Tales of Arise is Bandai Namco’s latest in the Tales series of video games that spans seventeen games dating back to Tales of Phantasia in 1995. Yes – we’re as impressed as you are.
With a series that has been ongoing for the last 26 years, what can you expect in terms of originality and new ideas and concepts? Well – with a powerhouse like Bandai Namco, there really is no limit.
You start your journey in Tales of Arise as a nameless, faceless Dahnan slave who, beyond a year ago, remembers nothing. So, the slaves who you live among have taken to fondly calling you Iron Mask due to the mask of iron that you wear which covers your whole head, making it quite difficult to eat as our protagonist humorously mentions at some point in your journey.
You, as all heroes should be, are a fierce defender of justice, and the mere sight of injustices set you into action to protect those who fall victim to it, and your inability to feel pain is what aids you in this mission. As previously mentioned, you are a Dahnan slave on your homeworld of Dahna. Your world was conquered by the inhabitants of the twin planet of Rena and has since been controlled by Renans, and the five High Lords who hunger for the power they harvest from Dahna to compete in a contest to become the Sovereign of Rena, known as the Crown Contest.
As the game sets off, our main protagonist, whose name is later revealed to be Alphen, meets the other main protagonist who takes the form of a young Renan girl, known as Shionne. Shionne has come to Dahna on her own agenda which happens to align with Alphen’s and so, an unlikely partnership is formed between oppressed and oppressor.
In this, you find out that Shionne carries a powerful artifact within her, known as a master core, that has the ability to harness firepower. Alphen unlocks this core even further and is able to draw a sword out of it. This sword damages all who we wield it, but Alphen’s inability to feel pain and Shionne’s ability to heal him make them an unbreakable partnership and an unstoppable force.
In your quest of liberating Alphen’s homeworld, you meet many interesting characters along the way. These include playable characters that you can control and battle with, as well as the various resistance groups and allies you find scattered throughout your journey. Many friends are made, and some are lost, in your quest for liberation.
As mentioned, your primary objective is to defeat and overthrow the five High Lords who control various regions of Dahna. Each High Lord has a master core which gives them the ability to harness astral energy to allow them to compete to be named sovereign in the Crown Contest, which happens every seven years. This astral energy is harnessed from the land of Dahna and from the Dahnans themselves through master core stones embedded in their hands. The Renan’s, as well as a select few Dahnans, are able to wield this Astral energy in the form of magical abilities known as Mystic Artes.
There are five High Lords and thus there are five regions of Dahna which each harvest one type of Astral energy. The five regions of Dahna, which must be liberated in order to progress with the game are (in the order that they appear) Calaglia, where our journey starts, Cyslodia, Elde Menancia, Mahag Saar, and, finally, Ganath Haros. The boss of an area must first be defeated, and the area liberated before you are able to progress to the next area. However, you are able to travel back to areas you have already liberated. This may seem like an exercise in futility but there are some side quests given by various NPCs in these areas that can aid you in going forward. There are also a few giant beasts to slay that can’t be taken on too early – especially the one in Calaglia (think frost troll on the way to High Hrothgar times a thousand – don’t take this guy on too soon).
The world and realms of Tales of Arise are breathtaking and well put together. Each area has its own uniqueness, and the world has been assembled in an absolutely spectacular way. I often found myself marveling at some weird creature or plant, as well as taking in the views that are often seen in Dahna.
The battle system uses the Linear Motion Battle System, which is well known throughout the Tales series. This system allows all characters within the battlefield to move around and interact with their opponents and allies. The linear aspect always ensures that you have a line of sight on your targeted opponent, no matter how you move around the battlefield. The combat mechanics allow you to dodge and “queue up” attacks with a mixture of Artes and simple attacks. This can be done for both ground and air attacks, essentially allowing the player to make up to 12 combo moves if timed and executed well. Artes require AP which is used and regenerated throughout the battle, support, and healing abilities require CP which are only replenished through rest, potions, or food. There are also special attacks that “warm-up” from successful attacks and evades, as well as over limit mode which allows you to execute as many Artes as the timer will allow without expending any AP. This mode also allows the player to execute a Mystic Arte, which is an overpowered super attack that wreaks havoc on the battlefield.
I thoroughly enjoyed taking on the role of the Blazing Sword of Calaglia and setting off with my companions to overthrow the Renan Lords and liberate Calaglia.
The anime-style artwork in Tales of Arise really adds to the overall feel of the game and I often felt like I was living this incredible story in a graphic novel, rather than just playing a video game.
The developing friendships between the various party members, as well as the humor and wit, threw throughout the game kept me entertained in even some of the duller moments.
The story and character development keep you on the edge of your sit with unexpected twists and jaw-dropping climaxes. The years and experiences from before this story that molded and shaped the characters to be who they are in Tale of Arise are evident and can be seen just by watching the way they interact with each other, those around them, the world, and in battles. There is a depth of history shown in these interactions far greater than just this story can hold.
Tales of Arise is a fantastically put-together RPG in all elements. The story is rich and rewarding, the landscape is incredible, and the character development is almost real.
Coupled with a battle system that is unique to the Tales series and improved with each new installment of this 26-year long series, it is safe to say that Tale of Arise is in a class of its own and absolutely dominates in the RPG genre.
After many wonderful hours spent in Tales of Arise, I award this incredible game a whopping 9 and a half out of 10 stars!
A big thank you once again to Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to play this masterpiece.