Recent Tales games have been fairly good in the respect of letting the player dictate how they want to play, which is always a welcome feature in a fifty hour RPG. There’s the things you’ve come to expect like choosing your difficulty level, you can change it at any time and it goes both ways so you can make the game harder or easier as you see fit. Tales of Zestiria also comes across as being very self aware about its battle system being a slower and more technical one compared to others in the series. Dotted around the map are monoliths that once accessed, will drip feed you battle advice and will steadily explain the game’s mechanics. Zestiria also allows you to customize your party with battle actions and equipment skills which used together, replace the skill system of previous titles. The battle actions enable some extra abilities to use in battle, some of the effects are passive and some you have to activate yourself.
If you’re struggling to cope with the battle system, there’s a small selection of auto actions suited to help you, such as Auto Guard or Auto Sidestep. They’ll work up to five times in one battle automatically, at the cost of halving your battle grade. This also lets you see how they’re used in battle and can help you learn some of the timings of when to dodge, guard and so forth. If you want more of a challenge, some battle actions can only be unlocked by playing the game on the harder difficulties. Some of the battle actions are pretty essential such as Aerial Recovery which lets you land on your feet after being knocked back in battle. Another I found helpful was Free & Free which sets free run as the default movement option in battle. To me, it made more sense given the way battles take place now.
While still in the early areas of the game, you’ll be introduced to the Normin. There’s 50 of these little guys dotted around the game for you to find and collect. Each Normin is named after an equipment skill and when you find one, you can choose which piece of equipment you want their skill added to. After that, they await you to assign them to a Lord of the Land so enemies are more likely to drop equipment with their skill already attached. In Tales of Zestiria, the skills your equipment have can be stacked or grouped together to further improve that skill’s benefits. Also, you’ll find that you’ll earn lots of equipment just from regular battles and the purpose of this is all down to the fact Zestiria lets you fuse together your equipment to create more powerful versions.
Now when you first see this big 5 x 10 equipment skills grid, it can be a little overwhelming thinking about how you should be planning out your skills to maximize the benefits. While I’m simplifying it here, basically the skills attached to every piece of your equipment will have a place in this grid. If you have equipment with the same skill, they will stack and give you an additional bonus skill. The more of the same skill you have stacked, the more substantial the final effect will be. Next, if you’ve two more skills lined up horizontally, you’ll also get a bonus skill. Now each horizontal line has an element assigned to it and your bonus skill will be an additional resistance to that particular element.
There’s a similar bonus for lining them up virtually though it requires you to fill the line completely with all five skills. Instead of having an element assigned to it, each vertical line has a battle category such as Status, HP or SC and your bonus skill boosts that parameter. Now I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to gain the bonuses as more often than not, you’ll gain them without really trying. I even managed to get one of the vertical bonuses just by trying out different equipment randomly and once you earn them, it makes more of aware of their benefits and you’ll be more inclined to get even more skill boosts.