Review – Tales of Zestiria

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Broadly speaking, Tales of Zestiria feels a lot like any other “Tales Of” game that came before it. A young man discovers he is destined to save a beautiful world from certain destruction, but he’s mostly interested in finding out more about a mysterious girl who acts as the catalyst for his heroic journey. The start is slow, filled with exposition, peppered with poorly paced dialogue and generally doesn’t get interesting for several hours, before suddenly showing it’s hand.

Tales of Zestiria is unlikely to convert people into new fans of the series if they have previously disliked it. It’s unlikely to scare away any existing fans. It’s a new “Tales Of” game, and that is in many ways exactly what it needs to be.

Fear not, there are some pleasant changes to the formula that should help get you invested if you’re feeling at all burned out on the series.

So, much like any other Tales game, there’s a bit of a grind at the start where nothing really happens at any notable speed. Little hints at narrative and gameplay, but mostly running around and talking to NPCs who you’ll never see again.

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Once you really get into the bulk of the game and past the lengthy tutorial exposition segment, Tales of Zestiria has a pretty interesting plot. While Our player character himself remains fairly bland for a long time, the tackled themes of relationships, politics, religion and how they all interact with day to day life within a world all felt fleshed out and interesting to explore. There are some grand themes being tackled, and the execution is pretty strong.

The plot also investigates the protagonist’s interactions with a race of creatures who are invisible to the majority of the world. As well as providing fuel for some interesting character interactions within your playable cast, there’s also interesting interplay with the protagonists in the world. Like many JRPGs most of your team isn’t visible running around the map from moment to moment, and Zestiria uses this knowledge at times to amusing effect.

In terms of notable improvements to the Tales series formula, the first obvious improvement is that the game’s corridoring of the player is far less obvious. Much like Xenoblade Chronicles your RPG experience is still linear, but environments are large and widespread enough, with room to explore, that the fact you’re travelling a set path isn’t immediately obvious.

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For the most part, Zestiria’s combat system is the same as the Tales games that game before it. It’s the same action battle system with timed cooldowns on abilities, with one big addition to the combat mechanics that plays in to the narrative in interesting ways. Zestiria allows you to fuse in combat with your team members.

The benefit to fusing with other team members in battle is that you get a boost to your attributes, but also get an additional and distinct set of new abilities to use. The downside is that if the fused character falls in battle, both party members that fused will fall. It provides an interesting risk and reward dynamic that lead to some very intense ends to boss fights and larger encounters.

Ultimately, Tales of Zestiria is in many ways another Tales game. The pacing is inconsistent, with narrative high points often followed by slow periods where nothing terribly exciting happens for extended periods of time. Once it hits a stride it’s a solid JRPG, with an interesting if inconsistent plot and unique twists on its battle mechanic. If you like Tales games it’s a good Tales game. If not, this won’t win you over. If you’re feeling burned out on the series, there’s enough tweaks to the combat, environment scope and narrative to leave it feeling new again.

5 thoughts on “Review – Tales of Zestiria

  1. What about newcomers? I really enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, FF10 and 13 and a couple of other JRPGs, but I’ve never tried the Tales series because of other games on my list. Is it an easy game to come into the franchise? Would you say it’s better or worst than Xenoblade Chronicles? Cheers

    1. Xenoblade Chronicles is really out of range. Tales series has nowhere near the same ambition as that, but if you like anime, manga and Japanese games, you will certainly love it. It isn’t a revolutionary series in the genre, but its quality is extremely consistent, the games are always solid and rewarding experiences, with lots of contents to offer to those who play them.
      I still haven’t played Zestiria, but the easiest game to come into the franchise is probably Tales of Xillia (and its direct sequel Xillia 2), which came out two years ago in the West. It’s neither too difficult nor too easy, the storyline is very good and characters are fantastic as every other episode in the series.

      1. Just putting this out there,s the Xenoblade comparison was not to the Tale series in general, but a specific widening of linear areas unique to Zesteria, which you do explain here you have not actually played.

        I personally prefer Xenoblade to Zesteria, but I think that Zesteria is a totally an okay place to enter the series. Most of the games in the series are stand alone plots and experiences, and entering the series for the first time today, Zesteria is the most technically polished entry available. Slow burn at the start, but totally worth working through

        Also Gabi, nice to see another FF13 fan 😛

      2. ” but its quality is extremely consistent, the games are always solid and rewarding experiences, with lots of contents to offer to those who play them.” That’s what matters in the end of the day 🙂

        Laura, yes, I’m also into FF13! I heard the other day you mentioning that in podquisition. I understand that it’s a linear game, but I thought the fight mechanics were very nice. But I have to admit I think Lightning is very boring. I hated FF13-2 though. Adding that monster thing was completely unnecessary.

        I really love FF, and genuinely want to try FF15, but I feel like I would be a hypocrite if I did, because I was very vocal about the all male cast… So I guess in name of consistency I’ll have to pass it? Tough call though.

      3. Having just started playing this game this week (the US release was the 20th), I’d say the pseudo-open world feel is very similar to Star Ocean games, if you’ve ever played those. Set zones that you travel on a fairly linear fashion, but with enough places that it’s obvious that you’ll be back later.

        While it doesn’t seem to have the combat depth (or the frankly insanely involving crafting system) of a Star Ocean game, the over-all impression is very similar.

        Come to think of it, I’d LOVE to see them make a HD Collection of the Star Ocean franchise.

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