Tales of Arise - Review

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Lluis Enric Mayans
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Review for Tales of Arise. Game for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the video game was released on 31/12/2020

Suffering, relief, hope. We want to enclose in this "triple s" the experience lived with Tales of Arise, one of the most anticipated titles of this September and more generally of all 2021. The rebirth of the Bandai Namco brand, after the years of silence, would have passed through the exploits and fortunes of the new chapter, called to give a strong shock to a saga so beloved and increasingly appreciated but which urgently needed to reinvent itself, in some way. For a long-lived and very peculiar saga, it is clear that succeeding in the enterprise without wanting to lose part of one's identity is not at all easy - even considering the evolution of the videogame medium in recent years - especially in relation to a genre that continues to remain anchored to a limited niche of players.

After wandering for over 55 hours through the splendid and threatening world of Tales of Arise, however, we are ready to reassure you: the mission has been completed. Tales of Arise has managed to take the necessary step to give the saga the right push forward, net of some more or less evident inaccuracies that do not preclude its positive evaluation and that above all do not preclude that place in the skimpy circle of games of memorable Japanese roles, of which the series is undoubtedly one of the protagonists (see Tales of Vesperia).

If you are curious to find out our complete opinion, you just have to continue reading our review.

A special story

At a narrative level Tales of Arise does not seem to want to immediately demonstrate that it has something more. At first it presents itself as a typical fantasy role-playing story, with the mysterious hero with an unknown past who sees his life radically change after meeting someone special.

The story revolves around Alphen and Shionne, inhabitants of the kingdom of Dahna, for centuries now under the yoke of the kingdom of Rena. The distinction between the two kingdoms, it will then be discovered over time and without going into too much detail, is a forced and deliberate separation, with the inhabitants of Rena, considered almost superior by birthright compared to the inhabitants of Dahna, almost in duty to enslave the inhabitants of the other kingdom because of their social class and their ability to use the magical arts.

Also for this reason, the inhabitants of Dahna, not being able to use the Arts, have no tools to oppose the excessive power of their jailers. In Rena, the sovereign is elected every ten years through a competition, which takes the name of "Royal Challenge", which puts in contrast the various lords of the kingdom, those in possession of a Primary Core, to succeed the previous Emperor.

This election is also made by harnessing the energies of the people of Dahna, thus destroying even more a people now exhausted. A group of heroes, led by the protagonist and Shionne, decide to rebel and try to put an end to this regime of terror. Just when everything seems to take a well-defined turn, in the final stages, after the defeat of a certain boss, something strongly different opens up before the player, which is very different from what has been seen up to that moment, both at a narrative level and a bit at the level of gameplay.

From here on, the pace of the game and the narrative becomes much faster, darker and darker at the narrative level, touching on very complex themes and even if we want "different" than what was shown previously. With this radical change of course, for the writer, the title has gained many "points", deviating from the clichés and the feeling of already seen for the entire duration of the first part of the adventure.

Tales of Arise also heavily bases its fortunes on the characterization of the fundamental cast in the economy of a story that deals with several themes, from the political one to that of the differences of social class, on which the development team has performed a very fluctuating work, with the presence of some characters with a strong narrative background and a unique and accurate characterization but also of others to whom they seem to have paid less attention. However, we are talking about a very solid cast, only with some slight neglect towards some of its members, among which the villains stand out, if we want a little charismatic (except for the main one) and less characterized than what could be expected.

Overall, however, it should be emphasized that Tales of Arise is a title that narratively and thematically speaking has nothing to envy to its predecessors, also managing to surpass them in several respects, especially if we analyze some characters who, in no uncertain terms, are unique results. , special and unforgettable.

A sublime gameplay that has its roots in the origins of the saga

As we have already had the opportunity to anticipate after trying the demo, Tales of Arise, puts much of its attention in the gameplay and in particular in the combat system. Pad in hand, in fact, Tales of Arise immediately wants to remind most, including newcomers, that it is still a Tales of, and the combat system that accompanies Shionne's adventures, Alphen, Law and all the other protagonists of the production is definitely linked to what are the dogmas of the series, although it has brought some interesting news. First of all, to change is the mapping of the keys, which manages to return that feeling of speed and frenzy that is transmitted a little by the whole system of clashes, even more dynamic than what has been seen in recent chapters, especially in Berseria.

To attack, Alphen and the other party members (strictly four plus two helpers off the field) will have only one button available R1 for the basic hits, accompanied by the R2 button which instead acts as a dodge (or parry in the case of Kisara) and which, as you can imagine, makes the whole experience both more immediate and faster. Basic attacks can clearly be chained with Arti, which also return in this chapter in a more devastating and visually spectacular way than ever.

By pressing a button at your choice between triangle, square and cross (commands related to the PS5 version) it is possible to perform one of the many arts mastered by party members, which can be conveniently selected in the relative menu. The evolution of the Arts in Tales of Arise is more immediate, since it is linked precisely to the use made of them.

To give you an example: if you always perform the same technique it will evolve, giving the avatar in question the opportunity to show off an even more powerful technique. This new management of the keys for the overall combat convinced us but we had to deal with an enemy targeting system that is not always precise and immediate. The lock of opponents it is in fact linked to the continuous pressure of the key L1 which, however, on more than one occasion, makes the clashes less fluid and more inaccurate, especially when more enemies appear on the screen and especially when the combination of them involves large creatures or flying enemies.

Overall, however, the combat is fun and rewarding but in its being frenetic and even more dynamic it never forgets its role-playing roots, bringing a decidedly interesting level of challenge to the screen from the beginning. Contrary to what one might think at first glance, the clashes are not a simple button mashing but must be faced remembering well to better manage the skills of the various characters (which we will talk about later) and above all of the consumables, decisive for the purposes of a fighting strategy to be supported a priori, regardless of the opponent.

This translates into a game on the pitch that focuses attention on the use and concatenation of the Arts, the exploitation of the opponent's weak points and so on, but does so in a broader way, linking itself strongly to the little-done speech. above on the management of consumables and resources. The game, as always, allows players to carry a maximum number of useful items to restore their life points and especially i PC, fundamental both for the exploration (then we will get there) and and above all for the fights, especially in the most difficult clashes. No PC translates into no chance for allies to heal or resuscitate, and consequently, without objects for this task, you quickly end up on the carpet.

The fights, while being incredibly spectacular and genuinely rewarding (and we have said this since the demo trial), however, have a small flaw. In their incredibly scenic nature often the fights are excessively chaotic and difficult to read, giving players less time to think and this leads to more frequent and blind use of the skills considered most useful to exhaust an opponent and throw him into the jaws of spectacular and super effective Assaults. Precisely the latter, are different based on the character chosen to throw them but overall they offer a similar effect once thrown on the opponent. The use of the Arts in battle is however very important and is linked to the management of Party skills, certainly intriguing but, as we said earlier, anything but super elaborate.

By performing certain actions or reaching a certain point in the story, each character unlocks a new segment of his staff skill tree, giving the player the possibility to choose what to increase and how, between new arts and passive bonuses, in order to make each avatar stronger and above all more useful during the clashes, always remembering to keep in mind the unique characteristics of each of them, often and willingly all linked to a sort of "automatic" system of strengths and weaknesses against a specific class of enemies or a given element, the latter very important and central, at least in Bandai Namco's initial intentions.

Main missions, side missions, activities, crafting and more!

As we said earlier, in terms of gameplay Tales of Arise is a bit of a natural evolution of what we have seen in the last chapters, in particular with Berseria, which had the great merit of pushing the discourse on the fights on the accelerator, always more dynamic and spectacular. This has been inherited and expanded by this new chapter, which in any case does not disdain its role-playing origins and places a classic Action-RPG structure in front of the player, albeit with the necessary innovations. This is evident from the desire of the development team to give more space to the main plot of the game rather than the surrounding elements and, consequently, to the various secondary activities.

The story of Tales of Arise, although rich in skits and the like, continues very quickly, with the main missions that follow one after the other in a rapid, sometimes inexorable way, with the secondary missions that do not activate automatically, except in rare cases functional to introduce the player to some mechanics. The secondary tasks therefore remain such, they are almost always complementary, the focus is strongly centered on the main missions and on the story. This choice is also supported by the fact that the enemies present in the main tasks are almost always in line with what the player is doing, and therefore without that "need" to farmare and level, except in a few particular situations that forced us to stop to improve level, equipment and supplies.

The many secondary activities are still important for two reasons: the first lies in the fact that some of them give way to particular activities useful for obtaining certain rewards, such as ranch management or fishing, while the second lies in the ability to unlock skill points and earn gald. They are essential to be able to cope with the need for new equipment and supplies, since sometimes a moment is enough to find yourself without care and unable to continue. The galds, in fact, by choice of the development team are earned only with the Secondary Missions, a choice that goes in contrast with the story-driven nature of the title and that "forces" the players to pay attention to the various requests of the NPCs scattered around the game world.

Through crafting It is also possible to produce pieces of equipment such as weapons and jewels, through the use of materials available on the game map. The various materials and foods available in the game map, except for those present in the chests, regenerate themselves at each change of the map, which makes them farmable and therefore facilitates the player also in crafting. The latter, apparently complex, is actually very simple and moreover usually, at least on normal difficulty, just choose an object and produce it to be able to continue in the story without any problems, if the character has a sufficiently powerful equipment.

Therefore, despite the focus on the various resistances, bonuses and penalties present, we almost never needed produce special items for certain bosses to be able to continue the adventure. This is emblematic of the developers' willingness to make the game as story driven as possible and put the focus on the combat system rather than other aspects, which is the best part of Tales of Arise. In any case, the secondary activities and the optional bosses in particular are important, since every time you kill a boss, in addition to the generous reward in gald, you get the Astral Flowers, useful to increase the CP, "currency" useful to launch the Arts in the clashes. It goes without saying that the greater the number of PCs possessed, the greater the possibility of using Arts in combat, therefore the greater the strength of the team. Overall, therefore, it still works but we cannot hide a small disappointment: the variety of the bestiary. During the exploration we have seen more than once a quite evident recycling of the various creatures, even advancing from one map to another and with the story.

Furthermore, it is necessary to underline two very important aspects: the first relates to the skills of the various cast members, while the second refers to the "endgame" part of the game. Just returning to the exploration discourse it is right that you know that the skills of the characters are useful for accessing secret areas of the maps (keep the PCs, therefore!) And above all that, if you want to complete everything, you will have to pay attention not to reach the titles of queue too fast. Once the story is over, the game will take you to the main menu with the option to unlock the New Game +, which also offers a lot of exclusive things not seen in the first run but you will not be able to complete everything you have left unfinished before the final battle. In short, if you are a completist, you will already know what to do!

The miracles of the Unreal Engine

One of the most delicate and important aspects of the new course of the Tales of saga is certainly that linked to the technical and artistic aspect, which has always been a cross and delight of the brand but which over the years has begun to become a heavy limitation. It is no mystery that the last few chapters (see Berseria, Zestiria) we did not shine in this respect, especially under the exquisitely technical and manufacturing profile, highlighting in a sometimes even merciless way the outdated nature and not in step with the times both of the graphic engine on which the productions were running and the polygonal and constructive poverty of the majority of game assets.

Consequently, one of the first moves, absolutely necessary, was to remodel the entire graphic and artistic system of the production, on which the transition to a new graphic engine (the Unreal Engine) leads, which has been able to give new life to the whole ecosystem. Tales of Arise it is a title that from a technical point of view allows the whole saga to make a very evident leap forward, resulting from the very first bars solid and well cared for from almost all points of view.

The great efforts made by Bandai Namco they are particularly evident when analyzing elements such as the polygonal models of human characters but also those of enemies and creatures scattered throughout the kingdom of Dahna, now characterized by a more painstaking and precise realization. These elements delicately embrace a rich and colorful game world, which seems almost drawn in watercolor, characterized by a strong and decisive color rendering that seems to want to strongly highlight all the brightest shades, almost in contrast with the darkness and opacity. of a world where desolation and fear are the masters. The excellent use of HDR makes the overall picture even more accurate, an overall picture that finds its sublimation in a more than solid general rendering, which numerically speaking marks altitude 4K and 60 FPS (sometimes less solid) on the new generation consoles and in particular on the PlayStation 5, the machine we used in the review phase.

Unfortunately, however, all that glitters is not gold. Although vast and decidedly more open than in the past, the environments enjoy different attention, which in some cases exposes Tales of Arise to confront elements such as the pop-up and pop-in, loading low resolution textures and so on, all elements that become more evident especially in the richest environments NPC like cities and meeting points in general. Of course, it is still an understandable detail and above all we are far from the times of the maps and the entire recycled assets seen up to Berseria but it is still necessary to list everything, although it is something that cannot affect the overall product quality.

Instead, they are splendid anime-style cutscenes made in CGI that, in no uncertain terms, have made us jump from the chair in the throes of emotion on more than one occasion. Final comment on the majestic audio sector: the opening alone was able to move and excite us at the same time but the whole soundtrack was able to have the same effect, practically becoming the trusted companion of a journey certainly difficult to forget. Finally, the Japanese dubbing is very valid but also the English one has been able to make its figure, although between the two, honestly, there is no comparison.

Tales of Arise is a wonderful adventure, to be experienced from start to finish. Against the background of an even more frenetic, fun and satisfying combat system, there is a story full of twists, mature and highly curated under different aspects, which touches important dynamics without any kind of brake. Getting carried away by the journey of Alphen and Shionne is almost a must, although we must see how some characters have turned out to be subdued and uninteresting, leaving the weight of the success of the production completely in the hands of the two most important faces. Even the villains were not very focused but they still enjoyed a very original and certainly courageous general construction. All this is combined with a completely restored graphics sector which, while not lacking numerous defections, represents a new beginning for the saga.

If you are passionate about the saga and Japanese RPGs in general, you absolutely cannot miss Tales of Arise!

► Tales of Arise is an Adventure-RPG-type game developed and published by Bandai Namco for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the video game was released on 31/12/2020

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