Thursday, April 18, 2024

Tales of Crestoria and its mature look on an all-seeing world makes it an uncomfortable game to play

Tales of Crestoria has been called many things. A cash-grab, a buggy mess, and more. I admit, it is buggy, and if you want to do well in raids or the arena, you’ll either have to grind or reach into your pocket in order to get rare characters (summons) to carry you into victory. But it’s also one of the most enjoyable Tales games I’ve played.

That might be surprising to some Tales fans, especially when you’ve got Tales legends like Symphonia, Vesperia, and Abyss. It by no means is a replacement to any of these mainline games, but there’s something about Tales of Crestoria that appeals to me as a Tales fan.

It isn’t because of the combat by any means, which is turn-based and relies on elemental/light/darkness damage in a way that’s similar to Zestiria’s gameplay. No, it’s the story that pulls me into Crestoria, where it shines in a way that the raids, PvP combat and even the guilds, simply can’t.

You start the game as Kanata, a young boy who grows up in an all-seeing society. What starts as a young, idyllic look at life in an orphanage with his friend Misella and a young boy called Nash quickly turns into something cruel and sadistic thanks to an object called ‘vision orbs’. With the vision orbs that hang from every individual’s neck – having seemingly been put there at birth – you’re able to project what you see to Vision Central, allowing others to judge whether you’re innocent or guilty.

The concept of having people dissect who you are through out of context clips and images is a disturbing one. It’s also nothing new. Those of us who have social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, are aware that we often pick and choose what we convey about ourselves. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be positive, but it’s something that we feel will speak to us and to the people who interact with us. It may not be on purpose, but we have an image that we can’t help but show.

In Tales of Crestoria, Kanata is very pro-vision orbs until circumstances are turned against him and he is labeled as a ‘transgressor’ – someone who has been judged globally by the people, and must be punished. It’s only when he realizes that his own father has been part of human trafficking children – among other things – that Kanata snaps and is charged with the murder. What makes this a particularly heavy moment is that his father is considered a loving, kind gentleman and with your vision orb deteriorating the moment you’re judged? Kanata is unable to prove his innocence and so, alongside his childhood friend, Misella, he has little choice but to run from home, branded and demonized by society. Kanata’s innocence being called into question through contextless ‘evidence’ is uncomfortable enough, but when the calls of millions around the world forces magical beings called ‘enforcers’ to trap and kill transgressors, it calls to players to question just who really is in the ‘wrong’ here?

How does the game handle these of tough questions? Well… Tales Of games have never been subtle, and Crestoria is no exception to this. Both the side stories and main story do their best to be critical about people being unable to think for themselves, often using flashes of red and black to express the aggressive nature of those calling out for punishment. More importantly, Crestoria is aware that while it is easy to criticize the nature of people as a whole group, it goes further to look at the ones pulling the strings that whip people into a frenzy in the first place. They look at the ones in charge, the government, the monarchy, and even religion and how all of these organizations intersect to push and pull at the average person and what they value in order to do their dirty work. For example, when the King uses character Aegis’ chivalry and knighthood against him to cause his downfall – a supposed love affair with Queen Rebecca. It’s this slight against who Aegis is that is so appalling to the general public, that it causes his condemnation. Crestoria touches on some of the most depressing sides of humanity, but does so with the care and maturity that some would argue is rare in a mobile title.

Much like Tales of Berseria, the tone of Crestoria is bleak. But it has moments of brevity in between that sparks some serious chemistry between the main cast. They work well together, and I can honestly say I’ve laughed, cried and swore in the space of five minutes. As of now, the game’s story isn’t complete and is slowly being updated as time goes on. Until then, I can honestly say that if you’re in need of something to play to scratch that Tales itch, without really needing to fully commit to stuff outside of the main storyline, like the gacha summons or the raids, then Crestoria is the game for you.

The Verdict: 4/5

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.