Tales of Zestiria (Not A Review)

I feel like I should explain why I thought Tales of Zestiria was a disappointment. I'd like to get that out of the way so you can understand where I'm coming from for when I get my review for Berseria up.

Firstly, full disclosure, Tales of Zestiria was my first ever Tales game. I know, I know. It's a disgrace for a JRPG fan to have not played the Tales series but I have good reasons. I was never in a position to afford all the games last time and consoles and when I got my PS3, I was still very withdrawn from the internet. I only began picking up the cyber culture when I was getting into college and then to university and at that stage, I was studying abroad. I never brought my PS3 with me and because of my ignorance, I've never actually known when games would come out. All in all, I was too late to the party as the PS4 was in its prime and the PS3 was but a 'previous gen'.

Of course, that shouldn't stop me from playing, for example, Tales of Xillia but I only just got back a few months ago and the games for the PS4 kept piling on. And if they didn't, work did. It's problematic and considering I've already read about it, I guess I could get by without having actually touched it. I did, however, manage to complete Tales of Hearts R while still abroad thanks to my friend lending me his PS Vita. I could write about that game too but that will not be anytime soon.

Anyways, I've digressed quite a bit. When Zestiria was about to be released for the PS4 in English, I was ready for it. I was incredibly excited and, knowing only details about the Tales series, I couldn't wait to get into the whole experience of playing it. You can tell that that was the first mistake. I didn't exactly know what I was getting into. I blew up this expectation in my head and the reality was quite a bit different.

Don't get me wrong. Zestiria is a good game. It was fun. It was just disappointing. Much like FFXV. Great game but disappointing.

Zestiria's first few hours was a foreshadowing of what was to come. It was foreshadowing that it had great music, great atmosphere and a fun combat system. Unfortunately, it was also foreshadowing a headache of a plot, odd animation choices and a questionable character progression system.

Plot in JRPGs, more often than not, love to involve some sort of political struggle. Zestiria is no different but they handled it badly, Nothing was explained properly and emotional cues were made via body language which, surprise surprise, came out stale and uninteresting. And I just mentioned the political struggle. I didn't even mention the main villain. His story is just as convoluted and needless. They couldn't tell a straightforward story because they wanted you to feel sorry for the villain. I get it. The theme of right and wrong is indeed very much grey. But boy did they struggle getting me to understand that.

Contributing to this problem is the fact that only Edna, Lailah and Alisha were fun, interesting characters and they even wrote one out of the story! Rose was the annoying, abrasive character who I wanted to shut up towards the end of the game. Dezel supposedly had a backstory which was explained horribly and he ended up becoming a one-dimensional character. Zaveid was likeable but too confusing (explained poorly) to like. Mikleo for Sorey is like Mikasa for Eren. Finally, Sorey himself is a cookie-cutter of a main hero and honestly, aside from being historically smart, was not a very different main character. Being too generic is not always a great idea.

Due to these glaring issues with plot and character, even some of the skits fell a little short. The skits! The fun bits that get you to laugh along with the characters and add layers to their development! What an unfortunate misfire.

Combat, as I said, was fun. It was an action-based system. I wasn't really expecting that for a JRPG but it was still enjoyable. The progression system was the mistake here. I don't even want to explain how it works. It's basically a grind fest to get stronger. And no, not grind mobs to level up. Grind mobs to get item drops with specific skills (sometimes you need to get multiple specific skills on the same item!) that are all determined through RNG! You have a system to aid your RNG but that doesn't make it any less annoying and stupid. Really, this is NOT a good game design. Never let your progression be determined through RNG.

And...that is about it. Those are the reasons why Zestiria was disappointing. The music was incredible and I really love Edna but those weren't enough reasons to justify this game as being a good Tales game. Also, while the graphics was certainly far from pleasing, it was decent enough to ignore it. The art was still beautiful regardless.

Edna is best girl


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