by some excellent writing, with it easy to find yourself loving the colourful cast of characters within minutes of meeting them. The series’ trademark skits return too, albeit in a slightly more cinematic form when compared to the standard visual novel style – it’s similar to Scarlet Nexus’ style of storytelling in this regard, but it suited Tales of Arise perfectly. There’s plenty to see and read as far as the story is concerned though, with lots of little interactions found across the adventure that expands upon the lore in greater depth.
“Whilst it has plenty of typical hallmarks you’d expect of the genre, it’ll also constantly keep you surprised as you learn more about the world and the struggles within it.”
There’s just plenty to invest yourself in as far as the game’s narrative is concerned, with it not only standing out as the best in the series so far, but one of the best I’ve seen in a modern JRPG. Whilst it has plenty of typical hallmarks you’d expect of the genre, it’ll also constantly keep you surprised as you learn more about the world and the struggles within it.
Of course, a JRPG can’t rely on story alone, but luckily Tales of Arise’s gameplay also happens to be fantastic. If you’ve played a game in the series before, you’ll know what to expect: a fast-paced action battle system, a beautiful and vibrant world to explore, and plenty of little tasks to dive into on the side.
The battle system is as fun as you’d expect from the series, with players able to string together plenty of fast-paced attacks and Artes to dish out deadly combos on enemies. Artes essentially act as a character’s abilities, with each bringing with them different levels of power, elements, and effects that can cause plenty of damage. They can even launch an enemy into the air, leaving them vulnerable to attack and allowing the player to deal out air-combos like they’re playing the latest hack and slash hit. It’s glorious.
“If you’ve played a game in the series before, you’ll know what to expect: a fast-paced action battle system, a beautiful and vibrant world to explore, and plenty of little tasks to dive into on the side.”
Artes are tied to a character’s rechargeable AG meter, meaning they can’t hit them out carefree but have to wait for the individual segments of the meter to fill up. However, this happens much quicker in Tales of Arise when compared to previous entries in the series, with a faster-pace found across everything you do in-battle. The party will also fill up a boost meter via various means in battle, which when charged allows them to unleash individual boost attacks, which don’t only deal out damage but can also cause different effects. Shionne’s will stagger airborne enemies for example, whilst Law can break a shielded enemy’s defence – there’s certainly an element of strategy tied to their use and knowing when to activate them. These boost attacks tie heavily into the gameplay and can make battles with specific enemy types go much smoother, so effective use of each ability is imperative to your success.
Add to that the Boost Strikes which see players unleash a killer blow on an enemy that can also hurt nearby foes, the Overdrive charge that sees players hitting Artes without expending AG, as well as the ability to swap the character you control to take advantage of each one’s abilities, and you’ll quickly find there’s a lot of depth to Tales of Arise’s battling. It’s complemented by the aforementioned quick pace, which can see players stringing together each mechanic to unleash massive combos that can wipe out foes quickly – it both looks and feels wonderful in-game.
“I just loved the combat of the game, with the satisfaction of stringing together attacks never waning for me.”
If I was REALLY going to nit-pick, it could be argued that some battles rarely pose a challenge once you’ve got a good setup with your party, with some feeling like a button-mashing affair to take them down with ease. However, the startling boss encounters will quickly bring you down to earth, with the epic battles showing just how deep the combat of the game really is. There are plenty of optional enemies to take down too, with some offering Tales of Arise’s sternest tests. I just loved the combat of the game, with the satisfaction of stringing together attacks never waning for me.
The upgrade system of the game is robust too, with players unlocking titles for each character through various means that bring with them different skills. These can then be purchased by using SP, which is earned in battle. These skills won’t increase your stats (that’s done by levelling up through experience points, using consumable herbs, or changing gear), but instead offer new Artes, various buffs, increase your AG, and so forth. They allow players to really fine-tune how each character plays through, with plenty of room for experimentation when refining their abilities or how they increase their boost gauge. Want a piece of advice? Unlock the skill that can protect your characters from getting KO’d one-time per battle… it can be a game-changer in some of the boss encounters.
“The Tales Of series has been guilty of being pretty but unimaginative with its environments in the past, but Tales of Arise’s locales feel more refined and open to exploration.”
There’s plenty to dive into outside of the battling too, with the world itself full to the brim with wonderful sights. The Tales Of series has been guilty of being pretty but unimaginative with its environments in the past, but Tales of Arise’s locales feel more refined and open to exploration. The same goes for the dungeon design, which can feel a little linear in places but isn’t guilty of feeling almost symmetrical in design like some of the previous entries in the series. There’s plenty to see and do in each one, whilst none outstay their welcome or feel like a drag.
There are plenty of little side quests to complete too, whilst finding owls in the environment will unlock new customisation options for your party’s outfits. There are also plenty of ingredients to find to hone your cooking skills to grant buffs or craft gear, whilst the idyllic fishing spots give you the chance to become a master fisherman. I actually got hooked to fishing and finding every fish in the game, so don’t be surprised if you spend some hours there. There’s even a ranch for players to raise animals in… it’s nowhere near as advanced as your typical farming sim, but it just goes to show that there’s so much more to Tales of Arise outside of its story and battling.
“It all looks absolutely gorgeous and plays smoothly on the PlayStation 5 too, with zero technical hiccups occurring throughout.”
Everything is streamlined to feel accessible for players. It’s easy to keep track of your actions in-game and where you need to go, whilst there are plenty of markers in place to know where side quests are when you re-visit areas of the world. Fast-travel is a massive time saver too, ensuring players don’t have to march over familiar territory again after clearing out nearby dungeons. These are little details, but they make completing the side quests a more accessible experience that won’t see you wandering around aimlessly and wondering what you need to do. Some of the side quests are guilty of feeling just like fetch quests, but this approach ensures they never grow tedious.
Everything comes together to make for a gameplay experience that feels close to flawless. I’ve put over sixty-hours into Tales of Arise and I’ve loved every moment, whether that’s when unravelling the story, beating up hordes of enemies, or simply taking in the wonders of the world. It all looks absolutely gorgeous and plays smoothly on the PlayStation 5 too, with zero technical hiccups occurring throughout. And hey, that SSD goes a long way in streamlining battles, with no unnecessary waits in-between encounters; I think that’s going to be a game-changer as far as RPG battling is concerned this generation, with Tales of Arise a perfect demonstration of how much shorter wait times will be.
Tales of Arise Summary
Tales of Arise isn’t just the best entry in the Tales Of series, but also one of the best JRPGs I’ve played over the last ten years. I was hooked in from start to end, with the engaging story, exciting and fast-paced combat, and wonderful world making for an experience that’ll be etched into my memory for some time.
It’s easy to be oblivious to the Tales Of series when comparing it to the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but Tales of Arise proves that it deserves to be up there with the RPG greats. If you’re a fan of the genre and skipped on the series over the years, do yourself a big favour and play this masterpiece. You won’t regret it.
– Brilliant story that’s full of twists and turns
– Fantastic fast-paced action-packed combat
– Stunning visuals and great use of the PlayStation 5’s SSD
– Plenty to do in the world to keep players busy even after completion
– The skits really flesh out the narrative
– Some battles can be a little bit too easy
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC