When Tales of Luminaria was announced during the gamescom 2021 Opening Night presentation, I was skeptical about the release of yet another Tales mobile title. With Tales of Crestoria barely a year old, it seemed like an odd move for Bandai Namco to make. However, Tales of Luminaria seeks to provide a different, more console-like experience from Tales of Crestoria and the now Japan-exclusive Tales of the Rays. That said, it often misses the mark and strays too far off the beaten path to make it an enjoyable experience.
Tales of Luminaria‘s a narrative unfolds through character episodes. These episodes allow for players to experience one oerson’s perspective, which gives insight as to how they view their peers and sometimes concerns itself with the overarching politics of the world. However, the writing is somewhat flat. With character relationships already clearly defined, most of the interactions between the key cast for the individual episodes feels constructed based on a flimsy foundation of ill executed tropes.
Leo Fourcade, the first character that you will experience through via the episodic format, is a bumbling fool with a heart of gold. For a good bulk of your time spent with him, this is how he is presented. His party members will make good-intentioned jabs at him and his lackadaisical nature. It quickly informs the player about his general habits and attitude. However, these little bits of dialogue you get through exploring the episodes (which are laid out through several continuous stages) are front-loaded with exposition. It becomes an exercise in explaining character motivations, goals, and objectives very early on, giving little room for the game to actually breathe. Everything feels rushed and sometimes frantic, especially as Tales of Luminaria strays from the short, mission-focused format of other mobile games.
In Tales of Crestoria a stage would be three battles long. It could easily be taken care of using its auto function. That would last anywhere from fifteen to thirty seconds depending. After that, players would be treated to a short segment where characters would chat in the standard visual novel format older Tales of titles were known for.
In Tales of Luminaria, episodes are cut into longer segments. The first segment of Leo’s episode (which is the first in the game) is sixteen stages long. Now, you can quit these stages and resume them later since there are checkpoints at various points throughout the stage. But it felt like an endless barrage, as opposed to a bite-sized experience that I could easily pick up and put down. It feels like a hybrid console and mobile Tales of title, with none of the aspects of either blending together very well.
Cutscenes are mostly done entirely in 3D, which look decent if you’re running the game on high settings. This will drain your phone battery exponentially, and your device might become hot if you’re not careful. The game looks mostly OK on its medium settings, and jagged on low. Performance for the game is generally fine, and on medium I didn’t experience any major lag. However, the lip syncing doesn’t match up with the English dub.
Unfortunately, one of my biggest grievances with the game is the combat. Players are relegated to navigating the field with the use of a touchscreen, with the camera positioned at a fixed angle. This can cause you to miss items on the field or fumble when attacking enemies if you’re doing the more dangerous multiplayer missions. There is a counter button that you can press to avoid attacks, and it is pretty easy to perform. But players will only ever have access to two skills at any given time, outside of this counter and the standard attack commands. The attacks aren’t necessarily flashy either, unless you’ve rolled something from the gacha banner. The gear you’re given works decently enough in the story, but most of the power progress you’ll make will be through rolls and through the completion of episodes. (And the gacha currency isn’t exactly cheap either.) However, this may change as the game develops.
However, Tales of Luminaria’s greatest weakness has to be its user interface. Maybe I’ve just become used to navigating loads of menus dedicated to specific tasks or features, but this tries to blend all of this together in a completely incoherent UI. While the interface itself is incredibly sleek, it doesn’t function as intended. You cannot check your Daily Missions by holding down on the tab that appears. Scrolling down the front page will randomly intersperse objectives the game wants you to do and character information. There are options to navigate to specific menus, but they’re not laid out in an easy to navigate way. It’s a shame. The UI does look really good, but doesn’t serve its intended purpose.
That said, Tales of Luminaria feels like a half-baked experience. Something experimental that tries to provide the player with the best of both worlds, but oftentimes fails spectacularly. The environments aren’t exactly stand-out, with the exception of players being able to fully explore towns which is a first for their mobile titles. And the character designs are decent enough, but feel lackluster in some departments. Especially when certain characters feel less recognizable due to their color palettes or general design. Hopefully time will make it a better game and a better experience overall. And those already invested in it won’t have to see it go the way of Tales of the Rays. All-in-all, Tales of Luminaria just felt flat.
Tales of Luminaria is available for Android and iOS devices.