Tales of Zestiria is the latest addition to the long running “Tales of” series of JRPGs from Bandai Namco. Not all of them are localized for the west however, and Tales of Zestiria was given special attention because it was considered to be 20th anniversary entry to celebrate the series. While Tales of Zestiria is a good game and breaks ground in some new areas it falls a bit short and is far from the excellent game they had hoped for.
You’ll start your adventure in Tales of Zestiria as Sorey, a young human raised in a village of Seraphim, spiritual beings that aren’t typically able to be seen by humans. Not surprisingly Sorey ends up being the one that is foretold by prophecy to be the Shepherd and save humanity from the malevolence. The names are lacking a little inspiration (also wouldn’t it be nice just once to maybe the sidekick of the guy or girl that is destined to save the world).
In keeping up with the shift in modern role playing games Tales of Zestiria has at least one major design change from its predecessors. The game now takes place in an open world. It is not as open as you wil find in Witcher 3 or Fallout 4, but it is much more open than previous entries in the Tales of series that could feel confining, like you were being pushed down a corridor. This new open design allows you to explore and find chests that are hidden across the world as well as in dungeons. There are also a number of herbs scattered along that can buff your characters and monoliths. The game continues to give you motivation to search over the horizon in an attempt to find Monoliths which will provide you tips about the game as well as award you with a bonus AP if you find them.
One of the major highlights to Tales of Zestiria is the combat system. The Fusionic Chain Linear Motion Battle System or FCLMBS (the author of that design document must have been getting paid by the word) is the heart of Tales of Zestiria. In ToZ you will encounter enemies in the world but will not transition to a combat scene. You will however be limited to fight within a certain area. You can even get a combat advantage on your enemies by approaching them and striking the square button on your controller. Once players encounter a monster, known as Hellions, they will enter into action combat. Players will make use of their normal attacks and special attacks known as artes. Human characters will focus on melee artes while their seraphim counterparts will stick to ranged artes. Characters also have their own unique mystic arte. The only real problem can come with issuing orders to your companions. These are doled out with the use of the right analog stick on the controller (in the console version). Another great combat aspect is the Armitization feature. This allows a human and a seraphim to join together in an over the top display of violent power. Think power ranger transformations.
One major downside to the game is the lack of consistency. This lack of consistency can be found in the voice acting, the graphics, and the story. Cut scenes during the game are fully voiced and most are done well. The opening narrator, however, comes off as trying too hard and as a mockery of what he is supposed to be doing, adding gravity to a grave situation. While the cut scenes are fully voiced not all of the character dialog in the game is. When a character talks to another in the world if it appears to be related to the main story line the dialog will be voiced. If not, you’ll get text boxes.
The graphics are also inconsistent. As with the voice acting the cut scenes again are done very well. Some of them are even an anime made for the game to explore the story. Most are done within the game though. During this time the characters are drawn very well and are expressive and full of range. During gameplay however the characters' movements are very stiff. Sorey runs around and looks like is constantly ready to karate chop everything because he has not movement with his elbows or wrists. While the world is decent looking and sprawling there are some issues with draw distance that create for some sudden popping in of items, like giant boulders, while you move. The use of textures is extremely repetitive. This is not what I would expect from a current gen system. It looks more like a port of a PS3 game (which it is). Also certain structures are done very well and when they sit next to an object that is done well it makes for an even more disturbing presentation when the different qualities are juxtaposed like that.
The last major area the game is inconsistent with is the story. While there are a few interesting characters not all of them feel fully developed. By the time the game is finished you’ll also be left with a lot of questions that are never answered.
Tales of Zestria is a solid addition to the “Tales of” series by Bandai Namco. While this is not an excellent game it is far from being one deserving of being tossed onto the scrap heap. If you are looking for a game with a solid combat system that is not the run of the mill turn based or active time based system then this might be the game for you. However if you are looking for a game that provides a solid and consistent narrative experience you may be put off.
*The game was reviewed using a PS4 copy of the game provided by their PR department.
Gameplay: 8 The addition of an open world is a positive change for this series. Combat is deep and involved. The console version makes the most out of the controller.
Visuals and Sound: 7 The out of engine cut scenes look like fantastic anime. In game the visuals are okay but have some weird texture pops and draw distance issues with objects. The score is nice and provides a good atmosphere.
Polish: 7 Some of the systems are extremely deep and verge on overly complex. Some parts of the game are voiced and others aren’t. A little more consistency would help.
Longevity: 8 The main story and side exploration could take you anywhere between 40 and 60 hours to complete.
Value: 7 With an MSRP of $59.99 it’s about the average for a game of this scope. It's $49.99 on PS3 and PC (Steam).