Tales of Berseria
Reviewed on Steam
I absolutely adore the Tales franchise. From its great gameplay to good stories and characters, this JRPG franchise is one of the more overlooked ones in the west because of more popular franchises like Final Fantasy and Persona. Did you know Tales is considered amongst the top three JRPG franchises in Japan? Despite what I’ve said, Tales does have its following over here in the west, and games like Tales of Berseria certainly helped with that. Surprisingly it took me till early 2018 before I finally started it myself because at the time I was kind burned out on Tales games. Did Berseria recover my interest in playing more Tales games?
Tales of Berseria (2016 in Japan, 2017 worldwide) is the sixteenth mainline Tales game, and a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, the fifteenth mainline Tales game. Though Zestiria did come first, it is not necessary to play any of the games in advance to the other. At best you might miss some references, but they’re both perfectly able to stand on their own as independent games. This idea was inspired by earlier games from the franchise, namely Phantasia and Symphonia which are also both connected. Berseria is first game since Tales of Innocence in 2007 to not have Hideo Baba as the main producer, who moved on to a new studio called Studio Istolia created by Square Enix. Berseria is also the first game in the Tales of series with a lone female protagonist. What Berseria means however.. your guess is as good as mine. Multiple sources say it’s based on the work Berserker, or on the old French word Berser, which means to hunt. Both are fitting for this game.
Every Tales game follows a Characteristic Genre, which illustrates the main theme the game is following. In Berseria’s case, an “RPG of Discovering Your Own Reasons to Live”. It also weighs heavily on the theme emotion and reason. Velvet Crowe, the main protagonist of the game, lives a quiet life alongside her little sick brother Laphicet and brother-in-law Artorius Collbrande. The quiet life unfortunately doesn’t last long, as a phenomenon called ‘’The Scarlet Night’’ returns. This makes the entire village succumb to Daemonblight, a disease that results in humans transforming into Daemons. During this night, Velvet notices Laphicet is gone, and later finds out Artorius is sacrificing him as some sort of ritual which—to the public—makes him look like the hero for preventing further spread of the disease. This is where the theming comes into play, as Velvet goes on an absolute emotional rampage to avenge her dead brother, while Artorius believes in reason.
That was the first part of the theming, the other has to do with the game’s main protagonists. Berseria has a total of six playable characters, all very different from each other. My favourite is—probably cliché—Velvet, because she’s so much different than your regular main protagonist (especially with Sorey being the main protagonist in the game before). She has a goal, and lets nothing stop her from achieving it even if it means making the whole world her enemy. All the other characters are good as well, but the main reason I love them all together is that they’re basically a random bunch of strangers. None of them have any relationship with each other and don’t even really start off as friends; They share a common goal, and as such will use each other to their own ends. Obviously by travelling with each other they do form a bond to help each other out with the main theming from earlier: Discovering their own reasons to live.
The world Berseria takes place in is called Desolation, which houses 7 diverse regions. There are the snowy ruins and volcano in Northgand, to an underwater temple in the tropical Southgand. There aren’t necessarily places that stand out from the rest, but the world is beautiful enough to travel through. Because the continents aren’t all connected to each other, most travelling is done by boat. The world of Desolation is still in its age of exploration, so it is not uncommon to explore completely uninhabited areas—apart from monsters of course since it is an RPG. You can also send out the boat for a fun side distraction to explore new areas which are all references to older Tales game. It’s nothing more than a distraction, but you can get serious good items from it and you don’t have to do anything; just send it away and it will come back eventually. It follows earth hours, so you can just send off a ship before closing the game and it will be back the next time you start it up.
Other travelling is done on foot or later in the game on hoverboard. Berseria follows a modern overworld, meaning that all areas are connected to each other without the need to go on a 2D plane with dungeons and towns placed on there. There are many cities in the game, some with ports where your ship can bring you to other regions. Cities consists of shops, sidequests and people to talk to. You can easily quick travel to visited areas with a certain item called an Inoph Bottle, which will save you a lot of time. There are also several minigames, both inside and outside of towns, which are a fun distraction and in no way necessary to beat the game. Also scattered everywhere are tiny white spots or chests with materials or items which can be used to temper gear, something I’ll come back to later since it is a relatively big mechanic in the game. Outside of cities are singular enemies, which you can run up to initiating battle, or avoid completely. Random encounters there aren’t, and I’m perfectly fine with that.
Battle can start in multiple ways; sneak up on them from behind to initiate a preemptive attack, but they can attack you from behind as well. A neutral attack without conditions happens when you just straight run up to them. Regardless of how you initiate the fight, the only difference will be the amount of Souls you start with, which are necessary for battle. If two or more enemies are close to each other on the overworld, they will fight you both at once. This will only lead to more experience and gald, so overall not a bad method to take care of multiple enemies at once. There is also a cooking diversion in which you cook meals, giving advantages to your next fight. For example, more damage or experience gained at the end.
The game does a good job on teaching you how to battle through multiple tutorials. In the start menu, you can assign multiple artes to one of the four main buttons in a set of 4 combinations. Some use more Souls than others and they can have elemental effects, so you can try it out and make different combinations. Use artes multiples times in battle to learn new ones and so forth. You can make your preferred character play perfectly to your liking. Every character has their unique artes, from magic to melee attacks. When you enter a battle, just press a button and the controlled character will attack the targeted enemy, allowing you to unleashed combos not unlike a fighting game. By default the game is set to semi-automatic, meaning that you’ll automatically run up to an enemy and only have to press buttons to attack or defend essentially. If you prefer to have full control over you character however, just set the mode to manual and you’re completely free to do whatever you like.. or you can put it on complete automatic and you don’t even have to play. I guess there are people who like that? I mean, I don’t know why you’re playing this game to begin with then but eh.
I have mentioned it multiple times before, but battles revolve around how much your Soul Gauge is filled up. You initially start battles with 3 souls, higher or lower depending on how you initiated the fight. At first you can only have 5 souls at once, but this can be increased through gear. Souls are gained by defeating an enemy, inflicting status effects, stunning them or a perfectly timed dodge. You lose souls the exact same way but the other way around. You can still attack when the gauge is empty, but lose the ability to combo. In other words, you become completely useless and hold back your team. When having three or more souls you can initiate a Break Soul, which unleashes the hidden potential of every character. This differs for every character, as Velvet unlses her right arm to gain different abilities based on the enemy type, but lowers her HP in the process. Magilou absorbs spells on the other hand. While in Break Soul status with enough BG gathered up, you can also activate a Mystic Arte under certain conditions, which are strong but mostly flashy attacks on the enemies. As always, they look beautiful.
The combat overall is fine, but the difficulty is pretty low overall in my opinion. Meaning that while there are many difference combinations to unleashed upon the enemy, you don’t really need them that much. And this is especially the case for Velvet, so let me say beforehand: do NOT play through the entire game as just Velvet if you’re looking for a challenge. This is mostly because of the earlier mentioned Break Soul mechanic, wherein Velvet can not die while in this state. If the state vanishes well.. just do it again and you will basically never die. As much as I love Velvet and how satisfying it feels to destroy enemies, she makes a relatively easy game even easier, so I encourage you to try out the different characters as well. There are multiple difficulty modes, but I still didn’t feel challenged. Also you are not necessarily rewarded for playing on higher difficulties as you get less experience alongside other things, but you get compensated by more gald. I get some of the other disadvantages but please, this is not how difficulty modes work..
While you don’t have direct control over other characters, you can switch to take control over them at any time, as well as switch to the two in the backline. While not having control over them, you can adjust their behavior to your liking. You can choose what artes they can or can’t use, as well as whether you want them to play aggressively or defensively. The other characters can also be controlled by a second person. The Tales of series are known for being co-op games, being able to play through every battle with multiple other people, and it works greatly. The game is about 40 to 50 hours longs, but there is a lot of side content to delve into. Most unlock after the game has been beaten which is kind of a bummer but it’s there regardless. I clocked in at 70 hours after doing all side content, but this does not equal to all achievements obtained.
Gear in this game has unique capabilities, namely that all of them have different master skills. These range from attack being increased against certain enemies, from status effects being reduced to gaining more experience in a fight. These skills only activate when equipping said gear, but they can be permanently learned through fighting. Whenever you have mastered the skill, the skill will be active at any given time. This means that most you will be doing is mastering skills instead of looking at the actual stats of the gear themselves. The advantage is that you will use many different gear, meaning that none is useless. But on the other hand, I never strafed to put on or hunt for the best gear possible, also partially thanks to the low difficulty. Gear also have completely random skills so it’s not uncommon to find the same gear but better suited for your gameplay, which is nice. You can also temper gear with materials found on the overworld or from disassembling gear you don’t use, which makes them stronger and unlocks a few more skills. This adds for a lot of diversity and experimenting, and can make certain gear feel more special towards you. I personally didn’t need it to much because like I’ve mentioned before, the difficulty is low, but it’s great to have and basically throws the concept of useless gear out of the window.
The game looks pretty good overall. It does not take full advantage of the PS4 capabilities since it was also simultaneously released on the PS3 in Japan, but I like what I see. It uses a nice form of cell-shaded graphics with a good use of colour. Characters can be given a varying set of accessories, also making them to your liking. Some are really weird (most likely on purpose) like the Normin suits, but I can see my boy Laphicet in swimming trunks and demon wings so I can’t ask for anything more. There are several animated cutscenes in the game as well by Ufotable, and they have an absolutely gorgeous artstyle. The soundtrack is also good, with themes all dedicated to different atmospheres. The main theme in particular gets a lot of spotlight and represents the theming of the game very well. But I can’t praise the soundtrack and ignore the absolute masterpiece that is the opening song, BURN by Flow.
Tales of Berseria is a great entry in the Tales franchise, with a good theming and a cast of characters I personally very much like. The gameplay is fine overall and especially improves on what can be done on the overworld over the older games. There is a lot of side content, allowing for lots of playtime. The characters their looks and gameplay can be set perfectly to your own liking. The very low difficulty does hamper the game somewhat, which makes the different amount of combinations and the extensive gear system less effective than they should have been. Still, I absolutely recommend playing and beating this game as all the hours I have spent on the game were well worth it. And with that, here is my final verdict for Tales of Berseria:
Tales of Berseria is playable on both Steam and Playstation 4. Also on Playstation 3 is you can read the sugoi Japanese language kawaii desu~. Since I don’t own a Playstation 4 I was forced to play it on Steam, but I haven’t come across any issues so either version is good to play.