Bandai Namco’s Tales of series has been around for a long, long time, but it’s taking probably it’s biggest step forward to date with the upcoming Tales of Arise. Developed on a new engine, promising revamped combat, higher production values, and more, the upcoming action RPG is looking to widen the series’ audience more than ever before, and what’s been shown of the game so far certainly looks quite exciting. We recently had the chance to reach out to its developers with some of our most burning questions about the game, and learned quite a bit in the process. Below, you can read our conversation with Yusuke Tomizawa, producer on Tales of Arise and the Tales of series.
"The switch to UE4 was a key subject of discussion from the very beginning of the project. We knew that we needed to enhance the visuals that were powered by the series’ proprietary game engine, but it was no easy task trying to build Tales of RPG sequences using UE4."
Tales of Arise is looking to revitalize the series, but can you elaborate on the biggest ways that manifests in the game? What was that process like, especially for such a long-running series?
We believe a good indicator in the revitalization of the series can be based on how well the game can bring new users to the series. To that extent, Tales of Arise places great emphasis on this particular aspect.
In order to acquire new users, we developed the game under the theme of “inheritance and evolution”. We revisited all the features that have been “inherited” through the series, and “evolved” each of those features by taking them apart and rebuilding them back into something modern.
Evolving the many features to the series enabled us to create a smoother, modernized game experience that would appeal to a wider audience of RPG fans, while maintaining the charm of the series by keeping the legacy of specifications that makes the Tales of series special.
To ensure we achieve this fine balance, we went through the process of revisiting all aspects within the game by rebuilding the game foundation and then layering the game with the nuances of what makes a Tales of game.
How did the switch to Unreal Engine 4 impact Tales of Arise’s development?
The switch to UE4 was a key subject of discussion from the very beginning of the project. We knew that we needed to enhance the visuals that were powered by the series’ proprietary game engine, but it was no easy task trying to build Tales of RPG sequences using UE4.
With that said, UE4 proved to be more than effective in developing the field action features, imparting a natural sense of freedom to the game. We also fine-tuned our development using UE4 to develop a shader that matched our artistic endeavors.
Something that’s caught the eye of quite a few people with Tales of Arise is its significant visual improvements over its predecessor. Can you talk about how you landed on the game’s visual style?
As mentioned earlier, introducing UE4 made it possible to add reality to the game’s visuals, but we did not intend to make the game photorealistic. What we wanted to do was to utilize the power of UE4, while rendering visuals and creating an atmosphere that exuded a sense of warmth by applying watercolor painting and illustration features that are typical to the Tales of series.
It took us years to reach its current form.
We developed a pictorial process where the background details are flattened to impart a painting-like touch, the foreground characters and objects are emphasized in detail and extensively uses lighting to give them a sense of existence, and the middle ground is given rich lighting coupled with volumetric fog to express a sense of atmosphere. We made sure that these elements are well balanced so that they would meld naturally into the game.
We named this unique shader the “Atmospheric Shader”, and it completed the unique balance, style, and design we were looking for; an immersive experience distinct to the game world with detailed, attractive characters breathing within the game’s pictorial, watercolor painting inspired world.
"Trying to achieve success through a timed worldwide release meant that we needed to work better in development, so in that sense this project turned out to be constructive and a challenge."
What are the biggest changes and additions players can look forward to in Tales of Arise’s combat system?
We revisited and rebuilt the game’s combat system to ensure that the controls are intuitive so that you can feel the exhilaration of battle, while retaining familiar combat features such as Artes and Mystic Artes.
To further enhance the exhilaration and intuitive excitement of party battles, we added support action systems such as boost attacks, and enabled summons that allow you to bring various allies strategically into battle.
Why did you decide to go with a non-open world approach for this game? Will there still be an emphasis on exploration?
In the early stages of development, we were testing UE4 and verifying whether an open world setting would work for the game, but after considerable thought, we decided on adopting a linear field experience to better depict the drama unfurling behind the characters.
With that said, we were able to apply what results we got from testing an open world setting by developing a world allowing freedom of adventure with its environmental variety and prepared a robust offering of side quests and exploration aside from the main scenario.
What should players expect from the quality of side quests and optional content? Will side quests tie into the main story in significant ways?
In addition to conventional quests such as requests from the townspeople you meet on your journey, there are also a number of activities tied to the characteristics of key characters within the game that lead to a variety of challenges and benefits.
For example, Kisara’s hobby, “fishing,” is quite extensive in that it’s tied to a fishing mini-game where your catches play a role to the game’s collection feature, becomes ingredients for cooking, and is also used to unlock skill panels. In this way, a single activity can lead to various features that assist in the character’s journey and growth, so I urge everyone to challenge the side quests as much as possible.
These side quests hold a special place in the Tales of series in that they offer diversity to the character’s charm, so you could say that side quests are just as important in adding depth and enjoyment to the game.
What drove the decision to go with a simultaneous worldwide launch for Tales of Arise?
We have been intermittently localizing the Tales of series, but with Tales of Zestiria, we were able to develop the series to Steam and broaden the range of localized languages, giving greater opportunities for our fans overseas to enjoy the game. What this also means is that we received plenty of feedback from fans overseas in regard to our games.
However, we have never been able to develop and publish games from the series as a worldwide release, so one of our initial goals was to bring that to fruition with Tales of Arise.
Trying to achieve success through a timed worldwide release meant that we needed to work better in development, so in that sense this project turned out to be constructive and a challenge.
Of course, preferences change between players around the world, but I believe that we need to make upgrades that apply to everyone when releasing games to the worldwide audience. The fact that the entire team was able to complete the game in light of such a hurdle was crucial and will help us step up our game in the future.
We were also able to test ourselves with various approaches by timing the promotions for the game, and it was very encouraging to see fans from around the world enjoying our promotions and offering words of support through the Internet.
"The average playthrough is more than 40 hours, including replay and side story elements, making it similar to the average playthrough for Tales of Berseria."
With the worlds of Dahna and Rena demarcated as medieval and technologically advanced settings, how does that impact things such as environmental variety and art design?
I’d like everyone to find out by playing the game, but Dahna and Rena have completely different technologies and cultures, so you will be able to see and feel the huge gap between the two worlds, especially after you experience Rena’s technology and culture. We also made sure the designs for both worlds are properly reflected onto the character design.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Tales of Arise be?
The average playthrough is more than 40 hours, including replay and side story elements, making it similar to the average playthrough for Tales of Berseria.
Do you have any plans for post launch support in the form of DLC and story expansions?
We are planning to release DLC featuring costumes and useful items upon the game’s release.
In regard to story expansions, we don’t have anything immediately planned right now as its story reached to the end in the main game.
Do you have any plans to bring the game to the Switch?
The consoles we have announced are the only ones we have planned for the game.
What resolution and frame rate will the game target on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
For both next gen consoles, the game supports max 4K resolution and 60fps, and you can select to prioritize either the 4K resolution or the fps. We are also preparing the PC version to match current user specs so that players have the freedom to set the game to their liking.