Posted October 11, 2015 by Peter in Previews

Hands on – Tales of Zestiria

Tales of Zestiria logo
Tales of Zestiria logo

Released in Japan at the beginning of the year, Tales of Zestiria is due for release in the UK on Friday, giving players here a chance to explore the world created for the Tales of series’ twentieth anniversary. Games Fiends was recently given a chance to take a look for ourselves, getting hands on with the first two hours of content. Here’s what we saw…

Probably one of the greatest understatements to make is “two hours just scratches the surface.” As with other games in the Tales of series, even a hurried run through is likely to take several dozen hours. It was, however, enough time to introduce us to our main character of Sorey, a boy raised by the mystical Seraphim. These beings are invisible to most humans, but to Sorey are his adopted family and friends – the Seraphim Mikleo is your party member from the start of the game, and whose reserved personality counters Sorey’s enthusiasm for pretty much everything he does.

Sorey’s greatest passion, at least initially, is of the tale of the Shepherd, a near-mythical saviour figure whose ability to interact with the Seraphim gave them the power to deal with crises in the past. And yes, this ability describes Sorey himself, meaning his destiny is written pretty boldly for the player even if not for the character to begin with.
Tales of Zestiria screen
In contrast, the world is falling foul of Hellions, corrupted humans and beasts who appear normal to most but are visibly changed to those with a supernatural connection (one well played segment early in the game has Sorey wandering through a town and seeing people twisted by greed and anger as both normal and monstrous). Only the Shepard has the power to properly deal with the threat of the Hellions, although battles with them occur from almost the outset.

Combat retains the real-time approach of the series, with you moving and attacking while dodging or blocking the enemy’s retaliation. Attacks are sub-categorised as various “artes”, specifically martial, hidden and Seraph, which carry a rock-paper-scissors approach to overcoming each other. Some of these also carry elemental effects, which can add another layer to your strategy – taking a moment to analyse an opponent can show you if they are aligned to an element you can effect with an opposing skill type.

You cannot just spam moves on the enemies though, as they can also block or counter you; and if that wasn’t enough, everybody is managing a limited pool of action points, which are topped up when blocking attacks.
Tales of Zestiria screen
There are clearly a lot of nuances to learn in combat – by the end of the two hours the game was still introducing new techniques, and the strategy of early battles (basically, mashing the attack button for easy combos) already felt archaic thanks to a range of techniques and lessons in dodging.

It’s also worth mentioning a change from previous Tales of games; battles now happen where they are triggered. That is to say, when combat starts it doesn’t take the two groups into a temporary instance. Instead, whatever terrain you’re in is used – if you attack a wolf on a hill near a stream, then the wolf’s party will be on a hill near a stream in combat. However, borders are defined for movement, so you cannot trigger combat and then kite the enemy across the whole continent but must resolve it within the limits of the combat field.

As you explore the world – largely a bright and colourful place, depicted in 3D but styled to look cel shaded – you will discover secrets… or as in the session played, see secrets you cannot yet access. There is a motley crew of supporters you will be able to recruit, both human and Seraphim, who will be able to support you in battle, help guide the plot, and some of whom have abilities to aid where you can wander.
Tales of Zestiria screen
Skits also make a return, little pieces of extra conversation between characters that can be optionally triggered after reaching certain areas or events. These show the characters speaking with a minimal amount of animation – it’s more akin to a couple of panels in a manga – but add to both the player’s knowledge of the world, and flesh out the personalities of the characters.

Several pieces of DLC were available for the Japanese original, and have been announced for this release. These range from Alisha’s Story, a side story focusing on a significant character in the main game (which has also been announced as free to download from launch until the 18th November), to costume packs and additional skits… if there weren’t enough to find in the original release.

Tales of Zestiria‘s release in Japan was met positively, the series’ torch being carried with the game marking its anniversary. If exploring this world appeals – and if you’re a fan of JRPGs there should be a great deal here to appeal to you – be prepared to spend more than a fair few hours here (one completionist run I saw described online took over 200 hours, although the main story can be run in significantly less).

Tales of Zestiria is available in the UK from Friday 16th (release in North America is Tuesday 20th), and will be available for the PS3, PS4 and PC via Steam.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.