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Tales of Arise

Tales of Arise
© 2021 Bandai Namco Games

Tales of Arise is an action role-playing game developed and published by Bandai Namco Games, released on September 2021. It’s the first Tales game to have a simultaneous worldwide release, five years after Tales of Berseria and install a new departure for the series. The game has been released on various platforms : Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 and 5, XBox One, and XBox Series XS.

Tales of Arise begins by a background exposition of the game’s world. The story takes place on the planet Dahna, a twin planetary system composed by it and its sister planet Rena orbiting near each other and separated by a moon, Lenegis. Both Rena and Lenegis can be seen from the Dahanian sky. Dahanians always believed Rena was the world of the Gods and various wonders. However, three hundred years ago, the “gods” came from Lenegis, which is actually an artificial moon, aboard their starships and invaded Dahna. The Renans are a far more advanced civilisation and reduce in slavery the Dahnians who where closer to a medieval society. Dahna has been remodeled into five Realms, ruled by a Renan Lord, each of them representing a specific Astral Element. Since then, the Dahnian are enduring a terrible oppression from the Renans and labor every day to collect Astral Energy from their labor in order to fulfill the Crown Contest. This Contest among the Lords is the competition which determine the next Renan Sovereign.

In the Fire realm of Calaglia, an amnesic masked slave nicknamed “Iron Mask”, unable to sense any pain for unknown reasons, get himself involved into the local resistance against the Renans after rescuing from a transport train a Renan girl named Shionne Vymer Imeris Daymore. Shionne is afflicted by a curse, named the “Thorns”, that hurts everyone who touch her. While escaping from the Renan soldiers, the masked slave is able to pull from Shionne’s Master Core a blazing sword and able to manipulate it thanks to its lack of sense of pain, but healed by Shionne’s Artes. Despite being from two opposite worlds, Iron Mask and Shionne ally together because they have a common goal : eliminate the Lords of the realms. After fighting Balseph, the Calaglian Lord, Iron Mask’s mask partially broke and he suddenly remembered his name, Alphen. Following the liberation of Calaglia, Alphen and Shionne took the road to the next Realm with the goal to liberate the other one and eliminate their Lords.

The first thing you may notice while launching for the first time Tales of Arise is : wow, this game is beautiful ! Built over the Unreal Engine 4, the Tales series seems to abandon its previous engine (which was an in-house product if I’m not mistaken) and gain a great level of visual quality. I’m not saying the previous games were ugly, far from it, but you clearly sense a technical upgrade between this one and the previous. Another reason is because Berseria was a cross generation game (made for Playstation 3 and 4) and Arise was born on modern platforms so the team could exploit their full potential. I’ve played the game on PC, and it’s smooth, fast, and beautiful. Thanks to this upgrade, some mechanics of the game are still present but at a better level. Typically, the skits which were voiced mini cut-scenes using only the characters portrait are now animated sequences using a dynamic graphic novel layout where the characters models are used and froze at each end of speech. In a more typical pattern for the series, the story is still filled by anime sequences produced by Ufotable.

The game team has been composed by veterans and new people, allowing Tales of Arise to initiate a new departure for the series. Basically, the usual Tales mechanics are here : the battle system is still based on the same mechanics with variations (using a lot the evasion and counter) and using all of the six characters abilities during the fights (Alphen can counter an enemy, Shionne can make vulnerable flying enemies, etc). This point is the major new game feature, the “Boost Strike” system where a character can break the defense, another one block a charge, and another one interrupt enemies Artes, etc. This is a good thing because the team is not fixed and each six characters can intervene in combat, while 4 principals are remaining and the 2 others are callable for the Boost Strike action.

Basically, Tales of Arise has not changed a lot the usual Tales gameplay we had since Graces or Xillia. Some Field actions are available (breaking a barrier, healing somebody for a reward, etc) and a new sub-quest system is implemented. The game field exploration is nice because there are a lot of collectible to find on the field (loot boxes, cooking ingredients, etc) and you may encounter some powerful enemies that will gives rewards when defeated. The Fields action and Healing Artes are now using a common gauge named “Competence Points” which can be refilled with consumable or while resting. The resting on the Field map has changed with the fire camps. During this sequence, the characters can develop their affinity and their relationship can improve. The cooking system is still here too, available while resting at a camp or in an inn.

The story of Tales of Arise is pretty nice too. At the beginning I was a little deceived because some events where far more too obvious and predictable which was spoiling the joy of discovering the plot. However, the global plot is well developed and the story is divided into two main parts. When the new main part starts, the opening cut-scene of the game also change with a new one. My main disappointment is the secondary antagonist which is just ridiculous and useless, a basic Disney-like bad guy that ruin some parts of the story for nothing. Globally, the characters are nicely developed, but their relationships are for more predictable too. Despite these issues, the story is great and very enjoyable.

So, Tales of Arise is a nice new departure. The game hasn’t changed everything to avoid losing its identity but a player used to the series can see the evolution and new steps added to the road. And a very decent lifespan with more than 30 hours for finishing the main story with some sub quests.

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