Tales of Arise

A Little Background 

Tales of Arise is an action role playing game, and the most recent entry in the Bandai Namco ‘Tales’ series. A series of games that has been going for more than 25 years. I had my eyes on this game for some time, well before it was released. All of the previews looked really solid. I was really craving a new RPG to give many hours of my life to. ‘Tales’ games are very similar to the Final Fantasy series in that they are all in a series of games, but are mostly stand alone stories. With some notable exceptions.

Admittedly, while I have been a major fan of RPG’s since early childhood, I did not have much knowledge about this series prior to seeing the previews for Tales of Arise. By the time this series’ earlier entires made it to North America, I was thoroughly engrossed in other games. Particularly Final Fantasy. A series that I have been playing since I was much younger. The first ‘Tales’ game in the USA was(according to Wikipedia) Tales of Destiny. Which was released in 1998. By that time, I was so far down the rabbit hole with Final Fantasy VII it was not even funny. Actually, it was probably my second or third play-through by that point. After that I would move on to VIII, IX, X and so on. So my video game time was pretty well allocated with a tried and trusted series.

I was still gaming RPG’s in the 2000’s. When I could. But aside from seeing these ‘Tales’ titles around, for whatever reason, I paid them no heed. I never even put it together that they were part of a series of games. I was also very picky about my RPG’s back then too. I rarely took “chances” on a new series. I would shake that off after my World of Warcraft years though.

So, this is my “review” of Tales of Arise. I put review in quotations because I am no authority on game rating. What I hope to do is introduce the game, it’s story, and explain what I liked or didn’t like about it from my perspective. Well, thats pretty much a review, in most senses of the word, I guess. So, yeah.

Tales Of Arise

[SPOILER WARNING. I tried to explain this game without giving too much away. I am purposely vague about some things, and did not go into a fraction of the story. That said, there will still be spoilers.]

The story begins on the world of Dahna. A world that, some 300 years ago(from the start of the game), was invaded and conquered by a species of superior humans called the Renan. The Renan would enslave Dahnan inhabitant’s and use them for malicious purposes. The Dahnan people would know only strife for generations upon generations. 

The Renan’s come from the planet Rena, which is visible from Dahna. Though curiously, most Renan claim to come from an artificial moon called Lenegis. Which is situated between the two worlds. The Renan are far more technologically advanced than the Dahnan. And they can use mystical powers very similar to magic, called Artes. Whereas amongst the Dahnan’s, magic users are beyond rare. As in just about no one even believes they exist anymore.

The protagonist of the story is Iron Mask. A slave with no memory of who he is. His name is derived from the fact that he is wearing a solid mask around the entirety of his head. One that he cannot remove. Another peculiar thing about him is that he cannot feel pain. He could sustain grievous bodily harm and wouldn’t feel a thing. This poses a problem, as he is unable to sense when his body has reached its limits. On multiple occasions he was near death and didn’t know it. Having to be nursed back to health by the people of the slave village in which he lives and works. Another curiosity is that he does not bear the same marking that was placed upon all the slave’s hands.

Various events transpire that lead Iron Mask to meeting and saving Shionne. A mysterious Renan woman that was imprisoned by Renan troops. Shionne bears a “curse” that she calls “Thorns”. The curse manifests whenever another living being touches her. Upon this contact, seemingly magical electrified barbed vines appear from her and severely shock the other person. This makes Iron Mask and Shionne an interesting pair. Even beyond the fact that the Dahnan people hate the Renan’s for what they have done to them. Shionne has lived her whole life without the feeling of another human’s touch. And all of a sudden Iron Mask saves her without feeling any pain.

Renan’s of renown have what’s called a Master Core. This is what harnesses their ability to use their mystical abilities. During the events that led up to Iron Mask saving Shionne, a flaming longsword, molten from hilt to the tip of the blade, emerges from Shionne’s core. Iron Mask takes up the sword to defeat the opposition. Shionne is baffled by the fact that Iron Mask can even hold the sword. Let alone use it. It is after all, on fire. And he is just a Dahnan.

After Iron Mask explains his condition, Shionne explains that she is on a personal mission to assassinate the Renan Lords of each of the territories of Dahna, and take their Master Cores. Iron Mask sees this as an opportunity to liberate the Dahnan people and vows to fight with her. And Shionne sees him as a very useful tool, in that he can wield the flaming sword. 

The lords of each country are all in a competition, of sorts, to become the next overall ruler of everything. And the Dahnan people are the pawns in play to give each lord a boost. Iron Mask, who would eventually remember his real name of Alphen(and much more), wants to stop these rituals and save the people. As these rituals are wiping out Dahnan’s in mass numbers.

The events of the game follow these two, and their eventual allies, along this storyline. But everything is not as black and white as it seems. For both the Dahnan people and the Renan people. 

The Playable Characters

During the course of the game you will encounter various characters that will join you on your mission. Like just about every similar game ever made, each of them has their own special abilities and tricks that they bring to the table. As well as their own stories.

Alphen (aka Iron Mask)

Alphen is a Dahnan slave with amnesia, and an inability to feel pain. His head covering mask would be shattered, and because of that he would slowly regain some of his memories. Memories such as his name. Alphen. 

His primary weapon is the longsword. But also wields Shionne’s flaming sword at risk of burning himself to death. Alphen is headstrong in his resolve. He willingly takes up the mantle of The Flaming Sword and the legend that grows as the story progresses.

Shionne Imeris

Shionne is a mysterious Renan woman that is carrying a curse and a strange mission. Her ‘Thorns’ make it impossible for her to have contact with another human being. Before she met Alphen, this condition had turned her cold and callous. As a life without human contact would most likely do. But it  has also made her very focused on her mission. 

Shionne wields a rifle and grenade like weapons. This makes her adept at targeting aerial adversaries and crowd control. She is also, being a Renan, able to use healing Artes. Making her a great parter for Alphen.

Shionne is the definition of a Tsundere. A character that starts out cold as ice, and eventually warms up to be lovable. The Japanese love to insert a Tsundere into their games, anime, and stories.


A lone teenage girl wise beyond her years. But still coming to grips with her parents murder. She is the last magic user on Dahna, and is attuned to the energy of Dahna itself. Facts that she has to keep secret from other Dahnan’s. As magic use is linked to Renan’s. And if the Renan’s find out about her, then she will most likely become a lab experiment. She travels with a small Owl that is more or less her Familiar. 

Rinwell’s powerful magic is perfect for countering Renan magic and various other Artes.


A scrappy teenage boy who is coming to grips with the decisions he has made in his youth. Law regularly speaks his mind, which gets him in trouble a lot. He is particularly troubled with his relationship with his father and the consequences of his actions towards him. His father is the leader of the anti-Renan resistance.

Law is a strong martial artist. His speed and strength help him break through defenses.

Dohalim il Quaras

A high ranking Renan lord, and ruler of the territory of Menecia. However unlike the other territories lords, he is compassionate, and does not enslave the Dahnan people. His subjects revere him and willingly work to support him. Even the soldiers under his command are compassionate. He wishes for coexistence with the Dahnan and Renan people. This staggers Shionne and Alphen. As this is unheard of. Dohalim too is troubled by his past and the road he took to become a lord.

His weapon of choice is a rod that can be extended to great lengths. He is also a skilled Artes user. Able to use healing and  ground energy Artes.


Kisara is the leader of Dohalim’s personal guard. Which throws Alphen and Shionne for a loop. Seeing that she is Dahnan. Kisara feels deeply for Dohalim, and respects his wish for coexistence. She is caring and motherly. Often taking up the cooking and laundry duties. 

Kisara wields a mace and massive shield. Making her the tank of the motley crew of adventurers.


The gameplay itself I found to be fun. But I found some issues. That said, I never wanted to quit playing, and was entertained all the way to the end. 

You have options in how you grow your skills in this game. Perhaps too many. As most were not even used by me, or even regularly thought about. Cosmetic upgrades are also in abundance. You spend a lot of time collecting various cosmetic accessories and outfits. Which have no other purpose than vanity. Another staple in Japanese games.

Games like this tend to be very linear. You really have only one destination and one way to get there. I found it almost impossible to miss anything. For example, “hidden” loot and whatnot. You even have a side quest to search for these ”hidden” owls. But they actually give you tools to find them, relatively early on, at that. So it is almost foolproof.  

I didn’t use any strategy guides throughout this game. But occasionally, especially when I started being aware of this game’s ease of progression, I would check a walkthrough guide for a zone I had just finished. To see if I had missed anything. Sure enough, I hadn’t. I mean, I am sure that I missed something during my play-through. A few times I was just running through levels, because I was pressed for time or whatever, and skipped an obviously optional room or something. So, yeah.

One of my biggest issues with Tales of Arise is that I didn’t find it all overly challenging. I played this game on Normal mode. As I do all games. I feel that there were only a handful of times that I was mildly challenged. And those times were mostly during the endgame sections. I thought about upping the difficulty a few times, but never did. As  I almost never mess with the difficulty of a game. In my experience, in most games, the difference between Normal and Hard is beyond night and day. Getting my butt ground into hamburger every 2 minutes is not my idea of fun. But, I do expect at least a little challenge on Normal difficulty. 

In the endgame areas, the challenge level went up a bit. The fights got longer, but I still never felt like I was overwhelmed. At first it surprised me, and I got a little excited for a level up in terms of the opposition. But yeah, it never got out of hand. In fact, only a couple of times throughout the game did I feel like a battle was too hard. And that was when I had inadvertently picked a fight with a beast more than 20 levels above mine. The only 2 times I experienced a “Game Over” scenario, was during those fights. Boss fights were mostly cut and dry. With a couple exceptions. Again, towards the endgame portion.

The combat system, I found to be a “button masher” style. You can do a straight attack, or trigger special moves. And you can sequence special moves up to three at a time. So if you tap ‘straight attack’ three times, it will attack that way three times in a row before the next sequence can be entered. The fighting scenes were extremely flashy, with bright flashy colors. Almost arcade style. With the characters talking to each other the whole time. Mostly egging each other on, or talking trash occasionally. Not that I could regularly discern all of what they were really saying, above the sounds of battle.

I really never approached a single battle with any kind of strategy. In most games, if you come up against an “ice-type” monster, then you should probably use fire based attacks, right? Well, I never really saw the need in this game for stuff like that. Countering light with dark. In some games, if you attack a fire monster with a fire attack, your attack will actually heal the monster. I don’t recall seeing that happen here. And if it did happen, I must have just overpowered the beast, regardless of healing it.

You are able to equip and use an innumerable number of skills and Artes that you unlock with skill points. But I honestly played through most of the game with only a handful of the same ones selected. I maybe only bothered to change up the skills, or search for “better” ones once or twice. But I would end up just sticking with the ones I had been using. That said, I still had little to no problem progressing in this game. 

The skill panel lets you purchase new skills, add buffs, lower cooldowns, upgrade things ,and whatnot. But I also found myself just randomly allocating points. Oh, this looks useful. Maybe this? Stuff like that.

The supporting characters are all AI driven when fighting. Pretty well at that. You can control their aggressiveness or passiveness based on a setting on the menu screen during battle. Occasionally they trigger a powerful special attack. Also you can trigger pair attacks pretty frequently. With the exception of one time by mistake mid battle, I never once changed my controllable character away from Alphen. So I never needed to set up any of their skills for other characters. If they are acting as supporting characters, the AI has the use of their full range of the unlocked skills. So there really wasn’t a point to allocate skills to them. In an AI capacity, they were all filling their role. I guess it would have been interesting to become the healer, or the tank. But again, I didn’t see the need. As they were all performing admirably.

Your supporting characters take care of the healing as well. The healers can even resurrect fallen allies at an early level. Something that, in other games, isn’t available for quite some time. With that said, I rarely had to rely on items to sustain and rejuvenate my characters. Don’t get me wrong, of course I used items for those purposes. But to the extent I am used to, in games? Particularly early on in a game. Not by a long shot.

You can only carry a maximum of 15 of each type of healing item in your inventory. But I never really ran out of them. Not even in a long fight. I would max them out, then use a couple, then max them out again. During the endgame section, the fights got longer and there was a need for more items. Particularly ones used for recharging CP. So I did start to run low on those. But as soon as this happened, I got to an area with a portal back to the start area, and from there I could actually leave the endgame section and return to where I could buy more items. Then return to where I left off. Completely rejuvenated, and fully stocked. With new, stronger, weapons I’ll add. It was like the level was intentionally designed so that at a point where you would be running low on items, you could teleport to safety and but more. Another example of low challenge.

There is an accessory crafting system in this game that I found to be useless and entirely skippable. Throughout the game you collect various materials from enemy drops and mining nodes that can be used to make these accessories. These items boost various stats and whatnot. Like resistances to poisons and elemental attacks. The thing was, if I got poisoned, someone would pretty quickly heal me. I maybe only changed my accessories once. And maybe upgraded one once or twice. Again, I never felt the need. Or never felt a disadvantage by not using this system. Even for attack and defense buffs.

The story telling in this game takes multiple forms. The first is in a visual novel/manga style format. The screen fills with boxes that play out a scene. Once a dialogue is finished then the box freezes and another appears. There are even occasionally manga-like markings that will pop up. Like question marks and exclamation points. I kind of liked this system. But it did get old at times.

The most predominant form of storytelling in a game like this is the ‘Cut Scene’. And boy, does this game have them. I thought there were a lot after playing for 30 hours or so. But then I hit a point in the game that you literally could not walk 5 steps without triggering another scene. It became so cumbersome. It almost felt like the  game drew to a halt. I found myself quickly reading the subtitles and just clicking through it before they could finish their speeches. The thing was, all of these cutscenes were actually telling a rather interesting story. So, even though I was skipping the performance, I still actually wanted the story.

Story and Voice Acting

With my issues centered around the challenge of this game. A saving grace for me, aside from having an anime-esque beauty and interesting characters, was the story. The story got more intriguing to me as it progressed. Which is a benchmark of good storytelling. As the story moves forward, the heroes end up in situations that baffle even the more wiser among them. And their search for answers and solutions leads them to some strange places. Nothing new here. These thoughts are kind of old-hat when it comes to RPG’s. I mean, Final Fantasy has been doing it for more than 30 years. But for whatever reason, I am still drawn to them. And Tales of Arise uses this format well. The endgame story was pretty decent. I will always have more questions, of course. But I feel like it wrapped up everything nice enough. The credit roll had some nice touches of fan service as well. 

To complement the story of Tales of Arise, the producers hired some top notch Seiyuu(voice actors). I always play these games in Japanese, and I watch quite a bit of anime. So I recognize a lot of the voices of these Seiyuu when I hear them. One in particular was the voice of Law. 

Law is voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. He was the voice actor for Inosuke in the very popular Kimetsu no Yaiba(Demon Slayer) as well as Kirito in Sword Art Online. The latter being one of my favorite anime. So I recognized his voice almost immediately. In one instance I jumped off of a cliff, and Law immediately had a meltdown. It was hilarious, because I was envisioning Kirito losing it. 

Final Thoughts

I commented on a bunch of personally underwhelming aspects of the game above. But I will say that they were not deal breakers for me. If a game has a good story, then I am able to look past a good many things. Things like feeling under challenged. The artwork, voice acting, and soundtrack were also a plus for me. So, I did enjoy this game. And I would recommend it to someone looking for a quick RPG. 

But wait! Quick? That doesn’t quite compute with RPG’s. How quick are we talking here? 

Pretty damn quick, actually.

I finished this game in just over 41 hours. Which has to be a new record for me when it comes to modern age RPG’s. Generally, I will put well over 100 hours into an RPG. I think I put upwards of 150 hours into Final Fantasy XV. So anything less than that 100 hour mark is a major surprise. But, like I said way above, this game is very linear and definitely not open-world like FF XV is. So it would definitely be quicker. Most RPG’s have that ‘grinding time’ you put in to level up your characters. I never did that with this game. I didn’t feel the need to. So that is another reason for a lower playtime. 

In the end, I don’t think Tales of Arise was a spectacular game. But it was certainly not a bad game. I had fun and enjoyed the story and ambiance. Do I think it lived up to the previews that I saw prior to it’s release? I think so. Seeing as I really didn’t know what to expect from a ‘Tales’ series game. My expectations were not high. I would learn soon after finishing this game that Tales of Arise won an award for Best RPG of 2021. And it also has a rather favorable rating on Steam.

But for me, ratings are like movie critic scores. I have seen a lot of movies that had bombed in the critics eyes. It’s the same with video games. For the most part.

Tales of Arise was released in September, 2021. And is currently available on Windows, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms with some DLC(mostly cosmetic, but some gameplay stuff) available already.

**Images used in this article are screenshots from my playthrough of the game on Steam. The characters in the images are copyright of Bandai Namco Studios.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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