Since I had just finished a Bamco game and this one had raving reviews I decided to play my first Tales game. Glad to say I was not disappointed! Warning for slight spoilers as usual!
Our story begins about a slave working in some coal mine where energy is sapped from all the slaves into a giant fire pit. Well turns out there’s a group of ruthless leaders called the Renans who came from a space station in space and have enslaved all the Dahnans on earth. Our hero Alphen has a full iron mask covering his face and has amnesia but soon he runs into our heroine Shionne. (Thoughts from my husband will be in blue.)
So to begin, we have never played a Tales game before had no idea what to expect at all. Action combat, cooking, fishing, skits, gels nope, no idea about any of that stuff coming in. We watched that Tales of the Abyss anime when it aired but that was like 15 years ago so I’d long since forgotten everything about it. So from what we’ve seen, this game seems fairly Tales-y but in general we’re not really going to be able to compare it to any of the other games.
Shionne has a “thorns curse” on her which basically instantly electrocutes anyone who comes near her or touches her so because of that since she was a child she’s never been able to touch any other person. So they pair up together to kill all the Renan lords because 1) they’re evil and 2) Shionne thinks that by getting their master cores (special orbs placed inside specially picked Renans) she will be able to cure her curse.
And so after killing many lords, and getting one to join their party as well as picking up some more rebels to join their cause we got a party of 6 – evenly split up so you can ship each pair. Yes that’s right, jokes aside, the game basically canonically ships the couples seen in the screenshot above. 😂🥰🥰 I never expect there to be romance in an RPG and I expect to usually headcanon my ships but the game is like “gurl, I got you.” 🥰🥰 From left to right we have Kisara, Dohalim, Shionne, Alphen, Law (pronounced Row) and Rinwell.
You know, come to think of it I rarely encounter true shipping in RPGs. Occasionally there’s potential love interests that you may or may not end up getting involved with, but not like shipping shipping. I think that it’s probably because either a) they’re solo RPGs without party members to interact with or b) even when they’re party based games it still revolves entirely around the protagonist to the extent where they wouldn’t give that level of attention to the other party members
On top of that we get a cute as hell floofy round white little owl mascot named Hootle (affectionately pronounced フルル). He loves his owner Rinwell and often fights with Law because Law is too much of a dumb teenager to handle himself around her. 😂
Anyway the plot is something out of Nier Automata and FF5 so the elements definitely will feel similar when it comes to space, and aliens controlling earth and there’s some FFXIV Shadowbringers stuff in there with planets rejoining too lmao. So overall I will say the plot was nothing original and it definitely felt like “I’ve seen this in another game before” but that didn’t particularly bother me because….I LOVED all the character interactions.
I found out apparently all Tales games have these things called “Skits” which are little episodes and interactions between characters that happen as you progress through the story. You can either watch them as you go along to fit the scene, or if you miss them or you would rather watch them all later, you can check them out when you go camping with your group. The skits were so cute and funny to me it was honestly the biggest highlight of the game for me.
Skits must be for GIRLS because I thought that they were fun in moderation but that they sometimes overdid it with the amount of them. There were times where we would teleport to a campsite to rest, then immediately get a skit or two upon zoning into the map, then a cutscene for clicking on the campsite, then 3-4 skits in the campsite, then a cutscene for who was cooking the food, and then finally a bond episode before bed. The difference I think with Scarlet Nexus was that all the stuff was that it understood better that there was a time and place for cutscenes so that they don’t keep interrupting the flow, whether that was at the end of a level or back at the hideout rather than “I’m just trying to get my HP back.”
In addition the game even had a farming simulator where you could just grow animals to have Mr. Farmer over there kill for you to use in your camping recipes. 🥺😭 You also had cats and dogs to guard your livestock and if you actually stopped by the farm randomly you would see the cats chasing the mice that would come 🥺.
The game had really tasty looking food that you could make and a lot of the recipes you got either via side quests or randomly sitting in some chest while you’re out exploring. While a lot of the game was typical RPG hallways, there were big maps you could explore and find goodies. One thing I learned in this game was “if you are in a new map check EVERY nook and cranny there’s a chest/ore/ingredient there 95% of the time”.
I did laugh at the level design, because it made me realize that there’s definitely a “hallway/maze” continuum when it comes to dungeons. I think a lot of people think that endless hallways like FFXIII feel too proscriptive and artless, but meanwhile mazes can start making us tear our hair out. By tossing in some side rooms here and there and always making sure that they’re stocked with goodies makes you feel like you’re not just walking in a straight line the whole time while giving you a reward that makes it more fun to veer off a little.
Fortunately unlike Scarlet Nexus, the side quests in this game were usually good, gave good rewards and sometimes had cute stuff in them. For example one of the quests you end up going to someone’s wedding, another quest you get to do a personality test. Obviously my favorite quest of all was finding all the owls for Hootle and it’s actually a pretty necessary quest if you intend to replay the game on new game plus – without all the owls you will miss out on the items that allow you to carry over all your outfits/stats/money/items lol.
We were constantly comparing the game to Scarlet Nexus, not just because it was the last game that we played, but also because the two games play quite similarly in a lot of ways (I mean, they are after all both Bamco games.) The biggest advantage that Arise has is that the subquesting system is sooooooo much better. I called Scarlet Nexus “sub-Korean grinder MMO tier” in its subquests, while Arise was much more the kind of questing that I take for granted. I do actually like how the subquests in the game are often very varied in terms of what’s available at a given time. You can usually pick up quests at a variety of difficulty levels at a given time as opposed to how a lot of games have a much narrower band, like how every quest in a given town will usually be roughly the same in terms of how hard they are. Here they can range from some effortless bear ass hunting in the trash mobs outside of town to superbosses, so you can judge for yourself what you can and can’t handle at a given time.
That also said, one of the things that kept bugging us about this was that it was hard to tell just how hard a quest was going to be when you picked it up. We would pick up all the quests in a town, start completing some of them, then get whalloped when we encounter a boss at the end of a dungeon that’s like 20 levels above us. And even we never really were able to figure out who we could and couldn’t reliably take on, since the enemy levels didn’t always seem to follow an obvious scale. There were times where a boss 10 levels above us was trivial, and times where a boss 5 levels above us basically oneshot the party.
The game had Story mode and although the exp was nerfed (so by the end of the game I was only level 56) it still allowed me to clear most of the harder side quests to get things like owls or whatever other necessary thing to finish the game. You could also switch modes while in game easily if you wanted to grind some exp with an exp food and change the mode to Normal or Moderate which I did when I realized I was fighting durds below my level. I still didn’t quite get the battle system and there was a weird mouse glitch for me that constantly had my camera flying all over the place so I mostly played with auto-battle on. For the most part the AI was pretty good except for Alphen and Law – their AI was stupid as hell and they would constantly eat shit and die. 😂 The only time Law became playable was when I decided to take over him so I could dodge shit, run away, and self heal lol. Alphen I could never really grasp the hang of so I just let him die an have his waifu raise him lol.
I should clarify that the auto mode in this game is NOT like the Nier games where it essentially turns every battle into a cool cutscene. Auto mode in this game basically just means that all the characters button mash attacks until either the enemies die or they die. It felt like Shionne and Rinwell were probably the easiest for the AI to control (ranged attacks keeping them somewhat safe from enemy attacks), but since the combat felt like it was desigend to revolve around perfect dogding this meant that the dumb computer couldn’t handle Alphen and Law (and Kisara to a lesser extent.) You sort of want to play the game in a kind of “semi-auto” mode where you’ll do things like run out of the fire, reposition yourself on the boss’s weakspots, use interrupts, or trigger QTEs.
Oh and I want to mention as well that I do think that the battles in the game were on the bloated side. The most obvious example of this by far was the endgame dungeon, which just went on and on and on for hours of nonstop trash mobs. But even just in general, pretty much all of the boss fights felt significantly longer than they really needed to be because they were such HP sponges. You could start to identify the weak spots and attack patterns, but rather than demonstrate that you can handle this a few times like in Scarlet Nexus, you have to just sit there whacking at it for what feels like an eternity.
While the game did come with a bunch of paid items and DLCs on steam, I just bought the standard edition and inside the game itself all the sidequests gave me tons of custom outfits! I ended up with the set above because it felt weirdly “canon” to me lol. For example Dio has the crown and Renan outfit because he’s all royal, Kisara’s the culinary mom, Law is loved by all the farm animals and Rinwell has her whole fairy thing going on all her outfits & books. NGL though, I put bunny ears on Shionne and Alphen to match the fact that me and my husband’s avatars on my twitch channel are vieras. 😂😂🐰🐰
So overall I enjoyed it tremendously. I took my time, constantly derailed into side quests, watch almost all of the skits (and the ones I missed I’m gonna watch at the camp fire after I finish writing this post lol.) I liked that a lot of important scenes were also anime style and honestly it was shocking how much better animated it was than the actual shitty Scarlet Nexus anime (that somehow is getting a 2nd season WTF LMAO). It was my first Tales game, and now I’m more curious about other Tales games so I’ve wishlisted them on steam and may pick them up on a sale. As usual you can find my slew of highlights (mostly from skits) on my Twitch Channel.