Japan has been home to a number of different RPG franchises over the years, with the long running Tales series being one of the most popular. Once a more niche series in the US, critically acclaimed entries like Tales of Symphonia propelled its popularity outside of Japan. Taking the series back to its more classic roots, the 15th entry in the franchise has arrived with Tale of Zestiria.
The Tales series has almost always found a way to craft the respective games around a well written and intriguing, albeit often cliched, story. That is for the most part true once again in Tales of Zestiria, as you follow the seraphim raised protagonist, Sorey, on his own journey. Rather than the futuristic setting that the series has taken in recent outings, this one makes a welcome return to the more medieval style setting, which fits the game’s battle system quite well.
The Tales series has utilized what is known as the Linear Motion Battle System for years, and of course Tales of Zestiria takes that system and builds upon it for a fairly unique, but still familiar experience. The fast paced combat action-oriented fighting is a nice step forward that continues to grow the more you play the game.
Before heading into battle, Tales of Zestiria offers players a pretty diverse and detailed leveling system that includes not just equipment, but also special abilities known as artes. These can be earned and placed for easy access in battle, which will be needed as you progress through the game and face tougher enemies. There are also support abilities that can be earned for use outside of battle, which is something else to keep you busy in this game. The game even wisely lets you change your base clothing without losing status effects, which is something many more RPGs should offer.
From the early battles in the game, the combat is pretty straight forward, but this rapidly changes the stronger you get, especially with the usage of artes and other skills. The real fun comes with the ability to use armitization, which allows a human character to transform together with a seraphim in your party to become much more powerful. In addition, there are some other neat uses for it, such as fusing with a character that is already KO’d to bring them back. This brings a new layer of strategy into the battle system that really makes it quite interesting.
The main issue with the combat is not in the actual battle system itself, but rather the camera. The camera often seems to have a mind of its own, which sometimes makes it difficult to see in battles, as walls or other objects may get in the way. There are also some instances where it gets locked, potentially causing you to lose a fight simply because you don’t know what is going on. This certainly is the worst case scenario with the camera, but it still can get in the way sometimes.
The combat may play a large role in any RPG, but the characters that are used in those battles are every bit as important. Sorey and the other main characters, as well as those you come across throughout Tales of Zestiria, are rather likable, largely helped by solid voice acting. There are certainly no award winning performances here, but they do a more than serviceable job for the most part. It is also great to have the option to change the language between English and Japanese.
The only real major disappointment with the characters was the way one in particular was handled. One of the more likable characters is just basically removed from the game, not only preventing a furthering of their story, but also taking away the style of interactions they had with the other main cast. It just felt like a strange decision to make, that was rather jarring for awhile story-wise.
The rapidly evolving RPG genre has seen many franchises move towards a more open world style, which is very present in Tales of Zestiria. Featuring an expansive map, the game certainly is ambitious in trying to provide a gigantic area to explore. However, the problem is that sometimes the world feels barren and hollow, unlike something like Xenoblade Chronicles that does this more effectively. There are enemies found on the map, but there really should have been some changes to make the world of Tales of Zestiria feel a little more lively.
Makes a welcome return to the more medieval style setting
While the overworld almost feels too big at times, the dungeons are a little bit too far the other way. Instead of being expansive and open, these areas are very linear and do not require that much exploration. There are items found within these dungeons, but you don’t have to go that far out of the way to get them, rarely straying from the main path. It almost feels like the dungeons were left behind while the main focus was placed on the overworld areas, when they could have gone with more of a happy medium between the two.
While traversing the various locales within Tales of Zestiria, you will get to experience the respectable visuals. They are far from groundbreaking, which is likely to be blamed on its PS3 counterpart version, leading to lesser detail on the environments than you may have hoped for this time. However, they make up for it with the character designs, and by utilizing a really good mix of colors on the vibrant world. Beyond the in-game graphics, there are even occasional animated cutscenes that fit the aesthetics of the game very well, while also looking beautiful.
While visuals may matter, music is typically even more important in the RPG genre. Luckily, Tales of Zestiria is up to the task in that department with a very upbeat soundtrack that is fitting of the game’s style. The music found in overworld areas is perfect for a grand adventure and there are times where you may want to just sit and listen to the soothing music.
After almost 20 years, the Tales series is still going strong with Tales of Zestiria. While certainly not the best in the series, the fast paced, action-oriented combat is a lot of fun, especially at the later stages of the game. Even with a few missteps in the story, Tales of Zestiria is yet another fun adventure in this long running franchise that may just be worth your while.
Tales of Zestiria
- Available On: PS3, PS4, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developed By: Bandai Namco Studios tri-Crescendo
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: October 20th, 2015
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "After almost 20 years, the Tales series is still going strong with Tales of Zestiria, which offers fast paced action-oriented combat that makes this entry yet another fun adventure in this long running franchise."
- Action-based combat
- Likable characters
- Detailed progression system
- Linear dungeons
- Some weird twists in story