Tales of Arise review for PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

Back in 1997, Namco Bandai started to port their Tales series to the North American market. The first game to come over was Tales of Destiny. The Tales series had a unique take on RPGs as they combined traditional turn-based RPGs and action RPGs in the sense that players would wander around on the map and have random encounters.  However, those encounters in the Tales series wouldn?t be turned based, instead, they would be a real-time fight. Most of the Tales games are pretty good, so does this latest entry in the series RISE to the occasion. (Had to do it)

Tales of Arise starts with a straightforward opening. There are two worlds, with a moon between them, Dahna and Rena. Dahna is your typical high fantasy world, where Rena is a more advanced civilization. Dahna thought that Rena was heaven, not in a figurative sense but more in the spiritual sense — were Dahnans go when they die. That is until three hundred years ago when Rena invaded and enslaved Dahna with ships and very advanced technology and Rena divides the world up into five realms, each governed by a ruthless lord using an elemental Master Core.

Fast forward three hundred years and start this tale in the realm of fire, Calaglia. This is where we meet Iron Mask. This is a man, as you might have guessed, with an iron mask covering his entire head and was found about a year ago with no memory. All he knows is he is a Dahnan slave with an iron mask attached to his head. How does he eat?  Don?t worry they cover it?.. sorta. It very quickly becomes apparent that there is more to Iron Mask than normal. Aside from the iron mask and amnesia, he also cannot feel pain.

Early on, Iron Mask finds Shione. A woman who was cursed so that anyone who touches her is wrapped in magic blackthorns and electrocuted. Almost a Yin to his Yang. She is a Renan who is trying to take down the Lords, but she doesn?t explain why. Some of the story scenes make you scratch your head and wonder why they are even working together. Turns out Shione is looking for someone who can wield the flaming sword, an object so powerful that it burns whoever touches it, but possibly gives enough power to challenge a Lord. I guess we?ll find out.

I have been a fan of the Tales series since the first game came out in 1997. Tales of Destiny had a great story and some good combat. Players could switch between combatants and even have their friends control other characters in the party and most of the Tales games allowed this. Arise does not, which seems like a step backward. However, that does not take away from how fun the game is as a single-player experience.

Fighting in Tales of Arise is combo-based and characters use Artes, or special attacks, to achieve higher combos to get greater rewards at the end of fights. Artes cost points on your Artes Gage, or AG. The more points you have in your AG the more Artes you can perform before you need to wait until the gage regenerates and it regenerates pretty fast. There are also Cure Points or CP which is consumed when healing magic is used. CP does not regenerate, instead, you must rely on items, camping, or inns to refill it.

By default, Artes are assigned to your X, Square, and Triangle buttons (on PS5/PS4), Circle is jump. R1 is regular attack and R2 is dodge. This takes getting used to and in a game where fighting is fast-paced and requires players to be accurate it feels odd to be pressing R1 and R2 a lot. Fights are full of action and visual cues to help indicate when you should dodge and press your advantage. The skill tree in Tales of Arise is pretty standard but, has a unique feature — as you win fights in the game, you earn skill points. These points can be spent on things like doing more damage the lower health you are, or an improved dodge, these aren?t unique to a game like this. What is unique is the ability to set a reminder on a skill so that when you have enough points the game will remind you to purchase it. In a game with so many skill tree choices, it is very nice to set a reminder and forget it. Especially when I?ve played games where I?m saving skill points for a skill and by the time I get enough points, I forget which skill I was saving for.

Tales of Arise looks good, all the characters look like your standard anime-type characters and they look like they fit with the world. Calaglia is the fire area ruled by the fire lord and has flames bursting from the ground and looks like an area that is desolate and destroyed. The PS5 version does looks like it could run on the PS4, but on PS5 it runs at a smooth 60 frames per second. Graphically Tales of Arise is not something that will tax the ability of the next generation platforms, though the art style fits the game very well. The music for the game is also well done and the theming fits just about everywhere you go. The battle music is fun and fast-paced, and boss music is well done, epic sounding and fits the scene for the fight.

The map system in Tales of Arise takes a lot of getting used to. According to the map, you can set waypoints for both main missions and side missions, yet the map doesn?t tell you where to go on side missions unless you are on the section of the map that has the side mission in it. This can get very confusing and lead to some frustration.

Overall Tales of Arise has a great premise and story, and is one of the better Tales games Bandai Namco has produced. If you are a JRPG fan, or a Tales fan give this game a good look.

Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a Tales of Arise PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: B+