Tales of Zestiria is the fifteenth main-series entry in the Tales series. With development beginning in 2012 by Bandai Namco Studios and tri-Crescendo, the game faced its original Japanese release in January 2015, and reached Western shores by October of the same year. Originally released for the Playstation 3, the title was quickly ported to Steam, and later to the Playstation 4.
The game places you in the shoes of Sorey, a human boy who must undertake the role of the long-forgotten Shepherd, in a bid to eradicate the ‘Malevolence’ that’s plaguing his homeworld of Glenwood. Standard. The plot is your cut-and-dry reincarnation of a fabled hero, and sadly, doesn’t add anything new or special to the clichéd narrative trope. What Tales of Zestiria does offer however, is a band of characters who all bring their own individual virtues and sense of humour to the party, creating an overall sense of community on your quest against evil. The characters you’ll come across include but aren’t limited to: Mikleo, Sorey’s Seraphim foster-brother, Rose, Sorey’s human friend, and Ailisha, a princess turned knight.
The gameplay of Tales of Zestiria is similar to its predecessors, in its utilisation of the Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS), which to the uninformed, is not too dissimilar from the combat style seen in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. A first for the series however, is that the transition between exploration and combat is more fluid in Tales of Zestiria, with the combat actually taking place in the same area as the exploration. As you saunter along your quest, optional dialogue opportunities arise, offering the player an insight into the relationships between the characters, in the form of often humorous or political quips and remarks. Depending on which character you have accompanying Sorey throughout the overworld, certain actions can be performed, such as teleporting across short gaps, or temporarily shielding the party from enemies’ view. Equipment can be assigned special skills, through completing quests for creatures known as Normin, and additional abilities can be unlocked by completing protection missions over certain regions of the map.
What really drags Tales of Zestiria down however, is the incredibly contrast between its vast open world, and the narrow, linear dungeons that you’ll find yourself crawling through. The difference is stark; on one hand, you’re offered this rich and extensive world, reminiscent of the freedom The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time offered, yet on the other hand, you’re swamped with monotonous and repetitive dungeons, which offer often-irritating puzzles, that feel more laborious at times than anything else.
The music in this game is wonderful. It perfectly represents each respective area the player finds themselves traversing, and often mirrors the mood that’s fallen on the characters at any given time. It’s uplifting and rejuvenating when it needs to be, refilling the player with a sense of excitement and adventure that only a good JRPG can.
All in all, as a newcomer to the series, I enjoyed what Tales of Zestiria has to offer. It holds the familiarity of the traditional JRPG, yet breaks that mould with its innovative combat. A fully-voiced (and voiced well, at that) cast of eclectic and likeable characters help shape what is truly an enjoyable experience. The ~50 hour plot can get muddy at times, and for the most part, finds itself relying on the characters and gameplay as its saving grace. That’s just the bare minimum however, as the hours that can be spent poring over countless items and equipment, debating which combinations are best, are near limitless, and this is where the game really shines. As I said before, the narrative is a slight deviation on the often-regurgitated ‘reincarnation of a fabled hero who is tasked with ridding the world of evil’. As much as it pains me to say it, the plot drags what could have been a truly wonderful game, down into the upper echelons of mediocrity, as so many games have fallen victim to in the past.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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