Tales of Arise Review
The Tales series by Bandai Namco may not be as prestigious as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but it has been around long enough to be considered a household name worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as these JRPG behemoths.
Each new Tales game, beginning with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, offered a different cast of playable characters, a story of epic proportions, and unique elements that made the series memorable. Particularly, its real-time combo-centric combat system has been beloved by many.
It’s a formula that has stood the test of time and after a little over 5 years, fans finally get a new entry in the series called Tales of Arise which is looking to bring the franchise back into the spotlight. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as Bandai Namco Entertainment gets to show the potential future of the series care of the current-gen consoles.
And what a return it is.
Arise and fight
Tales of Arise tells the story of “Twin Worlds” – Dahna and Rena. Dahna has been invaded by the technologically advanced Rena, resulting in centuries of slavery and a mutual resentment both races have for each other that has endured until the present.
Alphen is a Dahnan slave with a heart of gold who yearns to free his people from Renan oppression and Shionne is a Renan on a personal mission that involves going against her own race. As you would have guessed, circumstances have brought these two together on a journey with a common goal, along the way meeting others who join them on their quest like the magic-wielding Rinwell, heavy-hitting Law, the noble templar Kisara, and the calm and collected Dohalim.
The premise of Tales of Arise is an interesting one, to say the least. The effects of the master-and-slave relationship between both races take center stage in and around the colorful and diverse cast of characters who don’t exactly hide their prejudice towards those of the other race, understandably so.
Tales of Arise offers players a somewhat predictable plot. The story and its succeeding events won’t break new ground but it is engaging enough to see the cast work together despite their differences, all while discovering how different (and similar) they are from each other throughout various conversation pieces and skits that work to give each member of the party character and personality.
In fact, all 6 characters are given their time to shine in the spotlight, enough to see each develop throughout the course of the game. You’ll be able to see their motivations, their regrets, and some slightly predictable twists and turns by the time everything is said and done.
Combat takes the spotlight
Ask anybody about what a Tales game is known for and it would be safe to say that majority of the answers would point to its fluidly dynamic, but also grindy, combat system.
Tales of Arise continues the tradition and then some, employing a 3D space where your characters can move around for a more tactical approach. Battles are fast and free-flowing while hits feel hefty and solid, consisting mainly of stringing together abilities called Artes as your major source of damage with timing as a strategic factor.
Dodging plays a huge role in combat and can be quite overpowered in the right hands. Mobility is a crucial aspect in battles, so much so in fact that some members of your party can learn a skill to move while casting Artes, further emphasizing its importance.
Each character fills in a certain archetype – Alphen is your swordsman specializing in close combat while Shionne deals damage from afar with her rifle but also provides support via healing Artes. There’s a “job” for everyone, and everyone does their job pretty well with efficient and useful AI backing you up.
The combat system of Tales of Arise is bolstered by an array of features that give the players the power to customize almost every facet.
Strategies make a return in Tales of Arise, which is similar to the Gambit system from Final Fantasy XII where you can set certain actions and conditions for each member of your party. Strategies set you up to have your party perform the way you want them to across various situations, offering an almost endless number of battle combinations to suit your playstyle.
Healing is not your usual fare in Tales of Arise, as the party shares a CP (Cure Points) pool that diminishes when you cast a curative spell. CP can only be replenished by certain items or resting at an inn or at a campfire, which means you’ll need to figure out a way to conserve CP to get you from point A to point B, adding a strategic layer while exploring.
Fans will find much to love here, but more casual players can also choose an auto-battle mode to hold their hand while learning the ropes.
All of the lights
The combat system of Tales of Arise is strategic and complex thanks to Boost Attacks and Boost Strikes, which summon party members to attack with a dazzling lightshow of visual effects that fill your screen with a combination of elements.
Bandai Namco has doubled down on making combat tighter and visually appealing that even though some battles are tougher than usual even on Normal difficulty (even normal field enemies are a bit tanky), these sequences are mostly enjoyable but also tactically challenging.
The spectacle doesn’t end there, as each of the biomes in the world is distinct and memorable. From the fiery pits of Calaglia to the snow-capped peaks of Cyslodia, your journey will take you across various locales that provide spectacular views to see and a lot of secrets to uncover.
It’s a shame then that most of the dungeon designs in Tales of Arise feel pretty repetitive. There are some frustratingly long sections towards the end of the game that overstay their welcome, resulting in an overdrawn engagement that gets tedious.
Fishing, the mark of a true RPG
Freeing Dahnans from Renan rule isn’t the only thing that’ll occupy your time because Tales of Arise has various activities that provide amusing distractions along the way. The lands you will be traversing are large and encourage exploration, rewarding you with various ingredients and materials that are used for cooking and crafting respectively.
Cooking provides the party with various bonuses depending on the meal, which will prove to be very helpful once you get to unlock some of the later recipes in the game.
Crafting, on the other hand, sees the player creating accessories that will have certain random bonuses attached to them. There is an element of luck here and a lot of trial and error to create the perfect accessory since higher material levels will result in an accessory having multiple random bonuses depending on the material you use.
You may also find yourself losing some time to a sort of rhythm-based fishing mini-game which provides you with additional materials to create more complex dishes to cook, or listening for hoots to find hidden owls that provide the party with various cosmetic bonuses.
NPC’s around the world provide standard fetch quests which are your usual kill X monsters or collect Y ingredients. Tales of Arise makes it so that you need to do them to a certain extent because resources like Gald (your money) and SP (what you use to purchase new skills) are very scarce, presenting players with the need to grind for resources at some point in the game.
Some of the best items in the post-game are hidden behind these side missions, adding extra incentive to pour in a few more hours after story completion.
The anime is strong with this one
Bandai Namco has almost always produced some of the best-looking anime-style games in recent memory (let’s not talk about Jump Force) and Tales of Arise is no different. Everything in the world looks absolutely gorgeous, highlighted by some beautiful character designs for your cast of characters and even down to the bosses and monsters you’ll have to face.
While the monster designs are good, a lot of them are reskinned from the ones you’ve previously fought. Wolf in one area, wolf with spikes in the next area, bigger wolf with bigger spikes… You get the drift.
Tales of Arise is accompanied by fantastic Japanese voice acting which is enhanced by a soundtrack that boasts of a healthy mix of choir and orchestral arrangements that go well with the game despite none of them sounding particularly memorable. Its two theme songs in “Hibana” and “Blue Moon” are outstanding examples, but the rest of the soundtrack slightly pales in comparison.
The current-gen versions of Tales of Arise are obviously better experiences compared to the last-gen consoles. The PS5 version has pretty good haptic feedback implementation, allowing players to feel differences in intensity depending on what Artes are cast. Loading times are pretty fast too, getting you into the game in a matter of mere seconds, although the amount of loading screens in the game is rather questionable.
More importantly, the 60FPS performance mode is the most welcome upgrade, providing smooth and seamless gameplay even through the busiest of battles with very little sign of frame drops, if any at all.
What we liked:
- Superb combat mechanics
- Visually stunning VFX and animations
- Smooth gameplay on frame rate mode
- Numerous quality of life improvements and streamlined features
- Beautiful character designs
What we didn’t like:
- Falls into the Scarlet Nexus trap of overly lengthy dungeons towards the end
- Awkward dialog between characters at times
- Hardly memorable soundtrack save for the theme songs
Verdict: Buy it!
Tales of Arise proves that the franchise can battle with the very best of them. Despite its somewhat predictable plot and minor gripes, the game is certainly a standout adventure from start to finish through its 40-50 hour playthrough, with an additional 10-15 hours to Platinum the game.
As with previous Tales games, combat is a highlight in Tales of Arise that proves to be more than just button mashing your way to victory. The system is deep and timing is certainly a key strategic element that will take time to master and utilize well.
There’s also no lack of side activities in Tales of Arise, with everything contributing to the main progression that does not make them just an afterthought that was tacked on at the last minute.
For a new entry in the long-running RPG series and the first that appears on current generation consoles, Tales is Arise makes a stunning return and thoroughly sticks the landing. It is a solid outing that we can’t recommend enough and should prove to be a must-play for longtime fans and even newcomers to the series.
*Tales of Arise was reviewed on both a PlayStation 4 and 5 through a review code provided by the publishers.