Tales of Arise (PlayStation 5) Review

By Eric Ace 27.09.2021 3

Review for Tales of Arise on PlayStation 5

The Tales series has been a long-time JRPG staple. It first appeared as Tales of Phantasia in 1995 on the Super Famicom, which left those of us in the West unable to play it, though translated versions existed years later which many people were finally then able to experience. The general tone of the games have waxed and waned between serious/'edgy' to generally light-hearted romps as players battle through real-time battle systems across the land. Arise is a significant departure from the conventional feel and trend of past games, as it removes and dispenses with many JRPG elements, leaving far more of an adventure game than an RPG experience.

Right from the beginning, the game brings out all its big guns. Starting as the so-called 'Iron Mask' character, a man who can't feel pain and is stuck toiling away in a flame-covered slave camp, the game sets a high bar. The story captures a very good feeling of being trapped in this hostile land, and the graphics are really well done with the flame and ashes falling down across the landscape. It captures the day to day feel of slave life fairly well, and was one of the best parts of the experience.

Taking the role of our hero, he gets caught up in a resistance movement and is tasked with trying to dispose of the local tyrant with the help of the main female character, a girl with a special power of only causing pain when touched. Most of the beginning is spent running between slave camps, rushing through tunnels, and trying to avoid capture. It is a unique taste compared to all other games in the series.

To get straight to the heart of the review, the game is tough to review because as a 'game,' it's pretty good; graphically it is very pretty, the story is interesting (if a little long between interesting aspects), and you feel drawn into the conflict... but as a RPG, especially as a JRPG, it is lacking a lot of conventional aspects that gamers might expect.

Screenshot for Tales of Arise on PlayStation 5

On the surface, sure, there are HP bars, attack stats and so on, but look at a few of these examples to understand that largely, a lot of the stats do not matter much. For example, in the opening part of the game, for the first 3-4 hours, players are unlikely to even level up once. Furthermore, for the entire first section of the game (the fire world, which takes somewhere around 10 hours) there are a total of four enemies, all of the same 'level' from the beginning right up until the end.

That means 8 or 10 hours in, players will still be bashing on 'lv 7 armadillos'. Even with a few level ups, the damage does not really change, so instead of hitting for 25 a strike, players will be doing 30, and against fairly damage-spongy enemies, it's a little disheartening to be near the end of the first section and not feel any stronger. Boss battles are interesting, from the near one-hit kills and 'quick time events' they become (similar to Resident Evil) but expect the bosses to be punching-bag marathons of 20-30 minutes easily.

Playing the game, there is a strong feeling that some things are going very well, and some things that are dragging on the experience. Character-wise, the main character Alphen is a cool, stoic, and friendly guy who fills his archetype without feeling too dry. The main girl, Shione, is more hit or miss, with a very strong 'tsundere' vibe that might be off-putting. Some of the other characters are better than they seem, with one of the supporting characters, the resistance leader Zephyr, being a great stand out with his forceful personality.

Screenshot for Tales of Arise on PlayStation 5

So what are some of the parts that drag? Well, progress is overall just very, very slow. Sure, the fights are cool, and the environments are very pretty, but as stated above, the first area takes about 10-12 hours to get through. Players are STILL fighting the exact same enemies by the end of this, with little change in combat, stats or tactics. Some of the best JRPGs are those that have a sense of progression, from no-name heroes or weaklings to saviours by the end of the game, in Arise, much like the non-feeling Alphen, we do not feel any sense of progression.

This is where one of the largest flaws of the game comes from. Scenes drag on too long, fights are a little too repetitive, and progress is too slow. Players will look at the in-game timer, see they are 15 hours in, and realize that not much has really happened.

One of the more controversial aspects is the ever-present DLC the game tries to give players. While having bonus costumes has never been a problem in this reviewer's eyes, this game encroaches on the egregious 'pay-to-win' model of various stat boosts, experience boosters and so on. Some of the items that can be bought are insane, ranging from what is essentially endless money, to massive stat and experience boosters, to nearly eliminating various farming for resources. It is a very bad trend in video gaming, and one that hopefully does not continue. It feels a lot like certain parts of the game, like the slow levelling are loosely designed to funnel players into this DLC.

Screenshot for Tales of Arise on PlayStation 5

One video game metaphor or reference might clarify how this game feels compared to older Tales games. Consider the Mass Effect series; the first game had a very heavy RPG element, such as getting armour and HP high enough to tank everything, and guns that never ran out of ammo. Later games, regardless of any story merit, turned into action-shooters with only the thinnest RPG-trappings thrown on the top. They were still good games, but they hardly felt like RPGs. Arise feels like this very strongly. All of the stats could be completely dispensed with and the game would not feel any different. The lack of new enemies and progression really kills the JRPG vibe.

The crazy thing is, the game is still pretty good. The flaws are pretty obvious if someone steps back critically, and they definitely took a wild direction with the game. While there is tons of repetition, such as the lacklustre music, the aforementioned enemies, and so on, but each new realm is just really cool to finally get to and see how much effort they put into the world. The story could probably be cut in half in terms of length and be better for it, but the characters are pretty well done and its interesting watching the various arcs of their plots.

In the end, the recommendation comes down to what players are looking for. A JRPG romp, this game is not. But, for players looking for an anime-style action game with some RPG elements they will have a good time. It is not going to be some game that affects players on a deep level with existential stories or heart-rending tales they remember years down the road, but the quality and money that went into this game is a nice change for JPRG players that games are often made on a shoe-string budget.

Screenshot for Tales of Arise on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For an adventure game, the graphics and story are pretty interesting, but for an JRPG, the game is lacking in a lot of elements. While it has RPG trappings, it feels far more like an adventure/action game, which is a knock against those looking for some JRPG action. The graphics, story, characters and overall package are very well done. However, it is hard to shake the feeling of the game being far more style over substance, which in general JRPG-ers are not looking for.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 09.09.2021   North America release date 09.09.2021   Japan release date 09.09.2021   Australian release date 09.09.2021   

Comments

It's a shame the series focus seems to be changing with this title. It still looks excellent but sounds like it's a tad boring maybe?

I wish for more Vesperia, Symphonia, Xillia style Tales games

Sandy Wilson said:
It's a shame the series focus seems to be changing with this title. It still looks excellent but sounds like it's a tad boring maybe?

I wish for more Vesperia, Symphonia, Xillia style Tales games


It is a very unique game to look at in the context of its predessors, if it was just a stand alone itd be a fun (light) JRPG romp.  But it comes from a pretty heavy JRPG background that is very obvivously missing as you play.  It also has pacing issues too, the first world took like 15 hours to get out of, and while the initial story was cool, it drug on without much happening for too long.

Dragon0085 said:

Sandy Wilson said:
It's a shame the series focus seems to be changing with this title. It still looks excellent but sounds like it's a tad boring maybe?

I wish for more Vesperia, Symphonia, Xillia style Tales games


It is a very unique game to look at in the context of its predessors, if it was just a stand alone itd be a fun (light) JRPG romp.  But it comes from a pretty heavy JRPG background that is very obvivously missing as you play.  It also has pacing issues too, the first world took like 15 hours to get out of, and while the initial story was cool, it drug on without much happening for too long.

I'm hoping the gameplay style can be refined lots if they want to stick with it Smilie Otherwise, I want traditional Tales style games. Heck even Xillia 2 which was very different was undeniably JRPG

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