The Tales franchise is becoming somewhat of annualized series at least in the west. Tales of Zestiria is the newest installment in the franchise, for the first time released in Japan and the west in the same year. And while it has a number of improvements it doesn’t stray from the tried and true formula.
You follow Sorey and his seraphim friend Mikleo, who spend their days exploring ancient ruins. Seraphim are a race invisible to humans, but Sorey has the ability to see them. Their peaceful days quickly come to a halt when an evil race of monsters called the Hellions appear wreaking havoc. Sorey and Mikleo decide to leave their village, for the first time stepping into the world of humans.
The main gripe I had with the story is that it takes way too long to get going. You are the chosen one who must go on a journey to rid the land of the evil that has plagued it, which is slowly turning people into monsters, all while accompanied by a princess and your much cooler friend. It starts off in a generic fashion and picks up hours later when the more interesting characters join your party.
What sets Tales games apart from other JRPG titles is its fast-paced real-time combat. You can freely move on the battlefield, chain your attacks, swap characters and order them around. For people new to the series, battles feel like out of a fighting game. Like in other Tales titles, Tales of Zestiria also features local multiplayer, allowing up to three other friends to join you in battles. On the other hand, you can always let the battles run in auto mode if you aren’t up to the challenge.
Battles are usually very short, lasting less than a minute. Add the fact that for the first time battles are almost seamless and that there are no random battles and you won’t have to worry about them growing stale too quickly.
New to Tales of Zestiria is the Armatization system, where specific characters can fuse with Seraph. During Armatization your character is almost god-like, dealing much more damage and having a ton of health. Depending on which character you merge their attacks will have different elemental attributes which gives you a nice dose of flexibility during combat.
Tales of Zestiria strives to be an open world title. While there are a few roadblocks, you can freely explore to your heart’s content. From the moment you leave your home town the game opens up. The only thing preventing you from running off the beaten path too far are the higher level enemies waiting for you.
One cool aspect of Tales titles is the ability to change the appearance of your cast. You can outfit them as you like and everything will be visible in the in-game cutscenes. You can even customize the size, position and color of all the accessories. Sunglasses wearing cowboys made all the cutscenes 100% more badass.
One baffling element of Tales of Zestiria is the inability to take screenshots on the PlayStation 4. According to Bandai Namco this is because of licensing reasons which would most likely mean the sound track or DLC costumes. However not being able to take a single screenshot is definitely infuriating. What’s worse is the fact that whenever you receive a trophy that message is followed by “You cannot take a screenshot here”.
Tales of Zestiria features an abundance of DLC and add-ons. Anyone can download the Free Skits Pack, Mystic Artes and PlayStation 4 themes. You can also redeem the DLC Bonus Chapter: Alisha’s Conviction before November 19th. Aside from these Zestiria offers a ton of add ons such as a quick level up for your weapons, healing items and costumes.
The Tales series has some of the best visuals for a JPRG to date. The extremely fast and flashy combat accompanied by amazing effects looks stellar. Unfortunately, the visuals, are starting to show their age, especially on the PS4. The characters do look great, but the barren dungeons and overworld do hamper the experience.
Where Tales games stand out is with their flashy animated cutscenes which would put some anime to shame. Ufotable is behind the animated cutscenes of Tales of Zestiria so you should know what to expect. They are used in almost every important part of the story and really fit in with the style of the game. Zestiria also offers both English and Japanese voices while booting up the game so you can pick which you prefer.
Technically the game can be impressive. There is virtually zero loading, the world is absolutely massive, and the battle transitions are almost seamless. However, at the same time everything is rather lifeless. The city has just a few people here and there during the “crowded fair”, while the world has trees and rocks sprinkled around, with enemies never being too close one to another. This is not helped when objects pop up visibly in the distance. I just can’t help but wonder why they didn’t utilize the power of the PS4 a bit more instead of having almost the same game as on the PlayStation 3’s 9-year-old hardware.
Tales of Zestiria is a good RPG which has almost nothing that hasn’t been seen or done before. If you have nothing against that, or haven’t played many JRPGs before, you might be surprised how polished some elements of the game are. But if you are a fan waiting for something new to liven up the series you might want to keep waiting for Tales of Berseria which promises to bring a few new elements to the table.