Tales of Zestiria is one of many recent Tales games to come out in the past decade, and similar to the rest, it doesn’t do much to stand out, but does improve upon what its predecessors presented. This is the formula with almost any Tales game now unfortunately. While the games themselves are fairly solid, the franchise just needs a much needed breath of life to return it to its greatness.
Tales of Zestiria began its life as a PS3 game, and then was released on the PS4 and PC later. The game follows the same mechanics found on any console Tales game found in the past decade. It’s a real time RPG that takes place in a fairly open world. Players utilize a world map to explore various dungeons, cities, forests, and all sorts of different ecosystems. This open world aspect is said to be new to the Tales franchise, but it honestly didn’t feel much different than what was done in Tales of Xillia. Yes, it was a lot less linear and there were multiple paths to take, but you are still stuck to a very defined. The game follows Sorey, a young man has been graced with the magical powers by a ancient race known as the Seraphim. The Seraphim are the equilibrium in the lands, holding everything together. When the world below (where normal humans live) falls under darkness, Sorey sets out to be the Sheppard for the Humans and to save them from the darkness. I really wish Sheppard wasn’t the word they used, but so be it, it’s a Tales game.
This Tales game has a fairly quick start as compared to other Tales games, and the plot is structured well so players won’t get lost too easily. There are some cinematics that happen that may leave you scratching your head, but answers come in due time. One point in the main story I find a bit silly is the fact that the monsters in the world are being created by people’s negative emotions. Then, when these monsters appear, actual humans can’t see them. It’s all a bit odd and not very well addressed, so just let it happen. The story has a good pace despite its somewhat odd plot points, and the main objectives are always very clear. The plot has good depth too, and I ejoyed the emotional ties the plot focused on. I do wish that the game took a little more time to develop its characters as Tales of Xillia had (you can still view skits and cutscenes like in Tale o f Xillia but these cutscenes feel much more trivial). The skits do include full voice acting support like in Tales of Xillia, which is a really nice touch. Through these cutscenes and well done-dialogue you can really get an understanding for the character’s attitude.
While Tales of Zestiria is on PS4, it sure doesn’t look like a PS4 game. The graphics are certainly improved from Tales of Xillia 2, but the new battle camera doesn’t help anything. Previously in Tales games during battle, the camera would take a distant position and follow the main player, but now it closely follows the player. Doing so puts the player up close and personal with the many textures and character models in the game, and exposes how unrefined they are. From a distance, the game looks adequate, but up close, you can really tell that this was once a PS3 game. That being said, the anime cutscenes looks beautiful as always, but don’t expect much at all from the game’s visuals for Tales of Zestiria on PS4.
Tales of Zestiria follows a similar style of gameplay to that of previous Tales games, but does mix things up a tad. Players still have HP and AP bars, with the AP bar dwindling for every attack you do. Players still use melee artes, or long range magic attacks on enemies. This game has it separated to that human characters are the close combat ones, while any of the Seraph (mystical) characters use the long range mystical artes. A much appreciated addition to the battle system is that there’s no separate loading screen and battle map, battles take place in the actual position you encounter the enemy. This is a neat feature, since then walls, elevation changes, and other obstacles become useful in the battle at hand. Previously battle areas were flat landscapes with no real differentiation besides some color and background choices. I enjoyed the control mechanics of Tales of Zestiria, it played almost identical to previous tales games and fans of the franchise will feel right at home here. Also, there is an adjustable difficulty levels, so players who want a real challenge can crank it up, or if you’d rather just enjoy the story you can tone it down too! There’s not too much outstanding or new in the gameplay section, but everything here ties together nicely to present itself as a clean and decent game.
I had a bit of a hard time writing about Tales of Zestiria because I’ve reviewed about four Tales games in recent years, and this most recent iteration just doesn’t provide enough fresh and new things to make me feel enthusiastic about recommending it. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the series and those looking for another classic Tales experience to tide them over. However, be warned, it feels much like the same you’ve played before, and I would probably recommend Tales of XIllia over Zestiria. I might even say play Tales of Hearts R on vita too, that one is really good! Tales of Zestiria is very solid, but just doesn’t rank as highly to me as other Tales games in the franchise.