I never would have thought that the Tales of series would have not only survived, but thrived for all these years. From humbly ambitious beginnings on the Super Famicom to the modern generations, nearly each entry has been a joy to experience. This trend has continued with its latest iteration: Tales of Arise. Announced not long after Tales of Berseria’s release, information about the game trickled in at a slow rate. More revealed information lead to more questions. Finally, Tales of fans have their hands on this epic adventure. As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” Tales of Arise continues the tradition of solidifying its place amongst the higher echelons of video game series’.
Tales of Arise focuses on the relationship of two worlds: Rena and Dahna. In ancient times, the people of Dahna viewed Rena as a world where holy deities reside. Sadly, the people of Dahna were wrong. 300 years ago, Rena invaded and overpowered Dahna with their advanced technology and enhanced biological beasts called zeugles. Nowadays, the Dahnans are slaves to the Renans. Day in and day out they partake in slave labor while the Renan higherups reap the rewards. One of these slaves is Alphen. Waking up with his face covered by an iron mask, no memory of his past, and the ability to not feel pain, Alphen toils away in the Dahnan realm of Orbus Calaglia. Things aren’t great for Alphen. However, things take a fateful turn when he meets a woman from Rena named Shionne. Shionne is cursed with thorn-like protrusions that prevent anyone from getting physically close to her. Alphen and Shionne are as different as they come, but the two have decided to join to overthrow the overlords of Rena. Along the way they’ll meet allies that join their cause, learn more about Renan invasion years ago, and uncover Alphen’s past.
The story in Tales of Arise is great. It tackles a lot of issues that have a lot of relevance in our current world. As dark and bleak as it can get, it still manages to remain true to itself with that usual Tales of writing and character development we’ve come to love throughout the years. The narrative balances moving in a mature direction while remaining true to form. As usual, Tales of Arise features a wonderful cast of characters that you’ll enjoy getting to know through the course of the game. Each goes through their highs and lows; everything they experience brings them close together in a world where establishing friendships seems like a pipedream. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite because each one is special in their own way.
Similarly, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite location because no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing, Tales of Arise is stunning. Every environment Alphen and his team explores is overflowing with polish, detail, and discovery. The level of excitement that you’ll feel when you set foot someplace new makes continuing the journey that much more fun. The “bigger is better” mentality that plagued Zestiria and Berseria has been corrected. Adding to this, the character models look great, and you’ll encounter some unique enemies. The music adds to the presentation’s majesty. Voice acting can be in English or Japanese with both options sounding great.
If you’ve played anything in the series since Tales of Xillia, then you’ll be able to pick up Tales of Arise without much trouble. The game has a lot of features (and tutorials to go with them) that gradually get introduced. Exploration through environments is straightforward. The addition of a jump button allows you to reach hidden areas that usually contain new treasures. Every town is filled with chatty locals, an inn where you can rest, cook, shop, and take advantage of item crafting. In Tales of Arise, you forge weapons with raw materials. Simply take the right materials to the blacksmith and you’ll get your new weapon. A jeweler will craft new accessories from raw materials. Accessory crafting is fun because different raw materials come with different passive abilities. The rarer the material, the more abilities attached to your accessory. You unlock said abilities by enhancing them with other raw materials or accessories. It’s a simple, straightforward system that is easy to use and highly addicting. Eventually, you can transfer your favorite abilities to new accessories. Other activities that are new to the series include managing a farm and fishing. There’s plenty to do in Tales of Arise when you’re not fighting to liberate Dahna.
But, when it’s time for combat, longtime fans of the series will not be disappointed. The real time combat system that the series is known for has been modified again. There are some issues with it, but it’s still an enjoyable interface that manages to keep each encounter fresh. Pressing the R1 button initiates a regular attack chain. Characters can have three Artes assigned for the ground and three Artes assigned for the air. Like Tales of Rebirth and/or Tales of Berseria, using an Arte decreases an Arte Gauge by a certain amount. Once the Arte Gauge is depleted, it’s best for the character you’re controlling to run or jump away from the enemies. Timing your dodges right will initiate a powerful counterattack. As characters grow in levels and abilities, it takes longer to deplete their Arte Gauges. Using long combos, landing critical hits, moving from the ground to the air and back again, and working with your allies will result in the Arte Gauge replenishing mid-combo. The most important feature for refreshing the Arte Gauge are Boost Attacks. Every character has a unique Boost Attack that is useful for certain enemy types. Shionne’s is most useful for flying enemies, whereas Rinwell’s is best used for stopping enemies from casting magic. Combos in the upwards of 30 to 40 hits will start becoming the norm. You can perform a sleek finishing move after an enemy takes enough hits.
Unfortunately, and it’s not a major issue, combat isn’t as satisfying as it was in Tales of Berseria. First, I have two personal nitpicks: Mystic Artes removed the anime cut-in and not all the characters are fun to use. Then there are the more prevalent issues. Enemies hit like trucks even if you have top of the line gear and accessories. To make matters worse, most enemies must be “broken” before they start flinching from your attacks. This will impact your favorite Arte set ups. The most common issue is that Artes that send you into the air won’t bring enemies up with them. This means you’ll have to land and restart the combo. This is a major issue when fighting bosses because they take a long time to break, and they have abilities that blast everyone away from them. Healing Artes all come from the same pool called Cure Points. I enjoyed this concept, but it can be tough to keep track of during busier fights. Ultimately, dodging and defending have been emphasized for making the most of combat. Don’t misunderstand; we have another solid battle system that’s highly enjoyable and addictive. Its issues prevent it from being better than what we’ve seen before.
Tales of Arise has a ton of content beyond the regular campaign. You can spend extra time finishing side-quests, battling in an arena, exploring new locations, and discovering all sorts of treasures. For those that wish to get all the trophies or achievements, you can clock in 70 to 80 hours of game time. Multiple difficulty options and scene skipping allow for easy replays when you want to relive the adventure. I’ll be honest: I was a bit worried that Tales of Arise wouldn’t (pardon the word choice) rise to the occasion after the excellence from Tales of Berseria. I hold Berseria as my favorite in the series but that’s not a reflection on Tales of Arise’s quality. This is a fantastic game that continues to showcase the level of quality and care of the Tales of series.
Overall, 9/10: Tales of Arise provides an epic journey filled with memorable characters and exciting combat. It’s another excellent entry in an excellent series.