Tales of Arise has finally arrived and is already setting records. On Steam, it had a bigger launch than all previous Tales of games COMBINED. Granted, it’s also arriving on PC at the same time as console this time, but that’s still pretty good – it was one of my most anticipated games of the year, so I was excited to dive in.
Alright, I feel like I should make my perspective clear first. Despite being a massive JRPG fan – if you couldn’t already tell by the channel – this is my first Tales of game, so I will not be making any comparisons here. Rather, I’ll be looking at it from a first-timer’s perspective, so let’s get right into it.
So having played Scarlet Nexus earlier this year, I couldn’t help but get the same feeling when playing Arise. As in, for everything good the game does, there’s usually something bad to match. This is demonstrated perfectly by the combat. The combat here plays out in real-time, putting you in little arenas whenever you run into an enemy rather than taking place in the actual game world. The combat is also very fast and I would say it’s comparable to the latest Ys games.
However, unlike those games, it is WAY more combo-focused. And yes, Ys games are also combo-focused, but Arise takes it to a new level. This is the kinda action JRPG where you are regularly landing 100+ hit combos, doing damage in the six digits, and utilizing an entire party to accomplish that goal. Sounds like a lot, but Arise does this really well. You get your base attack string and then a mountain of skills that can be strung together to come up with some really cool combos.
Some can be used to start combos, some are simple extenders, some can be used to bring them into the air, and when you are in the air, you get access to another set of skills entirely. There’s a lot of movement here and the dodging and perfect evade system only add to that.
This aspect of the game was solid. It felt great to fly around, dodge enemy attacks at the perfect time, and then unleash these massive combos and string them together with all the different character abilities (which can be activated even when not using that character). Being able to experiment and come up with my own stuff was easily one of the game’s highlights.
That said, the combat is not perfect. For all the good it does with its base combo system, it does lead to a few problems: notably that it is often hard to tell what is going on. This is only really noticeable later in the game, but you often have so many flashy moves and abilities flying around the screen that it becomes hard to differentiate between what is an enemy’s attack and what is one of your ally’s attacks – leading to several dropped combos because I unintentionally dashed into some enemy spell.
Then there’s the AI. I won’t say the allied AI is terrible, but there is definitely room for improvement there. A boss will be doing some VERY telegraphed mega-move and my buddies will just stand there casting spells in its path, even when I change their focus to something more defensive. It was a bit annoying, not seeing them dodge these easily dodgeable moves and then having to waste my healing items to get them back up – items that are far too expensive for how often they are needed.
And this will lead me to my biggest problem with the game: its damage sponging. Normal enemies and most random encounters – fine, but bosses? You’ll do some mega combo and barely dent its HP. Yes, bosses are supposed to be more difficult, but Arise’s bosses border more on tedious than challenging. Like, I’ll be able to perfectly dodge all of a boss’ attacks – removing most of the challenge – but have to spend 15 or so minutes whittling away at its HP using moves that are so flashy you would think they would do more than 3% of its HP.
You can’t stun these bosses like you can regular enemies either, so that only drags the fights on longer – and this is with me playing on normal difficulty and being within the same couple levels as the bosses, I can only imagine how much more tedious they would be on hard. The difficulty scaling is just way off here, with most regular enemies dying before I can even finish a regular combo, but most bosses being these massive sponges that take forever to down. Of course, this can be remedied if you overlevel yourself, but then regular encounters are even less of a challenge than they already are – the game just lacks the right balance there, something I feel the Ys series or even the recent Scarlet Nexus do way better.
But enough about combat – let’s talk exploration and world design. In all, Arise does a really good job there. The game world is this massive, interconnected thing with plenty to explore. You’ve got these wide-open valleys with random encounters and treasure scattered about, cities with numerous NPCs to talk to, and of course, dungeons with their branching paths and loot to find. It doesn’t go too crazy (and even gives you the map up front for each area) and I liked the overall balance there. You’re not spending time aimlessly wandering about, but you’re not on this straight path towards the objective either – at least, most of the time.
In general though, I just liked the overall look and variety of the game world. Bright and colorful forest areas, cities with massive buildings everywhere, a snowy area with a small village in the center – a decently-sized game world with all these different areas really drives home that sense of adventure key to the genre and Tales of Arise does this to great effect.
Also key to the genre though is an expansive story and again, this is an area Arise has both its pros and cons in. For example, I liked how it was quick to get going. You’re thrown right into this adventure without the need for this massive buildup and info dump at the beginning. This was refreshing for the genre and allows you jump straight into the good stuff. That doesn’t mean the game is without its info dumps though. In fact, this is something I didn’t like about the story: it’s entire final act.
So I’m going to try to describe this without spoiling. Basically, for the first 60-70% of the game, you’re on this big adventure with a clearly-defined fantasy motif. It develops naturally, not really going beyond the norm for the genre, but being interesting enough to keep me playing. This part of the story was an easy 6, maybe 7/10.
Then, in traditional JRPG fashion, the final act goes completely overboard, becoming this massive, overblown thing with way too many layers for its own good. There will be some big revelation and then 20 minutes later, another one and repeat again and again. Instead of going “wow, that’s an interesting twist”, it was more so of a “I guess that’s a thing now.” Info dumps are plentiful during this part of the game, including numerous dialogue sections and such that can last upwards of 30 minutes or so before you move on to the next area.
Don’t get me wrong, this type of story can work, but it needs the time to properly develop and that is simply something Arise does not do. Instead, it has to cycle through ALL of the classic JRPG tropes right at the end. It’s a common problem with JRPGs like this and unfortunately, it stains an otherwise good story here.
Still, that is but a fraction of the main story. For the rest of it, it’s mostly fine – with the characters being a notable highlight. Yeah, I mean they’re not the most well-developed bunch, but the game has this cool “conversation” feature where, whenever something notable happens (like entering a new area), you have the option of entering an optional dialogue amongst the party. They don’t last too long, but they provide more details on why characters act the way they do and why the game world is in the state it is. Nothing too fancy, but a nice breather when you’re exploring.
And while on the topic of optional content – I gotta discuss the side quests. Put simply, they are straight garbage. No interesting substories, no objectives that break the norm – just the same old “go here, kill this”, “collect this for me”, or “talk to this person” quests. Most of them feel tacked-on and really, they’re only good for the rewards they give – skill points that you are starved of otherwise and money to fund healing items that exploration does not provide enough of.
This is not the only lazy area though. The game also likes to reskin monsters and bosses for later use and I would argue that the final dungeon is one of the worst designed I have seen in the genre. It is quite literally: hallway, boss, hallway, boss, hallway, boss – over and over with no campfires to heal at in-between. With the whole damage-sponging issue, this final dungeon felt more like padding than something actually interesting. Granted, the rest of the dungeons are fine and it’s really only the final one that felt like this.
All in all, the game took me just under 40 hours to clear. It’s a bit longer than I was expecting – and it probably would have been even better if it was expended beyond that to build up the finale more – but it’s a decent length for a JRPG regardless. If you’re a completionist, you can squeeze out another 20 hours or so to get that 100%.
Now I haven’t even mentioned the graphics yet. Unlike the combat and story, this is an area that pretty much has no faults. The aesthetic is nice, there’s a lot of detail to the game world, the character designs are cool (Shionne in particular of course), and I liked the inclusion of 2D animated cutscenes for the more climatic moments in the story. In general though, the game just looks good and has an equally nice soundtrack to match. Each area has this epic orchestral theme and it honestly kinda reminded me of Skyrim – definitely a soundtrack I’ll listen to outside of the game.
Performance-wise, the game is also solid. It runs flawlessly at 1440p 60+ fps on my aging 1070 Ti. I hovered mostly around 80-100 fps with maxed out settings, so this is definitely not a hard game to run by any means – which is nice, given that it looks great on top of that. I did not have any issues with bugs, crashes, freezing, or really any technical issue at all. The only thing noteworthy there is that the game has some REALLY low draw distance, the kind where shadows and objects pop into existence way later than they should.
This did not end up being a massive issue (to me, at least), but it is still definitely something to note and something I wish they had a setting for. As for controls, the default layout on controller took some getting used to, but I didn’t feel the need to change anything there. It was intuitive enough and even if you do need to make changes, the option is there. The keyboard and mouse controls are also there and – while not as intuitive as controller – they are at least usable and can also be rebound. Still, I would recommend a controller for this one.
Tales of Arise is a decent JRPG all things considered. The combat is fast, fluid, and fun, but comes with the downside of some very damage spongy bosses. The story is engaging and has some interesting characters, but comes with the downside of a rushed and overly ambitious final act. While not the best JRPG to release this year, it is one I had a good time with and would recommend to others into the genre – especially if you want a more action-oriented take on it.
Quote: Tales of Arise is a decent JRPG all things considered. The combat is fast, fluid, and fun and the story/characters are engaging enough, but both areas do come with some notable downsides.
Tales of Arise retails for $60 USD on Steam, but you can get an official Steam key for 15% off using my Gamesplanet partner link. This also applies to the Deluxe Edition and the Ultimate Edition. Tales of Arise is also available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.