To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Tales franchise, the next chapter features a new story of new characters, each with their own destinies. Instead of taking place in a high fantasy world, my Tales of Arise review found the game moves to something more along the lines of science fiction.
Sporting an Unreal Engine 4 build with HD graphics and a new art style, all of which bring the series to a new frontier. Breathtaking scenery, an emotional story, and interesting characters are locked in to make a new experience that should be unforgettable.
In Tales of Arise, the combat has been talked about since the dev team spoke of making the combat “more accessible for everybody.” Counter edge, a defensive maneuver, helps maintain the flow of battle. With small additions and refinements throughout, does Tales of Arise signal good things to come? Read our Tales of Arise review to find out!
Tales of Arise
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc.
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
Alphen, a native of Dahna, is an amnesiac who has also lost the ability to feel pain. He meets Shionne from a different world with fantastical new technology. A fugitive on the run from her people, the Renan race, Shionne teams up with Alphen to fight back as freedom fighters against slavery and the lords that rule.
Along the way, they encounter other allies who are also seeking truths and changing their lives for the better. The allegories in Tales of Arise can almost seem very on the nose. Dealing with 300 years of slavery, the Dahnan people are looked down upon. On the other hand, Renan people are able to use Artes and their eyes glow when using them. They’re also seen as affluent, powerful, and merciless.
These elements are something seen throughout history and can seen as “preachy” by some but makes this story interesting and really different from this year’s last offerings of games. Tales of Arise excels in storytelling where few can get.
In a way it’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII. A former soldier teaming up with (and becoming) an uncanny team of l’Cie and fight against fate. The biggest difference between them is that this is a much more coherent and put together story, one that fans of the series will definitely enjoy.
The most fun I had was when I was able to play in a style similar to some beat ‘em up games. Chaining combos, using artes, and having a support system with control all add up to making a tactical boss fight easier. On the other hand, free roam segments were sometimes weird to navigate to find waypoints, but not impossible. It detracted the forward momentum a bit but led to exploration ultimately.
Most characters feature a dodge mechanic when moving away from enemy strike with precision. Kisara, a shield wielding ally, doesn’t feature this but instead parries/blocks to then release devastation with a follow up attack with her malice. When using party characters, special abilities can be used to deal massive damage to foes, useful when it’s a large Zeugel, the game’s monsters.
You can also swap between characters mid fight if you prefer a certain play style. All of this and priority are done seamlessly making combat feel amazing to the hands. Every character can be improved, leveled, given items, and also offer recipes for cooking that give buffs.
Abilities for character such as improved dodging and elemental damage can be improved via emblems acquired throughout the game. Leveling them up will give stat increases that will aid in battle specifically. Owls can be found in the game as well giving cosmetics such as eyepatches, sunglasses, and cat ears. Once found, owls can be delivered to the Owl Sanctuary where a king and queen owl reside in a separate reality.
Characters, including the aforementioned Alphen, all have believable personalities and learn from each other along their travels. Skits appear when there is a prompt at the bottom right corner of the screen in the free roam segments. Camping is also used for some connection with characters to learn more about them and make their bonds stronger.
With all of these mechanics, there’s always plenty to do during your time in the world. It does all of these perfectly for the detailed areas presented. Gameplay wise, Tales of Arise is one of the most fun JRPGs I’ve ever played and is the one I invested the most time in. If you know general JRPG practices, this will be fairly standard to those fans of the genre.
Tales of Arise introduces Unreal Engine 4 as a first for the series. Complimenting the art style, characters have amazing amounts of detail. Visual details range from armor reflections to weapon details, to stitching on clothing. Sprawling landscapes, like open fields, showcase the new art style with realistic shadows.
Grass detail, buildings, and even NPCs are finely detailed with sketched looks and a soft appearance. During combat, some details on the ground and environments are downscaled to help accommodate the intense action on screen. Bloom and particle effects are noticeable and well implemented that make it have a much more realistic look.
The switch between in game cutscenes and anime cutscenes, created by studio Ufotable, are generally fairly quick with little loading. I can only count on one hand where on some occasions loading assets took a while, including NPCs popping in. These are standard things that happen in Unreal Engine, but should be noted that it happens even with higher end hardware.
Led by composer Motoi Sakuraba, the soundtrack in Tales of Arise is beyond amazing. The soundtrack is nothing short of magnificent with orchestral horns and fanfare. Additionally, calm woodwind instruments mixed with violins and chorus harmony mix together, filling the world with musical vastness.
All pieces of music throughout the game do an incredible job of sounding huge, like you’ve paid a ticket to an event just for the orchestra. Battle themes, obviously, are fast paced. During boss battles, music shifts to a sinister tone with harsh sounds. No matter where I went and what I did, music was on point, with the small exceptions of some moments where I thought the music, while good, was too extreme for the situation.
Voice acting can be toggled to Japanese or English along with subtitles. I prefer to hear the English dub for games typically, but for anime and things of that nature, Japanese is preferred. This playthrough for my Tales of Arise review around was meant for English, which sometimes can sound muffled, sometimes even misplaced like it wasn’t recorded in a studio.
Outstandingly, Tales of Arise produces results worthy of an anniversary. Tales of Arise stunned me from it’s amazing culmination of gameplay, harmonic orchestral soundtrack, and excellent visuals, especially in 4K. If you’re looking to put in 20 hours, you’re getting more than you bargained for.
Next generation consoles will still only pay $60 which includes optimized visuals for up to 4K or a 60fps “performance” mode. On the other hand, playing on PC, I was able to do both which led to incredible clarity, adding to my enjoyment with my Tales of Arise review.
JRPG fans and Tales of fans will be immersed and pleased with everything Tales of Arise has to offer and the game shouldn’t be passed up by any means. Even if you’re neither, you should give Tales of Arise a chance and experience the same joy I did.
Tales of Arise was reviewed on Windows PC using a review code provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
Tales of Arise is available today, September 10th, for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.