Since Bandai Namco’s Tales of localisation revival started back in 2012 with Tales of Graces F, they’ve quickly caught up with the Japanese releases and now we’re seeing an English Tales release less than 12 months after the Japanese one. Tales of Zestiria has been promoted as celebration of the 20th anniversary of Tales while also being a release that pushes the series forward technically. From the demo I recently played, I feel so far that Zestiria achieves both of those things.
The biggest thing I took away from the demo is how much this felt like an open-world game. While you could describe Tales of Xillia’s maps as a set of glorified corridors, the maps in Zestiria are expansive and the edges of the map aren’t in plain sight. Another big change is the introduction of seamless transitions in battle and in cutscenes. While they might sound simple, they go a long way in making the game seem more modern. They almost make the results screen skits seem a bit obsolete since you jump straight into battle but then have a transition exiting it.
The transitions also introduce a change that might seem a bit strange for longtime Tales fans. Battles traditionally have taken place on set plains, with the camera placed a fair distance back so you could keep an eye on other things going on in the battle. The combat in Zestiria feels much more like close combat with the camera generally focused behind Sorey.
It’s also, as far as I’m aware, the first time the ‘default’ character has a large amount of a magic attacks in addition to their physical attacks. Unfortunately, the demo didn’t go into the specifics of what was new or different in the battle system but it reminded me most of the system implemented in Graces F. The most obvious addition was the ability to “armatize” with other characters. When I died in battle, I was able to revive myself by fusing with another character, making Sorey significantly more powerful. Different characters correspond to different elements, each having their own set of moves.
Visually, the characters and environments seem more detailed and complex than they have in previous games. The open world is detailed but feels sparse with enemies and you can see them fade in as you travel through the lands. The skits which Tales is known for seem more context aware as you’ll see something in the map that some of the other characters will comment on. It also uses the full body portraits for skits instead of the head profiles used in Xillia,which I feel is a big improvement.
So far, I’m impressed by Zestiria. I’m a big fan of the more ‘traditional’ setting and designs of the characters—they feel as if they were characters created in the PS1 era, but given a bit of modern polish and colour. I still need some time to adjust to the new battle system, but everything I’ve played so far seems very promising.