Tales of Zestiria is the latest Tales game to release and, since it’s seemingly become a yearly series’, I worry about it becoming stale. Zestiria had a lot of controversy when it released in Japan but does it really have anything worth complaining about?
Well, if you’ve read pretty much any of my other Tales reviews then most of the same pros and cons apply here, and I’ll go into them starting with the story and characters. These are all new and I quite enjoyed them – the characters are likeable and well-acted, and the story is decent too although very slow-moving and it took hours for it to really get going. Sorey, the main character, is one who can see the Seraphim – ghost-like people – and with this manages to attain the powerful abilities of the legendary Shepard. If anything he’s portrayed as a bit too powerful straight from the get go but it does allow for the combat system to be shaken up a bit which I appreciated.
With the power of the Shepard, Sorey ventures out to rid the world of the monstrous Hellion. Other Seraphim and humans join him on his journey as things get worse than anybody could have possibly imagined and with Sorey being the only person with the power to quench the threat once and for all, he decides to push forward rather than back down. I’m fond of the Zestiria cast although I do agree with the original controversy about Alisha as she was pushed so, so hard in marketing yet has a miniscule role in the game – you’re lead to believe she’s the leading female role when she’s far from it. Other than that, the cast is solid but I still had a difficult time in playing it for long periods of time as it feels like it’s missing something – it being a yearly franchise now is really hurting it in my opinion as I feel like the love and care into making it a magical experience isn’t evident. The marketing is fantastic but the games aren’t keeping up and have felt somewhat dated to me for a couple of years now.
Zestiria has a great combat system that’s reminiscent of Graces f, my favourite Tales title with a combat system many claim is the best in the series, but my problem is that it still relies on button-mashing and doesn’t encourage you to use many of the mechanics available to you. It doesn’t feel very JRPG to me in battles but rather a very sluggish and uninspired hack and slash, and so I find myself losing interest the longer it goes on. Along with your standard attacks you’ve got Artes which act as special abilities with elemental effects that can be chained into combos, and new to Zestiria is the ability to use Armatization which allows you to fuse with a Seraphim for new skills and better stats – you also become huge for some reason.
There’s a slightly different equipment system now too where, of course, equipping better items improves your stats but you can quip other items in a different menu to further improve your stats and make use of more accessories that you have. It’s not very engaging and I appreciate the effort although it doesn’t feel as if it’s there to truly act as a solid addition, but rather just to make it stand out amongst the other Tales games with Zestiria feels very similar too. If you’ve played a Tales game before then you won’t really find any surprises here and those bored of the formula aren’t going to have their minds changed by Zestiria – it’s only reinforced the idea that the series is dated and unless something drastic happens, then I’m not sure I want to continue the series in future. Don’t even get me started on the amount of backtracking and ‘wow, this massive rock is in the way! I best look for the longest route imaginable to get to where I need to go!’ going on because it was driving me to more breaks than playtime.
PS4 hasn’t benefitted it much either as it’s difficult to tell how much smoother it feels when the combat itself doesn’t feel entirely responsive – it feels somewhat clunky and though it’s due to some animations taking a while, particularly the animation to attack an enemy on the world map, it feels as if there’s lag delay due to how slow it really is. Graphics haven’t received the upgrade they need and it’s evident that Tales has been running on the same engine for a good decade or so now and it has a lot of work to do to catch up to the likes of Persona and Final Fantasy which have much more engaging gameplay, visuals and writing. Tales looks as stiff as it sometimes feels and it seems that there’s very little effort to improve the series; rather, Bandai Namco seem happy to release it yearly and drive it into the ground without mercy, and Tales lost its magic a long time ago. Fortunately, Ufotable’s animated cutscenes are top-notch along with the 2D visuals, and they’re both done a disservice by the in-game visuals.
As with all Tales games, the voice-acting and OST prove to be great and one of the highlights of the game and, sadly, the only thing that seems to have notably progressed rather than stayed in 2002 when Symphonia released. Zestiria features the voice talent of a few well-known actors and actresses including Robbie Daymond, Carrie Keranen, Kira Buckland and Caitlin Glass. Zestiria was always a joy to listen to and though I won’t return to listen to the OST in my free time like I do with many other games, I thoroughly enjoyed it though it’s disheartening that it further makes the poorer points of Zestiria stand out. I enjoy the OP but not having vocals was a surprise and they’re sorely missed.
Yes, this has been a very negative review. Tales of Zestiria is far from a bad game but I’m bored with the series and I wish that Bandai Namco would give it the love and care it deserves rather than churning it out yearly (in the West) as it’s lost its magic – I understand they have longer development times in Japan but honestly, that just makes it worse that it’s become so incredibly lazy. It’s become dull, uninspired and the combat is quite frankly boring, and with other JRPG series’ taking huge leaps, Tales is inevitably going to be left in the dust with its refusal to move on from Symphonia – I understand it’s one of the most popular Tales titles but it feels as if Bandai Namco are trying to recreate it with almost every addition.
Tales has felt stale for years now and whilst many may love it still, it’s undeniable that it’s lagging behind and is doing absolutely nothing to catch up to its competition – I don’t want it to become its competition, but it would be nice if it tried matching the quality, and making use of the current generation’s power, rather than happily sitting on the backburner and feeling more and more as if it belongs in a previous console generation. If this is all Tales can manage, then Tales has had its day.