You never know what can happen over the course of a year. When I played Hitman 3 last spring, I strongly believed I was possibly experiencing the best game of 2021 at that point. I had never played a Hitman game before so I was completely blown away when I witnessed its depth, fantastic set pieces, and variety of ways it allowed the player to carry out the game’s assassination missions. It was my front runner for a couple of months until I got my hands on Scarlet Nexus. Being a science-fiction RPG with an anime art style, time-travel element, and a combat system that allowed you to utilize objects within the environment as part of your attacks, I was ready to replace Hitman 3 as my pick for 2021 Game of the Year. But then Tales of Arise arrived just months later and everything changed again.
If you’ve never played a “Tales” game before, Tales of Arise is a perfect place to start. It features a standalone story about two characters from opposing worlds who seek to work together to end the oppressive dominance one civilization has over the other. One is a male Dahnan slave who experiences being under the abusive rulership of a Renan lord firsthand and desires to be free of it. The other is a Renan fugitive, whose people are responsible for the oppression. It gets even more interesting as the male feels no physical pain while the female inflicts pain upon all she touches. This is the foundation of an excellent narrative that includes other major characters that the player meets along the way. The battle system is also very intuitive and engaging with loads of action and upgradable abilities. Tales of Arise is also visually stunning, has memorable voice acting, and a powerful soundtrack to boot. It’s a complete package.
Bandai Namco was behind both Scarlet Nexus and Tales of Arise. But what ended up leading me to give Tales of Arise the nod for my 2021 GOTY was the fact that the game was epic. It had a presence that reminded me of older RPGs that made you feel as if you were playing something really special. Although Scarlet Nexus was an excellent title, it failed to deliver that “epic” punch that Tales of Arise delivered from the very start. When I watched videos of content creators playing the demo, I was not initially impressed. I figured that the game would do very well though. To possibly do a future blog post or create a video, I decided to buy it. Yet when I played it, I could not believe how grand and spectacular the game was.
Another area where Tales of Arise ascended past Scarlet Nexus and Hitman 3 was in character development. Don’t get me wrong as both Scarlet Nexus and Hitman 3 have solid characters and stories on their own. But the depth of the characters in Tales of Arise was something to behold. I found myself not caring much for Shionne and Law at first. But when the layers were peeled away, I found myself growing more and more attached to them. That’s the mark of good character development. And because of that, I became more invested in Tales of Arise than the other two games.
Did I finish any of the three games? Well, if you have read this blog for any significant amount of time, then you’ll know the answer is “no.” But I’ve played enough of the three games to formulate an informed opinion of them. From my perspective, all three are excellent games and represent the best of 2021. They are easy to recommend.
Tales of Arise may not lead you to play other “Tales” games if you haven’t already, but it is an outstanding standalone game. It was the biggest surprise for me in 2021 because I wasn’t familiar with the series and didn’t expect anything more than a solid experience. After playing Tales of Arise, the word “solid” would be offensive to use as an adjective to describe this outstanding RPG. I was glad to be proven wrong.
Thanks for reading. This post was about a month late because I was on hiatus during December. I did see that Tales of Arise received “Best RPG” at the 2021 Game Awards. But the game should have been nominated for other categories as well. It really is that good. Now let’s see what 2022 brings us.
WHAT WAS YOUR PICK FOR ‘GAME OF THE YEAR’ IN 2021?