Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, a new Tales of game arrives this September, despite having been delayed due to the pandemic. Out now is a playable demo on all platforms to let you test out the new combat system and learn about the new characters.
I’ve always owned the Tales games, and needless to say, this is welcome to the JRPG genre that has been somewhat absent from next generation consoles. On the technical side, Bandai Namco Entertainment confirmed the game will have 60fps and 4K modes available, so you can trade off graphics over performance if you wish.
We recorded, screenshotted, and enjoyed Tales of Arise‘s demo on Xbox Series S at 60fps. Now it’s time to deep dive into the public demo in our Tales of Arise hands-on preview.
This is a preview coupled with a supplemental demo gameplay. You can watch the demo gameplay and read the preview of the game below.
Tales of Arise
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed)
Release Date: September 9th, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
Coming in at a slim 4.1 GB download, I played almost instantly with no delay from downloading. There are options for Japanese or English voice over, as well as difficulty, input queuing time, subtitle display, and many camera settings.
At the start, you appear to be walking out of a cavernous area and into a more open, mountainous area. You’ll go through a small tutorial at the beginning explaining the core mechanics of the character chosen during selection, of which there are six. Each character has a different play style, as expected, and you can switch between them mid-battle.
Combat is more free-flowing than standard JRPGs, probably closer to that of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Ally AI simply works on it’s own without much supervision, but seem very responsive and reactionary. Free movement in a specific area helps you strategize more effectively for long or close range attacks.
There are many different gauges and bars to keep an eye on for the HUD. Artes Gauge (AG) for Artes skills, Allies’ HP, Player HP, Cure Points (CP), Boost Attacks, and Boost Strikes filling your HUD. Utilizing Boost Attacks aids in fighting Gigant, giant special zeugles, helping defeat them more effectively.
Roaming open fields has you fighting monsters and gathering items like food ingredients and mining ores. Cooking is used when resting at camps to replenish HP and CP for the next battle. Ores have a use for a Metal Engraver, who can craft accessories and also activate skills for them. Accessories do provide increased stat buffs such as Attack +60.
Consequently, monsters roam around and can converge on your location, engaging in battle. As per usual, bigger, tougher monsters can provide more rare items and drops in general. Your mini map will show you the locations of enemies, ore mining areas, campfires, and more. Checking your location is key when running away from threats or finding a vendor with wares.
Battle are fast paced and overwhelming in some cases. Cure Points are used automatically when you or your allies’ health are low. It can feel a little hand-holdy, but more in line with “here’s your help, now if you run out, you’re on your own bud.” Healing from allies doesn’t use your items either. Vocal cues during battle give a heads-up to the battle conditions like a monster charging an attack or healing.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous with a new art style for scenery, and new 3D character models using the Unreal Engine. Pop-in plagues the demo on foliage like grass, and hopefully it’ll be resolved before the launch of the game.
Dialogue and banter between characters feels great and realistic. Different attitudes from everyone helps find your favorite, mine being Kisara who I used for the demo. Interactions take form in the cutscenes, fully-voiced, and replayed while at camp. The vocal cues mentioned earlier also provide more interactions such as “Why did you heal me?“, “So you don’t die…”
Controls feel responsive. From earlier in the settings, Input Queuing Time for battle defaults to Long, but can be adjusted. Input Queuing means to have inputs in queue rather than instant, adding to the older JRPG strategy format.
You get next to no story in the demo. The main goal is to fight and defeat two giant zeugles, the world’s monsters, in Elde Menancia, Land of Green; in order to gain access to the capital of Viscint. Relentless Charger, a giant rhino-like creature, and Mantis, a praying mantis monster, are the objectives to defeat. Both monsters feature Weak Points that increase damage it takes, along with the aforementioned Boost Attacks.
Regular monster battles feel quick and easy in comparison to Gigant battles. Pacing yourself while fighting and strategizing serve a great purpose, especially when dealing directly with larger creatures.
Sound design is very top notch, from running through along dirt roads to stepping in puddle deep water. Animals in the cottage area outside of the city also squeal and moo normally.
Attacks have deep slashing, punching, and shooting sounds that carry impact with them. The orchestral music from the title screen to fighting and everything in-between sound magnificent. Good music is no stranger to the Tales of series and it stays consistent throughout.
Despite early reports from forums, while playing the PlayStation 4 version there wasn’t a notice of censorship. Rather, some frame drops during intense battle cutscenes came instead.
Some fine tuning with texture loading, due in part by Unreal Engine, is the biggest complaint so far. However, fixing most likely will happen before launch with a Day One patch.
Having had the opportunity to play the demo has me interested in purchasing. A great JRPG like Tales of Arise running on Xbox Series S is something I didn’t know I needed before today. If interested, give it a try and, hopefully, it appeals to you.
Tales of Arise launches September 10th for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Tales of Arise was previewed on Xbox Series X|S using a publicly available demo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.