I love JRPGs and have always been curious about Bandai Namco’s Tales series. So when I was given the chance to play Tales of Arise, I leaped at the opportunity and honestly, I regret nothing.
Tales of Arise is wonderful for not only the avid Tales fan but is also great for those who are new to the game series, like me. Everything was new and admittedly a little overwhelming at first, but the game is super friendly with difficulty settings from Story mode, Normal, Moderate and Hard that can be changed at any time during your gameplay. For my playthrough, I chose to play in Story mode.
The gameplay of Tales of Arise is impressive, fluid and super stylish to boot. A help section is readily available for you to access via the Field Guide to look up the controls, explanation on items, battle information and basic gameplay notes. If you’d like to know your stats, perhaps how many owls you that have been saved in the game (super important, you must find them all unless you don’t have a heart), you can find this information and more in your Play Records. Not to mention, there’s also a Glossary available that you can jump into whenever you feel the need to suss out the game’s lore.
While I admit that I was intimated jumping into a beloved JRPG franchise for the first time, it wasn’t long before I got the hang of the controls, the combos, and quickly stopped stressing about trying to learn how to play the game. Soon enough, I had forgotten my struggles to adjust, had fallen in love with the story, the characters, and was just happy to go on a new adventure.
A highlight of the gameplay would be the cooking mechanic available whenever you stumble across an unlit campfire area, giving you the opportunity to cook before resting. This provides a Cooking Effect that can benefit the party during battle, with a Favourite Meal Effect that can also positively influence a specific character. I would be lying if I said that these were the reasons that I enjoyed the cooking mechanic. In truth, I loved the cooking parts of the game because it would unlock Skits, comic book style scenes that provide more content and depth to the story and to the characters, while also providing an additional opportunity to bond with party members. While Skits are indeed available throughout the game, I felt that the Skits around the campfire when the party were just relaxing together were the best ones, and I often found myself smiling and laughing whenever witnessing them.
Personally, I am not really the collector type, although this game is perfect for those who do love collecting items. I tend to play games more for the story. In this regard, Tales of Arise has a phenomenal story up its sleeve that is bittersweet, intricate and unique in all the right places.
Tales of Arise mainly focuses on two characters; a kind natured Dahnan slave with a mask known as ‘Iron Mask’ who does not remember his past nor his own name, and a seemingly cold-hearted Renan woman who is on a mission to take down all the lords.
With two main characters from opposing worlds, complete with their own mysteries and personal battles, the story visits various sensitive topics from war, poverty, prejudice, slavery, segregation to genocide, and cleverly does so in a fantasy sci-fi setting that is effortlessly entwined with action, adventure and a little bit of romance. All while displaying important messages and morals that we can learn from and adapt in our own lives.
I was so thoroughly impressed with not only the story itself, but by the way that the narrative consistently unfolded and the depth and evolution of the characters, to the point that the game held me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more. I found myself yearning to play ‘just a little bit longer’ to discover more about the characters and the overarching main tale (pun intended). It helps that the game is not only a delight to witness story wise but Tales of Arise is a feast for the eyes, with the anime cut scenes during major parts of the story being ‘the cherry on top’.
Tales of Arise is the perfect JRPG for the new PlayStation 5 console. Even though there hasn’t been a Tales game in 5 years since Bandai Namco’s Tales of Berseria, it is clear that no time was wasted in creating this masterpiece – the wait was worth it. My only criticism is that I wish there was a photo mode available since the game is so beautiful, but there really is no way to take any screenshots while wandering around without the circular map in the right-hand corner. I would have liked an option to temporarily remove it so that a shot could be taken without the map and controls in the foreground. However, considering how good Tales of Arise is overall, I can overlook this.
Bandai Namco’s Tales of Arise is an amazing introduction into the Tales franchise (I really want to play the rest of the series now). Directed by Hirokazu Kagawa, the game is visually breathtaking, has a fantastic original score composed by Motoi Sakuraba (I absolutely need to own the soundtrack on vinyl), great voice acting, plenty of post-game content, and an unpredictable story that blew me away (it moved me to tears). Tales of Arise is by far one of the best JRPGs of our generation and will be a sought-after classic in years to come.
Tales of Arise is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
A PlayStation 5 copy of the game was provided by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.