Tales of Arise is the latest game in the Tales series, one of the most beloved JRPG franchises around. With the game releasing on the PS5 it makes it one of the first big-name JRPGs to get released on the console.
With it being on the new generation of consoles, does it deliver an experience that feels fresh and new?
Not necessarily. Tales of Arise plays well and looks lovely but it also feels very familiar. Like a piece of clothing, you’ve worn for years that brings you instant comfort. This is not a bad thing at all though.
Tales of Arise is a delightful JRPG. One that you should definitely consider if you’re a fan of the genre.
What is Tales of Arise about?
Tales of Arise sees you take on the role of Iron Mask also known as Alphen. You live on Dahna, a world that that has been forced into slavery by the inhabitants of another world, Rena. As you might expect things occur that see you starting to rebel against the ruling class and the story rolls on from there.
As you continue your story you encounter a variety of playable characters all with different skill types and backgrounds. These characters have a wonderful array of personalities that help the team you form feel like a group of individuals.
Although some characters are very much focused on hitting enemies as hard as they can there’s a lot more variety in the group. Not one character feels the same and that makes playing as each one feel unique.
The story of the game is intriguing and one you should try not to spoil for yourself before playing. It has its missteps and pacing issues, especially early on, but when it got going I was excited to see what would happen next.
It puts you on a quest to free your land and there’s some great design to help make each section of the world you encounter feel different. Dungeons also have enough variety to help you feel like you’re not just plodding through the same place with a different skin.
It’s a well-realised world with interesting characters and plenty to do. Whether it’s main quests or side quests, to keep you busy for hours.
How does it look and play?
Tales of Arise is bright and beautiful. Its combat looks slick, the world pops with colour and the main characters and enemies have a great design. There’s something about the game though that, at times, feels like it lacks a little bit of spark. The PS5 version also lets you prioritise graphics or framerate.
Dungeons and open-world sections are littered with enemies that chase after you. When you encounter human characters though things fall a bit flat. Cities and towns are populated with characters but the movement is minimal and it lacks the bustle needed to truly make it feel alive. It’s a small issue but it’s enough to notice. NPCs sometimes feel a bit emotionless when talking to them too.
You likely won’t spend ample amounts of time in the towns and villages though. When when you’re out in enemy territory that’s where the joy of playing Tales of Arise truly kicks in.
The playable characters are nimble and quick which means you can get through areas without it feeling like a slog. It also means that it can be quite easy to avoid a lot of enemies. Giving players the option to dodge enemies and not go into combat is great, especially for those focused on the story. It does mean you don’t experience one of the best parts of the game though.
The combat is moreish. You constantly want that one more bite and the game encourages this by giving you bonuses for going into battles in quick succession. Due to it not giving you all the characters straight away it also means that you’re always learning. The fact you can play as any character in your team also means that, if you do get bored of who you’re playing as, you can easily switch it up.
Just as you get comfortable and feel that you’ve had enough, a new layer to the combat is introduced. It helps the fighting never feel stale during the early hours. Meaning that by the time you have an understanding of everything you’re invested in playing more.
How does it sound?
The soundtrack of Tales of Arise is lovely. Lots of great orchestral music that is hard to find fault in. There is one specific song though that needs to be mentioned. The music used when you have a rest.
It’s bright and cheerful and pops up no matter the situation of why your character takes a rest. It really takes the wind out of the sails of some moments when the game is trying to be hard-hitting.
It’s a minor issue though and everything else about the game sounds really good. Voice acting at times has its moments where delivery could be better but it’s never outright terrible. The game isn’t fully voice acted, with minor NPCs being text only, but large parts of it are.
The lack of it being fully voiced is one of a few accessibility issues in the game. I could see no options to edit subtitle size, unfortunately. No way of being able to edit them is also a problem as they don’t all appear the same way.
On occasion a box will pop up in the bottom left of the screen showing what the characters are talking about. It works to not clutter the centre of the screen but the text is very small and cannot be altered.
There also seems to be no auto progress for dialogue when it is talking to people outside of cutscenes. It’s a small issue but it auto progresses in other sections of the game and would’ve been a useful option to include in all of it.
Sliders for sound effects, music and dialogue helps give you the opportunity to mix it in a way that works for you which is a useful feature. I found the normal mix was fine for the most part with some minor adjustments but it’s always worth fine-tuning to get an experience that suits you best.
Difficulty options add further accessibility as does customisation in combat, which can give you the freedom to do as much or little as you want or need to.
Tales of Arise is a beautiful JRPG that is fun to play that fans of the genre will no doubt get a lot out of. Its gradual introduction of mechanics also makes it a wonderful experience for those looking to dip their toes into JRPGs for the first time or after a long time away from them.
I developed a real bond with the main cast of Tales of Arise. I laughed with them, I cried with them, but most importantly, I cared about them. Creating a game where you care about the characters is not an easy task and it shows the quality of writing and design of the game that the team behind it should be proud of.
It may feel familiar but that doesn’t stop it from being a delight. Tales of Arise is not only a worthy entry in the series, it’s a great game too.
Game reviewed on PS5. Code provided by PR.
Featured image credit: Bandai Namco