The fragile co-existence of two lands leads to the banding of an unlikely crew of warriors, wandering the lands of Rena and Dahna to uncover a mystery.
Following the acclaimed release of Scarlet Nexus, Bandai Namco reveal yet another ace hidden up their sleeve: the 17th iteration of the Tales series, celebrating the saga’s 25th anniversary. Hitting the quarter century demands revelry, and Bandai Namco have not been reluctant to make the most of the opportunity. The result? Tales of Arise, a JRPG game that is everything fans of the series would want it to be, making leaps and bounds as compared to previous entries. Built not on a proprietary gamine engine but Unreal Engine 4, Arise is built in such a phenomenal way as to allow it to perfectly capture lightning in a bottle, harbouring precisely the vibe that should be attached to a game of this calibre. After being announced at E3 2019, Tales of Arise is set to be given its time to shine on September 10th, a month after the release of the well-received demo. Only at Gamescom 2021 did we get to peer further into the Arise abyss, being first treated to an impressive violin performance by a remarkably flexible woman cosplaying as one of the game’s primary protagonists, Shionne.
What is the game's context?
Two lands, two folks: The Magnanimous Man in the Iron Mask, Alphen, a hardy young man born and bred in the antiquated land of Dahna, and Shionne, a Rapunzel-haired girl hailing from the technologically superior planet of Rena. Although some fierce hostilities are rife between the two planets due to the dictatorial hegemony over Dahna by the Renan army, denuding the land’s denizens of resources and freedom, the pair put their differences aside to embark on a mutually beneficial journey; a sophisticated context underpinning what looks like a thrilling storyline. Along the way, Arise bands together an unlikely group of lone-wolf individuals from across the lands – who are these recondite individuals?
Who can we play as?
Offering up a slew of playable auxiliary characters diverting our attention from the protagonists, the Tales of Arise consist of a myriad of personalities, each with their own motivations, backstories and abilities. The first of which is Rinwell, a Dahnan mage who somehow has access to the Renan magical ability of Astral Artes – she also has a cute little pet Owl named Hootle. We also have Law, a detective working for the Snake Eyes surveillance group, the Dahnan version of the Gestapo, and Kisara, a forceful but equanimous woman famed for being the most ferocious Dahnan soldier around. We also become acquainted with Dohalim, a rather eccentric and sagacious Renan scholar. The only character that isn’t clear cut is the Mysterious Swordman, a man shrouded in black who just so happens to resemble Alphen, one of the game’s protagonists. Each character gains titles and ranks as we progress through the Tales of Arise, endowing them with unlockable ‘nodes’ that serve to upgrade our abilities, attained by earning skill points through admirable offensive performances. Arise concentrates our gaze onto teamwork and community, a wider ethos Bandai Namco games have adopted as of late; we travel through various locations, fish, cook up hearty meals and battle monsters as a party, scavenging resources and completing puzzles along the way too. More on teamwork in a second!
What can I expect from Combat & Gameplay?
This is a JRPG game from Bandai Namco, I don’t even need to tell you the combat mechanics in this game are absolutely mint. In signature style, Arise boasts some rapid and fluid combat, gallant in its nature, rewarding team-based moves with Boost Strikes, Double Team Attacks and Special/Super Moves and, of course, your classic damage points. Of course, what good is offensive if it has no coinciding defensive to support? Arise rewards countering, slow-motion dodging and dramatic rolling with heightened damage attacks, too – avoiding damage and is as vitally important as inflicting it in the Tales of Arise battle sequences. Running parallel with the Linear Motion Battle System is a slightly more arcane set of offensive moves called Artes, a set of magical casts numbering to twelve, with half being performed solo and the other as part of combo sequences. There is certainly no dearth of offensive abilities in Tales of Arise, giving players the option to develop their own tendencies of attack instead of forcing them to conform to unbending apparatus. Of course, considering the genre and publisher of Tales of Arise, there is the traditional abundance of in-battle and cut-scene dialogues where characters seem only to find their voices when threatened with a grizzly death. The eagled-eyed among us may recognize the outstanding quality of the Arise cut-scenes, referred to in-game as ‘Skits’, and wonder how on Earth such quality is possible? It looks like Anime. Well, that’s because it is! The creators of revered titles like the Tales of Zestiria and Kimetsu No Yaiba anime series, Ufotable, were those culpable for the brilliance of the Arise cut-scenes. If that doesn’t speak volumes about how well-developed Tales of Arise is, I don’t know what will.
How does the game look?
I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I scrutinise when playing a new title is the world in which it is set. Tales of Arise was no exception to the rule here, immediately passing my graphical requirements with flying colours. The game’s world design is an elegant, watercolour inspired, anime-style universe, ebullient in colour and flawless in setting the tone of the game’s fantasy feel. With the use of graphic shaders and a plethora of carefully cultivated natural environments, it is our pleasure to take a sojourn through the Renan and Dahnan settings, finding ourselves in the unforgiving Calaglia Desert, the picturesque realm of snowy Cyclodia and the organic green Elde Menancia territory, each region with its own set of attendant missions and adversaries. This game is in frequent intervals just gorgeous; a rival planet lurks furtively behind conspiring clouds as light retreats to the horizon, reverting back to a state of night, the Arise world is one of those open-world titles that never fails to take the wind out of your sails, forcing you to stop, theatrically smouldering as one of our good-looking protagonists and appreciate the complexity of what is in front of you. More, Arise is compatible with controller haptics like that of the DualSense controller, serving to immerse us further in the world alongside the 4k/30FPS visual and 2k/60FPS performance modes – this is truly a game built for the ninth-generation.
If you have a penchant for anime, open-world games with addictive skirmishes, and the fantasy genre, you’d be shooting yourself in the foot by not playing Tales of Arise. With a substantial 60 hours of gameplay, that is if you dabble occasionally in the many side-quests available, it is effortless to get lost in the optimism of the Tales of Arise world. If your mouth is watering at the sound of this game, fear not – it releases in 4 days on the 10th of September 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. If you don’t hear from me for a week, you know where I am!
Images sourced from Xbox.