Tales of Arise review

Tales of Arise is the latest in the series of the Tales franchise, and it’s a great place to jump in if you have never played a Tales game before. If you like Anime, then you’re going to love this, and even if you don’t, there’s enough great combat and interesting characters in here, plus a huge story in this action RPG from Bandai Namco.

Tales of Arise may be one of the best-looking games out there; it’s bright, colorful, and has some neat storytelling mechanics when it comes to the narrative. I’m not a huge fan of anime, I must admit, but I was drawn in by the story. It’s a serious one too, given it looks at slavery in this society. The Dahnans have been ruled by Renans for hundreds of years, and this is the story of the slaves rising up against their masters seeking vengeance for the years of oppression.

The action takes place on the Dahnans planet, which is very near the technologically advanced Renan homeworld. The Renan’s are obsessed with draining all of the resources from the Dahnan’s planet, enslaving the Dahnan people as they go. Tales of Arise does a pretty good job of analyzing this relationship in the game, so it may sound like it’s not for the faint at heart, but it’s a decent story with plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged.

The Tales series is large. Tales of Arise is the 17th entry in the series, which makes it one of the longest-running franchises in all of gaming. But I was never compelled to get into the Tales games until now. The thing that really caught my attention with Tales of Arise was the combat system. This is a JRPG through and through, but the action, combos and set pieces set against the grand scale the game offers up is a sight to behold. Plus, it’s great fun to play. Even though Tales of Arise is the 17th entry as mentioned, this is seen by many as a kind of reboot for the series.

The game wears its anime roots proudly on its sleeve, and if you like this kind of thing from other media like comics and movies, then you are instantly going to love this. For me, it took a little getting into, but the story is well presented. At the center of the story we have our two main characters; Iron Mask and Shionne. The premise is fun, Iron Mask doesn’t remember who he is, and doesn’t feel pain. Shionne on the other hand can’t be touched due to her ‘thorns’, which cause anyone immense pain who touches her. Also, she’s Renan, meaning inside her she has a core, which Iron Mask can extract and turn into a flaming sword for attacks. They bicker like an old married couple, but I enjoyed their relationship.

The game is also huge with well over 40 hours in the main story, and closer to 60 or 70 hours if you want to do all the sidequests and extra content. In this package you essentially have 2 halves to the game; the first part is all about overthrowing your slave masters then setting up a society, and the second part is about going off on adventures in space with your party. The first part of the story has a good pace to it, you go from region to region, taking care of bosses and slowly claiming back the realms. Unfortunately, the second part of the game is a little slower, and kind of loses its way.

The character development in Tales of Arise is one of its assets. In the first part of the game you are gathering a party, in classic JRPG fashion, where you meet characters from different backgrounds, and bring together a ragtag crew that can seemingly take on the world. Characters are given time to develop, we get to know them really well, which makes the second part of the game more disappointing, given its turns more to the action part of the action-RPG. Personally, I would have liked more of the character development in the back half of the game.

One of the main features in Tales of Arise is the combat system, and this is fantastic all throughout the game, making battles a delight to take part in. When you first start out you are Iron Mask, and you have a series of swords, starting out with a rusty one, and eventually, you’ll have a flaming sword. When you fight, you’ll have a companion with you, and you have various attacks like light attacks, heavy attacks, and combos. You can also roll out of the way, and the maneuverability of your character is good fun, and easy to get to grips with. There are special attacks linked to the d-pad, which are on a cooldown, and you and your party members can inflict major damage with these. You also have combo attacks were at a certain time during the battle you can team up and unleash a powerful attack using all party members. Combat is big, brash, and challenging.

Enemies have set movement patterns and much of the challenge in Tales of Arise is learning these patterns and predicting what enemies are going to do, so you can attack at the right time. If you dodge out of the way at the last minute, you’ll have the opportunity to rush in there and get in a swift attack, dealing a little more damage. All this plus huge combos make the combat system feel very dynamic, and it’s some of the best action I’ve seen in a video game in years. Some great examples over the last few years include God of War and Jedi Fallen Order, and this lives up there with both of them.

The main drawback I find, and it’s common across most RPGs is the leveling. I didn’t feel very directed when it came to leveling up in Tales of Arise, and when I reached a certain boss, I got instantly killed and had to go back and level up for a few hours before I could go back to the boss and meaningfully take them in. As a gamer, I’d like to level up on my journey to the boss, not get there and hit a brick wall, and get frustrated by my lack of DPS. It’s a minor gripe, but it was noticeable.

Tales of Arise is a great package, and it’s easy to see why it was in the conversation for Game of the Year in 2021. The storytelling is good, the characters have time to grow and breathe, the combat is exciting, plus pretty tough at times. It’s very accessible too, being released on pretty much all the major platforms. I would check out some of the footage of the game, and if you like action RPGs then I recommend giving Tales of Arise a go.

Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One (reviewed on PS5)
Release Date: 10th September 2021