Ever since the latest generation of consoles came out, I’ve been waiting for a game that truly shows just what was possible. Don’t get me wrong, games like Demon’s Souls or Ratchet & Clank have shown the capabilities of next generation on PlayStation 5. Yet I wanted to see what could happen when a third party got their hands on new hardware and offered something truly upgraded for a series. Surprisingly, I went into my playthrough of Tales of Arise not really knowing what to expect. During its previews, it was highly regarded as a series high point. What I didn’t realize, and would find out during my time with the game, is that Tales of Arise its not just a series best but also a beautiful showpiece of what can be done on the next generation of hardware. Tales of Arise is a game I completely recommend to those looking for a gorgeous, long JRPG.
The first thing I obviously have to highlight are the gorgeous visuals. The Tales series has, for the most part, kept its see me look for quite a few games. Tales of Arise decided to go for what can be described as jaw-dropping, gorgeous visuals, especially considering where the series was before. I’m not saying that this game on your next generation hardware is going to blow away something first parties can do. However, it’s truly remarkable just how good this game looks so early on in the next gen console cycle. Character details and environments are beautifully visualized. This is a world that truly is alive at every corner you look and had me on more than one occasion saying “whoa.” Equally as impressive as its visuals is how well the game runs, especially on PS5. While the game does have a ton of loading screens, they often are so quick that you can’t even finish reading the tip that’s on-screen. The game itself might be one of the smoothest running games released this year so far. There were almost no instances of slowdown when playing the game.
To be fair, Tales of Arise is also just a good JRPG to begin with. While in no way does the game reinvent the JRPG formula at all, it does a good job of presenting mechanics and stories that longtime series fans will love and newcomers will enjoy discovering. You’ll spend the majority of your time fighting with four characters at a time, with two serving as support and two as attackers. Players are able to string together combos that allow you to create devastating attacks into more powerful strikes to defeat enemies. This is an oddly satisfying system, although ultimately, players will end up just spending their time as Alphen, who has another unique ability stacked on top. Alphen’s flaming edge attack is a uniquely powerful attack that requires great strategy. It’s the type of attack that requires you to sacrifice some of your HP, and the more that is sacrificed, the more damage is done. The risk your run is that you lower Alphen’s HP too much that he could become lost in battle. It’s a game of strategy that requires you to constantly battle between managing HP and dealing damage. Bosses in the game typically boil down to a war of dealing enough damage to beat them. This sounds overly simple because in reality, it is. Boss battles are where you drain away your supplies to deal maximum damage, and ultimately, they end up feeling like button-mashing events more than strategic battles.
Tales of Arise is also quite a lengthy game. The main quest itself goes on forever, it feels like. I played through quite a few hours of the game and managed to defeat the big, bad boss not once but twice. I assumed this was where the game would draw its main story to a close, and I’d have side quests in the world to explore. However, this was where the title screen popped instead, and I realized that I had only just barely scratched the surface of what the game had to offer. This can either be a good or a bad thing, depending on the type of player that you are. For JRPG fans, long games are the norm, so Tales of Arise does nothing different from what you’d expect. For others, this might feel a bit painful after a while. The reason I say that is because you feel like you’ve accomplished quite a bit in the game’s story, only to find out that you haven’t actually progressed very far. This means to enjoy the entire game, you have to put in well over 50 or 60 hours before you even start to experience most of what the game has to offer. So, if you’re looking for a long game to sink your teeth into, then Tales of Arise is totally up your alley. If you’re looking for a game that allows you to explore the world, story, and characters in a short window of time, Tales of Arise definitely isn’t it.
Ultimately, Tales of Arise is not a perfect game. It suffers the worst with its side quests. Basically, most of the side quests end up being the exact same thing repeated over and over and over. You’ll pretty much defeat a swarm of enemies, find certain materials, obtain the items to learn a recipe, and that’s about it. That would be good if there were only a few side quests along with the main story. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of side quests, and they all follow the same pattern over and over. Another thing, like I mentioned above, is that boss fights are basically button-mashing combo battles rather than any sort of strategic battles. Defeating the boss requires that you simply hit him enough times to make him go down. This makes most boss battles fairly generic, and most of the time they will come off as boring. And don’t get me started with some of the character dialogue you hear throughout the game. You will literally hear every character say the line “I fight for my friends“ every couple of minutes for your entire playthrough of the game. Look, I get it, you are fighting for your friends, whom you are with. However, I don’t need to hear it on an endless repeat for 50 hours.
In the end, how does Tales of Arise turn out? While I have not finished every single side quest of the game, I can say without a doubt that Tales of Arise is a must-play game for JRPG fans. It’s an absolutely gorgeous, very well running game that truly offers a great JRPG experience. It doesn’t do anything brand new that other JRPG games haven’t done before, but Tales of Arise does a great job at utilizing all of those mechanics and making them great for longtime series fans and newcomers to the series. Some of the game’s side missions and bosses bring the experience down a bit because of their very generic structures and button-mashing styles. However, if you’re looking for a long game to sink your teeth into, then Tales of Arise is a great pick that truly showcases beautiful visuals on the next gen hardware.
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release Date: 9th September 2021