Set one year after 2021’s excellent Tales of Arise, Beyond The Dawn is a heartfelt epilogue to the science-fantasy tale of divided worlds, castes, and slavery. Arise’s core cast is back, along with a mysterious newcomer that players won’t directly control. Seeing this world again with a fresh coat of paint, and dipping back into the bombastic real-time combat is a treat for returning fans like myself. Like riding a bike, folks will quickly find themselves coming to grips again with every elegantly designed element of Arise, despite two years having passed for those that played on launch.
The quiet young newcomer Nazamil occupies the focus of Beyond The Dawn. Outcast for being the daughter of a noble lord as well as a slave, Nazamil is an anomaly in this world. A child born of these circumstances is so unheard of that it is only rumoured to occur. Protagonists Alphen and Shionne bump into Nazamil during their peacekeeping world tour and take it upon themselves to find Nazamil a home where she will be accepted. Along this seemingly low-stakes journey, Arise’s heroes are all given the spotlight to reflect upon and face the consequences of events from the core game.
My adoring praise of Tales of Arise’s combat, art direction, and soundtrack remains relevant, and impressive additions across the board bolster each already impressive aspect of the design. There is no filler music, every new track ranging between ethereal and thrilling. The DualSense haptics and responsive action-packed combat remain among the best of JRPGs on the PS5. Even the graphics somehow look better, with the changes to the world state after Arise’s conclusion making the returning environments in Beyond The Dawn look even more serene with the new burst of colour and particle effects. An unfortunate holdover for an otherwise technically well-oiled game is a noticeable bit of texture and asset pop-in going on, most noticeably with non-interactive NPCs in towns.
Most missions boil down to finding and fighting zeugles
Tales of Arise made the case for a slavery narrative being told within a JRPG to some effective degree, without the cartoonish gratuity that can so often haunt this genre. The post-slavery tale in Beyond The Dawn, however, gets a little bumpy at times. Subtlety goes out the window in favour of all the game’s extended cast tossing around the term “reconstruction.” In its 15-hour runtime, Beyond The Dawn tries to tell two stories. One of Nazamil’s hidden powers and the circumstances of her taboo heritage, the other of the growing pains of reconstruction. My issue concerning Namazil is that her story is only really in service of drawing out more empathetic character writing from the returning entourage. It’s fine, but her role as the group’s scandalous lost puppy ultimately leads the story towards a kind of anime-filler conclusion with few impactful consequences. The reconstruction narrative, however, struggles to navigate the persisting trauma of slavery. The writing here is mostly sincere and its heart is in the right place, it’s just a touch awkward when the young adult anime tropes pop up, as charming as they can otherwise be.
Despite whatever narrative shortcomings Beyond The Dawn has, it lucks out by continuing to lean on its terrific fights. Because players are controlling characters that have already overcome their hero’s quest, players enter into this expansion at a high level with enormous power at their fingertips. You can immediately fill out most of the existing skill boards, with a bunch of new ones sprinkled in for each character. This is all in service of tackling the plethora of new mini-boss creatures that now span this world and its new dungeons. These new foes are sparsely distributed and are often supported by other disruptive minions, making fights feel like spicy minute-long events. After players briskly refamiliarise themselves with combat, they’ll almost immediately be up against giant new challenges they’re reasonably cut out for.
The big new monsters earn their epic smackdowns
Unfortunately, this variety of satisfyingly challenging fights begins to wane before the credits roll. Specifically, that shortfall that many JRPGs suffer from – a weak final boss rush. While the final dungeon is overlong, and has some surprise visual spectacle, the experience is watered down by repeated fights that go too long and don’t have players reacting in interesting ways. It represents a lacklustre inverse of combat leading up to that point and makes for a conclusion that fizzles, abandoning the reconstruction tale in favour of a generic anime finale about the power of friendship and courage.
I was glad to return to the world of Tales of Arise; to be amongst its characters and environments felt warm and welcoming, and the frenetic encounters felt immediately wieldy, despite the passage of two years between drinks. While this DLC doesn’t bring much in the way of new locations and characters, its mighty new monsters and additional hours of stunning music and visuals were a joy to behold. Beyond The Dawn’s story doesn’t fully earn this encore with its weak finale, but returning to Arise’s world nevertheless promises plenty of reward for ardent fans.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Bandai Namco
- Bandai Namco
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
- November 9, 2021