Tales of Arise - Review
Bandai Namco went all-in and decided to make radical changes with its oldest JRPG series Tales of, which turned twenty-six years old. And, apparently, several development teams touched the new grandiose project at once. But let's talk about everything in order.
We are met by the protagonist Alfen, who is forced to work for a piece of bread in a labor camp in one of the most arid regions of the planet Dana — Kalaglia. As it turns out, he does not even remember his own name, and his face is covered with an iron mask. Subsequently, we will learn the real reasons for these transformations, which are not as simple as they seem at first, but the hero actually starts with a clean slate. On the one hand, we get to know the world and the environment together with him, and on the other hand, we observe his formation as a person. The turning point is the liberation operation of the rebels, where Alfen sees a chance to break out of the vicious circle. Together with his new comrades, he literally cuts his way to freedom and joins new brothers in arms. From this moment begins the thorny path of a mysterious stranger in a mask, full of acquaintances, betrayals, deaths, important decisions and unexpected events.
All the fuss is flaring up due to the fact that aliens from the highly developed planet Rena occupied the resource-rich planet Dana, enslaving its inhabitants in order to pump out special energy. For three hundred years now, it has been used to fuel a kind of astral energy generators. They are the core, which emits particles of one of the five elemental elements-fire, water, air, earth and light. There is also darkness, but it is absent in its original form in the bowels of Dana. The generators are located in different regions, and because of their enormous power, as well as the tools used by the Renians, they have greatly affected the environment. The climate changes, eternal night reigns and zogly appear. These are monsters that were tamed by the Renians, as well as wild individuals born later, who adapted to the new ecosystem.
Renians are considered gods by Danians because of the presence of advanced technologies and the ability to use astral techniques. The latter is related to magic, but as such there are practically no magicians on Dan, since almost all of them were exterminated by the invaders, and the rest are forced to hide.
I would like to immediately praise the authors for a clearly structured ENT and narrative-related aspects. In the past games of the series, one could unwittingly get confused in the numerous formulations that jump from one episode to another. Here everything is applied consistently and is laid out on the shelves in the course of the narrative. Including some questions that will be explained one way or another later, when you can realize the full picture of what is happening.
The above is important, since the narrative part of the game is the supporting support around which the other components are built. Every little thing has an origin — from the position of the quest giver to the culinary dish-and the developers have tried to make all this, as far as possible, be transmitted through the scenes and gameplay. This makes the passage and the atmosphere of the game more holistic.
In total, there are six main characters in Tales of Arise, among which there are representatives of both peoples. The first Danian Alfen will recruit the mysterious Renian Shion, then the sorceress Rinwell, the martial arts master Low, as well as the knight Kisara and the nobleman Dohalim. It is amazing how balanced the party was able to assemble both in the combat sense and in terms of relations. At the same time, unlike the previous parts — without unnecessarily odious characters. This is a logical decision of the authors, proceeding from the serious nature of the script, where there is no place for excessive comicality. Although, of course, jokes and relaxing conversations are found here, and not so very rarely. When it is appropriate — the gloomy atmosphere is diluted with curious incidents.
In the first place, of course, is the chemistry between Shion and Alfen as two opposites who are gradually attracted to each other, like a magnet due to certain cases in the course of the adventure. It is interesting that all the other characters always somehow take a side in discussions of pressing matters or interpersonal problems. It creates a kind of atmosphere of a road movie and an endless journey, where every step is not left without the attention of friends, and decisions are made collectively. Sometimes they even become mediators of relationships or help to overcome difficult situations. Here, individual character traits are manifested and you can see their personal growth in reality. The heroes are forced to give up their former way of life in order to unite with their comrades in misfortune to achieve common goals. At the same time, some of the habits and attachment of the actors to certain people and creatures still make themselves felt, and this makes them damn human. The team worked very meticulously on the characters.
Creating such a level of empathy allows a high-quality story of the background of each of the characters and their relatives with friends, whom you will meet, simultaneously solving plot goals. This will happen as we move through the regions of the world.
The narration is transmitted through a mix of cutscenes on the engine, dialogues stylized as manga with panels, and anime screensavers from the Ufotable studio. Of course, all the important events have been announced, and even some of the third-party dialogues, but alas, not all of them. Apparently, the developers are faced with budget constraints.
At the start of the game, you can immediately choose a Japanese or English audio track — this is placed in a separate item on the main screen. Frankly speaking, although the English voice acting is made at a professional level, the Japanese is still an order of magnitude better. This applies both to the uniqueness of the voices of each character, where the colorfulness inherent in the character and physical data is immediately felt,and to the overall sound quality of individual moments. Emotions were beating over the edge from the game of Seyu Alfen in particular — so powerful and genuine were his feelings in some fateful scenes. Sometimes there was a feeling that you were watching a theatrical production. In general, we recommend playing in Japanese — you will not regret it.
The visual component has made a significant step. By switching to the Unreal Engine, the developers finally untied their hands and were able to make an impressive picture, although not without flaws. The grown-up production is immediately visible not only as textures and polygons, but mainly in assets. For JRPGs, there are just a huge number of them here, but what is important is that they are all of high quality. There is no feeling that you have saved somewhere, and every house, every location will meet you with a rich decoration of the premises and the environment. There is a feeling that life really goes on here, and the townspeople and villagers are engaged in various activities that can be traced with the naked eye, just watching them. Buildings, dungeons, and individual segments of open locations now have expanded verticality, as well as unique features.
So, in one of the ancient caves, you can climb on stone pedestals, swim in a pond, jump into holes on the surface and use a ladder. Everywhere — a huge amount of details. There are statues, bas-reliefs, uneven protruding stones in the wall, fallen off and cracked in places, figured tiles, arches, separate rooms and much more. What can we say about weather effects, particles, flying leaves and dust, numerous animations of heroes in battles and on locations with various actions. Together with Final Fantasy VII Remake and Dragon Quest XI, this is the most beautiful Japanese role-playing game at the moment. And the local pets-from owls to seals-are just lovely.
At the same time, it is noticeable that the developers have focused on the version for consoles of the last generation. On the PlayStation 5, there are such remnants of the past as waiting for loading and a lot of transition screens. And they occur very often — when moving to another zone, during rest, when a cutscene or a video appears. On average, this is 5-10 seconds, and the only fast downloads were recorded when entering and exiting the battle. You will have to get used to the black screen that appears every now and then when loading. There were also loads of detail levels, as well as the appearance of non-inscriptions in front of your eyes on the horizon. The authors tried to smooth out this discomfort in places with the help of weather effects, but not everywhere.
Tales of Arise offers a choice of picture mode and stability priority mode, where in the first case you get full 4K, and in the second — 60 frames per second. We advise you to choose the second option, since the game still has an action component, so it is important that it is as convenient as possible for you to manage your wards. We did not observe significant frame drops at this setting, it was always nice to play. But when focusing on the image quality, drops occurred in saturated scenes with a lot of objects on the screen and on the largest open locations on the map. Of course, the detail and drawing range were slightly improved, but not so much that I wanted to sacrifice the frame rate per second. Let's hope that the developers will make the image mode more stable after the release.
The artists of Tales of have done their best: each region is a completely unique audio-visual feast, where even a separate range of images rules — you can easily distinguish the desert Kalaglia from the scorching heat of the island Ganat-Kharos. Although, it would seem that it is hot both there and there. But different lords rule-Renians and different elemental cores in action. You will not find any repeating locations, even if they are of the same type. Of course, the flora and fauna, as well as the structure of the area, are radically different. Somewhere there are more ancient ruins and structures, and somewhere there are more buildings, natural massifs and other details. This works in tandem with the narrative, since, in fact, a new region is a new story arc with its own tasks, characters and mechanics.
Traditionally, for Tales of monsters, you can see right on the locations here, and the battles take place in real time. There are no advantages or ambushes in battle now, and the monsters become aggressive only when they are in maximum proximity to you and do not really try to chase. Therefore, if you want, you can bypass the skirmish. Or just run away from the battle. Four heroes participate directly in the battle, and two sit on the bench with one nuance. Participants from two additional slots occasionally join the battle at the moments when the scale of the enhanced attack is filled, which will be discussed below. Both on the world map when exploring, and in battle, you can switch to any hero. You assign each of them an active skill on one of the buttons, which spends part of the scale of techniques. The fourth button — in the PlayStation version, this is the "circle" - is responsible for the jump. Thus, you can put three ground techniques and three techniques in the air for each character. You can also dodge and apply normal attacks, combining all the blows in chains. Targets are switched by pressing " L1 " and the direction, or by lightly pressing when the target will switch between the nearest enemies.
If the same technique is repeatedly used during four combo actions, its penetration will decrease, and the enemies will recover faster. Penalties increase in the future and can reduce the effectiveness of the reception by half. Subsequently, you will be able to assign up to six receptions of each type to any ward. In addition, treatment and support techniques spend healing points. They are given to restore them with the help of objects or on vacation. You can increase the stock when pumping or with special things. They are also used to perform actions on the map, such as removing barriers or treating injured residents.
On the left side of the screen there are small portraits of heroes, next to which the gain scale is filled. When activated, characters in different combinations combine with each other in a joint powerful attack. You can, of course, just use them to cause a lot of damage, but it is desirable to guess the right moment. For example, Kisara's blow will stop the onslaught of a large enemy and temporarily disable it, Rinwell will interrupt the spell and assign it temporarily to himself, and Dokhalim will immobilize the enemy.
It is important to understand that now each ally is a unique combat unit with its own abilities. So, Shion specializes in long-range attacks from firearms and astral techniques, both therapeutic and combat. Lowe increases concentration by delivering dexterous quick punches. Dokhalim extends the staff and can interrupt the techniques of enemies. Rinwell postpones the strike or, conversely, puts it together into a more powerful spell. Kisara defends himself instead of dodging, attacking at the same time. Alfen charges the flaming blade with a special technique and does huge damage to knocked out opponents. It is important to note that you can do any casts that include not only magic — in motion, for the first time in the series. But to do this, you must first get the appropriate title and learn the skill.
If certain conditions are met, namely, receiving a certain amount of damage or making perfect evasions in time, the sopartian enters a state of superpower awakening, when he strikes without spending the scale of techniques and acquires invulnerability. It lasts about ten seconds, and at this time you can also apply a mystical technique — a powerful magic blow, accompanied by spectacular animation in the best traditions of the series.
Some large enemies have spirit cores that shine orange, breaking them will stun the enemy and get the opportunity to deal high damage to him while he is knocked out. The same applies to monster bosses. In general, there are a lot of huge bosses in the game, the surest way to destroy them is to break the cores and pounce with all your might. Among all the enemies, the classic giant monsters stand apart. By the way, some of them can be found only in a secret way, for example, by killing one of the monsters in less than five minutes. In addition to a lot of skill points, you will receive an artifact-an astral flower, which increases the scale of techniques by one unit. Artifacts are a new type of key items that give permanent bonuses. They can be enabled and disabled in a separate menu. They have now replaced the grade points system from previous games in the series. The team is rewarded with artifacts for completing various tasks and exploring.
The balance in the game turned out to be strong. You will not be able to ignore some boss mechanics, negative statuses and elements even at a light difficulty level. If the usual or complex is not enough, then you can unscrew the maximum at any time — the complexity changes in the menu, which is available at any time, except for fights. At the same time, along with numerous auxiliary features, the game is also constantly automatically saved to two slots, so in case of a loss, it is really possible to reboot. Or even replay the battle, and even find yourself in front of the enemy without losing anything — Tales of Arise allows this. Therefore, it is as friendly as possible to beginners of the genre and the series. On the spot and bonuses for difficulty — the higher the difficulty, the more experience, resources and better rewards you will get for winning. In addition, there are also bonuses for a series of battles-when you consistently destroy enemy after enemy on the same map and further improve the number and rarity of prizes for battles.
The pumping system has undergone some changes in symbiosis with solutions from previous parts. It occurs through the activation of skills on the title board. As before, you get titles for performing certain actions — from completing a story battle to finding a certain number of items or completing quests. Each of them is located on a special panel and gives the right to learn four additional skills to the first one received with it. They are not related to each other, have a separate cost, and in the case of receiving all five give a bonus to the parameters specified in the properties of the title. The process itself is done quite sensibly — you will somehow need new passive skills and character extensions, among which everything is useful, gives more freedom and strengthens the attack. Unless some of the active skills may be for an amateur, but their choice, fortunately, is quite wide. And in addition to titles, techniques are also learned by using a certain number of available skills and in combinations with others, which motivates the use of different blows. Each technique can be strengthened five times, using a sufficient number of times.
It would be tedious to spend all the time in battles, so our motley party will have to be distracted one way or another. First of all, of course, you need to rest. This can be done in inns, but it is much more profitable to make a camp by the fire. Then there will be an opportunity to chat with the heroes and strengthen the connection with each other, which will affect the synchronization in battles. And where to go without cooking recipes. Any masterpiece can be prepared by one or another hero, but everyone has their own masters who will give an additional bonus to the already existing properties of the dish. In addition, the first attempt is often accompanied by a funny scene. As you may have guessed, here we have come close to skits, one of the characteristic features of Tales of. They remained, but now there are significantly fewer of them. Skits are mostly used strictly according to the situation when you need to tell more details about the region, current goals, met characters or events.
Now there are no skirmishes on the final battle screen, the results appear right after the battle, but the conversations themselves remain, although they occur less often and occur on the go. Unfortunately, the cooperative element also fell victim, when it was possible to give a friend the management of a co-party member. Perhaps later this feature will return in one form or another in one of the updates. Although the producer of the project, Yusuke Tomizawa, said that this was done in order for the players to get deeper into the story.
Among the equipment elements are accessories and weapons with armor that are unique for each party member. In addition to being in chests, receiving rewards and buying in stores, they can also be created. Crafting is quite simple — find a nomad merchant in a location or a specialist in a tavern and give these ingredients with a small amount for services. Only weapons are displayed, and although there are improved duplicates with the appropriate name among them, there are most unique beautiful models. If you want to change the appearance of the character, then there are many elements of changing the appearance that you can both buy in the DLC and get inside the game for some merits, as it should be. What is noteworthy is that the customization of weapons has appeared. And now you can choose your favorite model in isolation from the characteristics.
In addition to cooking, there are such activities as farming, fishing, searching for owls and the colosseum. The first allows you to breed animals and get meat from them after a while. The second is to catch different types of fish in specially designated places in a mini-game, where you need to choose a fishing rod, bait and catch a creature in a special way. Owls hide on many location maps, usually somewhere higher, merging with the space, but not always. For their capture, you can get a reward from the owl king by going to the owl forest. The Colosseum, finally, after an absence from Tales of Berseria, returns with fanfare. In addition to the typical battles in solo and group battles, you will still have to meet some old acquaintances in cameo battles. What-we will not say, since the spoiler.
There are fewer subtasks, but they are now strictly linked in context to the events of the plot and the peculiarities of the region. Perhaps the most interesting of them are where you have to use your wits, and especially a number of puzzles with a cool reward. It is extremely convenient to monitor sidequests and other activities now with the help of a detailed map and shortcuts in the menu, which are installed by default on the joystick crosspiece. Fast movement is carried out on the basis of special points for teleportation, which you open during the visit to locations, they are on almost every map.
The project is fully translated into Russian with the help of subtitles. Although the authors sometimes freely interpret some individual phrases and names. For example “ "Miguel" and " Alfen” would be better perceived with a soft sign at the end. The general meaning is not distorted, the context, in-game terminology and even jokes are taken into account. Except that in some places and menu options it would be worth increasing the font because of the length of words. But everything is fine in the story content, so you can confidently pass.
It is known for certain that the composition of the developers of Tales of Arise is quite wide and includes both the authors of Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Berseria. But at the same time, we got the impression that they consulted with the authors of Tales of Vesperia, since there are enough similar elements from Scarlet Nexus. This is both a system of skills and switching between allies in battle, tied to the buttons of the gamepad, and similar game design ideas, such as dialogues in the style of manga panels, menu shortcuts and other moments. This is definitely a cool decision, which we welcome.
Surprisingly, but the fact is that Motoi Sakuraba greatly moderated his experimenter's ardor when writing the soundtrack. If past works were satisfied with eclectic anthologies of a number of musical styles, this time the music came out in a rather strict framework of a couple of genres. The orchestra became predominant. Whether it's symphonies with choral chants or calm keyboard losses, the soundtrack leaves a taste of an epic journey to distant lands. Only occasionally you can hear compositions with guitar or melodies with electronic samples. The soundtrack turned out to be strict and holistic, as well as a dramatic narrative about the liberation of people who are under the long oppression of the conquerors. In some places, the tracks seem to say that Alfen and the team are the same ray in the dark kingdom.
As funny as it may sound, but the name turned out to be prophetic. The series was reborn in a new form. We got the best part of Tales of, where the authors managed to combine many years of experience with new ideas. At the same time, the quality of narration, character development, the depth of the combat system and the visual component have increased. All the mechanics and the interface are extremely clear and friendly to the player of any level. There are technical flaws, but they are so insignificant that they quickly fade in the whole ocean of new opportunities, where all the fans will quickly get involved. Bandai Namco needs to perfect the technical component and continue in the same spirit. Now the authors have a lot of work to do to surpass Arise. Bravo.