The Tales series is one of the longer running and more popular in Japan, but it’s never quite hit the mainstream in the West. Whether it’s the anime inspired art style or the action RPG battle system, the series has just never quite stuck in the hearts of the gaming community at large. While Tales of Zestiria is a competent RPG and a nice journey, it won’t be the Tales game that takes the West by storm.
Tales of Zestiria follows Sorey as he travels the world on a new found quest to gain the power to save the world from an evil that has been slowly engulfing it for centuries. By no means is the story original, but it’s presented well and with enjoyable characterisation. The story is largely light-hearted, with the occasional darker turn, which is nice compared to the general glut of grimdark games we normally see. It can get quite melodramatic at times, but that’s to be expected in a game in the Tales series. As ever, characters, their relationships and humorous events are presented in skits. Skits are small asides, with text and character portraits being used to portray a small story or piece of information to you. They’re as humorous and welcome as ever, and are something I would like to see more games introduce.
Voice acting during either of these sequences can be hit or miss. While main characters are generally well done, less important characters are voiced very poorly. It can be quite disconcerting to go from someone speaking clearly and well, to stilting speech and little to no tone. Conversely, the music always hits the right feeling and tone for the situation you’re in, effectively enhancing the atmosphere for each scene and area.
Hit or miss is also a good way to describe how Tales of Zestiria looks. Its roots as a PlayStation 3 game quickly become apparent when looking at the environment. Textures are basic and muddy, especially as you get closer to buildings and walls. The areas outside of towns, which can be quite expansive at times, are generally extremely sparse and empty. Character models seem to have had some work done on them to bring them a bit closer to what you would expect from a PlayStation 4 game. Character animations can be absolutely atrocious at times. The best example of this is Sorey’s walking animation, instead of slowing his arm and leg motions to fit a walking animation, they have simply made his movements shallower and kept the same speed as when he runs. This results in a really robotic movement style that is unintentionally hilarious to watch. Tales of Zestiria seems to be a port that had a minimum of work done to it, simply to release it on the ever expanding PlayStation 4 ecosystem.
The battle system has always been the Tales series most unique aspect, and that hasn’t changed with Tales of Zestiria. You mainly control attacks with two buttons, one for martial artes (standard attacks) and one for mystic artes (magical attacks). While it sounds simple to begin with, you then assign different combos and specific attacks to different directional values for the left analog stick. It allows a fair amount of customisation to the way your character attacks and fights. Battles are a balancing act; attack too quickly and frequently and you will quickly run out of SP, leaving you unable to attack. The variation in enemies, and the differences in how they act and fight, leads to battles feeling different and fresh as you progress through the game.
Overall, Tales of Zestiria actually feels like a step back when compared to other games in the series like Tales of Vesperia. Environments are sparser, characters aren’t quite as memorable and there seem to be more rough patches than before. By no means is Tales of Zestiria a bad game, but it’s one of the lower points for the franchise in recent memory. If you’re a fan of the Tales series or are craving a new RPG, than Tales of Zestiria is for you. If you’re happy to wait, you may be better off waiting to see how Final Fantasy XV and Tales of Berseria turn out.
Highly customisable battle system
Skits are as funny as ever
Rough graphics and animation
Voice acting is hit or miss