If you’re a fan of the Tales franchise like I am, you’ve been chomping at the bit to see more of Tales of Arise since it was revealed at E3 back in 2019. Unfortunately, it missed its original 2020 release date, but during the Summer Games Fest, Bandai Namco released a new trailer that thankfully gave us a 2021 release date. As we draw closer to the game’s release on September 10th, 2021. Bandai Namco also released a demo on August 18th, giving fans a glimpse of what to expect. Having finally found time in my personal life to sit down and play the demo, I wanted to share some thoughts on the new art direction and some of the gameplay tweaks the team is bringing to the series.
One of the first things you’re going to notice if you’re a Tales fan is the updated visuals. They’re absolutely gorgeous, which we can thank Unreal Engine 4 for that. While Arise hasn’t abandoned the anime roots of its predecessors, it looks much more like a painting and less like a cartoon. According to a Game Informer interview with the game’s producer Yusuke Tomizawa, this shift was inspired by DONTNOD’s Life is Strange. He states, “the team wanted to bring the same level of beauty and quality to Tales of Arise.” Having finally gotten to play the new entry into the Tales series, I can very much say that it worked.
There are a lot of beautiful little details this new direction brings to the characters. Character models look much more detailed thanks to those brushstrokes in their eyes or the shading of their armor. The distant landscapes look as though everything was painted by hand. Those details really help elevate the character and the world. It is by far my favorite change to the series. With that being said, one negative takeaway I have is that cutscenes so far still seem lacking. The characters just stand there without moving a whole lot. Mostly waving their hands and arms while swiveling their heads back and forth. However, it is just a demo, and I do realize the meatier scenes are coming.
Another fun visual change is the side conversations between the cast. In previous entries, you would fight a specific enemy or cook a certain meal and be offered an optional conversation. They pause the game and serve up a small cinematic where portraits of the characters conduct their back and forth. These side conversations work exactly the same in Arise, but now, they’re presented in a visual novel format. As the characters converse, panels pop up or slide into place, like a manga or a comic book. They’re much more animated than their predecessors ever were and just as entertaining. In one conversation, Alphen, one of the main characters, suggests the party take the road less traveled. This leads to the party reminiscing about how his lack of restraint when it comes to adventuring tends to get them into jams. Alphen is not included in this exchange, and he vows to tear down the wall they’ve formed to keep him out of the conversation. It’s a cute scene, I found it quite entertaining, and I appreciated the effort that went into animating these scenes.
Combat feels like a return to form, but I can’t say that I am a huge fan of the control scheme this time around. I played the demo on my Series X, so my Y, X, and A buttons were relegated to my special attacks (known as Artes). The RB button was used for light attacks, and the right trigger was my dodge. You can also swim and use the B button to jump now as well, which, if you ask me, is big news. Even though I blame myself for feeling awkward with Arise’s control scheme, I do feel that a dodge button shouldn’t be tied to a shoulder trigger.
Once I managed to get it squared away in my brain on how to properly play the game, I enjoyed the combat quite a bit. It’s much faster this time around, and the game encourages you to utilize your teammates. You can pick which character you want to play in the demo, and I originally chose Shionne. She’s the other main character in the spotlight who wields a gun but is also the team’s healer. Shionne is the slower-paced member of the team, but her moveset was fun. One of them starting out is a grenade ability that she can shoot or simply let it detonate on its own. Another has her blasting enemies with a laser beam. While I enjoyed throwing bombs at enemies then healing my friends but eventually switched over to Alphen. As the team’s resident sword wielder, Alphen is much faster than Shionne in comparison but has a much more generic moveset.
However, the results didn’t lie, and they got the job done. Playing these characters helped me understand the tweaks Arise brings to the series. By using the new boost attacks and building up my combo counter, I learned how to properly set up strike attacks. Strikes are flashy new attacks that can one-hit KO normal enemies or do real damage to bosses. When you fill a gauge conveniently located around the targeted enemies cursor, you just simply need to press a button on the D-pad. The quick cinematic that plays show your teammates coming together to combine their abilities for these devastating attacks. Shionne and Alphen, for instance, do an attack that bathes the area around your target in fire after he smashes down upon them. There’s also a certain amount of strategy involved as well because the repeated use of the same combo will render it less effective. You really need to pay attention to your attacks and utilize your team to maximize results.
The demo is short and, unfortunately, doesn’t offer much more than a few areas to explore. You can probably blow through the demo in about an hour, even if you’re exploring and stopping for the side conversations. It really is a small taste of what Tales of Arise has in store for players, and I feel like fans will like what Bandai Namco has done here. As a fan, I enjoyed the sampling it provided and am looking forward to when the game launches on September 10th.
We hope you enjoyed our Tales of Arise demo impressions and if you have anything you’d like to say about the demo, leave a comment below.