It’s been two years since Shionne, Alphen and the gang graced our screens in Tales of Arise, but it might as well have only been five minutes. Booting up Beyond The Dawn, everything is wonderfully familiar and bursting with the same colourful quality that helped revitalise the Tales series. Characters and locations fell back into place with ease. So much ease in fact, that it can feel a lot like there’s not much new to talk about here, apart from the story. Let’s take a look.
So you wrap the story on a big epic Tales game, literally save the worlds, and roll credits. But not often do we get to see what life is actually like when everything is tied up in a neat little bow. Beyond the Dawn shows us just how messy humans can make everything even when you think they were handed peace on a silver platter.
One year on, everyone still hates everyone it seems. For some reason (humans are awful), Dahnans and Renans can’t just suddenly get along, and lynching, scapegoating, and racism are rife in this new world. Within the first few moments of Beyond the Dawn, Alphen and Shionne find themselves caught up in the plight of a desperately persecuted young Renan called Nazamil. The story of Beyond the Dawn is essentially seven hours of help-Nazamil-find-acceptance-and-belonging when she is shunned from both the Renan and Dahnan sides of the conflict, even when that goes terribly wrong for our helpful band.
Without going too far into spoiler territory, Nazamil has a Renan father and a Dahnan mother, so she’s your quintessential mudblood. She has different coloured eyes to really drive this point home, as Renans have always had light eyes and Dahnans dark. She also has some powers I won’t go into for fear of spoilers, but they actually were relatively pointless with regards to the story Beyond the Dawn wanted to tell.
For the returning characters, much of their purpose is lost in Beyond the Dawn. Some have found a little gainful employment, such as Kisara training recruits, but most are either just reading books like Rinwell, or they didn’t have much life to go back to, so they’ve just sort of become travelling meddlers. It can seem a little odd that the returning cast feels virtually superfluous to the story, and only Nazamil really has anything of interest to say or do. It’s no wonder they all jump at the chance of helping her, just for a bit of something to fill their aimless days.
Gameplay hasn’t really changed, but if you enjoyed Tales of Arise, there’s no real reason you wouldn’t enjoy this one. Roam the semi-open world between cities and realms, collect items, craft and chat, and then engage the local zeugles (still a terrible term) in a skirmish. Some of the locales have changed as per the premise of this aftermath story, and the team is tasked with cleansing what they call mausoleums, which are basically dungeons that represent remnants of the Renan world that haven’t quite fused with Dahna. These are in most cases single route dungeons, unless you want to branch off for maybe three seconds for some very obvious treasure. The mausoleums have a story purpose, but it’s very simple and really just a rehash of some of the end of the main game.
Combat is a similar story. Far too similar. By the end of the 60+ hours I put into the first game I’d mastered, exploited, and then got bored of the combat system. It’s the same process of basic attacks, Artes, and team moves, used together to break enemies and then unleash a dual-party finisher on them. There is nothing different in this strategy in Beyond the Dawn, and adding another seven hours of the same cycle of combat wore thin very quickly. I even felt myself slowly lulled during the tensionless treks through the mausoleums, and the rote fighting that I could almost keep doing in my sleep. It is nice that a generous fast travel system did mean much of the travel between realms and mausoleums can be skipped. Of course, skip too much and you are left underlevelled for what bosses there are.
Thankfully the full voice cast return and slip into their old roles without any issues. They are a talented team that you’ll probably recognise from a dozen other anime and JRPG properties at this point, but they are the cream of the crop. I can also report Motoi Sakuraba lends their talents once again to the soundtrack, and while there aren’t loads of new tunes, the ones I noticed were good.
The trouble with DLC in the aftermath of an epic, is events can feel a little aimless and pedestrian in comparison. Beyond the Dawn suffers from being way too similar to its predecessor and not addressing any of the criticisms that were levelled at it. You could argue DLC isn’t the place for that, but it’s a very safe addition to the story, and one that does almost nothing new, and has almost nothing to say.
It’s still the same quality, the same cast you’ve come to enjoy, but if there were parts you didn’t like, they’re all still here too. I wouldn’t have minded changes or at least variations on CP and how it worked (a kind of pooled magic for the party). I wouldn’t have minded if the superfluous and un-user-friendly skills trees had been done away with completely. I would have really liked to see new combat, new boost and finisher moves, and some tangible reward to keep me fighting, but alas it’s all the same.
But where for some, familiarity can breed contempt, for you this may be the opposite. If you loved the original game, and don’t agree with faults I raise, then you may love this too. Don’t believe the inflated play time estimates – it’s around seven hours for the main quest, possibly ten of you take time to do the uninspiring side quests and grind the necessary levels. While I might have preferred Bandai Namco spend all the intervening two years on a new mainline entry, or a new IP, Beyond the Dawn is still a fairly enjoyable additional few hours to spend with the best Tales game in the last decade.
Beyond the Dawn was never going to be an epic on the scale of a full Tales release, but it’s sad that this is the last taste of Arise’s world that I’ll remember. A poor story with little reason to be told and virtually no new features at all make this hard to recommend. It may look the same as the main game on the surface, but the soul just isn’t there.
Tales of Arise Beyond the Dawn is available now on PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series S|X, and PC. You need to own the base game to play it.
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher.