This week, I got to spend some time with Tales of Zestiria during Bandai Namco’s pre-Tokyo Game Show event. The playable battle demo put Sorey on an island populated with monsters like wolves and pixies.
The biggest change in Tales of Zestiria compared to previous Tales game is that battles take place right on the field when you touch an enemy. Instead of cutting into a battle scene, Tales of Zestiria uses the map as the battlefield, which means any objects like trees or hills from the map become obstacles in battle.
Once you cross blades (or tentacles with the land octopus enemy), Sorey plays like your typical sword-wielding Tales protagonist. Pressing Circle makes Sorey swing his weapon, and the X button along with a direction triggers different arcane Artes. Tales of Zestiria doesn’t have a TP meter like Tales of Xillia. Arcane Artes consume a little bit of the Spirit Gauge each time you use an attack. This gauge recovers on its own so while you can do a burst of arte attacks, you’ll have to wait for a little bit before using Artes again.
Sorey is paired with a Seraph who represents an element, such as Mikleo. If you play as Mikleo, you can use ranged magic attacks, but while you’re casting you’re vulnerable to attacks. Mikleo, who can make water arrows rain from the sky, needs to be protected—or at the very least far enough that a rampaging squirrel (squirrels are really enemies in Zestiria)—won’t hit you and interrupt casting the spell. Sorey can also use Armatization to fuse with a Seraph. Fusing with Mikleo gives Sorey a bow and long range water attacks. Sorey gets an HP boost too and his attacks hurt more, but the tradeoff is Mikleo isn’t on the battlefield when you’re transformed, so there’s one less character to sponge up damage.
It seems like exploiting elemental weaknesses (fire, water, earth, and wind) is more important in Tales of Zestiria than other Tales titles. The game lets you know right away if an element is effective by changing the damage color to red and saying an enemy is weak against it. Tales of Zestiria also lets players know if an enemy is resistant to attacks, which means you might want to switch Seraphs.
The battlefield demo had a giant boar-like enemy that kind of acted as a “boss.” The boar was the strongest enemy I saw and aside from being larger in size it roamed around the field just like any regular monster. What made the boar tough to beat is it soaked up damage and was resistant to Sorey and Mikleo’s fusion. I managed to defeat the boar by chipping away at it’s life bar, but this was the only fight that was a challenge. Sorey seemed to dominate every other battle in the demo.
Something else to note is that Sorey also has elemental map actions. Pressing up on the D-pad made Sorey do an uppercut that makes fire rise from the ground, which can be used in dungeons to light up torches. Pressing down does an earth-powered charge punch, which is useful for moving boulders that are blocking the path. Left makes a water shield appear and makes enemies notice Sorey less in the field. Finally, pressing right does a short wind-based teleport to reach areas that are a little distance away.
Tales of Zestiria started development three years ago, producer Hideo Baba said, and he planned to release it for the console with the biggest user base in Japan, the PlayStation 3. He also said he was surprised at how rapidly people upgraded to PlayStation 4, especially in the West, but did not say there were plans for a PlayStation 4 version.
Tales of Zestiria comes out on January 22, 2015 in Japan and will be released in the West afterwards.