I love JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) because they have deep stories that span for up to 70 hours. Their game play mechanics are always unique from game to game, and they have that classic anime feel. I have always heard of the Tales series but I never had been able to convince myself to try it until I got to play it on my PS4. Like the Final Fantasy series, each Tales game is a different story and world unless it is specifically stated to be a sequel, so any game (like Tales of Zestiria) can be an entry point to the rest of the series. So what’s it like to jump into a JRPG with little knowledge of the series mechanics, and did this game make me want to come back for more? Let’s find out!
Tales of Zestiria
I went into Zestiria knowing that it wasn’t generally a good game for beginners, but I figured I’d played enough games to slowly grasp everything by the time I needed to. I had also been informed it wasn’t the strongest entry in the series with story. The Tales have a different theme for each game’s story, and Tales of Zestiria’s was Passion of Pursuing Your Beliefs, something I think a lot of us can get behind. The game was a mix of a lot of emotions for me and I put around 28 hours into it. I also found myself having quite a bit of discussion with long time players of the series in order to give accurate information about everything I was going through.
The story opens up explaining about the legendary hero The Shepherd who brings peace to the world whenever chaos breaks out before going to our main characters: Sorey and Mikleo. Sorey and Mikleo are exploring ruins near the home of the seraphim, Elysium, which is high above the earth, which has been thrown into to chaos for 200 years without the appearance of a Shepherd. Events start to spiral out of control when you find a young girl named Alisha who is passed out in the ruins.
Sorey decides to take Alisha back to the village of the Seraphim to rest, which causes an uproar since it turns out he is the only human who is allowed to be there. Sorey, who has never been corrupted or met another human, spends a few days with Alisha. He learns of the Lady of the Lake festival that is held in tradition to pick a new Shepherd. After he agrees to think about visiting the festival, he helps her depart at the wish of his adoptive father and head of the village, Gramps. Afterwards a Hellion, the enemy type of the game, appears and kills a seraph, sparking you to chase him down to the human world and begin your adventure.
From there things quickly spiral into a chain of events that lead to you becoming the new Shepherd, sent out to purify the land from malevolence and defeat the Lord of Chaos to return the world to peace. The story has several different arcs, the first of which being to gather the Water (Mikleo), Fire (Leila), Earth (Edna), and Wind (Dezel), Seraphim so you can face the Lord of Chaos. The arcs afterwards are mostly about powering up your friends and learning the history of the world.
There are a lot of skits and side quests you can do as you go along for added character development, which is an extremely nice touch since anytime you rest at an inn you get a skit. The world is also open so you can go back at any time to do something you missed.
The mechanics of the game give you the ability to fuse with your element-based seraphim. Most enemies have a weakness to an element, and the game focuses on fusing to exploit the weakness over pure leveling. You do get Ability Points (AP) that allow you to activate various abilities, such as automatic dodges, that you unlock throughout the game . The battles are in real time and are heavily reliant on you balancing your party through the strategy menu to heal, defend, and attack properly.
The items that can be taken into battle are few, and you can only carry 15 of any item at a time. When you use one item, you have to wait for a timer to finish before pulling out another which is unique to this game series. Outside of battle, movement is simple and you have a run meter that you can use and then replenish by switching areas or going into battle. There are also locations and stones called Monoliths you can find to give you AP outside of battle.
Playing the game without having played previous games did create problems at times. While Monoliths did work as a tutorial-like system, you first has to find them before you could read them and they were spread out into various parts of the game; this left some information to be found long after you unlock the relevant abilities. The story also confused me at times by making a character you saw only a few times briefly suddenly into a major plot point. There are also some time frame consistency issues throughout the main story.
The music and game play is really great, as well as your party characters themselves, which makes up for the bad plot clichés that you encounter. It’s also worth noting that there are some very enjoyable story points as well, as long as you’re not expecting an extremely plot-driven game. I wouldn’t suggest anything other than a seasoned RPG player trying to tackle the battle system, as I can see it quickly becoming a tangled mess, unless they start on a lower difficulty at first.
Have you ever played a Tales series game? Which ones, or if Tales of Zestiria, what are your thoughts on it? Let us know in the comments below!