Tales of Arise, the latest entry in Bandai Namco’s long-running series of games about spiky haired boys who scream “You bastard!!!” and then stab an evil dude, is a notable deviation from established formula. Rather than an action-oriented RPG, as you may expect by now, this one’s more of an RPG-oriented action game. Yeah. Big changes afoot.
But Tales of Arise is still thoroughly a Tales game, with all the weird costumes and cheesy jokes about food that implies. Here’s how to navigate this brave, new, different-but-only-kinda world.
This might sound counterintuitive, but winning battles in Tales of Arise isn’t a matter of dealing as much damage as possible, as fast as possible. You’ll fare better by filling up a nameless gauge—indicated by a diamond-shaped icon hovering over the foe you’re currently targeting—by landing concurrent attacks in quick succession. Once the gauge is full, you can press any direction on the D-pad to have a party member perform what’s called a boost strike, which will take out any rank-and-file monster in one hit. Bonus: Boost strikes never stop looking totally kickass:
The boost gauge is easier to fill up as an enemy’s health dips. There’s no hard threshold, but if an enemy has less than half its health remaining, you can typically fill it up with one solid combo. Also, alternating Artes (Tales lingo for “special attacks”), as opposed to using the same one over and over, tends to expedite things.
Tales of Arise features both boost attacks and boost strikes. It can get confusing. Boost attacks are a bit weaker; they won’t kill anyone in one hit, but they will impart unique effects. Alphen’s is pretty standard (it knocks an enemy over), but the other five have effects that can usually stop an enemy in its tracks.
- Use Rinwell’s when you see an enemy readying a spell, indicated by a circular gauge that slowly grows more and more purple.
- Use Kisara’s when you see an enemy running toward you really fast.
- Use Dohalim’s when a fast-moving enemy is standing still for a damn second. That’ll slow down their movement.
- Use Law’s against people wearing armor.
- Use Shionne’s against airborne enemies.
In the lower-left hand corner of the screen, you’ll see a diamond-shaped icon for each of your party members. Those icons slowly fill up over time. When one starts glowing, you can activate that party member’s boost attack by tapping the D-pad in the corresponding direction.
The good news is that typically doesn’t happen unless it’s on the brink of death, though.
If you see an enemy glowing gold, they’ll have more health than usual. Be wary.
Tales of Arise blows up established formula in one huge way: Your Artes no longer require MP, a reserve that doesn’t automatically refill between battles. In fact, MP doesn’t even exist in Tales of Arise. Instead, your Artes—even the most powerful spell in your moveset—are dictated by AG, which restores in the middle of battle, usually within seconds. In other words, yes, you can use Demon Fang 117 times in one battle without any ramifications for the next one.
Artes are better than standard attacks in just about every way. They fill up an enemy’s boost gauge faster. They deal more damage. And sometimes, they come with elemental effects that deal even more damage. Don’t have any reservations about spamming them to hell.
Holding down L1 pauses time and allows you to cycle through the enemies on the battlefield. In the upper-left hand corner, you can see how much health they have left and, crucially, what element they are, if any. There are six elements in Tales of Arise, matched off in pairings of mutually assured destruction, where each type deals double damage to its opposite. Fire beats water (and vice versa). Wind beats earth (and vice versa). Dark beats light (and vice versa).
Despite the simple elemental match-up, your party members are incapable of grasping the core concepts. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to turn off any spells that an enemy would be resistant to. Just pause the battle, go to the Artes menu, scroll through the list of Rinwell’s Artes (it’s always Rinwell who fucks up), and press Square when you see spells listed with—if, for example, you’re fighting a bunch of birds—the green wind icon.
You likely won’t need to do this in standard battles, but it’s enormously helpful for boss fights.
If you’ve played a Tales game before, you may laugh at this, but orange gels are bar none the most valuable item in the game. Though combat Artes can be used with abandon, healing spells (like the extremely helpful Fairy Circle) and buffs (like Barrier, which temporarily raises an ally’s defensive stats) have finite use. Both of those will eat away at your cure points, a well that’s shared among your party.
Cure points don’t reup between battles. To restore your cure points, you can either rest at a camp, inn, or healing light (giant glowing circle on the ground). Or you can use an orange gel. And for the first 20 hours or so, you can’t buy orange gels in shops. Use sparingly.
It’s rule number one of JRPGs: If the quest marker tells you to take a right at the fork, go left. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find an item that was worth the trek and intermittent battles. Perhaps even an orange gel!
On a similar note, while you’re exploring dungeons, you’ll come across obstacles—a boulder, a wall of ice, a green force field—blocking your path. You can expend some cure points to tear these down. Again, nine times out of ten, doing so will lead you to an item that’s well worth the cost. But if you’re on the fence, you could always just save before burning the cure points, knock down the wall, and reload the file if you don’t think the spoils were indeed worth it.
Tales of Arise’s skill tree is a bit different than your typical RPG skill tree. By completing certain actions—like cooking a specific meal or meeting 80 percent of the owls, a thing we’ll get to in just a sec—you’ll earn new titles for your characters. Every time a character earns a new title, they’ll get a new branch on their skill tree. Every branch has five skills associated with it. Unlocking all five (first one’s free) will give that character a permanent stat increase.
Once you unlock a tree’s second skill, see that tree through to completion. The stat boost is far more helpful than any singular skill is.
The KO Prevention skill is debatably the most helpful passive ability in the game. Once per battle, if an enemy attack would take out one of your party members, that character will survive with 1HP left, helping you preserve life bottles and cure points. (Revival spells cost more than plain healing spells.) Different party members will open up a pathway to KO Prevention at different points in the game. You should get it for everyone as soon as you can.
Some bullshit: Those who picked up the game’s more expensive non-standard editions can fast-track this process.
Rinwell, the requisite mage character, is constantly accompanied by an owl pal named Hootle, who has its own dramatic tale of woe. See, Hootle wants to find its missing owl friends, who are all lost around Tales of Arise’s world (and all wearing high-fashion flair to boot). Finding most of the owls will unlock a new skill tree for Rinwell, so it’s worth keeping an eye out. Some tips:
- If Hootle pops over your shoulder right when you enter a new area, that doesn’t mean you’re in close proximity to an owl. It just means there’s one in that area.
- If Hootle pops over your shoulder while you’re walking around, though, you’re probably near one.
- Listen for the hoot-hoot-hoots.
- Look up.
In the game’s second area, you’ll stumble upon the mythical “owl forest.” The owl king and queen, thankful for your services sending lost owls back to their rightful home, will gift you cosmetic options at various intervals. If Rinwell says something, like, “Maybe something’s going on in the forest,” that’s your cue to head over there.
You can then resell them for a pretty penny, and you might be tempted to do so once those sweet, sweet orange gels are available for purchase. Don’t. You’ll need to keep those weapons on-hand to higher-powered versions down the line. The game won’t tell you these versions exist until, probably, you’ve already sold the base versions
There’s no armor crafting in Tales of Arise. Once you’re done with a particular suit of armor, feel free to burn it for cash.
Trust me. You’ll know it when you see it. The ladder isn’t quite as bad as that in Metal Gear Solid 3, but it’s still a looong way up.
Tales of Arise is—and this isn’t an exaggeration—roughly 60 percent chitchat. If you, like me, are impatient and just wanna get right to the punching, know that you can skip scenes. Just hold down R1 (on PlayStation) and press X.
Pressing X by itself simply skips the current line of dialogue, which is a good way to advance quickly through the, um, less-interesting scenes. Note, however, that you can’t do so in plot-critical cutscenes.