By Operation Rainfall Contributor / February 15th, 2016
|Title||Tales of Zestiria|
|Release Date||October 22, 2015|
|Age Rating||T (Teen)|
Tales of Zestiria came out at a crucial time in my life. I was growing tired of Hyperdimension Neptunia’s silly approach to a hardcore JRPG with a light story and minimal explanation. I needed something serious, exciting, and dramatic. Tales of Zestiria almost gave me my fill on what I was hungry for, but my stomach still felt like some desert afterward.
Tales of Zestiria was a return to the classic ways of the Tales series. Improving the battle system is something Bandai Namco has accomplished time and time again. This time, they seemed to drift away from the combo-juggling attacks of Tales of Xillia and focused on making each player a unique and essential part of the battle. At first glance, it would seem that there are only four characters on the field, but you are able to swap out your two other reserves with the press of a button. This type of mechanic allowed for some interesting attack strings, by switching to different seraph party members. I was amazed by the “Armitization” feature, which allowed the human characters to fuse with the seraph party members taking on their elemental properties and combining their HP. This fuse feature is essential to learn in order to beat the bosses encountered throughout the story. Zestiria allowed for battles to be entered seamlessly when the player encounters an enemy anywhere on the field map. The lack of variety of enemies in Zestiria was a huge problem. Encountering the same enemies in multiple places with nothing different but a shade of color and a weakness to a different element caused me to roll my eyes.
The first two to three hours of Zestiria were, honestly, upsetting. Sorey had so much to offer, and it’s sad that they decided to not show his true potential until a confrontation between two regions after hours of playtime. However, after this scene, the story was incredibly engaging. The seraphs, Edna, Dezel, Mikleo and Lailah, had great chemistry with the two humans, Sorey and Rose. I found myself looking forward to special dialogue events where they either make fun of another one of the members or just tell a funny pun. They made light of the incredibly controversial story surrounding the party. Zestiria creates a world where humans who become corrupt with malevolence transform into monsters. The world is dying, and if the humans continue to walk the path they are set on, it will not survive. Sorey has no choice but to grow up and take on his role as the Shepard to save the world and defeat malevolence. Throughout the game, I felt sorry for him. This ultimately was what I was looking for all year. I wanted to connect and feel part of the story, not just be an onlooker. Zestiria found a way to create characters that you could see yourself hanging out with and care about. The story falls short in the end, but I spent time digging into the extra side-quests just to spend more time with the cast. Tales of Zestiria surprised me with a dialogue choice system that actually changed some of the missions and how scenes play out. This was a great addition, but it wasn’t used as much as I would have liked.
The quests in Zestiria are organized by your human companion, Rose or Alisha. I liked that she follows you on the map and is there to add alternative conversation after certain scenes. On the other hand, I was bothered by some of the quest hints, which were vague and puzzling. This was troublesome given just how big Zestiria’s world map is. Every section is connected and can be accessed by foot. Save points grant teleportation, but come with a gald price. I used the teleportation as often as I could because Zestiria’s world building advancement in the series is also its worst enemy. To clarify, the huge world maps and towns in Zestiria are empty. Every town has only two accessible doors, the inn and the church. Everything else is cosmetic. I cannot tell you how many times I ran through each town just to get to a quest marker located in the back of the map. I enjoyed the optional dungeons and bosses spread across the lands. Exploring dungeons for nothing other then a special item or secret boss is something that has become rare in the more recent JRPGs and I wanted more of it.
Zestiria has an amazing soundtrack. The music adds drama and tension during cut scenes and adds to Sorey’s heroic accomplishments. However, there was one song that I didn’t like. It was the first battle theme that didn’t fit the scene at all. I happily spent money on DLC costumes to get the battle music that some of them came with. A small annoyance for me was that Bandai Namco has blocked the recording on the PlayStation 4. This was to either avoid spoilers or stop users from the share-play feature, which means PlayStation users are unable to livestream the game or even take screenshots.
Tales of Zestiria was a huge step in the right direction for the long-running franchise. The huge world and seamless battle system were amazing additions, but if that world had diverse enemies and explorable towns, it would have changed the playing experience tremendously. Zestiria’s story could have been explained sooner, but it chose to drag and pile it on the player all in one scene. I played the game for 54 hours to completion and returned to clean up side-quest and hidden boss battles for another 10 hours. I enjoyed my time with Zestiria, but I want Bandai Namco to focus on filling up the world they created and hopefully in doing so, fill my hunger for a serious-toned JRPG where a party of characters save the world.
The review copy was purchased by the Author.
Bandai NamcoRPGTalesTales of Zesteria