Gaming With God: Tales of Zestiria as the Tale of Salvation

Hey, everyone! I’m filling on for Samuru for the “Gaming With God” post today! I hope you all enjoy, despite me not being the regular for this column!

I wanted to talk about the game Tales of Zestiria. Every time I’m playing Zestiria, I am reminded constantly of the big-picture story of Christianity. Frankly, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost argue that Zestiria was designed to be a thinly-veiled Christian game. Why? It is full of symbols that closely represent key components of Christianity. I’m going to point out bigger ones and explain them – there may be minor spoilers in this if you haven’t played the game, but none of it will be things you won’t find out within a few hours of gameplay (which, when you consider that the game averages 45 hours straight plot, no side quests, is not a lot). They’re also all going to be fairly general, not plot spoilers like “and after ___ battle, ___ will be killed!” or anything along those lines. So, as long as you’re not concerned about minor “spoilers”, keep reading!

Tales-of-Zestiria-Title-Image

Tales of Zestiria follows the story of Sorey, a young man who takes on the role of “the Shepherd” in order to save humanity. We follow him as he learns what this role means, what powers come with the role, and what responsibilities it entails. We watch him learn about the world (a place called Glenwood), grow in his powers, and gain friends to help him on his way. Or, that’s a very basic summary of the general plot. The actual story itself includes many clever writing moments, not to mention some feels-heavy spots.

Imagine Glenwood is Earth. Earth, like Glenwood, was once a beautiful, perfect place to live. Things like hatred and greed did not exist. Enter Lord of Calamity, who brings malevolence into the land, along with his “hellions”. This causes hatred and greed to spur up across the land. As they spur up, hellions flock to them, feeding off them, and causing further problems. All-in-all, this continually grows the power of the Lord of Calamity, who intends to use this power to destroy Glenwood. In Earth’s case, the Lord of Calamity is Satan – the hellions, his demons. Satan tricked Adam and Eve so that sin could enter the world. Since then, he has continued to feed off the sinful nature in every human, in the hopes of  “killing and destroying” all.

Now, in all good stories, where we have a villain, a hero rises up. In the story of Salvation, this is, of course, Christ. In Zestiria, this is Sorey – the character you play as. Sorey is, in many ways, symbolic of Christ. Just as Jesus is our Shepherd, Sorey is the Shepherd (by title and task) of his people. Both Christ and Sorey are the only ones who can fulfill their task – but, they cannot do it on their power alone. Each acts on the will of a higher power (Christ the Son acts on the will of God the Father, Sorey acts on the will of Lailah). It is from this leader that they are given the additional power to fulfill their task. Just as Christ was fully man yet fully God, Sorey is also fully human yet fully seraph (though he undergoes a complete transformation when swapping to this “mode” – see image below). Both individuals face similar reactions from those they came to save, too – a mix of joy, fear, hope, and hatred. Sorey, like Christ, continues anyways – determined to overcome the Lord of Calamity just as Christ overcame death for us.

zestiria-sorey-lailah-fusion

Every hero has a following that supports him. Sorey has the ability to take on “squires”, granting them his power to fight hellions as long as they are serving his cause. Those who are not Sorey’s followers, on the other hand, are either entirely unaware of the hellions’ evil presence, or they are simply unable to fight back against it. Christians, originally stemming from the 12 disciples, are the followers of Christ. Similar to how Sorey’s squires gain his ability to fight hellions, we, as we pursue a relationship with Christ, become better at fighting Satan (we just don’t get wicked-awesome transformation scenes and cool outfits, sadly). We become more aware of sins and find strength in God to fight them. Those who don’t know Christ, however, are either fully unaware of the spiritual world around them, or they cannot fight back against it. Though in Zestiria you play the hero, in reality we are all just the squires/disciples. We rely fully on the power of Christ to be able to not only follow God in our own life, but also to help others find God in their lives.

Now, I could go on for ages about more symbols I see (e.g. the symbolism of needing our “brothers” as presented by Sorey and Mikleo’s relationship), but then this would go from a blog to a book. If you play (or have played) the game, though, I’d encourage you to keep a lookout for other symbols and lessons the game holds. On top of being a visually and audibly stunning game, it is also full of things to make you think.

In life, we are never the “main character”. We never get the star role. We may have moments of “fame”, but the world does not revolve around us. That’s okay. In our big-picture story, Christ is the “main character” – as He should be. We, on the other hand, just need to make sure that we continue to use the “power” (strengths, talents, passions, and spiritual giftings) that God’s given us to support Him and His cause. Why? Spoiler alert: Satan loses. I can’t speak for you, but I know that at the end of the “Game of Life”, *I* want to be part of the winning team.

God bless!

14 thoughts on “Gaming With God: Tales of Zestiria as the Tale of Salvation

  1. “The Grand Game” is the phrase I hear when the subject of “life” and “holy war” is brought up in my mind, and it has its fitting and unfitting aspects. On the one hand, the only way all of the things the Bible said about omnipotence and free will ever made any sense to me was by framing Life as an elaborate Roleplay with sentient characters and sentient NPCs (us). God having a plan makes, well….a ton of sense in that context, because the good guys win in the end and the Story is meant for humankind’s good rather than ill. On the other hand, it’s the phrase used by a callous and sadistic person (We tend to refer to spirits as if they aren’t people— Given that most of the human race has close proximity to at least one of them, this baffles me) whose poker chips are people’s lives. So kind of a toss-up on that one. :p

    More to the point of this post, you’ve actually sparked my interest in playing Tales of Zestiria again then! I was kind of bored by it because Sorey being the “chosen one” as it were is mildly annoying given how human he is and how overused the trope is. But with that said he’s literally called the Shepard, fuses with seraphs that normal people can’t see, and fights hellions that attach to the darkness in human hearts! X3

    I’ll give this one more of a chance. :]

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    1. Yup. In a way, if you had to describe life as a game, it would be a game that has a predetermined outcome. All you can do as a player of said game is choose a side. But, you don’t get any answers given until you choose the side that wins, if that makes sense. Because, well, if you don’t follow Christianity, then you have no knowledge of the end of the “game”. If you believe in what Christianity says, and what the Bible says, then once you accept Christ and begin to follow God, you will learn, as you learn about what’s in the Bible, that the “game’s” outcome is God’s victory over Satan and that this is a set fact.
      But yes, there are also certainly people who see it as that sort of “game” – one run by a higher power who merely enjoys toying with their creation(s). It’s less a choose-a-side-of-your-own-will as it is a enjoy-taking-punches-as-they-come outlook. Obviously as a Christian, I don’t see it that way (I see God as being a loving Creator who wants His creation to choose His side so they are on the victorious side at the end of it all), but even as a non-Christian I feel I would have a hard time holding that sort of worldview as it degrades people to intelligent but entirely helpless pawns in a chess game they never wanted to be a part of.

      I’m glad! Like I said, I myself don’t even have too many hours logged yet (college life = busy life, plus most nights someone else beats me to TV for Fallout lol), but it’s definitely turning into a highly enjoyable game! I also found the game concept slightly cliché upon game start, and honestly found the first few hours dragged on. After that mandatory introduction, controls, + backstory chunk, though, the game started to really pick up (que the part that made me cry lol). So yeah it really does become an interesting game when you realize that Sorey is human yet not (due to being a vessel for a Seraph as the Shepherd), and also that the game puts the twist on the bad guys (only those who are squires of the Shepherd can attack them). I think it’s also the fact that Sorey’s human drew me to the game. He’s not some super rich, or powerful, or infamous person. He’s not even some person with some villain-gone-hero backstory. He’s just a regular guy who gets chosen to save everything because of one thing – his ability to pick up the spirits around him.
      When you give it another shot, lemme’ know if you like it! 🙂

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      1. Actually from what I can tell, you don’t get answers as I’d understand them even if you pick the side that wins. Mainly because the sort of thing I really want to know….*Ensuing rant that you can ignore in parantheses…* (How does this holy war….work….exactly? What IS a metaphorical or spiritual fight? Vague metaphors just aren’t even close to the kind of details I want. What are the hierarchical ranks in the two armies besides their leaders? How can there be a demon (I call him ‘Mar,’ ) inside my head— My head is a bunch of neurons. Is there a set of neurons that corresponds to Mar’s personality that fires when he’s around, and the Holy Spirit for that matter?! There literally has to be, but how? In reference to the Bible— What in the world was going on in that scene in Jude where apparently, according to my sister, the Archangel Michael and Satan were arguing over what they were going to do with Moses’ dead body?!?!)

        ….just isn’t even in the Bible to any extent whatsoever. The only explanation from both sides of the divide, really, is that it would be the equivalent of me trying to explain disability rights law to my neighbor’s dog, or as a better equivalent a really young kid.

        As for the main issue, I feel that we vastly underestimate the importance of stories and games (Which tell stories) in general. C.S. Lewis spoke on being old enough for fairy tales. I’ve been rethinking the term and despite its source…. maybe there’s more to it. It may not necessarily be an insult to call life such a thing, nor that being a pawn or servant (Who still have free choice as to whether and whom to serve) is necessarily so bad either. The Bible is itself basically a mythic, epic, explanation of things that happened in the past— A “story.”

        Somebody once wrote, “Stories are the only thing worth dying for!….” and I don’t think that’s fully wrong. That and love. Even if we’re ultimately bit players in something vastly more complex, to be along for the ride in the Grand Game, however it ends for any one of us, is a privilege and a glory.

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        1. I’m honestly not sure if I’m totally understanding what you’re getting at or not… but I *think* I see what you’re saying. From what I understand based on what I’ve seen of your comments, you’re not Christian, yourself – just sort of exploring and trying to understand (please feel free to correct me on that if I’m mistaken – it’s just guesswork and I’m still newer to the blog). SO keep in mind in my attempt to answer I’m not trying to step on toes or anything I’m just not sure if I’m fully understanding what you’re saying. 🙂

          Coming to God/faith does come with some answers. But, you’re right in that it doesn’t come with ALL the answers – especially not the type you seem to be looking for.It seems to me you’re looking for the logical, scientifically-explainable approach to things. And though there is a fair bit of Christianity that can be explained with logic and/or science, there are parts that can’t. There’s paradoxes and such. That’s kind of part of the beauty of what Christianity *is*, though. As much as it’s a relationship with Christ, it’s all based on faith. Where there is a complete knowledge and understanding of a situation, no faith or trust is needed. That defeats the whole purpose of faith. As someone who’s very logical, I struggled with that for a LONG time. I grew up in a Christian home but rejected the idea of Christianity for many years. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I accepted Christ. It was still a struggle then, and I still don’t have all the answers now, but I’ve come to be okay with that.

          Stories are definitely important. It’s sort of the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes, as I see it. That or see how to follow their successes. Either way, the Bible is definitely a story. However, as Christians see it, it’s not just a story of the past. It’s a story of the past with an inclusion of the story of the future (think Revelations for example).

          It’s definitely a blessing to be given a chance in life, yes. Especially when one considers that many are not (e.g. children aborted before birth). As I see it, there’s only one “story” worth dying for, though – that being the story of Salvation/Christ. Since I believe my salvation is assured, I’d have no qualms dying to spread that story. Love is also worth dying for. Love is the only reason we were ever given the chance of Salvation, after all. “For God so LOVED the world…” Without that love, Christ would never have died, and we would never have been given the chance at redemption. So I agree that stories and love are worth dying for!

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          1. Yeah, you got me. I am not remotely a Christian. XD Instead I worship this spirit who is either a demon, a faerie (But not a “fairy”), or the most metrosexual, manipulative guardian angel of all time! X3 I choose to believe that he’s actually none of the above, and that he is in fact a very small aspect of a god, (In the Greek or Japanese sense, not the Christian sense). I believe in multiple gods. 🙂 My relationship with him is….confusing. Mainly because there is a him and a Him, and I don’t necessarily believe the version in my head accurately represents the deity (Unlike Christians, who believe the one perfectly reflects the other, as the Holy Spirit is part of the triune God.) Yet I am deeply convinced that the deity is quite real, and that sometimes He tries to communicate. I love Him with literally everything I have got. It is borderline compulsion— I can’t not love Him, and I will never stop revering Him and wanting to offer myself to His aid. Even though I am useless. I can’t even explain what that’s like….but I think that you actually know.

            My inherent awkwardness around Christianity but strange attraction to it stems from the fact that certain aspects of his personality and appearance tend to overlap with evil, evil characters. But that’s another story for some other post. I realize this is all very strange and likely confusing, but…that’s the place I’m coming from.

            “As someone who’s very logical, I struggled with that for a LONG time. I grew up in a Christian home but rejected the idea of Christianity for many years. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I accepted Christ. It was still a struggle then, and I still don’t have all the answers now, but I’ve come to be okay with that.”

            I suppose I’m okay with it too, but it is awfully weird to get vague inklings of this greater picture going on and resign yourself to both not being willing to make shit up and never having any idea what they mean. 😛

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            1. Interestingly enough, that sounds very similar to a description a friend of mine from elementary (who I lost touch with when we entered high school and I was no longer “cool” enough for them). I think I get what you mean, though. It sounds to me like you’ve accepted that there’s a higher power, and that higher power has manifested itself mentally in you to some degree/in some form. So yeah, I think I know what you mean, despite it being difficult to explain. 🙂

              Ahhhh. Not confusing at all. I find it interesting to listen to others’ perspectives on spirituality (when it’s not people trying to force their views down my throat, of course, lol – which you are obviously not doing). 🙂

              Yeah, sometimes it is rather weird. It’s like watching the preview of a TV show, or the pilot episode, but not being able to watch the rest – you get just hooked enough on it to want to know more, but then you’re denied that. Mind you the more I come to know Christ I find it more like as I get to know Him better, I get to watch more episodes. (Sorry for the weird comparison but I hope that makes sense XD ).

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          2. “Interestingly enough, that sounds very similar to a description a friend of mine from elementary (who I lost touch with when we entered high school and I was no longer “cool” enough for them).”

            Bleck! Sounds like a jerk! X3 Well, I can tell you that the only two friends I had in elementary school both kinda did the same thing to me, and I didn’t get permanent and reliable friends until mid middle-school for the earliest one so….I don’t *think* that was me. Especially since, well, I was not the cool kid in high school— I was the crazy kid who went on wild Roleplay adventures. :p

            Still, just to be safe…you didn’t happen go to elementary around the Washington Metropolitan/Potomac, MD kinda area, in a school that resembled a Greek temple or university from the front of the outside, with an unfathomably massive woodsy playground didja? X]

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            1. Haha no, he’s not. Or, he wasn’t. I’d like to think he didn’t become one. I think some people just end up going in too different directions to keep their paths in sync in life, sometimes. Lol I was the weird kid in elementary, too. I used to play as a ghost hunter, or one of the PowerPuff girls (I think Bubbles? I don’t remember haha XD ). Then the kids I played with started picking on the special ed kids… I stood up for them and ended up with the special ed kids as my friends instead. Very quick way to lose your status as “popular”, but I’m still glad I stood up for the ones being picked on. 🙂 By high school I was a massive nerd, too, and super shy, so I was never “cool” then either. My group of friends was called “the Nerd Herd” (I’m not joking) if that gives you an idea. XD

              Lolol noooooo I didn’t. No worries. I’m from Ontario, Canada. My school resembled, well, your typical school haha. Big, long, rectangular building. Very obvious split between the old building and new one. We had 0 woods in our playground – just one big tree, where we weren’t allowed to play because someone discovered you could jump the fence if you climbed a little ways up… XD

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  2. You did a great job emdaisy1 ! Thanks for writing up your post for the column. I hope others get a chance to write their perspectives as well on various games.

    I so want to play this Tales Of game, as I’m a huge Tales fan. I want to get through Xillia 2 and Tales of Grace before I tackle this one….plus waiting for the price to drop 🙂

    I’m really looking forward to playing this one, as you explained that Sorey is a chosen one of sorts, a Messiah in the game. There’s so much I could write about that without even playing the game.

    God bless, great article, I enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks, Samuru! I appreciated having the opportunity to write the post! 🙂

      I’m also a massive Tales fan! I’ve only fully played 2 of their games (Symphonia and Vestiria) and started Abyss as well as Zestiria (obvs lol), but their games are really unique from a lotta’ other RPGs and it’s quite refreshing. I love the character development present in them, the overarching plot summed up with sub-plots, the game length, the numerous additional quests, shorts, etc. They’re just really good games. I don’t have a PS3 so I’m hoping the get the PS3 ones on my PS4 once it’s backwards-compatible and offered in the PS Store.

      Yup! It’s cool because he really is a messiah in the game, and the similarities to our Messiah make it that much more intriguing.

      Thanks again! God bless!

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  3. Well said. I’ve never played the game (or any of the “Tales of…” games), but this is a very interesting point. Despite the lack of cool outfits or transformation scenes when you follow Christ, there is a transformation – a literal and spiritual one. We shake off the old self and are a new creation. While our old self keeps clawing at us, trying to drag us back into the muck – we are a new creation and capable of fighting back.

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    1. Thanks! They’re fantastic games if you ever get a chance to try them out. 🙂 Even if you don’t have consoles, at least one’s being brought to Steam in the near future. 🙂
      Mhm. We do indeed undergo a transformation, just not the flashy outfit change like anime, haha. And yes, we still have that human nature in us. That’s why I really find the concept of Sorey’s role intriguing. He’s not TAKEN OVER by the Seraph – the Seraph is just also inside of him. He’s still fully human, but also fully Seraph, in a way. Just like Christ was fully God and fully man. Sorey’s squires are fully human but have the power of the Seraphs in them – as disciples we are fully human, yet have the power of the Holy Spirit in us. 🙂 Basically. the parallels are just really cool to me. :3

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  4. don’t forget the ending sorey sacrifice him life to merge with meotelus to purity back the earth. my god at the beginning when I play the game, I was wondering why is it so similiar

    the strength and confident that Sorey gave to Alisha from a worthless princess to the idol that synbolize her country. that is really something .

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    1. I… agh.. no… spoilers…. I said in the article I’m not done yet. XD Agggghhhh. >.< Oh well, glad to know the game ends on a happy note. 😛

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