Tales of Arise Preview – Arising to new heights?

Tales of Arise only got a small showing at E3, which is a shame considering that it is only a couple of months away and could do with more attention – my bias as a fan of the series may be showing here. Luckily, I got to go hands on to play with some of the characters and get a look at the world of Dahna.

As the demo only contained a slice of the game taken from a point seemingly toward the beginning, it’s hard to piece together what the story of Tales of Arise will be like yet. What could be gleaned from this demo is that monsters have plagued the realm and you are, obviously, in the best position to make this no longer the case. The demo contained multiple characters, with the protagonists Alphen and Shionne being joined by the dreamboat Dohalim and three others.

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One of the first things you notice about Tales of Arise is the world, and with good reason. The more open environments are not only gorgeous, but give a real sense of scale to the adventure. While you’re exploring, you can find NPCs for helpful information and items, a variety of resources to collect for activities such as cooking, campfires to rest at to restore your characters, take in small conversations between party members and (of course) find enemy creatures on the field to fight.

On the most basic level, the combat here hasn’t changed from earlier games in the series. You have your basic attack string, a different string for aerial attacks, and a set of Artes or special abilities on quick select buttons that can be used to link combo strings together or powerfully end them. You have an Artes Gauge (AG) that restores automatically, although slower when attacking, and this governs how often you can use the Artes in battle.

There is a shift in focus for Arise that not only gives you more control over your party in combat but also over those not in your party at the time. Though you only technically control one character in battles, you can call in all characters individually to perform a Boost Attack when their portrait lights up. This will then trigger this party member to perform a special move with unique effects that can be added to your already existing combos.

Furthermore, once an enemy is attacked enough, a gauge will fill up giving the player access to a Boost Strike against the foe. This essentially pauses the action for a powerful co-op attack using two characters, such as the brilliantly flashy Obelisk Blade attack from Dohalim and Kisara, or the Super Flashing Fang for Rinwell and Law. Not only are these beautiful and dynamic-looking attacks, but they also do phenomenal damage.

Finally, if the above changes aren’t enough for you, each character has a unique perk that affects their gameplay. One example of this is Alphen’s ability to increase the power of his normal attacks by holding the button, which results in increased damage and range. There are more combat-based to this instalment, but there’s only so much we want to spoil for you at this point. What we will say is that Dohalim is the best character in combat, although again, I might be showing my biases!

As mentioned before, the environments are gorgeous in a way that’s highly detailed while still being in keeping with the series aesthetic. The character models are similar in this regard, feeling distinctly like Tales characters while being far better animated and more detailed than in previous entries. Then there’s the music and we can say that, if the rest of the soundtrack continues like this demo, the soundtrack and sound design in the Tales games is still excellent.

Tales of Arise, even from this small slice, is an absolutely incredible experience. It feels close enough in terms of basic mechanics and flow to incite nostalgia for those familiar with the series, but the new engine and combat design both add a lot of new ideas to the formula. The end result is something that, even are this early stage, feels like an evolution for Tales games and we cannot wait to get our hands on the full game to see how far it goes when it lands in September.

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