The Tales series of RPGs has long been known for starring a compelling cast of main characters. In that regard, the latest entry, last week’s Tales of Arise, doesn’t disappoint. All six party members are deeply fleshed-out, fascinating people. And like those of every previous entry, they’re all also flawed.
You know who’s flawless? This cat.
Spoilers follow for Tales of Arise’s third major section, which takes place roughly 15 hours, or 6.2 percent, into the game.
Sure, the cat, whose name is Zareh, isn’t technically part of your party. She shows up halfway through the Elde Menancia section in Tales of Arise. (You might remember Elde Menancia from our preview that ran earlier this summer.) But I’d argue she’s the most helpful NPC in the game. Not only does Zareh successfully complete the mission of Not Dying—a tall order for NPCs in Tales of Arise—she’s also an integral character in moving the plot forward.
At the nadir of the Menancia act, Dohalim, the region’s lord (eventually one of your party members), essentially tells you to get the heck out of his town, and sends your party to an inn for the night. In the middle of a conversation about trying to figure out what it all means, a cat shows up. It meows.
Protagonist Alphen, in an act of objectively idiotic naïveté, immediately assumes the cat’s trying to lead the party somewhere. (C’mon. If a cat approaches you IRL, it wants one of two things: food or more food.) Requisite hot-headed party member Law, in an even more objectively naïve move, chases after her without hesitation.
The chase takes you through one of the most architecturally ridiculously dungeons in Tales of Arise—a sprawling network of precarious ladders and pathways that zigzag through the canopy of a forest full of trees taller than California’s redwoods. At the end, you fight a monster the size of a building. You might get the notion that Zareh set you up. You might think the whole endeavor was, in hindsight, perhaps a mistake. After all, how can a cat climb a ladder? How can a cat fight hordes of monsters?
Instead, the whole thing was a clandestine plot, designed to connect you with Menancia’s underground rebel organization, the Gold Dust Cats. That meeting puts events in motion that unveil one of the game’s big twists, scores you two new party members, and thrusts Tales of Arise out of a narrative standstill. All because of a cat.
“It was a shot in the dark, but fortunately you recognized her for what she was,” Zareh’s human says, when you eventually get to where you’re going. “Zareh accomplished her mission with flying colors.”
Now, if only I could figure out how Tales of Arise’s frustrating fishing mini-game works so I can catch some salmon for Zareh. She’s looking at me.