I played my first Tales game, Tales of Vesperia, almost a year ago, when my country went into lockdown because of the pandemic.
Although I struggled with the combat and found the game pretty outdated in certain areas, I still enjoyed many of its aspects, especially its main cast of characters, which probably puts Vesperia in my top ten video game casts.
So, upon stumbling across Tales of Zestiria in a store I, naturally, had to buy it.
Going in, I knew that Zestiria was considered to be one of the weakest games in the series but, wow, is this game a bit of a mess.
Honestly, when I started planning this review it was initially going to be a positive one but, just like my The Rise of Skywalker review, I came up with so many negatives that I couldn’t justify giving this a positive review.
That’s not to say there aren’t good things about Zestiria because there certainly are but the bad and mediocre do outweigh that good here.
Developed by Bandai Namco, and directed by Yuuta Hase and Mari Miyata, Tales of Zestiria is set in the mythical land of Glenwood, where mystical beings known as Seraphim but cannot be seen by human, except for a mere few who have the resonance to do so.
However, a dark force produced by humans, known as Manevolence, threatens both them and the Seraphim, turning them into monsters known as Hellions.
This is where the Shepherd comes in, the mythica hero capable of seeing Seraphim and purifying the Hellions.
Our hero is Sorey (Robbie Daymond, English Dub), the next Shepherd who, along with his close friend and Seraphim Mikleo (Michael Johnston), sets out to purify the world of Manevolence and stop the evil Lord of Calamity who controls the Hellions.
The first thing I will say about Zestiria’s story is that it is incredibly generic, with not much of a driving force.
It’s a typical good guys vs bad guys story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for so long it feels like the characters are just wandering around with no clear direction.
Granted, Vesperia had a pretty generic story as well but what it did have in its favor was a clear direction, helped by a fantastic set of characters.
In comparison, Zestiria’s characters are pretty boring and have little to no character development.
Sorey is a hero who is always saved from making the hard choices, Mikleo probably has the most striking lack of character development considering what he learns about his past, Alisha (Alexis Tipton) was completely wasted, Lailah (Carrie Keranen) is pretty annoying and hides crucial information for dramatic effect, and I found Dezel’s (Chris Nioso) story to be pretty problematic with his abrupt “redemption.”
I at least liked Rose (Caitlin Glass) and Zaveid (Ian Sinclair) but, again, they have little to no character development.
The one member of the main party who I found to be a great character was Edna (Kira Buckland) who, even though she didn’t have a lot of development, is just hilarious and her presence alone makes the boring characters interesting for at least a couple of scenes.
Then there’s the main villain, The Lord of Calamity, Heldaf (Patrick Seitz), who is also incredibly boring but at least has the benefit of a backstory, which made him slightly more interesting than boring.
Speaking of that backstory, though, having to collect all of the Earthen Historia to find out his past and actually progress the game was such a chore.
With that, I now have to get into the gameplay, which, oh, boy, is also a big mess.
I said in my review of Vesperia that I struggled with its mechanics because I was new to the series and Zestiria really did not help this with how needlessly complicated its leveling up and attack system is.
It often left me scratching my head about what exactly I was supposed to do and, even after completing the game, I’m not entirely sure.
Still, I did like the Armitization parts of the gameplay, although I can see some people’s complaints about how they limit your choices in combat, with the player being forced to keep Sorey and Rose in combat.
I also found the final boss to be pretty rewarding in terms of difficulty, so there was that.
I’m just glad we got to fight it an open area and not an inclosed one, since I never would have beaten the final boss if that happened because the camera is really bad in Zestiria.
Seriously, whenever I entered a dungeon and I had to fight an enemy in a tight corridor, the camera would constantly get stuck and I would have no idea what was happening, more often than not resulting in the party’s inevitable death.
So, overall, Tales of Zestiria is quite a mess.
There’s certainly good things, like some of the character interactions, mostly due to Edna, and I found some bits of combat, like Armitization and the final boss, to be rewarding.
However, the story is extremely generic and has no drive for a while, the characters are mostly boring and have no development, and the gameplay is needlessly complicated with a horrible camera in tight spaces.
At least this game resulted in Tales of Berseria, which I just finished and cannot wait to review because I loved it.
As for Zestiria, though, in my opinion, there’s no better word to describe it than a “mess.”