I always get excited every time a new Tales title hits the net, but my early Tales of Arise E3 impressions have me especially excited this time. Arguably, the Tales franchise offers what you would expect from a JRPG franchise: mildly predictable characters, approachable combat, and different ways to develop your characters. The sense of repetition rears its head often, with very few bold strokes added to the formula.
Still, each new title feels special to me somehow. The party camaraderie offers up fantastic, natural backstory without being so matter-of-fact. Above all else, I think that’s the part that has kept me around for so long. However, I think Tales of Arise will offer the kind of bold strokes the Tales franchise has needed for a while now.
Brilliant new visuals
The biggest change showed itself immediately in the screenshots leaked ahead of E3. Moving on from the youthful styles of previous games, Tales of Arise adopts a gorgeous, detailed visual style. What makes this new aesthetic wonderful is that it still keeps to the heart of the franchise while still pushing toward more matured visual detail.
This change also accompanies the next console generation. The Tales franchise has never been on the cutting edge when it comes to visuals, but the visual style makes it special. I think that’s why the developers delay enhancing how the games look: so as not to lose sight of its roots. Tales of Arise takes a bold leap forward, but the style remains ever-present. It’s just so much prettier now.
Combat receives the other significant change. The Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS) sees enhancements with every game, but these changes are often subtle. In my opinion, the biggest combat leap in recent times came with Tales of Zesteria, but Zestiria arguably failed in executing narrative and character development.
Tales of Arise, at first glance, appears to have live combat rather than instanced combat. This means that enemies encountered on the field are immediately fought with rather than swapping to a new screen to fight the enemy. This could offer up more of a challenge when approaching enemies. A franchise staple is being able to sneak up on enemies to initiate a preemptive advantage.
So I have to wonder how this will be handled if combat is no longer instanced. Either way, this dynamic makes for a more involved world map, the kind of change the franchise has not seen since Tales of Symphonia. Enemies have appeared on the map for a long time now, but never before have we immediately fought with them.
Two protagonists maybe?
The trailer focuses on two particular characters, a man and a woman. They both share the limelight in the limited combat footage, which could mean that we may again have the option to choose our main character. The last time the franchise offered this was for Tales of Xillia, but that was a few games ago. The idea of having that back excites me. Seeing the narrative from two points of view, however parallel they might be, offers up replayability. Any game with good reason to play it again makes for a good time.
Keep the right things the same
As I mentioned at the beginning, the one aspect of any good Tales game is party camaraderie. A gripping narrative always takes the cake, but a stellar party makeup allows you to really personalize with the characters. Skits offer up hints of humor as well as little tastes of each character, further adding to the greater whole. Equally so, these skits can be skipped, allowing you to focus on other things, such as combat and the main storyline.
A sense of progression is the other factor that needs to be present in Tales of Arise. Previous games allowed you to learn skills from equipment while others saw you learn abilities as you fought. No matter how limited, Zestiria played around with the idea of mixing and matching certain equipment for combination bonuses. No matter how progression looks, it has to offer up that sense of constantly furthering your characters in some way.
2020 cannot come soon enough
If Tales of Arise puts these pieces together, then the Tales franchise is slated for another instant classic. No matter what’s between now and then, I cannot wait to see what the Tales franchise has in store for 2020.