The Tales franchise was first introduced to me via Symphonia back on the Nintendo GameCube, and I absolutely adored it, bringing me into the world of Tales games and keeping me around for all the other titles after. Fast forward to 2015 and we have seen a ton of Tales games since, each with their own unique story and some even with a sequel. Now we have the latest entry, and Tales fans everywhere are probably pretty excited. It’s safe to say right at the start, if players into JRPG games, this is one to jump into.
Tales of Zestiria starts off rather simply. Playing as the main character Sorey, living in a town of people that are special and cannot be seen by most normal humans. Sorey has grown up with these individuals known as Seraphim. Soon he is thrown into the legend of the Shepard, someone that fights great evil for the better of the land and as Malevolence spreads across the land, Sorey and friends must find a way to stop it.
While the story follows a lot of the typical RPG tropes, it still has its memorable moments. I particularly like the aspect of the story involving what feels like a greater evil and demons to me. It almost seems as if it has religious overtones which might bother some players but I actually really appreciate this approach in stories and when other games attempt to have a similar theme. As Sorey and the team attempt to rid the land, they will do plenty of exploration and fighting.
Exploration takes place via on the open world fields. With vast mountains, hills, walkways, ruins, and more to see. It gives the sense of a wide open areas at times and that feeling is pertinent throughout. Meanwhile towns and exploring dungeons are another aspect that comes into focus and while all of these elements come together to provide enough variation in setting and look, it still comes off a bit drab at times visually and this definitely shows that it was a game ported from the PS3 version. Characters look great though and the animations along with the skits really add character to them, which is par for the course of the series, but good to see it still here in full force.
Combat is a key component of all role playing games usually and the series is known for its unique real time, action. As players can control Sorey and the other character at will, switching to them, calling them to fight together, and more. There is a ton of options at players disposal even if the game doesn’t appear that way at the start. While the game has a very slow start with lots of exposition and getting the player to learn all the details via tutorial prompts, after about 5-8 hours things seem to pick up. Adding in the ability to merge with Seraphim in order to do more powerful attacks with different move sets. It’s all fairly similar to the other games and combat remains as engaging as ever. Leveling up is process that all RPGs have and here is no different with battles leading way to experience points. Though now there is more a focus on fusing weapons and armor together to get better stats. Not something I’m very fond of but never the less an aspect I grew to understand and deal with over time.
Tales of Zestiria is not going to suddenly change the way people view the franchise or role playing games. Especially in a series that is known to stick to core elements, themes, ideas, and gameplay. What shapes and molds each experience is the characters, the story beats, and the overall set up. That of which I totally got into with this entry. I like the characters, I like the world, I like the themes, I like most of what the title offers aside from a few pestering notions concerning graphics and fusing. Otherwise, this title brought me back to that magical feeling JRPGs only can, and every time I play it, it has me smiling feeling both nostalgic and happy with what is offered.
A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes