On paper, Tales of Arise – Beyond the Dawn checks all the boxes for a DLC.
I know that’s an odd way to start this review, but other similarly marketed DLC, notably from the Xenoblade Chronicles series, sets a high bar. Torna: The Golden Country and Future Redeemed explored different casts of characters, brought surprises in the story department, and substantially changed the gameplay. There were even new areas to explore.
At first blush, it looked like Beyond the Dawn might be prepared to meet that bar. 20 hours of gameplay, including new story content? Check. A relatively high price tag to back up that statement? Check. All the anime aesthetics you can take? Check.
Needless to say, Tales of Arise – Beyond the Dawn does not clear that bar. The gameplay is unchanged. The party is unchanged. Even most of the areas are unchanged. The new story content has some potential, but it is wholly wasted and doesn’t go anywhere new. The writers even lean into some of the very troubling directions they followed in Tales of Arise‘s late game. Add that to the fact that this was released over two years after the main game, and it’s too little, too late, and the cost of entry is too high for all but the most hardcore Tales of Arise devotees.
Set roughly a year after the events of Tales of Arise, after the two worlds have merged together and the Dahnans and Renans are now adapting to living together, Beyond the Dawn opens with Alphen and Shionne exploring the world, looking to shut down “Mausoleums” that seem to be setting the newly formed world on edge, keeping the different elements from fully coming into balance. On their adventures, they come across Nazamil, a young girl accosted by locals because she is the daughter of a Renan lord and a Dahnan mother. Of course, our good heroes come to save the day, and they take Nazamil under their wing while going to meet up with the old gang.
Nazamil has trouble adjusting to life with friends. She’s been shunned her entire life. Here, we have a potentially interesting character to explore, but that never happens. She quickly is shuffled out of the party and off screen, and the struggles she endures make up the vast majority of the “main” story. In the end, though, it all comes back to the “power of friendship,” a theme I often enjoy, but it is played so poorly here that I honestly laughed during some of the most dramatic story moments. We simply don’t get enough time with Nazamil to invest ourselves in what happens to her, and no matter how much the main cast cares about her, it can’t make up for the shockingly thin writing around her story.
The rest of the 20-hour runtime consists of doing a lot, and I mean a lot, of sidequests, and it seems like that could work on paper. After all, the general premise of Beyond the Dawn is ripe for exploring complex themes: both the Renans and Dahnans live in the same space now. After untold years of exploitation, how do the Dahnans interact with the Renans? What do the Renans do to atone for their many sins? If you’ve played the last 15 hours of Tales of Arise, you can probably guess the answer to those questions: everyone’s “plight” is treated the same. The oppressed and the oppressors all have it “just as hard” as the other as they all try to get along. It’s equally troubling here as it was in the base game, and the writers do nothing to ameliorate my concerns.
Occasionally, the game tries to explore some interesting issues: how does Alphen deal with his heroism? What about Alphen’s difficulties with the Renans? How does Law live up to the legacy of his father? But each and every time, even when the characters come to some determination, nothing changes. For example, when Alphen decides he won’t drop his life for every person in need, a ton of sidequests open up. At least 15. Of course it’s time to go and pick up those sidequests, completely ignoring Alphen’s opportunity for growth. While this is probably the most glaring example of the disjointed storytelling in Tales of Arise – Beyond the Dawn, there are plenty of other examples. Most of the quests boil down to what you’d expect: kill this, gather that, talk to them. Even the new “EX” sidequests, which are hypothetically character-centric, do little to distinguish themselves from the rest outside of slightly strengthening that character’s boost attack. Frankly, it feels like the writers had some interesting ideas, but they didn’t dare to explore them more thoroughly for fear of offending their audience.
If you’re looking for more information about the gameplay, the music, or even the look, the best place to go is Izzy’s excellent review. I wholeheartedly agree with everything they have to say about the game there. The problem, of course, is that it’s completely unchanged here. Don’t get me wrong: in essence, I enjoyed playing Beyond the Dawn, but for the same reasons I enjoyed playing the base game. The combat rules, the game is beautiful, and I enjoy the cast on the whole. But, when the price tag is 30 bucks, I expect at least some changes.
I despise the term “cash grab,” since I know many people exerted a lot of effort to make this game happen, but I honestly can’t think of any other reason Tales of Arise – Beyond the Dawn exists. For me, there’s not enough to justify a lengthy, padded playtime, a silly, inconsequential story, and a whole lot of the same stuff we already played in the base game. Honestly, if you want more Tales of Arise, just go play the base game again. It’s still fun to play and has better storytelling and characterization, along with the added bonus of being a full, complete game all on its own. The only people I can imagine enjoying this DLC are diehard fans who simply want “more” Tales of Arise and spend more time with the characters. If that’s what you’re looking for, you came to the right place, for better or worse.