Tales of Arise is the latest installment of the long-running “Tales of” series. As such, this is my first “Tales of” game, and most likely last after the credits rolled. I was somewhat optimistic jumping into this game, as I enjoyed Scarlet Nexus before it. Both of their demos before their respective releases didn’t do a great job in selling the games to me. But I decided to take a leap of faith on one, then the other. With a descending order of enjoyment, here are my thoughts on the game overall.
A Story That Can be Half Enjoyed
The thesis of the story in Tales of Arise is centered around multiple touchy topics. Mostly slavery as over-privileged conquerers prey on and exploit a world for their own game. That is until the usual chosen protagonist is handpicked to lead a revolution started by others and end the long reign of terror. It is a great basis to get characters from point A to point B, then to point C. But the way you progress in the game is very cookie-cutter. It only piqued my interest somewhere around the halfway point of the story. Where things get personal, characters who join you finally get to confront those that have caused them so much pain.
After all the time you’ve spent with them, you feel the same emotions they do. The story becomes so much more than just point A to point B. It even hosts several interactions with characters in your party, allowing you to learn more about them. This is a shame, as it eventually stops focusing on these characters and their interactions and just focuses back on the story. You learn how the main character becomes the all-powerful protagonist he was. As well as the driving force behind the enemy. But it didn’t essentially need that, as it just diverted you from what you loved, to something that is purely mundane. I would’ve preferred a character-driven plot, instead of the fantastical spectacle mixed in with weird sci-fi nonsense.
The Bland Combat of Tales of Arise
There is a lot to aim for with a pure action-based combat system, and sadly Tales of Arise just misses the mark entirely. Alongside basic running and dodge rolling, you have a system that is reliant on special attacks. As it is the focus of the combat, indicated by the multitude of flashy attacks you can assume to action buttons. You have action points that can be spent for each move and have to cool down to use them again. Outside of light attacks that do little to no damage, this is the only interaction you have with the combat. Sure you can use the D-pad to have companions do certain moves when they’re available, but that is it.
All of the flashy moves run for seconds at a time and are the only ways to do any damage. It just isn’t fun to play with, as I feel like the game plays itself. This is also coupled next to a very disappointing customization system which I’m being generous when I call it that. Where each piece of armor and weaponry are just incremental upgrades. I never felt conflicted when I had to “upgrade” gear as all I just looked for was the stuff that gave these upgrades. There are no trade-offs outside of accessories, creating a very bland gameplay experience. Where all four characters just shout attacks and spells like an impatient dungeons and dragons group.
Beautiful Sights and Weird Tech Issues
Tales of Arise is a genuinely beautiful game however I can’t take that away from it. While characters are using cel-shaded models akin to Scarlet Nexus and pretty much most JRPGs on the market. The rest of the game uses absolutely stunning visuals with realistically detailed textures. I was always in awe of the wondrous art direction and varied landscapes with verticality and things to discover off the beaten path. Walking along the snowy or desert environments with the absolutely exceptional voice acting was a treat for the game.
But that comes with a caveat. Standing on a cliff looking at rolling hills, a glittery ocean and structures in the distance would be broken when I turn to walk 10 feet to an NPC fading into existence. This doesn’t happen to trees, or even enemies, it happens just to friendly NPCs that are only just stationary, they don’t move. Which indicates a problem with depth of field or draw distance. It was very inconsistent for me to explore the world as I would see enemies off in the distance, but a random citizen pops up like a children’s book.
I didn’t enjoy my time playing Tales of Arise overall sadly. I really liked the story, the voice acting, the characters, and the graphics. But the combat was the one thing weighing it down for me. It wasn’t until the very end of the game where it ditches the basic combat system in a very enjoyable final fight. But I couldn’t help but feel like there should have been more of that. The consensus for the game though is generally positive, so if you still haven’t given a shot by now, feel free to try the demo and decide for yourself. It might just not be for me personally, and I’ll happily accept that reality and be appreciative of those who it is for.
Thank you for reading!