A mildly zesty tale.
My history with the Tales series is well documented at this point, so I’ll keep it short by saying that I’ve played all the Tales games that were released in the States and have been a fan of the series for some time now.
However, I have felt as of late that this coveted franchise has hit a proverbial wall.
Rehashing the same archetypes for characters with the same old plotlines over and over again – I really can’t think of the last time I felt legitimately surprised playing a Tales game.
That is not to say that the new entries have been bad, because I have certainly enjoyed them, but I would really like to see them take some big risks and push towards an exciting new direction.
In that regard, I thought perhaps they would take the chance of breaking into a new generation of consoles to make this turn but, for better or worse, Zestiria is certainly not that game.
Voice Acting: ENG/JPN
Played: 25~ hours
The story of Zestiria revolves around humans and those who are worshiped as deities called the “Seraphim”. There’s a Princess out to save her country, and a boy who has lived in isolation all his life just itching to get out there and see the world.
The boy and his ragtag group of like-minded people discover an evil force that threatens all of existence as they know it, and vow to do whatever they can to stop it.
If that little synopsis wasn’t enough of an indication, the plot and overarching storyline in Zestiria is predictable and mostly uninteresting. This grievance was especially highlighted during the early parts of the game, where I found myself running around in town for hours doing busy work, following one checkpoint to another.
Luckily, the characters were a lively bunch with distinct personalities, and thanks to the always excellent skits system, they had ample time to win me over. Between Lailah’s nonstop puns and Edna’s snarky remarks, I found myself looking forward to each new skit that would pop up.
As far as the combat goes, there is one big change as there is no longer a resource called MP or SP. In its stead is a resource that recovers over time very quickly like stamina, and usage of all the attacks and artes were governed by that mechanic.
There were also far less artes that could be slotted into quick use, which was a disappointment and made the combat feel a bit limiting in some ways. Fortunately, the new “Armatize” mechanic that combined the powers of two characters into one added a much needed variety and power under my control.
Outside of that, the combat felt fast paced, with a ton of little mechanics that added a level of depth that’s usually not seen in most RPGs.
While the combat is undeniably solid, the mechanics that revolve around skills and equipment did not fare so well.
Between the bingo board of icons and weird, completely irrelevant names for skills, trying to keep my equipment up to date felt like an absolute chore.
When it comes to managing the party’s gear and skills, it’s always best to go with a system that has a simple elegance that’s easy to understand and use.
It took me more than a dozen hours of gameplay to start grasping all the ins and outs of the mechanic, and even when I finally understood how it all worked, I found it to be overly cumbersome and ignored min-maxing my gear, which is shocking considering I am typically all about maximizing and making things more efficient.
Given that this is the first Tales game to “Grace” the PS4, I thought the developers would really pour their “Hearts” out on making this the best Tales games yet (eat those puns and like it, jerks).
The soundtrack is great, and the fact that it includes both the English and Japanese dub is a fantastic addition, but visually it didn’t look too far removed from its PS3 counterpart.
There’s a lot to like in the world of Zestiria, and fans of JRPGs will no doubt find a lot to like here, but at the end of the day it’s still just another Tales games. Nothing more, nothing less.
Fun Tidbit – If I can go the rest of my life without hearing anyone utter the word, “Malevolence” for the rest of my life, that’d be great.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.