While popular, Bandai Namco’s Tales series has never quite hit the household name status that the likes of Final Fantasy has, but that hasn’t stopped the series from telling complicated stories and charting its own path in the JRPG genre. If you haven’t yet been sold on the series though, then now may be a time to take a look at it again by trying out a demo for the game that’s currently available.
The first thing you’ll notice is the games visuals. Running on Unreal Engine 4, the Tales series has finally gotten a massive visual overhaul. Not that previous games were visual slouches with their cel-shaded anime inspired style. This time round, the developers have used the tips and tricks they’ve learnt over the course of their recent titles, Code Vein and Scarlet Nexus, to combine their cel-shaded artstyle with a painterly aesthetic that makes the games environments seem like a watercolour painting. At the same time there’s a step towards a more realistic look to the series visuals both in the environments and the characters. Overall, the game simply looks stunning, from the environment design, to the characters, the monsters and the animations.
Where the Tales games have really gone out of their way to be different is in the games battle system. The developers ditched the turn-based systems of most RPG’s in favour of an action orientated one. Tales of Arise takes the system to the next level by embracing the hack-and-slash genre in its new battle system. As before, you’ll be locked in a circular arena with the enemy while controlling your chosen character with the A.I. looking after the rest of your party. Tales of Arise though feels far more like a hack-and-slash game than previous entries with a combo-based attack system and special attacks known as Artes.
The coup de grace is that the other party members can be called in to provide support attacks and once you’ve dealt enough damage to an enemy, you can launch a DBZ-style mega attack to deal some serious damage. All while throwing around some stunning animation and effects. There’s a good range of combat styles on offer as each character has their own fighting style, from traditional sword swingers and monks to even gunslinging ranged attackers.
The demo itself is rather small, set much later in the game when you’ve gathered your party members and are traveling across the world, but it shows off a great deal of what you can expect in the final game. At the same time, you can complete it very quickly, or spend a fair amount of time in the fighting and exploring some of its systems such as crafting and fishing.
Scattered across the demo are moments when you’ll get to watch a bunch of well-written static cutscenes that go a long way towards showing off the characters personalities. From a disastrous cooking session to crazed weight training, these moments add a lot of depth to the game. There’s a bit of a visual novel vibe to these sequences and, as such, they may not be for everyone. It must be noted you have to trigger these sequences yourself when you see them highlighted at the bottom of the screen so if you want to skip them, you can do so.
It’s difficult to tell where the story is going to go since the demo delved very sparingly into any details. What we do know is that the central idea revolves around two worlds, the technologically advanced Rena and the planet Dahna. Rena has pillaged Dana for its resources and our two main protagonists, one from each world respectively, will be teaming up in an attempt to change their fates and create a new future.
With some gorgeous Unreal Engine powered visuals and a hectic, flashy battle system designed to keep you paying attention, the Tales of Arise demo sold me on the game in a way I wasn’t expecting. Bring on the full release!