This is the follow up to my earlier post regarding Tales of Zestiria which you can find in the link below. Again this isn’t really a review and more of an extended look at the game now that I have had a full and complete time with it. The only story piece I have yet to complete is the Alisha’s Story post-game DLC which may change my views on some parts of the game I’m about to write about but that is a doubtful proposition at the moment. For the record at 10 Hours I said the game was threatening Xillia’s top three placement with the top two being secure; that is no longer the case.
Warning there will be massive plot and game play spoilers. This Posting is for people who have played and have finished or come close to completing Tales of Zestiria as there is a lot of technical talk about the game mechanics as well as plot points.
1) Alisha: As before I’ll start with a big one and talk about Alisha. To be honest this alone could have been an entirely separate article and for a time it was as there is just so much to talk about however I’ll try to be brief. The Otaku reaction to Alisha’s character and her relationship to the story is totally overblown. The reason Alisha is barely in the game she perhaps has 15 hours as an active member of the party and a further hour or so near the end game in cameo appearances. I expect the real issue was with Rose her “replacement” character who we’ll get to later.
What is worse though is Alisha’s character is totally destroyed by these late game appearances. At first she was an independent, strong, and self actualized character, admittedly not as mystically gifted as Sorey she was blessed with her own strengths that were clear to see. However when we see her next she shifts more to an character in need of protection. Indeed there is one scene where Sorey and the group decide to withhold vital information to the importance of her town because it might upset her.
A character previously shown as willing to do anything, to take any burden upon herself for her people was treated like a wilting flower by her own friends. It was a massive shift for a character that previously had been so strong and now is seen as worn down and requires outside intervention (by a party she helped lead...) to solve her problem. Alisha was a character of amazing potential however that was wasted by poor direction and story formation.
2) Rose: Well here we are which I see as the main crux of the Otaku’s rage in Japan. You see Rose wasn’t only Alisha’s “replacement” in the party she was also her better in literally every way. Right from the get go its apparent Rose is a superior fighter and far more useful then the Princess we had known previously. Why is this? Because she has access to the transformations that Sorey does and Alisha didn’t. In terms of game play Rose is as much a Sheppard (the mythical chose one... balance to the force... yada yada yada) as Sorey is.
This seems to be the key to the idea Otaku in Japan have that “Sorey was bullied” by the writers after Alisha left. As suddenly Sorey (aka your avatar in game) wasn’t the only special one instead his personal power to beat stuff up is now shared. To add insult to injury the person he shares it with is the interloper who took their waifu characters place. As I said the situation could warrant a posting all to itself as it seems to involves all sorts of interesting elements, however right now I’ll leave it here for you the reader to form your own opinions about the situation.
3) Human Characters in Battle: I didn’t quite realize how annoying this could get but damn it got annoying. One element of the battle system is that you must always have two of the same characters in your battle partyat all times being Sorey and Rose/Alisha. There is plot reasons for this (its not very good) but the effect it has on game play is quite staggering.
One of the great things previously about earlier Tales of games has been the versatility in party formation and the unique battle styles each character used, for example a caster would be very different from a brawler in terms of game play. This allowed everyone to be balanced with each other and provide a change of pace by playing the new character. Here that is not the case by forcing you to use two characters it limits the scope of customization; the result battles in Tales of Zestiria become a chore rather then a delight rather quickly. This happens by limiting you to Sorey/Rose/Alisha for specific types of artes pushing you to use one character over any other in almost every battle scenario.
4) Seraphs in Battle: One of the features of Zestiria’s battle system is elemental weakness, by striking those weakness you’re able to do massive damage. It forces you on the fly to re-order what artes you’re using to adapt to the opponent at hand. Honestly I can’t tell you how often I remapped arts which gives the battles a much needed sense of fluidity and diversity. However at the same time its a double edged sword.
In Tales of Zestiria each Seraph character has a particular elemental affinity which you NEED to utilize to make battles more manageable. While an interesting idea it serves to make your Seraph’s not real party members instead they feel more like mere tools to battle the hellions. For myself who believes narative and game play should be well blended this commits the cardinal sin of game play undermining the themes of the game, which so heavily rely on companionship and trust. In the end Seraphs in battle are little more then signs you call in a battle system that at its core is elemental rock paper scissors.
5) Difficulty: This game is EASY. I’m playing on hard which does give you bonus weapon drops but due to the fact weapon strengthening is so minuscule in the grand scheme of things I doubt that is the reason for my success. No the game is easy there are end game bosses I’ve been able to finish in under 30 seconds because they gave me an elemental weakness to exploit. The only bosses that are a “Challenge” are the artificially empowered ones which have only elemental strengths effectively cutting your damage potential in half. I’m of the mind when you are developing a game that requires you to break a battle system to make a game harder near the end something has gone wrong.
6) Skills: At first when I saw the skill board I thought it would be all sorts of cool. The ability to manage weapon skills to form synergy’s to power up your fighters to unbelievable levels is a customizes dream. Sadly this never happened for a variety of reasons. The first skills are too obtuse you actually never really know what they’re going to do, the same is true of skill synergy. Finally unlike other games skill rarity seems totally random (unless you use another poorly explained system to up the chance of getting a specific skill) making collecting skills for a synergy a craps shoot. In short I said the grind and payoff worked for Zestiria in my initial post - that is not my view now.
7) Technical Performance: I’m playing the PS4 version of the game and I can say with absolute certainty you can tell this was made for the PS3. Compared to other anime style RPGs such as those from Compile Heart like Omega Quintet Zestiria just does not stand up. This is most notable in stage sizes where Zesteria is just smaller, furthermore the animation is oddly jarring at times with frame rate issues being quite noticeable on certain enemies in the field.
It’s a real shame too that with the added power of the PS4 issues like these pop up, however its also possible the issue is present because of the PS4 where these issues exist as my version was a rather quick port. The PC version however from what I have seen of it seems much nicer with longer draw distances, smother lines, and more vivid colours (even though all versions of the game are no slouch in that department). That being said the frame rate is solid when it counts the battles.
Note: This was directly copied and pasted from my initial posting it still remains true and if anything becomes MORE noticeable.
8) Repetition: This game can get very repetitive due to the fact like most modern Tales of games since Graces F it doesn’t have a world map. Instead using the same concept as Xillia you travel in large branching areas to new places. However there is much backtracking as there are only a few towns of any note in the game. Forcing you back to one of three places repeatedly; even more so if you’re doing all side quests as I have. It’s not a deal breaker just it can get annoying especially as you’re forced to pay for quick travel in this game... ya no airships.
9) The Story:
“In every generation there is a Chosen One. They alone will stand against the Hellions, the Beasts, and the forces of Malevolence. They are the Sheppard.
Earth. Fire. Air. Water. Only the Sheppard can master all four elements and bring balance to the world.” Ya... that sums up the plot; seriously that is the plot... also stop me if I’m being to radical but your hero is shunned by being too awesome.
When I wrote that I was joking... I wasn’t wrong though. The story never really moves beyond those cliches which is fine if it has great villains except...
10) The Villains: This hurts me to say as villains are such an important part of any story especially JRPGs however they really barely exist. Honestly for about half the game you have zero clue what is going on except go forth and fight young Sheppard. Once you do meet the big bad instead of being someone awesome and truly world threatening he’s from generic Bad Guys 101...
What is worse is we never really see him be all that bad ass, instead for the majority of the game he just kind of stands around throwing random mooks at the party (which as I’ve said I cut down like a hot knife through butter). What makes things even worse is his subordinates have no presence themselves as they basically all follow the same cycle: Appearance - taunts the party - runs into a dungeon - gets defeated in the dungeon - supposedly emotional/story moving cut scene. The main issue with the villains is how they’re presented as giant world destroying threats but for the majority of the game they’re presented as little more then evil smog...
Conclusions: As you read this I really hope you take a look at my first post as well as they’re kind of two halves to one whole. When I describe Zestiria I say its a game of immense potential which you can see me respoding too in my first post to only be squandered by small but numerous bad choices. Zesteria isn’t the worst Tales of game its only mediocre I’m not angry at it I’m disappointed in it as the game could have been so much more. As it stands its battling Graces F for the 7th spot on my list... Tales of Zesteria is a game that does a lot right and a lot wrong but leaves me hopeful for the future of the franchise.