Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Dec 242021

It’s Christmas Eve (which, remember, means it isn’t Christmas), but we aren’t talking about a Christmas game today.

No, we’re going to talk about Tales of Arise.

Tales of Arise was one of my most-anticipated games of the year, and during the first few weeks after it came out, I played it nonstop and felt it had the potential to become one of my favorites in the series.

But now that I’m done, I find myself with mixed feelings.

Parts of the game were great, but later parts ended up feeling… just okay, to me. So let’s step back and take this one piece at a time.

Gameplay in Arise feels significantly different from past Tales games. Dodging is much more important in combat, and the combat overall is much tougher. Constantly being on the brink of using all my healing items was the norm for much of the game, especially since gald is hard to come by. Yet it walked a fine line where I always was able to get just enough to make it through.

Now, this is tarnished somewhat by the DLC practices. Arise’s DLC is slightly intrusive, with the camp menu reminding you that there’s DLC to buy. Some of the DLC providing exp boosts, gald boosts, additional abilities, etc. also makes it tempting to buy it when things get tough.

You do not need DLC to beat Tales of Arise. However, it sometimes feels like the difficulty was set to make you think you should.

Outside of combat, gameplay also involves things like gathering ingredients, fishing, and other little details that made it fun to explore. You can cook for buffs when you set up camp, and you eventually get a ranch as well (although I felt it was underutilized; it just gives you a supply of meat).

This game is also beautiful! The breathtaking environments are what stood out to me the most. Every area made me pause and look around to take in the sights.

Moving on to the story, this is another Tales game that involves two worlds, Dahna and Rena. Dahna has been invaded by people from Rena, who subsequently enslaved the Dahnans. You play as Alphen, an amnesiac slave who can’t feel pain, who ends up joining forces with a Renan woman named Shionne trying to overthrow the Renan lords for her own purposes.

Although I made a lot of joking Tales of Symphonia comparisons in the early hours (okay, for like half the game), I did enjoy the story for a while. The characters are likeable and have a good dynamic, and the story is pretty interesting. Aside from one point that made me pause the game in anger to RANT, the story was off to a great start.

Click for Tales of Arise spoilers
That point was, as you might guess, the Almeidrea scene with Law and Rinwell.

Look, I get what it was going for. Revenge is bad. Perpetuating a cycle of revenge is bad. Killing someone out of hatred is bad.

But when we have spent the entire game so far on a mission specifically to kill the lords, Almeidrea is a clear and present danger and arguably the most evil of the lords we’ve seen at that point, and she is standing right there, Law turning his back on her to stop Rinwell from killing her because he doesn’t want her to be consumed by hatred and kill out of revenge (and Almeidrea just stands there waiting patiently for them to be done) comes across as borderline nonsensical.

Then they don’t even have to deal with the consequences of how to nonlethally stop someone as dangerous as Almeidrea, since she dies anyway.

But in the final arc, things just… I don’t want to say they fell apart, because they didn’t. This isn’t a Tales of Zestiria situation. Instead, it feels like the final arc is rushed.

So much story is crammed into such a short period of time that it loses its impact. Some parts of the plot just needed time to develop more gradually and immerse the player as much as earlier events did.

Click for Tales of Arise spoilers
I thought the Red Woman twist was pretty neat. I’d been suspicious of her for most of the game, so I felt so vindicated that this silent background NPC I was paranoid over actually was someone important.

But after that, it just hurtles through plot points and revelations so fast it’s hard to take them all in.

(I also think the Red Woman design is creepier than the Helganquil, so they became less intimidating once they started using their true forms.)

I wasn’t crazy about the Great Spirit and its motivations, either. I wish they would have gone all in on the ancient aliens angle instead of having the Helganquil be puppets of a planet’s will trying to save itself.

But no one suffered from this breakneck pacing more than Vholran. When he showed up at the end, I realized I barely knew more about him than I did at the start. He suffers from a severe lack of character development, especially for the important role he has. His design is cool and he has some cool scenes, but he’s pretty bad as a main villain.

(And I call him the main villain lightly, really only because he’s the final boss.)

Sometimes the dialogue and subtitles just didn’t match up, too, but that’s a minor complaint.

So in the end, I’m not sure how I feel about Tales of Arise. A significant portion of it is an excellent Tales game, and it’s definitely worth playing, but my final feelings toward it ended up being much more lackluster than I expected.

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