Six months ago, I probably would have told you I had little interest in Tales of Arise. While I used to be an enormous fan of traditional JRPGs and arguably played them more than any other genre, few have managed to capture my attention in meaningful ways in recent years. However, as someone who's always preferred action JRPGs over their turn-based counterparts, I decided it would be worthwhile to give the latest and most ambitious entry in the Tales series a try. After clocking in several dozen hours of playtime, I can genuinely say I'm thrilled I did.
Tales of Arise ditches the series' proprietary engine in favor of Unreal 4 to astonishing effect. The visual presentation of this flashy action RPG is absolutely stunning, from the dense, diverse environments packed with remarkable detail to the outrageous and over-the-top particle effects for attack animations. It's impossible not to be captivated by almost every second of this game. If you're looking for one of the best playing and, quite frankly, best-looking action JRPGs of the last several years, Tales of Arise isn't one to sleep on.
Bottom line: Tales of Arise sets a new gold standard for traditional action JRPGs. This stylized adventure's presentation and lavish production is a treat for anime fans and RPG enthusiasts, and it brings new life to the long-running Tales series.
- Relentlessly satisfying combat
- Gorgeous environments brimming with love and care
- Incredible overall production value
- Items actually matter
- Story is jam-packed with anime cliches
- Limited enemy variety
- Bosses can be damage sponges
Tales of Arise: What you'll like
I can't stress enough just how good the combat is in Tales of Arise. It's fun, flashy, dramatic, engaging, strategic, and essentially everything I could ever hope for in an action RPG. With hyper-stylized Dragonball Z-Esque anime callouts for special attacks and explosions of physics, lights, and color from magic abilities, every single fight in Tales of Arise is an absolute spectacle.
|Tales of Arise
|Tales of Arise
|Windows 10 64-bit/Intel Core i5-2300 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200
Whereas other titles in the genre often struggle with balance or simplistic button-mashing, Tales of Arise manages to make your abilities not only look rad as hell but feel meaningful and calculated. You take control of a squad of up to six distinct heroes, each with their own abilities and, more importantly, strategic counters to enemy attacks. Battles in Tales of Arise are a delicate blend of pure offensive dominance and deliberate reactionary measures.
If you're facing off against an enraged Wild Boar, for example, a well-timed Boost Attack from the shield-wielding Kisara might be your only hope of stopping its seemingly endless rampage. However, if pesky casters are causing your party problems, using mage Rinwell's Boost Attack can halt and even steal these powerful enemy abilities. These carefully considered battle mechanics ensure that encounters with enemy forces don't devolve into mindless repetition.
Tales of Arise also features a host of gorgeous locations. Every biome feels nurtured and alive, from lush jungles teeming with ancient architecture to sprawling plains sprinkled with verdant waterfalls and eye-catching landmarks. My introduction to these new locations almost always featured a dramatic landscape pan involving our heroes stepping onto a scenic overview, almost as if the designers were bragging about the sheer detail on display. After carefully exploring dozens of varied environments, this team has every right to brag. I constantly caught myself in awe of the volumes of small details crammed into these cities and landscapes.
I also want to take some time to celebrate just how fantastic the overall production value for Tales of Arise is. In addition to stunning locations and supremely satisfying combat, this action JRPG sports no shortage of attractive pre-recorded anime as well as in-engine cutscenes. The respectable voiceover quality and utter volume of spoken dialogue in Tales of Arise keep the story flowing at a refreshing pace, all the while accompanied by a consistently perfect orchestral score.
While I've played and thoroughly enjoyed recent releases like Trials of Mana and Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, it's tough to overlook some of their budgetary shortcomings. This certainly wasn't the case with my time in this meticulously crafted JRPG. The more I played Tales of Arise, the more apparent it became that Bandai Namco spared no expense with this release.
Another element of Tales of Arise I found satisfying was how important consumable items were to my success. With expansive dungeons and long stretches between resting and fast travel points, I constantly found myself relying heavily on healing gels and other critical in-game items. As a notorious RPG item-hoarder, I often finish my playthroughs with an inventory full of resources I was too scared to use. Tales of Arise didn't give me the flexibility of ignoring these items, and I greatly respect it for that. Admittedly, it's made me far more excited about discovering these typically uninteresting little treasures scattered throughout the game.
I won't relinquish too many details about the later bits of the game to avoid major spoilers, but there is undoubtedly ample amount for players to sink their teeth into when it comes to the sheer amount of content in Tales of Arise. Completing both acts of what I would consider the "main campaign" took roughly 40 hours. For those invested in chasing side quests as well as conquering some of the legendary endgame optional creatures, you can expect well over 50 hours of gameplay. And if you get tired of slaughtering the beats of this world, you can simply turn to the simple pleasures of fishing or raising livestock.
Tales of Arise: What you won't like
I won't go as far as saying the plot of Tales of Arise is "bad," but my general feelings on the game's over-arching narrative aren't particularly glowing. There are several undeniably compelling moments of social and political commentary touching on class struggle and perpetuated racism, especially towards the tail-end of the campaign. Unfortunately, the most prominent story beats and character interactions have been jam-packed with anime cliches. From characters falling to their knees and screaming at the sky to viciously one-dimensional villains, Tales of Arise demonstrates many of the genre's biggest tropes.
Our main hero Alphen comes from an oppressed and enslaved group called the Dahnans but ends up befriending and ultimately protecting Shionne, who hails from the elite planet of Rena. The Dahnans and Renans have been at odds for centuries, and in what feels like an anime-themed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Alphen and Shionne form an unlikely romance. Shionne bears a terrible curse of thorns that inflicts pain on anyone who touches her. Luckily, Alphen is immune to pain and, therefore, the only person who's been able to make contact with Shionne. I could go on, but I think that paints a pretty clear picture of what you can expect from the plot of Tales of Arise.
I'm also reasonably disappointed by the enemy variety in Tales of Arise. Outside of boss battles, there are less than a dozen different enemy archetypes in the game. Even within the first 10 hours of playing, Tales of Arise introduces reskinned variants of creatures you've battled countless times before. This lack of enemy diversity didn't drastically impact my enjoyment of the game, but it's certainly a glaring shortcoming in an otherwise impressive package. Some larger-than-life boss encounters help break up the repetition a little bit, but be prepared to see slightly different colored boars, gorillas, wolves, hawks, and lobsters for most of the game.
While I'm sharing the shortcomings of the enemies in Tales of Arise, it's worth mentioning just how spongy many of the bosses are. I'm not exaggerating when I say some encounters with the game's bigger baddies took me over 20 minutes. With frantic action-focused combat, that sometimes felt like an eternity. I appreciated that the boss battles in Tales of Arise provided a decent challenge, even on the default difficulty, but often it simply made my characters feel incredibly weak and the fights unnecessarily tedious. Tales of Arise proudly showcases its modern sensibilities in many ways, but the brick wall boss fights feel like a relic from JRPGs past.
Tales of Arise: Should you play it?
Despite some of my complaints regarding the game's storytelling and frustrations with lengthy boss fights, Tales of Arise is undeniably fun as hell. The combat remained engaging and satisfying for the entirety of my playthrough, and I certainly enjoyed feeding on a constant stream of breathtaking environments. If you're willing to overlook a noticeably superficial story, there's plenty to love about battling your way through this stunningly stylized world.
Fans of the Tales series will unquestionably enjoy Tales of Arise. This commendable reimagining focuses on the key elements that have made this action JRPG series so beloved over the last 25 years while simultaneously introducing more elaborate combat mechanics and graphical flourishes that legitimately make this best looking and feeling game in series' history. Tales of Arise is easily one of the best RPGs of 2021, and for players like myself who prefer fast-paced combat, this is easily one of the best JRPGs in recent history.
Tales of Arise releases on Sept. 10, 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS4, and PS5.
Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.