We’ve gone from having almost no information for Tales of Arise, to multiple trailers, gameplay videos, and a release date that’s only a few months away. And thanks to Bandai Namco, I also recently had the chance to experience a small section of the game. What I’ve played feels definitely feels like modern Tales, despite some changes here and there.
Even before getting into combat, the first thing I noticed in Tales of Arise was the enhanced visuals. As the first mainline entry made for PS4 hardware onwards, the leap in detail is clear from the start. It’s a similar mix of anime-style character models and somewhat realistic environments that has been used in many of Bandai Namco’s latest titles, including God Eater 3 and Code Vein.
There’s a lot more detail in each area, compared to some of the barren environments in Tales of Zestiria and Berseria. Tales of Arise still makes use of interconnected areas rather than a full open world, which is more than fine for this style of game. But the increase in detail does make places more memorable, filling them with more landmarks and foliage.
Once in combat, things got off to an… interesting start. Tales of Arise makes use of a reworked button layout compared to previous entries, mapping basic attacks to RB/R1, with artes on three of the face buttons. It’s not wildly different from what I’m used to, though it did mess with my muscle memory from Berseria. Dodging is also present in a form closer to standard character action games, letting you avoid attacks or cancel the end of longer arte animations.
Movement in general is the least restricted it has ever been, combining permanent free movement, dodges that aren’t locked to certain directions, and the ability to jump at any time — it might sound odd to list something as simple as jumping, but it’s an important part of how artes work now.
Artes are the bread and butter of combat, including a variety of physical and ranged attacks depending on the character. Unlike Berseria — which had you select an ever increasing amount of artes for each face button — or even the older style of Tales games, you’re quite limited in what artes can be used in Tales of Arise. In the trial version at least, I only had the ability to use six artes per character during battle. These are divided into ground and aerial attacks, automatically switching depending on your current state. Some, like Alphen’s Rising Wyvern, launched him and the enemy into the air, allowing for longer combos.
It’s an easy to grasp system, but one that didn’t have much depth from what I could try out. Some character gimmicks do at least add in some extra strategy — Alphen can use his Blazing Sword for extra attacks after certain artes, at the cost of HP, for example — but for the most part, there wasn’t much variety in the combos that could be used. Stringing together ground and aerial arts is still fun, though hopefully the full game allows the use of multiple sets of artes.
There are a couple of other new systems in play during battle in Tales of Arise, mostly revolving around boost attacks and boost strikes. Boost attacks help to somewhat mitigate the lack of arte options, effectively acting as extra attacks for each character. These are activated via the D-pad, activating a special move for the corresponding ally. Reserve party member boost attacks can also be selected, leading to a total of six overall.
They’re flashy, and a handy way to chain together longer combos — or break the guard of certain enemies. Meanwhile, boost strikes are just instant kills — fill up a meter by attacking, then hit the D-pad to one-shot the enemy. These speed up regular encounters, even if most normal enemies are nearly dead by the time you can boost strike them — this is also why I rarely used mystic artes, a returning staple of the Tales series.
One interesting change is the way healing works. A new resource, Cure Points, is now used when restoring HP or resurrecting allies with artes. In practice, this doesn’t actually change much compared to previous Tales games — CP can still be restored with certain gels like normal — but it’s more convenient than having to keep track of multiple characters’ MP bars in the middle of a fight. This also pairs well with Alphen’s HP draining artes, creating a nice balance of risk versus reward.
With no skits or any real story content during the trial version, I can’t really say right now whether Tales of Arise’s cast will match some of the series’ best. There was a decent amount of banter between characters, either after battle (no traditional battle result scenes, however) or when exploring the map, just nothing major. Skits are one of the best parts of the Tales games, so hopefully they’ll be enjoyable here too.
Despite some issues I have with the battle system in its current form, Tales of Arise shows a lot of promise. It offers up fast battles with a simplified set of systems that are fun to use. And of course, since this preview is all based on a trial version, there are probably some mechanics that weren’t available to try out — and certain things likely to change ahead of release, too.
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