By: Dylan Hardy
For anyone who has played a Tales series game and loved it, this is definitely the next generation RPG for you. I myself have been playing Tales games for years and when Zestiria released, I rushed to my nearest video game retailer to get it. On first glance the game follows the same art style on its cover – just like other Tales games have in the past, which gives you a taste of important characters in the story in a very detailed-yet simple image. The game is beautiful, the art does a really good job of making the game bright and vibrant. The voice acting is spot on, however I found myself changing it to Japanese about half way through and I was blown away at how good the Japanese voice actors were. When you finally jump into the game you’ll notice that Tales of Zestiria is similar to older games in some ways, but the world and the combat has changed.
So let’s start off with the plot. It’s a familiar one, you play as an orphaned boy named Sorey is searching ruins with his best friend before finding a mysterious girl. The two save the girl and bring the girl back to their village Elysia. Now the twist here is, Sorey lost his parents and was raised by Seraphim, human-like spirits that are linked to elements. The story unfolds as the mysterious girl leaves the village to return home but is attacked and eventually saved by Sorey. Without spoiling anything else, the sixty hour story leads down a path filled with hard decisions for Sorey and his companions as he makes a pact with seraphims along the way. As much as I could say I was blown away by the plot of this game, I wasn’t. It’s bland and forgettable for the most part. Even during the climax of the game the story isn’t strong enough for you feel that something is missing. The story just falls flat compared to recent Tales games. However, if you’re looking for a fantastic story, the Tales series isn’t quite hitting the mark for you in the first place. The game shines because of its memorable world and combat.
The most welcoming thing about Tales of Zestiria is its new open world. Tales games used to confine us to medium sized worlds with trees and bushes that blocked off access to the beautiful worlds, but now the constraints that once kept us in are gone. Zestiria gives the player nice variety of auto loading areas that give the world a sense of immersion, including pastures, deserts and swamps. There is no better feeling than exploring this huge world and finding treasure chests, stat-boosting items or Normin, a creature that is exclusive to Zestiria that each have unique skills that you can use on your equipment. A little pet peeve I have with Zestiria is its fast-travel mechanic. In order to fast travel you must do so through people called Lords of the Land, but the problem doesn’t lie on this. The problem is so many of the locations will be inaccessible to the player if they haven’t fulfilled a certain point of the story at the given time. It’s frustrating trying to do side quests when you have to tediously run from place to place without fast travel. But in the end, the world rewards you for exploring its vast landscapes. Another thing is the dungeons. The dungeons in this game, unlike the world, are extremely linear and short. The developers tried to spice up these bland designs with puzzles that are extremely convoluted sometimes. Tales of Zestiria is another game where I can say I struggled with the Water Temple because boy was that place ever annoying.
Now for where the game shines the most – the combat. Just like the change to the world of Tales games, the combat has also had a bit of fresh air breathed into it. People who are familiar with the Tales series will remember Artes, a technique you learn from leveling up your characters. These can still be chained together for some incredible combos as before so the nostalgia of Sonic Thrust and Rising Phoenix is still there. Another old feature that is still in this game is the local multiplayer. There’s no better feeling than fighting with your buddy on the couch next to you, even though framerate issues come up I found when using it. The new Armitization feature, where Sorey and human companions turn into powerful beings on the battlefield, increases the customization and strategy elements of the battles, making each of them unique and enjoyable. Now you’d think that going super saiyan mid battle would make it a one-sided event, but Tales of Zestiria does a fantastic job on balancing the battles even with Armitization. There were times in the game where even Armitization didn’t seem to be the answer to a boss, so I’d have to go back and rethink my strategy and even grind if I thought I was under-leveled. On top of being in the combat, the out-of-combat preparation element is so deep in Tales of Zestiria that you can spend hours just preparing for the next battle and not be bored at all. All the equipment has four skill slots, three of which can be filled with whatever you want, and items of the same type can be combined to create more powerful versions of them self. To put it lightly, this is by far the best part of the game for me. Customization and combat are what makes up the core of this game, as battles on the world map are frequent, but aren’t frustrating. This system made every battle enjoyable and I don’t think I ran away from more than five battles the entire game.
In the end, Tales of Zestiria is still a Tales game. If you’re a Tales lover, you’re going to want to play this game, it’s simple. It isn’t a carbon copy of the past games and it does quite a lot of expanding on older game mechanics, which give the game and series for that matter, new life. The linear dungeon and lackluster story might be the weak points of this game but it shouldn’t stop you from playing Tales of Zestiria. It’s the open world, combat and customization that are unique and fulfilling; I feel the need to mention them again as they are so well done that they are enough to stand out in a middle ground Tales series game.