Tales of Arise is overflowing with rich game elements to complement a solid combat system and excellently finished gameplay.
It’s an action JRPG that should come packaged with its own thesaurus. Within the first 30 minutes of your first game, you’ll have more game lore, worldbuilding and name calling thrown around than it’s possible for our tiny Earth brains to comprehend.
For those unfamiliar, the Tales series is a franchise that’s boasted 17 games since the first release back in 1995, and has featured in just about every edition of console gaming from the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo through to the PS5. Each of the games in the Tales universe are their own contained story, which means that you aren’t missing out if you haven’t played any of the series before, although common threads of the games exist throughout. It’s an impressive list of accomplishments, not only for the longevity of the franchise, but also the sheer volume of content in each game. Tales of Arise delivers on this rich heritage with a full experience from start to finish.
Presentation is something that needs to be addressed right up front, because it’s a huge piece of what makes this game great. For all intents and purposes, Tales of Arise feels like you’re playing an anime movie. You’ll come across three different types of top-notch cutscenes: CGI scenes (which look the best), scenes using gameplay level graphics (which are almost as good), and also a comic book style panel sequence that aids in following complex dialogue sequences. Sometimes, you’ll get all three in a row! There really is a cutscene for every occasion. One slight annoyance here is that some of your costume choices, particularly for items purchased with real money, don’t carry across from gameplay to cutscene.
“Tales of Arise feels like you’re playing an anime movie.”
Without wanting to spoil too much of the story, you play as Alphen, one of the oppressed people of the planet Dahna, who starts the game as a literal man in an iron mask (it’s unclear exactly how he sees through this mask… probably something to do with magnets). He has amnesia, and given the pace at which the story kicks off, is as pleasantly unaware of what’s going on as you will be. It’s a great viewpoint into the game, as all of the explaining done through conversational cutscenes helps to ease you into the story. Alphen also can’t feel pain, which comes in very handy with the second main character.
Shionne is a Renan, who has been outcast by the Renan rulers and happens across Alphen’s path. Shionne is essentially Rogue from the X-Men, where she can’t be touched or giant electro thorns spike out of her that cause extreme pain. We think you’ll be able to see where this is going… Together, and with a changing squad of colourful characters, they set off to unlock Alphen’s memories and explore the vast worlds of Dahna and Renan.
Tales of Arise has some amazing openness to its level design – large open world environments set out in zones that allow you room to explore, attack or avoid enemies, and find resources for crafting. The environments are mostly colourfully interesting and the movement around the zones, as well as the loading times between them, are quick and easy. Once you engage, or are engaged, in combat, your current is squad transported to a circular combat arena which can be pretty generic, and doesn’t take into context the actual surroundings. For example, if you’re in a desert space, you’ll see all of your fights take place in the same circular arena.
The combat, however, is less than generic. It’s fun and frantic, with even the simplest of attacks looking like super power moves in any other game. You might’ve heard about the Linear Motion Battle System, it’s the core combat model for the Tales franchise. What it means in real terms is that you’re constantly moving, and attacking, while managing a limited, but rechargeable, pool of timed attack points. There are pauses in the game for attack animations which are fantastic to watch, as well as the combo moves which cause characters in your party to attack simultaneously. It’s hard to explain how well this works and the feeling of utter dominance that you have over the game. Combat in Tales of Arise is the final product of 26 years of development, and the slickness of it shines.
“Combat in Tales of Arise is the final product of 26 years of development, and the slickness of it shines.”
Some of the JRPG elements in Tales of Arise are exactly as crazy as you would expect. You’ll have choices on cosmetic appearances, where your characters will be able to model everything from story-specific attire, to tactical battle bikinis or actual (but practically ineffective) giant Gundam robot-style body armour. None of this makes any difference to your players stats, but all of them are equal parts hilarious and impressive. Right the way down to the giant fox tail and ears set, because of course that’s an option! There are crafting options where you can gather resources and construct these unique items, or purchase them through the online store. You can also to invest time and effort in crafting weapons, and cooking food at campfires for combat buffs which come in extremely handy when you take on some of the level bosses or open-world super monsters.
Tales of Arise is practically a playable anime, with excellently produced cutscenes, challenging combat and deep lore that rewards players for their investment. It can easily be likened to other action role playing games like the Final Fantasy franchise, but sets itself apart as its own unique world. There’s something satisfying about Tales of Arise that will lock you into at least 40-50 hours of play time. It’s definitely a game that is as much experienced as it is played.
Tales of Arise is available now on PS5, PS4 and Xbox One.