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Tales Of Arise

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2021

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PS4 Review - 'Tales of Arise'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 8, 2021 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

Tales Of Arise is the latest chapter in the popular Tales Of JRPG franchise bringing new storylines, gameplay dynamics, and worlds for players to explore.

Buy Tales of Arise

The long-running Tales franchise gets by on enjoyable combat and consistency. It's not quite Final Fantasy, but it's close, with unique combat systems, repeating motifs and colorfully animated JRPG casts. It's been a while since the last real Tales game, as Berseria was released in Japan over five years ago. Tales of Arise has been in development for quite some time, but the long wait is finally over. Is it worth five years of waiting? Not necessarily. Will it please Tales fans? Almost certainly.

Tales of Arise is set in the medieval fantasy world of Dahna in the aftermath of an alien invasion. The humble Dahnan people were invaded by Renans, a neighboring planet with advanced technology and magical power. The Renans' spaceships and weaponry quickly subdued the Dahnans, and for the past 300 years, the Dahnans have lived as slaves. This changes when a young man named Alphen, whose face is locked inside a black mask, encounters a Renan named Shionne, who can pull a blazing sword that sets the wielder's body alight. "Luckily" for Alphen, he can't feel pain, and Shionne has healing powers. The two make the perfect wielders for the Blazing Sword, so they set out to defeat the lords who rule over Dahna and free the enslaved people.


The Arise cast is a solid and enjoyable group of heroes who don't break any molds or offer any real surprises. They slot firmly into JRPG archetypes, and you'll get a sense of how they'll develop within five minutes of meeting them. Thankfully, the cast is likeable enough that this doesn't drag them down too much. They have good chemistry together, and it's fun to see them bounce off one another. By the end of the story, some of the jokes or character quirks get a little long in the tooth, but they generally worked well. They're not my favorite Tales cast, but they're comfortable and familiar, which seems to be Arise's thesis statement.

The main story is more variable. The initial premise — enslaved individuals fight back against oppressors — is strong and holds together well, especially when the game confronts some of the gray areas that come with, "What happens after we overthrow the dictator"? I don't agree with everything that it puts forth, but at least the game is willing to address the idea that someone can be human and their crimes can't be forgiven so easily. The story loses some steam when it moves away from the main concept and into more traditional enemies, occasionally reminding me of Tales of Rebirth.

Overall, I enjoyed Arise's story, but it wasn't one of my favorites. The enjoyable cast and strong initial concept push the game forward, but at times, it felt too familiar. The game has more than a few scenes that did their job exceptionally well and hit hard, but at its heart, it's a "B-grade" Tales story in that it's fun and enjoyable but not groundbreaking.

The combat system in Arise is an evolution of the system we've seen throughout the series. For those unfamiliar with Tales, it has always had an action-RPG combat system that's more akin to Final Fantasy VII Remake than Final Fantasy VII. You control one character in battle and can attack, dodge and move around freely. Artes are special moves that require AG points, which replenish quickly over time when you're not attacking, so it's more of a limitation of combo length than ability usage.


Arise twists things up by introducing the CP gauge, which is a replacement to the TP gauge. Rather than being individual, the CP gauge is shared among all characters in the party. Any support skill, whether it's healing or party buffs, drains CP. In essence, it's a limitation on healing to avoid having infinite healing spells. This can be difficult early on, but by the endgame, you'll have enough money and items to refill it freely.

One thing Arise does very well is making each character have a distinct and fun play style. Even mages, who traditionally are a mixed bag in Tales titles, are really fun to directly control. Alphen is a traditional Tales sword-wielding protagonist, except that he can modify any of his special attacks with the Blazing Sword, which can inflict huge damage but drains Alphen's HP. He has the choice to sacrifice more HP for more damage, leading to a high-risk/high-reward play style that we don't normally see in standard protagonists.

In comparison, Shionne is a ranged gunfighter who specializes in healing, magic spells, and status effects. While she can be played as a traditional mage, she works best when you're stringing together combos to reduce the cast time of her spells. More notably, you don't have to touch spells. Shionne has an entire host of gun skills, including bombs that she can modify using special ammo that causes them to detonate in different ways. Many of her gun attacks even cause surprisingly reliable status effects, with poison and paralysis working on a shocking number of foes.

This level of variety is present in the entire cast, with most characters having well-designed combat styles. Law is a fist-fighter whose attack power skyrockets as he does damage without getting hit. Rinwell is a mage who can "store" attacks to create powerful combo magic, and like Shionne, she has a host of special attacks and magic spells. Kisara trades in perfect dodging for guarding and can transition directly from guarding into heavy-hitting special moves. Dohalim is super agile, and in addition to having a host of healing and damage spells, he gains a boost every time he perfect-evades an attack.


This variety goes a long way toward keeping Arise's combat interesting. Rather than finding one character I liked and sticking with them, I swapped characters for every dungeon, and it kept me invested. By the time I'd cycled through the entire cast, the ones I'd benched had learned enough new skills that it felt fresh to play them again. You can choose a favorite and stick with them, but this is one of the rare Tales titles where I never felt the need to.

Arise also allows you to call in allies for special Boost attacks, which fill up over time and as you land attacks. Each character has an attack that can be used by pressing a button on the d-pad. These attacks do hefty damage and can counter enemy attacks. Rinwell instantly stops any enemy from casting a magical spell, while Kisara blocks a charging enemy. Shionne snipes flying enemies, and Law uses a powerful punch to smash an armored enemy's defense. Dohalim uses magic vines to lock down speedy enemies, and Alphen's boost knocks down enemies for a period of time.

The Break system in Arise heavily rewards stringing together long, complex combos. Attacking enemies stuns them and leaves them open to combos that aren't interrupted by their attacks. Once an enemy is stunned, you can juggle them and chain together attacks to gradually fill their Break meter. Once the meter is filled, you can unleash a Break attack, which is a hyper-fancy combo move that instantly kills the enemy. Against bosses, a Break attack removes a big chunk of health. Once you get a feel for the Break system, you can take down enemies well before you'd deplete their health with normal attacks. At maximum skill, you'll weave between attacks in a way that feels almost as cool as a Devil May Cry game.

I only have two real complaints about the battle system, and nothing is game-breaking. For a combat system that rewards precision timing as much as Arise does, the sheer number of spell effects going off at once can sometimes make it borderline impossible to discern what is going on. It can be frustrating to avoid an attack when there is a meteor storm and cyclone going on at the exact same time. Thankfully, once you have enough upgrades, the window for perfect dodging is lenient enough that you can spam the button, but more of a visual aid would've been nice.


The game also has a bad habit of recycling boss enemies. You'll face pretty much every boss in the game multiple times, sometimes in pretty disappointing ways. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's frustrating when many of the optional bosses are re-colors of the same boss you fought 20 hours ago. To the game's credit, it tries to mix things up with new moves or sudden twists, like changing elements or being replaced by a larger version of itself, but it can sometimes feel too familiar for its own good.

Outside of combat, Arise sticks to the comfortable familiarity of a JRPG. You go from town to dungeon and back again, occasionally collecting side-quests to complete. The bulk of the side-quests usually involve killing monsters, but some buck the trend. There's a surprisingly involved fishing minigame, adorable owls that provide goofy accessories, and an absurd amount of cooking recipes. None of it breaks the mold, but there's plenty to do in Arise, especially since each side-quest has its own dose of character interactions. Side-quests don't just reward EXP and items but also SP, which is used in this iteration's version of the Tales "Title" system, which resembles Tales of Grace's system. You complete objectives, ranging from advancing the story to becoming the best fisher in the land. Once a title is unlocked, you can spend SP to gain permanent stat and ability boosts.

Visually, Tales of Arise is a shockingly inconsistent experience. At times, it looks absolutely fantastic, with bright and colorful animated scenes that come across wonderfully well. Combat usually looks fantastic. At other times, it barely looks better than Tales of Berseria, with stiff, lifeless characters and dull environments. To the game's credit, it almost always pulls out the A-game during important scenes and moments, but that makes the awkward segments stand out even more. Thankfully, the music and voice acting are both far more consistent, with the English dub doing a really good job of nailing a lot of scenes.

Tales of Arise is a Tales game through and through. It's polished and consistently enjoyable, and it features an excellent combat system. The story and characters are not particularly ambitious or distinct, but they give you a fun world to explore for the 40+ hour runtime. In an era where "safe" JRPGs are uncommon, it's nice to have one that does exactly what it promises. It's not the best or worst of the series, but it is a darn fun Tales title that lives up to the franchise's name.

Score: 8.0/10



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