Tales of Arise review – A beautiful and compelling JRPG

Tales of Arise charactersBandai Namco

Tales of Arise may be the latest title in the long-standing JRPG series, but its refined combat mechanics and beautiful watercolor art style make it a must-play for any JRPG fan. 

Since its debut in 1995, the Tales series has transported players to a plethora of fantasy worlds, featured loveable casts of characters, and continually honed its unique battle system. While the Tales franchise may not be as familiar as Final Fantasy in the West, Bandai Namco is hoping to land a critical hit with the release of Tales of Arise. 

The latest adventure also marks the 25th anniversary of the series, so there’s certainly a lot on the line for this highly-anticipated title. Fortunately, Arise has pulled out all the stops to help make the latest installment one of the most enjoyable to date. 

With a fresh anime-inspired art style, refined battle system, and new character-driven story – Tales of Arise delivers on all fronts. Whether you’re a series veteran or a fresh-faced newcomer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.  

Tales of Arise ⁠– Key Details

  • Price: $59.99 / £49.99
  • Developer: Bandai Namco
  • Release Date: September 10, 2021
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Tales of Arise – Release Date Trailer

A simple tale of war and rebellion

Tales of Arise takes place in a world where Renan rule is supreme. This technologically and magically advanced race has reigned over the people of Dahna for 300 years, completely enslaving them and crushing those that dare to resist. While there have been rebellions in the past, the punishments have been so severe that the people of Dahna have completely lost hope. 

That’s until our two protagonists Alphen and Shionne rise up against Renan’s tyrannical rule. Alphen is a kind-hearted Dahnan man that has no recollection of his past, but it’s his inability to feel pain that makes him the perfect match for Shionne – a cursed Renan girl that hurts everyone she touches. 

Both characters find themselves thrust into the middle of a Dahnan rebellion, but fortunately, there are a number of colorful characters that are more than willing to join the cause. Tales of Arise’s story may not push any boundaries when it comes to its narrative, but its memorable cast and strong character relationships make it a memorable tale. 

Flashy combat with limitless combo potential

Tales of Arise combatBandai Namco
There’s a lot of flashy moves present in Arise’s combat.

Just like previous Tales games, there’s a lot riding on the series’ combat system. Fortunately, Arise’s real-time battles are both faster, flashier, and better than ever. As soon as you cross paths with an overworld enemy, you’ll be sucked into an arena where you’ll battle it with your foes until one of you claims a victory. 

While both Alphen and Shionne may be Arise’s main protagonists, you can freely switch between four party members during combat, allowing players to wield alternative Artes (abilities).

Rinwell Tales of AriseBandai Namco
There’s a character for every kind of playstyle in Tales of Arise.

For example, Rinwell commands the battlefield with deadly AoE magic attacks and supports party members with game-changing buffs. Her spells can even be combined together to make enhanced versions or new moves entirely. Meanwhile, Law is a stalwart brawler who combines both speed and power, stringing together high-damage combos that leave even the tankiest units in the dirt. 

Of course, like all good things, casting Artes comes at a cost. Fortunately, your Artes Gauge can be refreshed by using Arise’s new Boost Attack system, which sees the selected ally unleash a special attack. 

Shionne Boost AttackBandai Namco
Boost attacks give you a huge amount of combo potential.

Not only do these deadly moves look incredibly stylish, but they also deal huge amounts of damage, disrupt attacking enemies, and instantly refresh your AG gauge – allowing you to maintain constant pressure. Once you’ve unlocked all of Arise’s six party members, the combo potential goes through the roof. 

In fact, we were able to reach combo chains well in the hundreds, constantly weaving in a mixture of regular Artes, Mystic Artes, and normal attacks, then using Boost Attacks to begin the whole process all over again. Once you’ve racked up enough combos or dealt significant damage to your foe, you’ll get the opportunity to use a Boost Strike. 

Shionne & Alphen Boost StrikeBandai Namco
The new Boost Strike mechanic can instantly kill your enemy.

This flashy move enables you to team up with another party member, delivering an all-out attack that can instantly kill an enemy. While standard mobs can be blitzed through in a matter of seconds, you’ll need to have your wits about you when facing Giant Zeugles. 

These monolithic boss monsters may look imposing at first, but they can be brought down to size, especially when you target their weak points. In typical RPG fashion, these fleshy appendages are denoted by their not-so-subtle glow. 

When enough damage has been done, the specific monster part will break, and the creature will topple over, giving you and your party members the opportunity to unleash some devastating attacks without mercy.

While the game’s five Renan Lords won’t go down so easily, Tales of Arise consistently rewards those that remain on the offense. Chaining together powerful combos, narrowly avoiding lethal blows, and experimenting with different characters and Arte combinations is as fun as it has ever been. 

Beautiful water-color world and dull dungeons

Tales of Arise overworldBandai Namco
Tales of Arise’s watercolor environments and 3D models look absolutely gorgeous.

From the scorching hot deserts of Calaglia to the lush, verdant lands of Menancia – Tales of Arise’s environments are oozing with charm. The gentle blend of watercolor backdrops and 3D anime-inspired designs make Arise a real treat for the eyes. It’s this new design choice that has helped make each location feel distinct – an area that older titles have struggled with.

Aside from the usual bustle of beastly creatures, each environment is brimming with hidden cosmetic items, treasure chests, and harvestable materials that can be used in cooking and forging. There are even fishing spots where you can spend multiple hours reeling in your prize catches. 

Tales of Arise cave locationBandai Namco
While the majority of Arise’s locations are filled with detail, dungeons can look rather bare.

While these elements on their own don’t add to the gameplay, they do help make each environment feel richer. Unfortunately, the game’s dungeons don’t always share this same sentiment. It’s during these sections where you’ll often find bland interior designs, similar enemies, and looping musical themes. 

This invariably resulted in us rushing through each dungeon/castle segment in order to quickly begin the boss fight with the region’s Renan Lord. These fights themselves invariably made up for the dull dungeon trekking, but the lifeless interiors seem at odds with Arise’s otherwise beautiful overworld environments. 

Verdict: 8/10

With its unique cast of characters, stunning watercolor world, and meaty combat system – Tales of Arise is a must-play for any JRPG fan. While it may not reinvent or bring anything new to the well-established genre, Bandai’s latest venture into the Tales series is both bigger, better, and bolder than ever before.

Reviewed on PC