Tales of Zestiria continues a long-running series of RPG games and now comes to PS4 owners as well – we see how well it fares.
The “Tales of” series of videogames might not be a household name for mainstream gamers, but has a loyal following and has been running for about 20 years now. Perhaps part of the reason why the games aren’t as recognizable is its naming scheme – instead of Final Fantasy “number and title combination” or The Elder Scrolls “insert number and title”, the only consistent part in the titles for this series is the rather generic “Tales of” part. After two Tales of Xillia games, it’s now time for Tales of Zestiria.
What’s especially nice about (Bandai) Namco’s series, and something I’ve always been fond of, is the diversity in its settings. Not tied to the same universe for each game, the series often switches up the backdrop against which the stories unfold, and Zestiria is no exception. After the more sci-fi inspired Xillia entries, Tales of Zestiria takes place in a medieval setting with hints of fantasy and mythology. The main protagonist is Sorey, who was raised by the humanoid Seraphim creatures while being human himself. In a land torn up by war, Sorey sets out to restore peace and defeat the Hellion threat – eventually returning the world to a time where humans and Seraphims lived together in peace and harmony.
It’s a typical fantasy-type story with a few twists along the way, but the writing isn’t as good as we saw in Tales of Xillia – even though I like Zestiria’s setting much better. A lot of the characters never really came alive for me, and there are too many plot directions that are predictable to make the main story a truly memorable one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun story to play through – just a fairly standard one.
Perhaps my favorite part in Tales of Zestiria is the battle system that’s action-oriented yet still offers plenty of opportunities to approach things strategically. Because Sorey was raised by Seraphim, he has the ability to use some of their powers in battle in a number of different ways. Since you often go into battle in a group (of up to four), the number of options grows exponentially. This is because you can use your Seraphim powers by yourself, but you can also attach them to your party members to generate coop/combo attacks. This is especially fun in multiplayer, as the strategic depth of your AI teammates is limited to a few basic strategic choices otherwise. The battles are fun to play, although some of the boss battles can drag on for a little too long.
While the battle design is well-executed and one of the highlights of the game, other gameplay choices don’t quite work out as well. Some quests feel like they last longer than they should – sometimes because it’s not clear enough what you’re supposed to do, and sometimes because you have to travel through the same areas a number of times before you meet your goal. Having played supremely refined RPG experiences like The Witcher 3 this year, these game design flaws really stick out even though the overall feeling in Zestiria is still one of enjoyment.
Tales of Zestiria is also the first release of a “Tales of” game for the PS4, and it shows. As the first game for a new generation of consoles, this is the best-looking game in the series. The crisp cartoon-like visuals work very well using the PS4’s high resolution capabilities and are complemented by an excellent soundtrack – we especially like the orchestral music pieces.
So in the end, Tales of Zestiria is definitely a step forward for the series, though perhaps not the huge leap it needs to be able to compete with other RPGs and attract players from those fan bases. “Tales of” fans will certainly enjoy it, and should welcome this first entry on the PS4 with open arms.