Tales of Arise reviews

Tales of Arise PC - Finished on 10/08/2021
Tales of Arise makes it clear that the most important part of a JRPG is not the story, or the characters, or even the gameplay. It's the presentation.

Arise's gameplay is similar to the previous two entries (Berseria and Zestiria), featuring hack-and-slash combat, flashy abilities called artes, and powerful finishers. Simplistic at a glance, the game has a lot to offer if you dig into it, such as exploiting enemy weaknesses with Boost Attacks, juggling enemies with specific combos, refreshing AG by calling in support from your friends, and customizing tactics with a "Strategy" menu reminiscent of FFXII's gambits. On Hard, the game gave a consistent challenge from start to finish, but there are three easier difficulties to choose from if pushing the system to its limit is not your preference.

The story and characters aren't even particularly remarkable either. The party members fill all the traditional party roles with all the common tropes of the genre. They story is centered around the 6 elements and two warring worlds. At times it can be a bit heavy handed when it preaches equality and acceptance. There are twists, most of them expected if you've played a tales of game before.

So what makes Arise so good, you might ask? It's the presentation. Character animations, facial expressions, and voicework are (with little exception) exceptional. The handcrafted environments, enemies, and unique monsters give consistent eye-candy. Combat is the same way, featuring flashy finishers, perfect sound design, flowing yet impactful attacks, and cheesy catchphrases. The story beats are perfectly paced, with a new revelation every time you think it might get boring. Custscenes feature either high quality 3D animations or traditional anime style directly from Ufotable. The new "skit" system is a bit jarring at first, but once you get used to the new comic book-style skits, they're a good way to break up the more serious story beats with some character building or comic relief. Costumes, skins, and collectables are the cherry on top and never felts like a chore to collect.

I feel obligated to mention some downsides. Kisara's voice actor is pretty amateur sounding with very little inflection. Some of the more mundane cutscenes are lacking character animation. A couple combat encounters have a weird camera angle to them. The combat system isn't as exploitable as Berseria's was, leading to some longer battles. Fishing was a bit overdeveloped.

I think I enjoyed Berseria more, but Tales of Arise is still a great game for longtime fans to the series, JRPG fans, anime fans, and even those looking to get into any of the above. The combat will have you consistently in a state of flow, and the story is gripping (if a bit cliche). There's even a large chunk of "post-game" content featuring crossovers and stellar voicework. It took me ~80 hours to experience everything, so well worth the pricetag.