Friday, January 29, 2016

Tales of Zestiria, An Adventure That Was Just Okay

Among my backlog of games, I chose Tales of Zestiria as the next one to play. I like the Tales series and have liked them since the beginning so I was looking forward to playing this one. I'm starting in easy when I say this, because while I did like the game there were some issues and one of them in particular really set me off because it was a pretty underhanded thing to do. So let's get started.

Tales of Zestiria opens with an introduction to the main character Sorey who is Human and his friend Mikleo who is a Seraph; an angelic being exploring an ancient ruin. This gives you an introduction to the battle system controls and the items menu. The open world feel of the game is stunning and the art work is beautiful with bright colors, a variety of creatures, and lots of places to explore.

Sorey and Mikleo exploring.

The combat system is well done especially with a technique known as Armitization which lets Sorey fuse with any Seraph partnering with him like Mikleo in order to do powerful combo chained attacks which lead to some gorgeous over the top anime style cut scenes for some of them.  It actually makes the fights fun and there's plenty of customization choices giving you endless possibilities with your combat style preferences. 

Armitization comes in handy when fighting a dragon. 

The story's concept about the strength of people's convictions and the depths of their passion is interesting, but there isn't enough of a spark to really get you invested in it. Some of the characters are great and you do like them and their interactions with each other like the powerful friendship between Sorey and Mikleo. The other characters however, lack a certain something and it feels uneven somehow. I also didn't understand why the game would introduce a character only to have them leave before the story has fully begun. Then there is a character death that happens as part of the story, yet it felt empty and like it was just an excuse to get rid of them so they could insert another character with the same abilities. There are the usual skits that are in the Tales games and those offer a bit of lighthearted humor that are needed from some of the darker aspects of the story. The pacing is uneven towards the end and when it disables the teleportation so you can't fast travel and you have to run very long distances or try to work around that, it becomes a bit frustrating. 

A Tales skit with Sorey and Mikleo.

Another thing that can become tedious is constantly having to fight monsters. Sometimes when you want to explore or you've cleared a dungeon the monsters reappear quickly which is great for level grinding, but after a while it  feels like you're fighting every two minutes. Luckily that's when a holy bottle comes in handy since it makes the monsters disappear for a brief bit of time. 

Battling monsters in a dungeon.

There are plenty of side quests to do as well as optional bosses that offer a challenge for you and your party members. If a fight gets too hard, you do have the choice of turning down the difficulty level to simple which is convenient. I just wish the story had been a bit more memorable. While it doesn't deviate from the usual Tales formula; the story could have been a lot stronger. It starts off pretty strong, but by the second half of the story it feels weak and falls a little flat. 

The game is beautiful with the the designs.

Now, we come to the big thing about the game that made me incredibly irritated. I take a lot of screenshots for my Mother Gamer blog posts so I can pick and choose which ones I want to use. When I tried to take screenshots of my Tales of Zestiria game, I got a message saying I couldn't take a screenshot. I thought that was odd, but then I received the same message when I tried to use shareplay or tried to record video. I looked it up because I thought that was very strange and found that a lot of people had the same issue. Here's the why. Apparently, a few gamers asked Bandai Namco directly on Twitter about it and the response was the entire game was blocked because of licensing issues and that seemed to be the only reason. Look, I get it. Licensing in Japan can be a royal pain in the ass to handle and deal with. That I understand. What I don't understand is blocking the ENTIRE damn game so no one can take screenshots or video. Yes, it was because they had several costumes from a variety of anime titles such as Evangelion and Godeater so I understand not wanting to get in trouble and that was their work around. However, they could have just blocked those and let people take screenshots. I also think it's pretty damn underhanded to release a game and not mention at all that the game's shareplay and screenshots function will be blocked until you get a ton of gamers demanding to know what's going on. Was it a big deal? No, not really. I worked around it and took photos with my phone for the blog post. My issue was the level of dishonesty. If they had just said something from the start about it, I think people would have gone a little easier on them about it. 

Overall, Tales of Zestiria isn't a terrible game in the Tales series. It's got solid combat, some likable characters, and a beautiful open world exploration aspect going for it. It's a solid game, but not a great one. It's good for one play through and it's an adventure that is just okay. 

Note: Tales of Zestiria is playable on the PS3 and the PS4

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