Tales of Zestiria Preview
For hardcore followers of Japanese role-playing games, one franchise has continued to deliver for the better part of 16 years. The Tales franchise has continued to bring these loyal fans precisely what they pine for: Colorful, traditional, story-driven adventures with that patented Japanese flair. After the legendary Final Fantasy series went into a controversial tailspin, JRPG fanatics had to turn elsewhere to get their fix. The Tales installments have almost never failed this group of fans, which is why many should be excited for Tales of Zestiria, scheduled to launch for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in October.
Yes, the series still sports some of the older gameplay elements, including random battles and real-time/turn-based battle mechanics that put a premium on preparation. The inclusion of the real-time element doesn’t turn the game into an action slash-fest, which is one of the big reasons why RPG lovers still flock to Tales. However, all this being said, the developers have continued to make concessions in the face of ongoing industry trends. For example, it seems like every big new game these days is open-world or sandbox in structure, and Zestiria will indeed boast much bigger areas to explore. The battlefields and towns have been increasing in size in recent years, even if the outdoor fields have always seemed a tad barren.
Nobody expects the massive, unbelievably detailed world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but here’s hoping the world has a little more “oomph” behind it this time around. As for combat, fans know what to expect. The series has moved more toward the real-time camp as time has gone on, even if we always get a healthy dose of depth and strategic aspects. For the most part, we’re hearing that Zestiria plays a lot like Tales of Xillia; it’s fast-paced with lots of flashy special moves and certain recognizable features remain. For instance, you can still link up with party members and unleash extremely powerful maneuvers. Just wait for the EX meter to fill and unleash the devastation!
We’ve also heard that the towns are quite a bit larger, which makes sense as Bandai Namco says Zestiria is the largest game in the series to date. There’s a lot more room for exploration in both the towns and on the battlefields, and some of those areas could be four or five times larger than areas we’ve explored before. What I’m wondering is whether or not the developers have the necessary skill to widen the scope of the Tales series. You don’t want to go too far in the open-world direction, lest you lose the narrative focus, and you don’t want to alienate your loyal fans if you stray too far from the winning formula. However, there’s no reason the game can’t be simply bigger and better the whole way ‘round.
Expect to see more side quests, more NPCs, and more characters. In other words, you should anticipate a more modern version of the old-school Tales titles you know and love. As for story, it’s the typical fantasy setting loaded with magic and dragons and the like. Two nations are battling for supremacy and in the midst is a young adventurer named Sorey, who must accept the onus of becoming the Shepherd. The legends say the Shepherd is the world’s savior, so yeah, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Sorey will team up with his best friend Mikleo, as well as Lailah, the Lady of the Lake, and in the end, he must confront the greatest evils. Sounds like a pretty standard storyline for a Tales game, wouldn’t you say?
The world of JRPGs continues to be in flux. They’re changing, but not radically (perhaps not radically enough), while the hardcore followers simultaneously hope for proper upgrades without ditching the gameplay they love. The series in question has always been faithful to their fans but perhaps Tales of Zestiria is another step in the modern direction. Look for it on October 20.
6/23/2015 Ben Dutka