With Tales of Arise releasing just around the corner, we can finally give you our review of the full game!
Hello everyone! Presenting our full review of Tales of Arise, coming out later this week! This review, as much as possible, does not have story spoilers! Most of the story-related information in here are ones that have already been released in promotional material. But if you're the type who really wants to be kept in the dark before playing a game, I suggest you go no further. Although we are all veteran Tales fans, we will strive to give an objective review.
We would first like to thank Bandai Namco Entertainment for giving us early access to review this splendid game. If you had any doubts in buying until now, then omit those doubts because every penny will be worth it!
Video Version Review
A video version of the review can be found here, which also includes some scenes from our gameplay!
It has been five years since the release of the last major Tales game, and we’ve waited patiently amidst the ongoing pandemic for Tales of Arise to finally be released. We are now a couple of days away from having our hands on the game, and amazingly, Tales of Arise seems to deliver on the promise of evolving the Tales of Series, without forgetting tradition.
Your reviewers are:
Platform: PlayStation 5
News & Content Writer,
Platform: PC (specs below)
Platform: PlayStation 4
Story and Characters
Tales of Arise tells us the story of the twin worlds of Dahna and Rena. For the past 300 years, the Dahnans have been under the tyrannical rule of the Renans, working them to the bone in order to obtain the planet’s astral energy. Our hero is Alphen, also known as the Iron Mask, a slave with no face, no memories and also the peculiar condition of not being able to feel any pain. In the daily toils of his life of slavery, he gets caught up in the resistance group known as the Crimson Crows as well as our heroine, Shionne, a Renan who has the curse of thorns which makes any person who touches her feel excruciating pain. Of course, this being a Tales game, Alphen’s story takes on a larger than life turn as our simple quest to free Dahna from Rena’s tyranny becomes a much, much deeper and more convoluted plot. Here are our thoughts on the story and characters from our gameplay.
|As someone who has played through the entire thing, I personally found the story structure of Tales of Arise similar to Tales of Legendia’s in terms of how specific major plot points were divided. From a far off perspective, Tales of Arise story is good – really good, even, especially on how the characters were developed as the story progresses. No character gets left behind in terms of maturing themselves, and personally, to my surprise, I found no main playable character dislikable – which is rare for a Tales game. Each and every character has their own charm and quirks, making them lovable, and hilarious, at the same time. My gripe about the story, however, is that some more detailed plot points in the game feel a little bit forced and predictable. I found myself casually thinking at the back of my head, without spoiling anything, something along the lines of “Oh, this character might be that character’s mom,” (NOT the case for that particular plot point) only to laugh at myself because the game makes it just that. A lot of certain plot points at the near end of the game also feel a bit shoehorned in and forced out of nowhere – giving the player little time to sympathize. Personally, this particular parts could have benefitted from the same pacing that the first half of the game has.|
Story grabs you from the very start. Alphen and Shionne make intriguing impressions and make you want to know more about them. The cast in general is very likable and I like the varied party dynamics due to each of their backgrounds and purposes. It feels like all of them have a reason to hang around Alphen and everyone develops as the story goes on.
The story is kinda tropey, but in a fun kind of way.
|Kiki||Tales of Arise undeniably captures the same Tales charm we all know and love in terms of both the story and characters. Alphen draws you in right from the first cutscene and his plight makes for a compelling (albeit cliché in that typical Tales kinda way) narrative, the enigma only deepening with the introduction of Shionne. The way they play off of each other is a delightful juxtaposition that hearkens to mind other heroes and heroines within the series while still bringing their own spin. Of course, no Tales game would be complete without a slew of eccentric party members and their dynamic(s), and Hootle is just too cute to poot. Although fairly simplistic and straightforward, the lore and worldbuilding is easy to get invested in. Without giving away too many spoilers, there were moments that called to mind scenes from other entries and brought a smile to my face. To those concerned about the future of the series, rest assured that ARISE definitely has carved out a place for itself among the original titles.|
Graphics and Visuals
Tales of Arise boasts the use of Unreal Engine for this entry in the series, along with the new Atmospheric Shader that makes environments look as if they were painted. Bandai Namco has also vastly improved on facial expressions and movements, along with the help of motion capture actors.
For DimensionSlip, these were her PC specs:
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Processor: Intel i7-7700HQ
- Memory: 16 GM RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
- DirectX: 12
- Sound: VZ239 (NVIDIA High Definition Audio)
- Playing on a 23" monitor and I don't have a problem seeing things on-screen
And graphic settings:
|The whole Atmospheric Shader, for me, is beautiful on the PlayStation 5. In areas where foliage is abundant or areas which are basically – outdoors – the painted look works very, very well. However, personally the prioritize frame rate vs prioritize grpahics options to me made not much of a difference. The “painted” look also doesn’t really work that obviously in places that are indoors, or intricate, such as palace-like areas. That however doesn’t mean that it looks bad – even for places like that they still look really, really good – almost realistic even. The characters themselves also have a touch of the Atmospheric Shader effect, and majority of the time they blend really well with the background – although there are places where they feel out of place or pop out too much. Visual representation of the game is beautiful, specifically on the main menu, which changes its art and design for every major plot point of the game. You will find no trace of any 2D anime art here, as the game tries to fully utilize the 3D models – and it actually works. Status screens and character icons are replaced by the characters’ 3D models, for example, and they fit the overall game aesthetic. Skits, having moved on to fully 3D, will feel jarring to old time Tales fans, but will probably be just right for newcomers. I personally got used to them by ¼ into the game, anyways. And as advertised, all costumes, accessories and hairstyles will reflect in all custscenes, with one major exception which I will not talk about because it’s a spoiler. One other problem I saw was in battle – too much particle effects – too bright to the point that it hurts my eyes. There are also animated cutscenes, as promised, by ufotable, but for me they felt somewhat on a lower par quality than the usual ufotable output. Either that, or a part of me just found the 3D characters MUCH prettier than the 2D animation. Like, I probably wouldn’t bat an eye if they made away with 2D anime cutscenes and just went full 3D.|
|DimensionSlip||Stunning. The environments are a huge level up from the past games. Character models are very (fluid) without compromising the series signature (feels very Tales). To be honest, the environments feel like something out of a Final Fantasy game.|
|Kiki||Breathtaking, full stop. Definitely candy for the eyes. Although Tales of Arise is the first title to utilize Unreal Engine 4 instead of an inhouse engine, it has certainly taken full ownership of the platform with their Atmospheric Shader to create stunning, immersive graphics that look almost hand-painted, which not only sets it apart from recent 3D-style games but gives it that unique feel akin to the older cell-shaded entries. The downside is the loading times, at least for PS4. Finer details sometimes take time to display—textures are initially blurred and need a second or two to render, especially in areas new to the player. While some of this delay could be purposefully designed to give the illusion of distance, even closer objects sometimes take time to optimize. Conversely, clipping issues are surprisingly rare and NPCs actually navigate around you if you stand in their way. In fact, the sheer fluidity of the character models actually made the anime cutscenes seem almost out of place, which makes the exclusion of 2D portraits surprisingly difficult to miss. Yes the game has been streamlined in some aspects, but both the evolving artwork used on the menu screen and accompanying pieces included with both the tooltips are gorgeous. I may be an Inomata fangirl at heart, but Iwamoto as the sole art director was a solid choice and fits with the game’s overall theme of “unity”.|
Tales of Arise’s new battle system promotes the use of making combos and dodging perfectly in order to achieve the best in battle. The game makes use of ground artes and aerial artes, bringing the maximum number of artes to 12 eventually as you progress through the game. Our experiences differ a bit per platform.
|I think this is mainly thanks to the demo, but I finally got used to using R1 for basic attack without having to adjust controls. Characters are able to free run no problem around enemies, and the use of Boost Strikes will really make you think strategically during a fight. You can also easily switch characters using L1 plus the D-pad, however you couldn’t switch to a support character. If your 4 main active characters die, it’s also game over despite still having 2 in reserve as support. As you progress through the game, another 6 arte button assignments are unlocked using L2 + triangle, square or cross, bringing the total to 12 artes to use including the aerial ones. If there was something I would nitpick about, it was that sometimes, Over Limit and Mystic Artes are difficult to trigger, especially the higher tier ones that require combos and a lot of perfect dodging. Sometimes, trying to dodge an attack simply won’t trigger in because your character is still busy performing his 8-hit arte combo. There is also the strategic consideration of CP or Cure Points use – which is utilized solely for healing in battle. I’ve been playing a long time and I still forget that CP exists – to the point where I question why everyone is suddenly DYING when all the time I had 0 CP. You can also customize party AI strategy very intricately – to the point of assigning an arte to heal a character who has been paralyzed, or to have a character use a specific gel at 50% HP. That said, on Normal difficulty, there was the feel of a bit of grinding in order to keep up with the boss fight battles. Boost Strikes are also an effective and exciting way to end zeugles, the monsters in the game, but they get repetitive really fast. You also have a few Special Strikes which are there to spice up boss battles, but more for visual purposes, if anything.|
Took a while to get used to using the RB button to attack (didn't feel very natural). Too few arte buttons, though thankfully later expanded.
This game forces you to learn how to dodge. Getting hit is punishing and early on, monsters can KO you in two hits (I learned this the hard way when I was controlling Shionne and had 0 Life Bottles).
I play on PC with a controller and tried the keyboard for a bit. I think it's playable there too and it all depends on your preference which you want to use. Movement and toggling the camera angles are smooth on either method.
|Kiki||To be honest, I am a Semi-Auto kinda gal so my thoughts may be moot to more hardened players who ramp up the difficulty and go for crazy combo counts. Nonetheless, my gripes lie in the default button choices (which can be remapped). Relegating basic attack to a shoulder button (in this case, R1) and having to hold down two face buttons to trigger a mystic arte did not feel intuitive, but the demo did help in easing into it. The limitation of arte buttons was also disappointing at first but thankfully gets expanded as you progress through both the Skill Panels and arte proficiency, and Boost Attacks become crucial to gaining the upper hand in battles if used correctly. ARISE definitely forces you to utilize dodging, and if misjudged, can result in some pretty punishing blows. Surprisingly, however, the addition of diminishing returns for spamming the same arte actually resulted in me being more engaged instead of popping Holy Bottles (which do not exist here) every two seconds . Though the battle system has the propensity to become overwhelming, initial tutorials and subsequent party dialogue do a good job at easing you into things, and there is a nice balance struck between the ratio of tutorials to game progression. Overall, the battle system does borrow a variety of elements from previous installments with a new spin relative to current market trends, and the resulting mix provides a fair challenge. I will say though that Cure Points (CP) are the bane and easy to forget about until you realize the heals have stopped coming, so be sure to utilize campsites often (though be warned that also refreshing area enemies) and watch your item stock.|
Exploration and Field Controls
From what we saw in the demo, there are a LOT of things to do in the fields of Tales of Arise, but how does the full game hold up?
|The maps feel similar to Berseria’s but with more gimmicks. Characters can jump around, fall from REALLY HIGH places, sprint like mad without any stamina gimmick which is a good thing. There are a bunch of ores around the map, ingredients to collect, and herbs to harvest, which are almost always strategically placed behind a bunch of enemies you have to fight, or are hard to maneuver around away from. There are also enemy indicators on screen which gives you an idea of nearby enemies, but I rarely used them since I fight almost every enemy anyway. There are a few hiccups, wherein there’s this perfectly short mass of land in front of me, but the character can’t jump on it because reasons.
Like slip said, CP are used on map actions that utilize characters to do stuff to aid in exploration, like for example, Dohalim can grow plants you can climb on or make rock bridges to cross another area, Alphen can burn flammable barriers, Law can punch them away, Rinwell can absorb magic barriers away, Shionne can heal people in need for rewards, and Kisara can… disperse toxic gas with her shield? But anyway, this map actions are expensive, and utilize the CP that you should be using for healing. You’ll find yourself using camp or using orange and pineapple gels a lot at the beginning – and they’re not cheap.
I love the map a lot. Exploring is rewarding because there's usually some sort of treasure chest or collection point to be found around the edges. Jumping adds a fun dimension to things. Lack of fall damage allows for interesting shortcuts.
Running out of CP could limit explorations, but healing up either through campsites or inns is free. The best part is that you can fast travel to them (once the option is unlocked, around 3.5 hours in).
Map actions use CP too, along with healing artes. For early maps, I did not run out of CP while exploring, but when I reached Cyslodia, I had to constantly go back to inns/campsites to restore my CP, unless I use an Orange Gel to restore my CP. I don't think it's a good idea for map actions to use CP, as a lot of it is already used up in battles and Orange Gels are very expensive.
|Kiki||The visuals and aesthetics make exploration a treat, though the inability to manipulate the camera to pan in and out is unfortunate given how beautiful the environment is. No fall damage or consequences from jumping or sprinting (looking at you Code Vein—I still have trauma from Cathedral of the Sacred Blood) made hurling the party members off ledges a fun pastime, if just to watch the realistic momentum and trigger dialogue. This is honestly the area (no pun intended) in which the QOL updates really shine the most. For example, on the map there is a gold star that represents main story progression and green stars that represent sub-quest progression, and upon getting close enough, will denote how many steps are left until arrival. The feature can be turned on or off but is immensely helpful for those who want to continue exploring without triggering the next cutscene. Additionally, a faded indicator and tracks on the map remain momentarily to help reorient you post-battle, which is yet another benefit for map-challenged people such as myself. Though jumping does have limitations, the mini-puzzles utilizing it to get to foraging nodes and treasure chests integrate it well so it never felt tacked on. Fast travel is a handy feature when it comes to sub-questing, and gone are the days of guesswork as both the map and quest list have your back. These extra quests are a good source of income, as gald is scarce in early game for obvious narrative reasons, but they also yield many perks and fun interactions much like in previous titles. Map actions are this entry’s replacement for the Sorcerer's Ring and individual to each party member (much like in Tales of Zestiria); however, my biggest complaint here is the usage of CP to utilize them. Arguably one of the best parts about exploration is the owls, and Hootle will pop up regardless of your party leader to signal that one of them is cleverly hiding nearby. And, by the way, the owl’s voices are adorable and provided by the main cast, much like the cats in Tales of Xillia were.|
Tales of Arise features a lot of new gimmicks in the game to enjoy on the side, such as camping, finding owls, fishing, raising animals in a ranch, cooking and forging. Generally, Tales of Arise features a few new things.
I like being able to save anywhere but I do miss save points and the save point sound! And as Slip said, gald is hard to come by at the beginning – I only got a good heap of gald by near end of the game.
Aside from skits, you can also view all animated cutscenes so far. There are dialogue options specifically that you can do as the story progresses and as you go through many battles – take it from me, keep doing them. Not only are they part of trophies or achievements, but they do unlock something awesome.
You know how in other games sometimes you just assign someone to “harvest this and that” for a set number of hours? That’s the ranch. Not much to it, personally. You never even have to go back to the actual ranch – it’s easily accessible via the camp or areas with inns. Cooking can only be done in camps and gives you bonuses mostly for battles and exploration.
As seen in the demo, you can forge weapons and accessories. Most of the powerful weapons are actually from here, so best stock up on materials and gald. For accessories, using higher level ores and materials grants additional bonuses to the base effect of the accessory, but will require other materials to “level it up and give it EXP”.
And I LOVE the owls. They sound so fake to the point that it’s funny. Finding an owl gives you an attachment, and the more owls you find, the more rewards the owl king will give you. Most of these rewards are alternate color costumes or basic costumes for the characters. Sometimes though I find them hard to interact with, like there is a specific distance to where you can interact with them to make the Examine button pop up.
Lastly, fishing. You start off fishing with no tutorial whatsoever?? Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy enough. Catch more fish and show your notes to a specific NPC, and he’ll show you more places to fish or places you haven’t finished fishing yet. Only a few of the fish are actually used for fishing though, some are for selling only.
Being able to save anywhere is a blessing. Camping is a nice, organic way to integrate in-between party interactions and a great way to review skits and past events. It's also great that you can view the skits you missed through the campsite.
You can heal up before boss fights so there's no need to retreat and trek up all the way to the boss again if you just want to heal without using items. This is good because for most of the game, gald is a difficult resource to come across. I find myself usually short of it as I spend everything on buying items I lost in boss battles and it's used to upgrade equipment as well.
Tangentially, I'm used to starting out with a bit of gald in Tales games, so I was very shocked when I went to my first shop and found out that I had 0 gald. But then I sat down to think about it and yeah, it makes sense considering Alphen is an unpaid slave and Shionne was captured by her fellow Renans and had nothing on her. It was an interesting way of integrating lore and gameplay.
Cooking is straightforward, as is using the ranch. Conveniently, you can access the ranch through the merchants around the field so you don't have to keep on trekking back to the ranch just to check on your animals. Still, it feels a little cumbersome for such little reward.
Forging is also straightforward and works similarly with cooking in the sense that you have to gather materials around various search points around the map. It's okay, but again, gald is hard to come across and there were times I had the materials needed to forge the equipment I needed, but no gald to do it.
There is no tutorial to accompany fishing when you unlock it, and you have to figure it out yourself. The minigame is on the so-so side, but you can sell the fish you catch from there for gald, which again, is an important resource because you will be spread thin between refilling items and upgrading your equipment.
I think having Hootle pop up when an owl is nearby is a good feature, as some of the owls are really cleverly hidden and difficult to find. Having a hint like that is very useful and reduces player frustration.
As much as I miss the Tales savepoint chime (which is actually my alert tone), auto-save is a blessing. As Slip mentioned, the Healing Lights placed before bosses are also much appreciated as opposed to trekking all the way back to an inn or campsite.
Camping is an interesting evolution of its first iteration in Tales of Eternia and further combined with Tales of Symphonia’s affinity system—players can trigger skits and form stronger bonds with Alphen. It also is where you can indulge in a series staple: cooking. But ARISE takes camping a step further, allowing players to reminisce previous skits, even ones that may have been triggered but not viewed due to ill-time encounters or cutscenes. The DLC push is a little obnoxious here, but BAMCO does have to make that coin somehow (and yes, the variety and color variations of the DLC costumes in addition to the titles that unlock Skill Panels they come with are worth the extra money if you feel so inclined).
Forging is nice and makes good use of the foraging nodes and battle spoils, though is nothing revolutionary. The newest additions of the ranch and fishing are simply there as fun little sidequests with moderate rewards but nothing aside the potential trophy really compels me to go out of my way during the main story, no matter how many times Law reminds me that my farm animals have reached maturity.
Sound and Music
Arise features a soundtrack by Tales veteran composer Motoi Sakuraba, and also the use of the opening HIBANA by Kankaku Piero, as well as utilizing additional songs by Ayaka.
|I am NOT the best person for music, so I won’t comment much on it. It sounds like your typical Tales soundtrack, mostly, and none of the tracks actually struck out to me, but they are all acceptable. I also had to adjust the Music volume to a higher level because it was heavily drowned out by the voices and SFX. At the title screen of the game, you can also choose Japanese voices anytime, but the English dub in my opinion is just as good. Sadly, there are a bunch of dialogue in the game, specifically in most subquests, that make use of a text window with no voices - and though I do understand that these are subquests, it would’ve made them more endearing and interesting if they were fully voiced instead of the occasional grunt and awkward laugh from an NPC.|
|DimensionSlip||Pretty great! BGM isn't mindblowing but what's there goes well with things. The voice acting is solid and I think the English voice actors did a good job in bringing out everyone's character.|
The opening grew on me, both in English and in Japanese (they alternate), and I found myself, much like with the other entries, unable to skip it whenever I loaded up the game. It may not be DEEN’s Yume de Aru You Ni, but it can be an earworm.
With Sakuraba back at the helm, this game definitely screams Tales. Admittedly, some of his music is hit-and-miss with me within the franchise and this trend continues in Tales of Arise. Some tracks can easily grow tiring while others make the impact of the story more poignant (using violin to tug at the heartstrings and all); overall though, it feels as if his tracks carried a certain extra weight to them and sounded more robust in a way. This could certainly be attributed to the fact that he was working with a full-size orchestra, but also that ARISE has somewhat more mature themes.
If anything, my aural beef was with the enemies. Unlike the endearing monster growls in Tales of Destiny (in particular, the original one for PSX) and Tales of Xillia, zeugles made annoying repetitive noises. But hey, at least no one was screaming about fresh mutton.
|Tales of Arise is pretty solid. Graphics are GREAT, battles are fun, and although the story presentation could use a bit of more exploration or extension, personally, the game in itself is a very solid Tales title. Some fans fear that the “changes” swerve it away from being a traditional Tales title, but that’s the point – the series is evolving, and it’s taking the necessary steps – and so far, these steps have been promising. Bandai Namco is doing it RIGHT.|
Tales of Arise is a level up from the previous games. I think keeping the character aesthetics and battle system similar to the series' staples goes a long way to preserve what makes the Tales of series beloved by many, while experimenting with things such as the environments is a good change from how it was. Lifestyle features such as inns not costing money make up for the gald scarcity in this game.
Overall, I'm glad they took their time to polish it instead of rushing it to make it an anniversary title.
|Kiki||Given that the new brand manager is Tomizawa, known for his work producing the God Eater series and Code Vein, there will inevitably be murmurs and comparisons to his previous works, as well as with SCARLET NEXUS which released earlier this summer and has several familiar Tales staff members credited to it. While it would be a lie for me to say there are no aspects of these games that may have played a part in influencing ARISE, it is ultimately still a Tales game at its core (just as much as Legendia and Tempest are). The story is compelling and contains several key elements present in other entries, and the characters will fit right into crossover games such as Tales of the Rays with ease. Tomizawa certainly had his work cut out for him by “inheriting” and “evolving” the series, but every QOL update made is reasonable and daresay welcome given the advancement of videogames and current market trends. By not rushing to make it merely an anniversary title and further delaying the release due to the pandemic, the whole game seems overall more polished and solid. What makes Tales well… Tales is certainly subjective depending on who you ask, but as a longtime fan of the series, I personally feel as if those skepticisms can be put to rest as the heart of the series is well represented within ARISE, and the game appeal to both older fans and new fans alike.|
And that's it for our (very lengthy!) review of the full Tales of Arise game! Thank you very much once again to Bandai Namco Entertainment for giving us the privilege of playing the review copy! This game was SO much fun and will honestly NOT disappoint!
Tales of Ariseis now available at the following shops: North America:
- Bandai Namco Store - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon - Regular Edition
- BestBuy - Regular Edition
- Bandai Namco Store - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon UK - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon France - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon Germany - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon Spain - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition
- Amazon Italy - Collector's Edition | Regular Edition