Tales of Arise is the latest installment of the long-running “Tales of” series. As such, this is my first “Tales of” game. So I was pretty excited to try it. I have only experienced 10 hours of the game, so this will be a short breakdown of that experience. My stopping point was the third region of the game after the introduction scene in the city while also playing on normal difficulty.
A Story You Can Fight For
The story of Tales of Arise juggles a lot of realistic themes, stitched into a fantasy setting. The game opens with the main character, Iron Mask, who is a slave. Two factions of society compete with one another. Where one dominates with military power, named the “Renans”, and the other being enslaved for the benefit of the Renans, named the “Dahnans”. This is a very good use of heavy subject matter and sets up an interesting story at first. However, it begins to falter within the first region as Iron Mask is given unimaginable power from “Shionne” a Renan on the run, who is enlisted by a group of rebels to fight back against the Renans. This power takes the form of a flaming sword that only Iron Mask can wield as he feels no pain.
As a result, it feels more like a “Deus Ex Machina” plot to skip the setup for the story ahead, which incorporates a “right place, right time” scenario. All tension one can feel from the events prior to the drawing of the flaming sword is just washed away. Even in the second city, as a companion dies, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s all too soon, all execution without real build-up. The game presents evil and menacing bosses, but as Iron Mask is the chosen one, I already know the outcome. So, in my short time spent in the game, I didn’t feel connected to this story or the characters. Like Rin or Zephyr’s son whose name I cannot recall if that’s any indication. I just can’t as it’s hard to feel invested when I know the only time the game allows me to be invested, is in its mediocre combat.
Sloppy and Stiff Combat
The combat of Tales of Arise is deep and intricate, but for all of the wrong reasons. You start with the basics, light attacks, special attacks, and dodging. But when I say “light” I truly mean, light as the attacks are nearly pointless. Every attack is impotent aside from the special attacks that you can only use a few times on a cooldown. Making every fight feel drawn out until the flaming sword and combo attacks come in. However, these elements to combat only alleviate a problem that exists at the core of the gameplay.
The flaming sword can be drawn and swung to deal a good amount of damage to enemies. The catch is that it requires you to charge up the attack and consume your health in the process. Giving it a risk to the reward. But the risk is only taken as combat can go on too long for an action-based game like this. As well as the combo attacks requiring you to attack enemies and press any direction on the D-pad to initiate these combos. It’s not as rewarding as the game wants to frame it.
The gameplay just feels artificially slowed down to make these risk and reward elements needed to just get through the stiff feeling gameplay. There’s no fluidity between attacks, as one special attack early on for Iron Mask has him do two slashes at an enemy. But the slashes push him back so if you want to chain these attacks, you can’t as the enemy will be out of range. The combat just doesn’t foot the bill. It doesn’t feel good and the large health bars enemies have don’t help either.
Tales of Arise is a genuinely beautiful game. I can’t take that away from it. Or can I? As the game boasts beautifully detailed 3D environments and monsters, with large breathtaking vistas and wonderful weather effects. But when you start seeing people, things begin to break that immersion. As you’ll find NPCs basically rooted to where they stand. I never saw a friendly character ever walk, or talk, they just stand in place in whatever pose. You’ll have the one odd character that you can talk to as they’ll have a side quest to give you but that’s where it ends.
Also, while roaming in the world, you’ll find NPCs fade in and out of existence, indicating a depth of field issue. But what’s weird about it is that nothing else pops in and out, just the friendly NPCs. So while you can walk around and take in the beautiful scenery, and experience a lot of the fantastic voice acting. Be wary of the fact that at any moment, you’ll see an NPC pop up and break your immersion.
I didn’t enjoy my time playing Tales of Arise as one can deduct from everything I’ve just said. But the overall reception for this game is making me feel like it’s just a “me” problem. I downloaded and played the demo for it prior to launch and didn’t enjoy it. But I also did the same for the recently released Scarlet Nexus and didn’t enjoy the demo, but did enjoy the full game. So maybe lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. Maybe you should give the demo a go and see if it’s for you, and if it is, I hope you enjoy this game even if I can’t.
Thank you for reading!