STAFF REVIEW of Tales of Arise (Xbox One)


Friday, October 1, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Tales of Arise Box art I’ve always enjoyed the Tales series ever since the popular Tales of Symphonia on Gamecube. I’ve bought most of them since, but the last one I actually played through was Tales of Vesperia back in 2008 on Xbox 360. I absolutely adored that entry, and while I’ve skipped the last few releases, I was more than excited to play the latest Tales game now that it’s back on the Xbox platform. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the series, Tales of Arise has finally arrived, and to say the wait has been worth it is a massive understatement. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a really in-depth and amazing JRPG; Tales of Arise checks the box in many ways. And no, you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series or have played any previous to enjoy Arise to its fullest, as it is its own standalone story.

Tales of Arise takes place on Dahna, a planet that was invaded by a much more advanced world, Rena. When Rena invaded 300 years ago they enslaved Dahna’s population, forcing them to be slaves as they harvested Dahna’s resources. With Dahna under Rena’s control and three centuries of slavery, the people of Dahna don’t know any other way of life, being stripped of their lives, freedoms, dignity, history and all possessions.

Now that Renan’s control the lands, they’ve separated Dahna into five separate realms: Calaglia, Cyslodia, Elde Menancia, Mahag Saar and Ganath Haros, each ruled by a Lord. There’s a Crown Contest that takes place every so often where all the Lords compete to become the next Renan Sovereign, with the winner of this contest being the Lord that harvests the most Astral Energy from the Dahna population and planet, as it resides in all living things. All of these, Astral Energy is stored within each Lord’s Master Core, associated with a specific element as they do whatever it takes to gather more power, killing any Dahnan’s in the process; a means to an end.

The story begins with a mysterious Dahnan man locked behind a mask that’s unable to be removed, tired of living his life a slave for the Renan’s. As he starts to fight back, chance has it that he comes across a young woman being held against her will. Wanting to change their fate they band together to take on the oppression, though for very different reasons. Given the name Iron Mask for obvious reason, this journey begins with him as someone who has no prior memories other than being a slave. When he meets Shionne, a Renan outcast, this starts a unique relationship and bond that will twist and turn as times goes on.

Most people are taught that only Renan’s can wield powerful magic, called Astral Artes, causing their eyes to glow a bright blue when casting spells. What makes the narrative so interesting from the opening moments is that Iron Mask is unable to feel any sort of pain for some reason. He can get hurt and become injured, but wouldn’t know it since he won’t feel any sort of pain. Shionne on the other hand has something inside her that she calls her “thorns”, harshly electrocuting anyone that touches her. To escape the slave camp, Iron Mask uses a Blazing Sword, a physical manifestation of Shionne’s Astra Energy, though this sword burns anyone who wields it, so it’s fate that Iron Mask can’t feel any pain. Coincidence?


Shionne wants to take down the five Renan Lords for her own motives, but since it aligns with Iron Mask’s objective of freeing his people from Rena’s rule, they decide to take this journey together. There’s actually four other characters you’ll meet and have join you along the way; Rinwell is a young girl that has a pet owl, Hootle, and acts as primarily a spellcaster. Law is a martial artist, using his fists as his main form of punishment to monsters and Renans. Dohalim is an aristocrat, well-spoken and fights with a Bo. Lastly is Kisara, a woman knight that wields heavy armor and a shield, serving under Dohalim for many years. Each character has a very unique and interesting backstory that made me love all of them in their own way, all having a moment in the spotlight to tell their tale and having a natural character progression.

As you explore the world of Dahna, each realm is rooted deep into its main element. The opening region is bathed in fire, lava and impassable mountainsides. Another is a lush green and vibrant jungle, and there's also a frozen wasteland. Each region has its own visual style, enemies and Lord to defeat, and was a joy to explore. You’re given a map of each area, seeing where the connections to other zones lie ahead, and all of the ‘dead ends’ that almost every time has some sort of collectable or secret worth making the extra trip for. Certain areas of most maps, usually the campfires, will act as teleport spots for fast travel should you want to go back to a certain area for side quests, searching for owls or fighting mini-bosses later on in your adventure.

Arise finally adds the ability to swim in water, not something you’ll do often, but will allow you access certain areas or find other hidden collectables indicated by sparkling spot sin the water or flora. You’re also able to jump, but there’s only a few parts when leaping a small gap is required to find a collectible. There are a few puzzle-like elements in some of the dungeons, but nothing you’d expect like pushing and pulling blocks, but instead using a resource called CP (Cure Points) to unblock certain pathways, but more on that shortly.

The monsters you fight are called Zeugles, brought down from Rena and are the primary type of enemy you’ll face during your adventure. These beasts range from small bugs all the way to massive and fearsome bosses that have a huge health bar. As you explore each area you’ll see Zeugles around, allowing you to bypass or engage in combat whenever you see fit. Tales games are known for their real time dynamic action combat, featuring a new and updated battle system that still has that classic Tales feel to it at the same time. There was never really much of a need to stay back and grind anywhere, as each area tended to have just the right levels of monsters for my group. With a handful of different difficulty options and a way to customize your battle commands from Auto to Manual, you can play simply for the story if you want for the most part, as the AI can take care of combat if you decide to further customize their commands and behavior in battle.

Each character can be setup with three aerial Artes and three ground. Eventually you’ll unlock a second bank to equip up to two sets, allowing you to easily change between the two by holding ‘Left Trigger’. Each Artes will have an elemental properly if it’s not a physical attack, allowing for some unique combinations or strategic planning when you’re taking on enemies with certain elemental properties to exploit their weakness.


Unlike most RPG’s, the Artes system is really interesting, allowing you to cast as many of these skills as you wwant, even successively, provided you have the AG (Arts Gauge) points. To cast your spells and special moves, Artes, you need a certain amount of AG to do so, allowing you to string together combos. AG replenishes slowly over time during battle, and you can utilize normal attacks in the meantime to keep the combo meter going while your AG refills. It’s a really interesting system, not having to worry about mana like in most other games.

Cause enough damage quickly and you’ll eventually be able to perform a Boost Strike, allowing for an instant finish of the enemy you have targeted. It usually takes about 90% of an enemies’ health bar to be depleted to trigger these, but they act as instant finishers on non-boss foes. Depending on which character you choose to ‘tag’ in with the D-Pad, you’re given a super flashy and extravagant special move where two characters team up for this Boost Strike. Even after 40+ hours of gameplay, I still enjoyed seeing these take out enemies. The other reason for using Boost Strikes isn’t just for raw damage, but to be strategic in countering enemies. For example, Rinwell can cancel a Zeugle’s casting if used at the right time, or how Kisara can stop a charging enemy in its tracks. Learning the best time to use these will become paramount when you’re facing bosses and optional side quest Zeugles. Boost Strikes also refill some of your depleted AG instantaneously, so there's some times where holding off until you've casted a few more Artes is worthwhile.

You’ll need to be quick with your reflexes as well though, trying to roll and avoid damage when a Zeugle is about to attack. Time this just right and you’ll get a perfect evasion, allowing you to sneak in a powerful counter attack during a brief slowdown of time. While some may be disappointed to know that multiplayer has been omitted this time around, having a team of six characters didn’t make it feel like a lonely experience at all.

While you don’t have to worry about mana in the traditional sense, you do need to watch your CP (Cure Points). While you can use items to heal, CP is how you perform your support abilities and Artes like buffs, heals, regens and resurrections in combat. This means you’re able to spam your damaging Artes no problem (while managing your regenerating AG), but you’ll have to mind your CP points, replenished with special rare and expensive items or resting at a camp fire or inn for the night. There are even certain areas in the field that will be blocked off unless you spend some CP to use a special skill to knock down the barrier. For example, many dead ends will have these walls that need to have CP spent to knock them down. Do you spend some of your precious CP in a long dungeon to hopefully get some worthwhile loot (hint: it’s basically always worth spending the CP) knowing it’s the same recourse you need to heal yourself?


I don’t even know where to begin to try and describe how amazingly gorgeous Tales of Arise is. From its opening moments until the credits rolled, I must have taken at least a hundred screenshots or so to use as my wallpaper, something I don’t normally bother with. For the most important cutscenes you’re treated to hand drawn anime style visuals, and even many of the typical dialogue parts were stylized in panels that look almost like a moving comic book, adding to some of the dramatic flair. Characters, environments, even every Boost Strike move is flashy, colorful and a joy to just look at. More than a few times I found myself stopping somewhere to just look far into the distance and enjoy the vistas.

The same can be said about Tales of Arise’s soundtrack. Filled with orchestral precision, each area has its own tone and feeling with the underlying tracks. Every character is voice acted to perfection, and even though I’ve heard the same battle cries a million times throughout my journey, the quality overall is perfect as it gets. This is one of those soundtracks I’ll probably go and purchase on CD or Vinyl to have for my collection, it’s on par with other JRPG classics.

Generally when I review a game I keep a 'pro' and 'con' list to help me keep track of what I want to write about and convey about the experience I had. Everything you’ve read above is on my pro list, and I had an absolutely unforgettable experience with Tales of Arise until its final credits. As for my cons and negatives list, it was actually blank by the time the credits rolled after about 40 hours. Sure I could nitpick and purposely find a few minor things here and there, but honestly, nothing detracted from the overall experience and I was up many late nights well past 3AM just because I couldn’t put it down, wanting to find out what happened next. There’s even some twists and turns that surprised me, as I was about 20 hours in thinking I had reached the pinnacle of what I thought was the main quest, only to have it open up further for a second ‘half’.

Tales of Arise is not only now my favorite Tales game to date, even surpassing my beloved Vesperia, it’s easily in my top 3 JRPG’s of all time, deserving to be compared to and alongside the best of the genre, and hands down my Game of the Year pick for 2021 without any hesitation. A compelling and complex story, wonderful character development, addictive combat, plenty of side activities to partake in like fishing or farming, stunning visuals and perfect audio are just a few reasons I can’t recommend it enough. Tales of Arise was an unforgettable masterpiece that I’ll surely play through again on NG+ eventually and anyone that’s a JRPG fan needs to play, the sooner the better.

**Tales of Arise (Ultimate Edition) was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10

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