Tales of Zestiria is the newest instalment in Bandai-Namco’s Tales series of games. An evil called Malevolence has spread across the world, corrupting mankind and nature. The only one who can stop it is the Shepherd: a hero with the power to see spirits of nature (called Seraphim or ‘Seraphs’) who will guide humanity through their darkest times. Unfortunately for humanity this Shepherd has been up on a mountain, hunting goats and exploring ruins. You play as Sorey, the young Shepherd raised by Seraphim, on his quest to vanquish the Lord of Calamity from whom the Malevolence grows.
Now, with the grandiose exposition out of the way, the honest truth about the overall storyline is that it’s rather mediocre. Go here, do that, kill this boss; it’s nothing revolutionary and it’s been done better in other games. Standard fare for an RPG.
However, what the story may lack, the world itself makes up for with gorgeous environments befitting the first Tales for the next generation. What got me through the slow pace of the beginning and the hand-holding tutorials was just getting to explore the world around me – gazing off into the distance at the stunning medieval city of Ladylake, or the rolling hills high above the clouds in Elysium. In addition, the dungeons, while simplistic, offer an interesting way to pace the player and develop character plots.
While it is true that the overall story is nothing to be amazed by, the plots revolving around your party I found to be quite entertaining, particularly some of the characters who later join you. While they could easily be cast off as stereotypical two-dimensional characters, I feel they’ve got more to offer, through the realistic perspectives and opinions, as well as certain situations and the quirks that appear through cut scenes and the traditional Tales skits (bonus side conversations between characters) which helps endear their personalities.
I would consider this a very accessible game to all levels of player. There’s a normal difficulty setting for the standard playing experience, and then there’s hard, “evil”, and “chaos” for players far better than I. There is also a simple mode for those who just want to see the story and experience the characters and their world. The combat may be easy at first, but when it comes to bosses, the fights can offer a genuine challenge. The customisation system for equipment is also very developed, if a little intimidating, offering a huge combination of skills and bonuses which players can take advantage of with some thought.
For some time now, JRPGs have been rather underrepresented on Steam with regards to big releases compared to other genres. Over the past year Square Enix have been making steps to port the Final Fantasy classics to PC but Tales of Zestiria is the first traditional JRPG to be released on PC alongside consoles. I for one am hoping this is a sign of good things to come, having enjoyed my time with the game – despite its shortcomings.