It’s no secret that I am a fan of the Tales series and of the incredible storytelling that you’ll find in each game. So not only am I quick to buy a Tales game when it comes out but it also means my standards are pretty high for what kind of experience I expect. In this game you play as a character named Alphen who is a resident of Dahna; however, 300 years prior to the events of the game Dahna was conquered and enslaved by a group of people known as the Renans. As a result Dahan was split into five realms each with its own lord and its own was of subjugating Dahnans. Alphen lives his days as a servant of the Renans but he mysteriously has no memories of his past or any ability to feel pain. He comes across a Renan named Shionne who is cursed to cause pain to whoever she touches and is mysteriously out to take down all of the Renan lords in Dahnan. The two work together and travel Dahna finding out the workings of each realm and taking out each lord along the way.
Overall the story is rather complex which is what I normally expect from a Tales game, but they really outdid themselves with this one. The game clearly sets up Renans as the oppressors and Dahans as the oppressed but as each realm has a different relationship between the two races it really shows that things are not so cut and dry. Yes for the most part Renans are the ones doing most of the evil seen in the game but then you find situations where some don’t wish to cause any harm and in other cases where the Dahnans turn out to be morally unjust. It’s when you see very different people of each race in each realm you really get a full picture of all the ways this story loves to twist one’s understanding of a moral compass. The first realm paints the picture than Renans are evil but by the time you get to the fifth realm the perspective on each race has changed dramatically with the variety of experiences you gain from each realm. I love how they took this story and made it clear that this isn’t as simple as Dahnans good and Renans bad and it really causes the player to look at each member of each race on an individual basis which creates a beautiful story on how these two races start to mutually understand one another.
What I didn’t know when I started the game was that the story was split into two parts. Part one focuses entirely on the five lords and the relationship between the two races so it’s all character driven. When you get to part two you start to really learn about why all the events happened the way they did 300 years ago and it’s actually a massive info dump of the back story. Now this does create two distinct parts of the game one that’s more combat and character driven and one that’s more lore driven and I really liked how each part stood out so much because of that. Overall the story is super complex and deeply rooted with complicated moral discussions that really is thought provoking. If I have anything negative to say about the story at all it would be the ending. It honestly just ends there’s not really a smooth transition to wrap up the game once the final boss is defeated and any kind of epilogue is given in the form of still images in the credits. It’s a satisfying ending but I’m honestly not a fan of the abruptness of it.
The gameplay is very different than what I’m used to and I had a rough time adjusting to it. In this game normal slashes use R1 on the PS4 and arts are allocated to the triangle, X and Square buttons. Since I’m used to the square button being the normal slashes button I repeatedly found myself spamming the art assigned to that button as I would instinctively go to it as my attack option till I adjusted to the button layout. It’s actually a very interesting system that deviates from the norm and I loved how it played but because it was different it does have a bit of a learning curve that takes a bit to adjust to.
The game also features a variety of side quests and while some are your typical slay this monster or retrieve these items you do get a lot of quests that build on your characters and I love it when side quests do that. I don’t have any issues with a few fetch quests or monster slaying quests but when all of the side quests are just mindless errands with no real impact to the story or characters I tend to grow tired of them. In this case you do get quests that deeply impact the characters and as a whole adds more to their individual stories so the side quests were brilliant in this game. Plus some side quests add some fun cameos from other Tales games which was a nice sight to see.
The final thing I want to talk about is the acting. Of course you have absolutely amazing performances from all of the actors. Ray Chase does a great job highlighting all the passion expressed by Alphen as Erica Lindbeck does a superb job at expressing Shionne’s anger and loneliness. Each character has plenty of time to shine and each actor really does a great job bringing their respective characters to life but if I have to highlight anyone in particular it would have to be Katelyn Gault who voices Kisara. Kisara is a member of the main party of characters, but it’s clear from her demeanor that she plays more of a supportive role for the other party members as she has her intense emotional turmoil early on in her appearance in the game and then functions as a rock for the other party members when they struggle throughout the rest of the story. However, Gault somehow not only manages to make Kisara’s emotional battle one of the most intense emotional struggles I’ve seen in a tales game, but she also manages to perform so well that Kisara actually manages to stand out in any scene that she’s in despite the fact that the functions she performs are typically seen from characters that don’t normally stand out so much. I wound up liking all the characters and they all add their own emotional struggles to the group. Dohalim is a Renan that has struggled with what place he took in Renan society, Law struggles with his history with his family and Rinwell struggles with a desire for revenge versus justice. All of these characters have wonderfully complex feelings and it was quite an experience to watch each of them grow from those moments.
Overall this Tales game may have actually surpassed my already high expectations for the series. The story is incredibly deep and thought provoking, the characters all have emotional experiences that are just intense and fun to watch and the gameplay really makes a new and improved version of an already enjoyable series. Anything I have to say that is even remotely negative is at best a minor inconvenience as the whole game is just a breathtaking experience from start to finish.