The first thing that really struck me when the home screen went black and the game came out was how absolutely beautiful the new graphic style in Tales of Arise is. The so-called “atmospheric shading”, reminiscent of watercolor paintings, works wonders for Bandai Namco’s flagship. Although it is not just a new graphic palette that beautifies this ancient Japanese role-playing game. Tales of Arise is also the first in the series to adopt Unreal Engine 4 – and it shows! Environments are detailed and the light effects are light years better than previous games. Of course it appears in trailers that Tales of Arise is nice, but it’s not until you see the game in front of you that you realize how magical it is.
We had the opportunity to test a selected batch of Tales of Arise at the invitation of Bandai Namco Entertainment Nordic. The test was performed via streaming from a PC, so performance is difficult to predict and will not be a focus in this preview – but for those of you who are wondering, it went smoothly and nicely!
Hand in glove with the pleasant graphics – which we in trailers have seen is multifaceted and includes a variety of environments and colors – we have music from the master composer Moto Sakuraba whose long track record includes, among other things Dark Souls, Tales of, Mario Tennis and Star Ocean. As the game demonstration was quite short, we did not have time to listen to very many songs, but what we heard reflected the visual events nicely and captured the feeling in the moment. It is with great expectations that I look forward to hearing the entire soundtrack Tales of Arise.
Colorful characters with potential
What would be an epic role-playing game without characters that engage you in the story? IN Tales of Arise we get to meet six guiding stars (dare we hope for more?), where the main characters are the unequal couple Alphen and Shionne. All the characters have motivations to revolt against the ruling planet Rena and free Dahna from centuries of oppression and exploitation (the central story of the game). But it is Alphen and Shionne who put the conflict at the center as they originate from the opposite sides.
The dynamic between Alphen and Shionne has the potential to reach the same level of love story as Squall and Rinoa (albeit less emo) as one can not feel pain and the other has a curse that causes suffering to the one who touches her. Add to that the fact that Shionne is cold, hard and efficient, armed with a rifle that fires magically charged cartridges and a sharp hair color that can indicate a much warmer inside. Alphen has all the classic hero traits, plus memory loss that can hide a different past.
Unfortunately, the test performance did not provide much insight into the characters’ personalities, but they shone enough to pique my interest. The knight Kisara won my heart with her huge shield and shining armor. What was most interesting about Kisara, but also all the characters, was how they differ drastically mechanically in battle (yes, you will now be able to control individual characters!). While Alphen is a fast, all-around fighter with a sword, Shionne is tactful with strong attacks and healing powers that perform best at a distance. My Kisara, on the other hand, has heavy and hard blows, a shield to block attacks with and performs best positioned between enemies and allies. This combat dynamic between characters bodes well as it offers players many avenues to find a comfortable style of play. Plus, it’s fun to finally get to play your favorites in battle and not just the main character!
Qualitative aspects that give hope
While characters and story are admittedly an important part of a role-playing game, it is also the single most difficult to judge in limited previews. Although the characters give the impression of having personality, they can still be paper pastries on tired archetypes. Likewise, there is always a risk that the story does not last the whole distance. What a short game session can tell, however, is how elaborate the mechanics are. Functions such as combat, equipment and control can be seen quite well in a couple of hours. And here I must admit that Bandai Namco impresses – even if it is cautious developments of previously proven mechanics.
Battle is a big part of Japanese role-playing games as it fills the adventure and is the mechanism for character development. Therefore, it is extremely important that battles are both fun and engaging. Tales of Arise uses a familiar formula we’ve seen in previous Tales of games, but gently screws up the spectacle a level or two. The battles are fast, direct and spectacular. Magical attacks shimmer across the screen while characters make their battle cries, enemies are thrown around the arena and characters support from the side. Arise also introduces very cool Boost Strikes, powerful attacks where two characters jointly attack to kill an injured enemy.
While the battles were fast-paced and entertaining the hours I spent with Tales of Arise, it is all the more difficult to know how the character development and enemy variation will affect the possible repetition of the battles. In addition to equipment such as weapons and protection, you can craft accessories with magical properties. However, it remains to be seen how deep the system is. Thankfully, menus are easy to navigate and clear in their design. Compared to other great role-playing games, you will not be overwhelmed with lots of tabs and submenus. The division and navigation is intuitive and is greatly appreciated by the undersigned!
New for Arise and following the simple menu structure is how to heal injuries. IN Tales of Arise shares the adventurers in a pool of healing magic. This pool is drained every time you heal, both in and out of battle. And once emptied, you can no longer use healing spells, but must rely on classic healing gels like Apple gel. Magic attacks do not draw anything from the pool and can be used more generously in battle. To recover from the pool, you need to stop to rest by a campfire (and inn?). There you can also cook. What this new pool system does is free yourself from magic anxiety (when you are constantly stressed about spending too many magic points on attacks and not saving enough to heal). Now you can go bananas with spells and special attacks and still be able to heal damage. I think this is a smart evolution for the role-playing game genre and it will be interesting to put it to the test on September 10 when the game is released on Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X / S, as well as PC.
See you this fall, Kisara!