The battle system in Tales of Zestiria feels like one of the biggest changes in Tales games for a while. While Tales of Graces F lent on the more technical side and Tales of Xillia was on the simpler side, they were both fairly fast paced systems. Tales of Zestiria feels slower and requires more thought and planning in battle instead of just spamming your most powerful artes. There’s three types of artes in Zestiria: Martial, Hidden and Seraphic. These artes function in a rock, paper, scissors type system. Hidden artes can interrupt martial artes, martial artes can interrupt seraphic artes and seraphic artes can interrupt hidden artes. If you attack an enemy with the wrong type of arte, you’ll be the one who’s interrupted, leaving you vulnerable to the enemies attacks. As things progress, Sorey can eventually armitize with seraphim party members, fusing with them and becoming much more powerful. This changes Sorey’s appearance and the artes he can perform, such as being able to perform seraphic artes. This also allows him to perform a burst arte using the R2 button.
In past games, the right stick was used as additional set of shortcuts for your artes but this has now been replaced with orders you can issue to your party. Pushing up tells the party to charge and pushing down tells them to defend. Push right and the party will attack your enemy and pushing left will tell the party to spread out and attack. While I always found the right stick shortcuts very handy in past games, I can understand why the switch was made. From what I played, I feel there’s less emphasis on chaining artes together and instead on building up your combos. As you’re exploring the world Tales of Zestiria has to offer, you’ll notice monoliths dotted around. These monoliths provide a sort of mini tutorial detailing specific aspects of the systems in place in Zestiria. Each one you read gives you additional AP to use in battle actions. Battle Actions are essentially the skill system that is in Xillia. Each battle actions requires a certain amount of AP and the actions themselves include Auto Guard and Auto Backstep (though there is a limit of five uses in one battle on each of these).
In Xillia, as you were travelling around the map, every time you interacted with something be it a chest or a resource point, it became marked on your map which for those who like to keep track of where they have and haven’t been was a feature I really appreciated. Tales of Zestiria does things a little differently however. Your party has a set of support talents and each character has their own set of what they can and can’t do. Sorey for example, by default, has point of interest detection set. So when wondering around the map, Sorey will point out and mark certain things on the map (usually Monoliths) but other skills include chest detection, recover health and prepare snacks.
Tales of Zestiria is part of the Tales Of 20th Anniversary and it certainly feels a title that celebrates what has made the series so popular. The gameplay upgrades such as the seamless cutscenes and battles feel like a good foundation for future games and I do hope Tales of Berseria builds on what Zestiria has to offer. While the gameplay feels much more modern, the setting and lore feel like they’ve come straight from earlier Tales games featuring a more traditional fantasy look.