Tales of Arise review: Carving a new destiny

Bandai Namco's Tales of Arise is a massive JRPG that's rich with characters and story.

10

The Tales series has been delivering high-quality JRPG experiences since the mid 1990s. Often featuring massive worlds, an extensive roster of characters, and some deep lore, the games pack just about everything you’d look for in the genre. With such a reputation, there’s plenty of pressure resting on the shoulders of its latest iteration, Tales of Arise. Fortunately, Tales of Arise lives up to expectations and delivers a thoroughly satisfying JRPG experience from beginning to end.

Worlds apart

Tales of Arise centers on the planet of Dahna, which is ruled over by the people of Rena, a neighboring planet. For centuries, the Renans have stripped Dahna of its valuable resources, and forced many of its people into slavery. This parasitic relationship has bred some harsh animosity between the people of both planets. Our story follows the life of Alphen and Shionne, a newly escaped slave and a daughter of Rena, respectively. With astronomically different backgrounds, both characters embark on a journey to redefine their own destinies.

From the beginning, Alphen and Shionne are two fascinating characters. As a Renan on Dahna, Shionne has some great interactions with not only Alphen, but the other characters met during the story. The two characters often speak with each other about issues at hand, providing unique perspectives that are influenced by their upbringing. I tend to grow tired of the optional conversations with party members in JRPGs, but the characters in Tales of Arise always had something interesting to say.

This dynamic is only amplified as you progress through the game, as other characters, hailing from both Dahna and Rena, will join the party. I also loved what the story has to say about identity. Alphen begins the story as “Iron Mask,” with his face completely hidden from the world at all times. When this mask breaks, he’s left with no choice but to live under his true identity. Over the course of the game, we see Alphen grapple with his past and what it could mean for his future.

The theme of identity extends to the other characters in Tales of Arise as well. With such a long, strenuous history between the people of Dahna and Rena, many of our characters see themselves as boxed in, with their destinies already decided. The game does an excellent job at fleshing each of them out, giving everybody satisfying character arcs throughout the game.

Fighting for something different

Tales of Arise continues the series tradition of real-time combat. As players navigate the overworld, they may pursue or be pursued by an array of different enemies, triggering a combat sequence. There’s a limited circular space, and players can freely roam the area, dishing out damage to foes and supporting allies.

The combat system in Tales of Arise is immensely deep in terms of strategy. In action games, it’s easy to just button-mash and pray for the best, especially early on. While you can certainly get past a good amount of enemies in Tales of Arise by just mindlessly flinging attacks, you’ll be much more efficient once you dig into the game’s multiple systems.

Each of the playable characters have their own unique role in combat. For example, Law deals heavy damage by getting up close and landing physical attacks. Shionne, on the other hand, is a gunslinger that attacks enemies from range and also uses her Astral abilities to heal allies. The game lets you freely swap between characters, which allows you to find the party member that best suits your playstyle. Players can then use the Combat Strategy menu to inform the other members how to approach a battle.

As players earn experience, they’ll receive Skill Points, which can be used in the Skill Panel to unlock new abilities, like attacks and support Artes. Each character has their own unique Skill Panel, with a plethora of different abilities to consider. A character can only have a limited number of abilities equipped at any given time, so I found myself spending a lot of time experimenting with different combinations, seeing what worked best for my style and complemented my allies.

There’s an excellent team dynamic when fighting in Tales of Arise. Watching all of the different characters moving around the battlefield, making callouts and shouting their abilities, it made every battle feel exciting and real. The team dynamic is also bolstered by Boost Attacks. These are special moves that characters can unleash after filling their boost gauge. Boost Attacks have unique animations and often deal serious damage to enemies. Characters can also team up and coordinate their Boost Attacks to pull off special moves, like a blasts that combine both physical and Astral attacks. These moves will be different depending on the two characters and are influenced by their relationship.

Players also need to consider their enemy type when forming a combat strategy. Every species of foe has its own weaknesses. Some are susceptible to ranged weapons, others are weak to fire damage. When taking on Armadillos, I found melee attacks to be less effective against their hard bodies. There’s also weak points on an enemy’s body that the players can target in order to deal extra damage.

Old habits

Tales of Arise does fall into the same pitfalls that other JRPGs struggle with. The game’s pacing can be incredibly slow at times. There’s extensive cutscenes, and players will have instances where they spend a lot of time in dialogue, with long stretches between combat sequences.

I also noticed some pretty harsh difficulty spikes, even when playing across different difficulties. I would easily slay the foes in one area, and enemies in the next zone felt like a huge leap up in difficulty. There were a number of times where I had to stop and farm enemies in order to grind levels, or marathon side quests in order to get enough Gald that I could buy a stronger weapon for my characters. I don’t mind putting in the work to improve my team, but I wish the progression felt more natural in some places.

A stunning universe

Tales of Arise maintains the series’ overall anime-style aesthetic, with cutscenes looking like they were plucked straight out of a show on Crunchyroll. It’s quite gorgeous, as the style lends itself really well to the combat and stories. Some dialogue sequences even stylize the characters, putting them in expressive panels like what you would see in a manga.

I also really dug the character designs in Tales of Arise. It’s easy for characters to blend together in an RPG, where you're meeting a countless number of characters throughout your journey. The main party members specifically all have distinct looks, from Rinwell’s put-together mage look to the militaristic getup of Kisara.

The original soundtrack in Tales of Arise is also superb. From the opening theme, the music is wondrous, reinforcing the scope of the story. There’s also unique themes for different locations and characters, helping them to stand out. I specifically remember the epic music that played as I stormed Balseph’s castle as battles waged and fires blazed around me.

A tale for the ages

Tales of Arise is an excellent JRPG that delivers just about everything you want from the genre: a rich story, intriguing characters, satisfying combat, and an endless amount of lore. The game isn’t able to skirt around the issues that often plague JRPGs, which I feel will make for a higher barrier of entry for newcomers. That said, Fans of the series and those that just love a good JRPG will fall in love with what’s there in Tales of Arise.


This review is based on a digital PS5 code provided by the publisher. Tales of Arise launches on September 10 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X for $59.99 USD.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Tales of Arise
9
Pros
  • Compelling story
  • Rich characters
  • Deep, satisfying combat system
  • Wonderful soundtrack
  • Gorgeous art style
Cons
  • Falls into common JRPG tropes
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 8, 2021 7:00 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Tales of Arise review: Carving a new destiny

    • reply
      September 8, 2021 7:50 AM

      milleh are we buying this together

      • reply
        September 8, 2021 7:51 AM

        Is this ps4/5 only?

      • reply
        September 8, 2021 7:53 AM

        Ahh nm, end of article

      • reply
        September 8, 2021 7:54 AM

        All signs point to yes!!! PC

      • reply
        September 8, 2021 8:14 AM

        it's getting good reviews but man i don't believe anybody. people thought tales of berseria was good adn that was a tonally inconsistent mess with pretty lame battle mechanics!

        redshak what is going on

        • reply
          September 8, 2021 8:17 AM

          Mr.SEX I feel like deep down people know if they want to play a Tales jrpg game and all the bullshit it entails

          • reply
            September 8, 2021 8:22 AM

            i'll wait until i can get it on steam for 5 bucks and get annoyed about 3 hours in

      • reply
        September 8, 2021 9:43 AM

        Are you actually buying this

        • reply
          September 8, 2021 9:46 AM

          Gonna play LIS True Colors first then probably buy tales of Arise.

          You should definitely buy it though because you did totally finish disgaea, Ys VIII, and dragon quest 11

          • reply
            September 8, 2021 9:47 AM

            So for each of those games I got at least 20 good hours (60 in DQ) and while I didn't finish any of them, I feel like I got more than my money's worth out of each :D

            • reply
              September 8, 2021 12:14 PM

              milleh raises kids to age 15: alright we're done here

    • reply
      September 8, 2021 8:13 PM

      Seems like this should've noted the lack of multiplayer (unlike almost every other game in the series).

      Other than that, seems alright. I'll probably pick it up for cheap eventually.

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