It’s been a little while but here comes yet another Tales game. Making the franchise’s first appearance on the PS4 Tales of Zestiria has set its sights high introducing open world exploration along with seamlessly integrated battles in the landscape. For anyone out there wondering why this game was met with controversy when it released in Japan it all boils down to just one character; Alisha. She appeared in a lot of early promotional material yet she’s absent for a large portion of the game. Really though that shouldn’t put people off as this is one of the best Tales games.
Tales of Zestiria’s plot follows the typical JRPG/adventure game scenario of taking an ordinary character and throwing them into a position where they’re tasked with saving the world. Our victim this time is Sorey, a human who has been raised by a group of magical beings called Seraphim who are visible only to those with high levels of resonance. Malevolence, an impurity that feeds on peoples negative emotion turning them into monsters known as Hellion, is growing at an alarming rate in the continent of Glenwood. It’s made worse by the two warring countries Hyland Kingdom and the Rolance Empire. Spurred on by mysterious girl, a fox monster and the chance to raid some ruins, Sorey leaves his comfy life to take on the role of Shepard and bring peace back to the world.
So the plots rather average but you can’t help but get swept up with tale, despite some of the darker messages there is a nice bit of humour injected in like the Seraph using Sorey as a puppet or Lailah’s obsession with round things. Speaking of the characters they’re your usual sort of rag tag adventurers, they’re really nothing we haven’t seen before and as such they’re a bit bland. The only exception really is the lively Sparrowfeathers merchant Rose. They do eventually grow on you but it takes a fair amount of time with a whole bunch of unlockables, customisation possibilities and a solid subplot you’er guaranteed a fantastic 30+ hour adventure.
The key highlight of this game over the past Tales titles is that this time round there’s open-world exploration. It’s a nice change from the predominantly linear dungeon exploration of the previous games. The large areas you can now explore are nicely varied and great to look at from the wide green fields of the Meadow of Triumph to the open sandy plains of Zafgot. Of course there are still dungeon areas dotted around and these are perhaps the weakest element of the game. Areas are general bland, very linear to navigate and are only extended by some rather dull puzzles. Exploration pays off though as there’s a fair few collectables scattered around like the usual chests and stat-boosting herbs but most interestingly are the Normins. When found these adorable little critters can give your equipment a neat new skill and can give you skill boosts in battle if you assign them to the Lords of the Land.
As with all Tales games the combat is very well rounded and most importantly fun. Utilising brawler like combo’s you can string together physical and magical attacks (Artes). The Artes battle mechanic is a well-balanced system utilising a rock-paper-scissors setup. So Arcane against Base, Base beats Seraph and Seraph tops Arcane. Then after that you also have to take into account that only Humans can use Arcane and the same goes with Seraph and the Seraphic Artes. The main addition this time is Armatization, a skill unique to this game. When used you and your human comrades can fuse together with your seraphim companions to release stronger and more over the top Artes. The designs for these forms are very over the top and get across well that powered up, but don’t think you’re invincible. The system is great fun and balanced out very well with a series of gauges and limiters.
While you’re not engaged in combat there’s still a lot of fun to be had fiddling with all of the equipment customisation skills. Each piece of equipment you obtain has a total of 4 slots, the first is the pieces default skill while the other 3 can be altered and changed as see fit. This is done by fusing equipment of the same name or from the Normin you meet on your journey. Customisation boosts equipment’s base stats, adds skills from both and occasionally merges skills to create a new one. It’s fun picking and choosing skills to create powerful weapons and armours and to help it along there’s a nifty skill sheet that rewards you for linking skills together. The customisation scheme and adds a considerable amount of depth and you might lose yourself for quite some time experiment with it all.
In traditional Tales fashion we’re treated to some charming character designs and lots of bright colours to give us one beautiful art style. The opening personally is one of my highlights, during my time with the game not once did I skip it. It really gets you pumped up to play the game as you get some great over the top action sequences introducing the stories key players and one won’t be able to get that killer soundtrack out of your head for days. One nuisance with the games appearance is the camera control or lack of where it swings around uncontrollably and you often spend battles with whacking big close-ups of walls, floors and enemies back sides. Of course it also happens in open world environments but it’s more noticeable in confined areas.
Tales of Zestiria sticks to a lot of the typical JRPG stereotypes with its plot and characters but it’s still an enjoyable ride from start to finish. Sure the linear dungeons can be rather tedious to explore, the camera swings around uncontrollably and some of the characters are a tad on the bland side but the pros far out way the cons. That charmingly beautifully anime art style and deep robust combat system make this title another great instalment in to the Tales series, one that both fans and newcomers will love!
This review is based off a review copy of Tales of Zestiria provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.