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REVIEW: Tales of Arise — A Franchise Arisen



Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developed by: Bandai Namco Studios
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows PlayStation 4 PlayStation 5 Xbox One Xbox Series X/S
Genre(s): Action JPRG
Mode(s): Singleplayer
Game Type: , , , , , , , ,
88/ 100

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Posted November 5, 2021 by

The ‘Tales of’ series is a prominent JRPG franchise that has spawned dozens of titles in almost 30 years. The series has ventured over to other genres and subgenres throughout, but the main iterations stuck to their real-time action JRPG roots.

Tales of Arise dubbed the soft-reboot of the franchise, being its first real step away from what is essentially the same approach and formula made popular since Tales of Eternia of 2000. It’s high time for the franchise to get some modern updates, and Tales of Arise more or less achieves its goal.


Tales of Arise has some pretty dope looking characters.

The story takes place in Dahna, one-half of the twin worlds of Dahna and Rena. Centuries ago, Renan’s, with their advanced weaponry, invaded and subsequently enslaved the medieval people of Dahna. The tale begins with a slave known as Iron Mask, and his fated encounter with a runaway Renan, who, for some reason, is hell-bent on taking out the Renan lords ruling over the medieval lands. Aligned with Iron Masks’ motivations, the two form an unlikely alliance to liberate the people of Dahna.

Not unlike most JRPG tropes, the premise of Arise is still quite formularized. But, despite certain plot points being a tad predictable, it was still entertaining to see unfold. The presentation, voice acting, and script were all top-notch and though there are definitely lots of exposition to be found about the lore and each major plot device, they never felt dragging or uninteresting for the most part of my playthrough. Character designs are all elaborate, deliberate, and exciting. Coupled with quality voice acting, you’ll love or love to hate most of the characters you come across.

The iconic team banter is more stylish than ever.

For some fans, the relationships, and banter between the main cast beyond just the main cutscenes are among the most entertaining bits of the game, though by today’s standards, the manner by which those were delivered is already a bit archaic. Thankfully, this is among what Arise sought to revamp rather than remove entirely. For instance, previous games would occasionally prompt a conversation between party members talking about random stuff to develop their characters and relationships with one another, but it was typically done via portraits with mouths moving while dialog plays, some of which don’t even have voice over. In Arise, however, the same feature still exists but has been revamped with a comic-style presentation that makes the fan-favorite feature to be a lot more pleasing to look at.


Tales of Arise has some pretty cinematic combat

Tales of Arise did away with most of the tweaks and changes introduced in Tales of Berseria, taking combat back to the drawing board. Done right, Berseria’s combat flow was fun and each character played vastly different from one another, but it was too much information not to mention hugely optional, that many players got through the entire game without fully understanding how combat really worked. With Arise, combat is once again simplified, but with a well-paced progression that gradually advances gameplay as you master the more basic mechanics. Sticking with the main character, combat is much more traditional Tales. You can do 4-hit combos on the ground and another set when airborne. You can chain Artes in between these attacks, so long as you have enough AG or Artes Gauge. Most Artes have special attributes and effects to consider. For instance, some Artes throw enemies airborne, opening them up for aerial attacks, while some spikes them back down, which works as an excellent combo ender. Others deal with special damage types or hits multiple times. You can mix and match this to create your own unique combo or to adapt your combos for every situation. This is standard Tales combat we all know and love with a modern polish. You can evade attacks by rolling and with the right upgrades, you can unleash a strong counter-attack after a perfect dodge (dodging at the last possible moment). There are several other gimmick abilities that can trigger in-game that make the standard combat all the more exciting. And unlike Berseria, these are intuitive and require very little initiation to get familiar with.

Some enemies takes some solid strategies to beat

Each playable character still plays unique to one another but is far less complex compared to Berseria. One party member excels at breaking enemy guard while another excels at taking out airborne enemies and dealing ailment damage whilst monitoring party health from a distance. My personal favorite is one party member that can store or bank channeled art to unleash instantly later or to combine with the next channeled Arte, allowing for some often rewarding Arte combinations.

You can still go through the entire game without having to figure out and manually control your other party members. AI is decent and like with the previous games, you can adjust your party’s behavior in combat eliminating the need to micromanage them often. Besides, you have access to each party member’s Boost Attack, which is often useful for specific situations. For instance, one member can disrupt enemy channeling and open them up for combos while another, when used on an enemy in an airborne state, deals massive damage and forces them down for a combo. You can switch to any party member on the fly but with these, you won’t need to manually control them but would still need to consider who you take with you. In addition to Boost Attacks, you can also do Special Boost Strikes which is a tag team move that deals a crap ton of AOE damage, not to mention it plays a super stylish cinematic attack that never got old no matter how much I use it.


The prettiest tales game to date

It’s clear by this point that it’s a common theme in Arise to update rather than change what the series is already known for, but perhaps the biggest departure from previous titles is the visuals. Like Berseria, characters are no longer chibi-fied but Arise takes it just a little further, with characters much more resembling real-life proportions and features a lot more detail in the character models, particularly in the amount of detail in character design. The environments are vastly more detailed now than in any of the previous games, leaning more towards realism over anime aesthetic. The visual style applies this sort of watercolor cel-shading effect. It’s a bit tricky to describe but it’s quite similar to the style applied in Street Fighter V. This effect is most obvious for distant objects, which really start to look like an oil or watercolor painting but is very vibrant up close.

Adding to the realism are all the modern graphical tech that they’ve applied. Reflections and shadows are much more detailed. Shiny pieces of metal have a realistic sheen and reflection, texture details are much finer, environmental details such as brushes, rocks, and trees are all very detailed. Shadows, shaders, bloom, and all kinds of modern graphical technics are all much more prominent than it has ever been for previous titles, and best of all, it doesn’t clash with the anime aesthetic as one would assume. This is by far the most gorgeous ‘Tales of’ game there is and is definitely a direction I’m most excited to see improve even further in future Tales games.


Customization isn't over the top, but still pretty good

Tales of Arise is the most fun I’ve had in an Action JRPG in the last couple of years and is a firm entry to Gen 9. The game manages to make subtle and meaningful changes to its formula without losing any bit of its identity and charm. It also makes some familiar JRPG elements far more exciting or a lot less mundane.

The game’s still missing a few common modern QoL enhancements, but the game definitely achieves what it had set out to do. A soft reboot for the franchise is an accurate label and is no doubt a step in the right direction.

If you’re itching for a solid Action JPRG experience in 2021, Tales of Arise is where it’s at.

[This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]

Dian Raval

Dian is a writer for Flipgeeks who, in his spare time, stares at a wall in his basement. If you'd like to discuss music, video games, or the infinite wisdom of concrete, follow him on twitter @iburnandfume or subscribe to his YouTube channel @iburnandfume. He's pretty much iburnandfume in everything. Apparently he... burns and fumes.


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