Tales of Zestiria is a long awaited game in the much loved and highly acclaimed Tales of series. The story is one of depth and heart and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. Tales of Zestiria doesn’t shirk away from controversy either, that seems to follow one Tales game or another. There was an outcry about the game regarding a certain character, to the extent that a DLC additional story was released to quell the anger. Personally, and I feel I need to say this from the outset, I believe that addition, while enjoyable, wasn’t really necessary. I don’t think it harmed the game, in fact I felt it added to the narrative, and don’t get me wrong, this character was advertised and was interesting but I think in the world we live in, everything has become too predictable and, for lack of a better word, appeasing. This “controversy” I thought added more depth to the game and with more added tension, I really was more happy about it than not. The DLC was interesting though, so I won’t gripe about being given more content. With that addressed, let us move to the meat of the review, will we be telling the Tales of Zestiria to even our Grandchildren or will it be a forgotten book lost to history?
I have a flair for drama, what can I say? This game brings out the best of it though, the story is very robust, the lore is well explained (to a point and in pieces for dramatic effect). You follow Sorey, a boy who was raised by the seraphs. It stands to reason, then, that this pure hearted individual is destined to be the long-awaited Shepard who has the power to communicate with the seraphs and bring peace to those troubled ones. With the rite of purification, the Shepard is also able to truly defeat helions, this game’s main opposing monster creatures, without having to kill them. You are joined by a great cast of characters, each having their own drives, motivations and growth connected to the narrative, as well as top notch supporting characters too, with even the main villain being almost unrepentantly evil at first, then you begin to empathise as you are slowly shown what caused this spiral of madness. I was in love with the way this Tale was told, some sections through narrative, others through the small iris gems you find about the world.
It wasn’t the same experience that I had become used to with the Tales of Games, the path never felt linear, even though at times you didn’t have a choice but to take the tasks in a certain order, you were always guided one way as opposed to outright forced. One annoyance was the fact that your quest markers weren’t always clear. There is a handy way to check your sub-quests by speaking to the person following you to gain a little hint. These hints could be vague but at time, the quest markers were obvious, at others they were downright invisible. It’s a little petty, I personally don’t like being spoon fed quests but it was inconsistent and that often led to confusing moments where I wasn’t sure if I was completing a quest or simply exploring for the sake of it. You also have options at certain serious plot points, these certainly added to the suspense, would you do things the easy way or the hard way and what effect would that have on the narrative? To make you ask the question of yourself was a step in the right direction because in the Tales games, you often feels as if you are just along for the ride, which with good storytelling isn’t completely horrible but it can take the spice out of it. This was definitely a game that had all the right seasonings in that department with a quality score and your choice of voice acting language making for a grand sauce!
The game is pretty big, there are many areas to explore and, like most Tales games, you have the ability to interact with the surroundings, each of these abilities comes at storied points in the game so trying and take some note as to those interesting areas because you can bet there will be a treasure there when you come back. This made retracing your footsteps a bit more interesting especially because of the Guardians of the Land. Every city has a potential guardian, you have to help them to gain their support but once you do, you get a whole heap of bonuses, one of which being the ability to make chests refill after a certain time, always handy if you are low on items, or funds. I wished there was a medium of travel in between the save point travel and the average running speed but it did add to the scope of the game, it was a whole world to explore and find you bearings in, also gives you time to appreciate the witty banter and lore that will pop in every so often, especially considering two of the main characters are archaeology buffs, it’s hilarious (coming from someone who enjoys the sciences). While you can get sick of the corridors in the dungeons, I feel it does enough to keep each new one fresh and the battle system both helps and hinders that.
This Tales game has a different battle system from the others… just like theothers! It involves a four man squad, which is a staple of the series and you have access to artes such as the beloved Tiger fang and such but the similarities become thin after that. You have the ability to Armatise! This is where you bond with a partner Seraph and you take on their power to grant yourself an increase in stats as well as the weapon of the Seraph as well. It was well shown in the opening and very exciting the first few times you try it. That is where it becomes a bit murky. I didn’t get a great feel for the combat because as cool as Armatisation is, it became very much hack and slash after that, you normally have a limit of 4 moves which you can throw combos into, with ways of making those go on longer without including the attacks from your allies. Armatising cuts this limit to 3 and you don’t seem to have as many of those lengthening moves in your arsenal. In fact, if both you and your partner Armatise, short of having another person with you, it is very hard to get a great combo chain going, which seems almost counter to what you would expect. Also, the Armatisations for each Seraph look the same no matter who is in control, which was disheartening, I figured that while Sorey was comfortable using blades, so we would have swords or fusions thereof, Alisha, who used a spear would have different weapons or variations of the Seraph’s weapons to deal with. Sadly not, they controlled the same dependant on seraph with a few minor differences, I guess that was a way to homogenise the battle system to make it less complicated but when you have the very complex equipment system on offer (Played +100 hours of the game, still not quite sure how to get the best out of my weapons.) it feels like the combat could be too basic and hurt the experience as some fights could really drag on yet they lacked variance or need for proper tactics.
It’s still interesting how you fight on the world map, while you are taken to an arena of sorts like most Tales games, the battle arena is the field you are standing on down to little rock formations and walls in the distance, I really enjoyed this aspect because it felt as if you were really there, the “being transported to an arena with invisible walls for combat” always broke a little bit of the immersion for me, this was well crafted with the transition from field to battle having next to no lag on the PS4 (Is some cases, I didn’t notice I was in battle yet) It has both redeeming and damning factors, I enjoyed the combat but I feel as if Armatisation could have been so much more, especially going with how it looked in the opening. There is a triangle of what artes beat other artes. It’s handy on the harder difficulties and Armatising plays a part in that but at times even that felt like it was trying to force you into using the system when it would be simpler to simply use a mystic arte instead (Yup, they still look really awesome and of course you can use them while Armatised…. Eventually.)