The Tales series is no stranger to western JRPG fans, with its fast combat system, deep character development, and miles of in-game land to explore, it’s no surprise at least one game from the series holds a special place in many gamer’s hearts, albeit some entries more than others. With the release of 2015’s Tales of Zisteria, Bandai Namco attempted to return to the core of Tales’ most beloved mechanics. However, some would say that it lacked in many ways when compared to its predecessors.
This year saw the release of Tales of Berseria, available now for PlayStation 4 and PC. In the early days of development, the game prided itself on being the first in the series to be centered around a female protagonist while telling a bold and controversial story. I had high expectations for Tales of Berseria, as I am a fan of the series, but I’ll also be the first to admit been Tales games haven’t been impressing me as much with the past few entries. However, after playing through Berseria, I can honestly say that the developer definitely succeeded in creating a truly amazing story and cast of characters along with a nicely improved battle system.
Tales of Berseria begins with the realization that this is not your typical Tales story. The game is quick to let the player know that they are not the hero this time around. After experiencing a great loss the main protagonist, Velvet Crowe, is fueled by rage to seek vengeance on those who are at fault. Her personality shows that she is not one to be worried about the needs of others and is fully commented to what she must do in order to complete her personal mission.
Throughout the story other characters get involved and join Velvet’s campaign for revenge. However, Velvet rarely shows interest in whether a member stays or leaves as she is focused only on her goal. Similarly, Berseria’s story handles character growth to a very high standard, I can only compare it to the likes of the Trails of Cold Steel series where each character gets equal amount of back story and struggles to overcome. This type of character development throughout Berseria made me incredibly invested in each member of the party as they traveled the world in search for not only Velvet’s resolve, but their own personal conflicts.
The Linear Motion Battle System makes a return which always seems to see improvements with each Tales release. With that said, this time around players need to focus on the “Soul Gauge” which is represented by stars near the character’s HP gauge. Each attack uses an amount of Soul Gauge, and, when it’s fully depleted it’s still possible to continue an attack, but you’ll easily get knocked back or staggered by enemies.
Furthermore, there’s an extra mode unique to each character that is fairly powerful which uses up a certain amount of souls. In the case of Velvet, she turns into an enemy consuming daemon destroying everything in her path. However, her HP also takes a hit during this move and can only be restored with the blood of an enemy (or a healing item will work just fine). So in the end, balancing out these attacks is crucial to victory. Even though this new battle system took a bit to get used to, I enjoyed the extra layer of strategy it asks of players looking for high skill combat. Combining attacks with successful blocks and parries was strangely satisfying.
This time around, attacks are mapped to the face buttons on the controller. Each of these attack combinations can be changed mid-battle in order to adapt to different enemy’s weaknesses. Additionally, there are Mystic Arte’s mapped to a single button press for use when a character’s Blast Gauge meter fills up. These attacks show a cool looking avatar of the character right before they unleash their ultimate attack. even though I learned to enjoy this new battle system, part of me missed using the classic combination of directional buttons and face buttons to pull off attacks. However, Berseria definitely found a way to streamline the battle system and make it easily accessible to all gamers.
The world of Berseria is connected by ship ports. Throughout the game, the player will travel long distances by ship and other times by foot. While running through the lands between towns, I found that the areas weren’t as impressive as they should have been. They just didn’t seem to look that different when compared to past games in the series. I would have liked to see them take a bigger step forward in terms of level design this time around because to me it didn’t look much different than areas found in Xillia or Zestiria.
In order to make sure the player explores every inch of the these areas, Berseria has dozens of items and collectibles lying around. Aside from items, players will be able to collect Katz Spirits that are used to open special treasure chests for the price of a number of spirits. Incidentally, these aren’t that difficult to come by and they respawn after the player comes back from a town or new area. Now, this wasn’t always such a good thing because the completionist in me would constantly want to collect everything in an area even if I’ve cleared it multiple times. However, it goes without saying that I was never short on Katz Spirits. Additionally, quick traveling is pretty limited, but the game tries to balance it with the geoboard, a fantasy-like surfboard to speed traveling up a bit between areas.
Another fun side quest was sending your ship out to explore the seas and gather rare items and information on other islands. Like Rollo’s gang of cats from Tales of Xillia, real time counts down when you send the ship out to sea. It’s random whether you retrieve anything useful or not, but I always found it beneficial to have my ship exploring something at all times.
The towns in Berseria are a huge improvement when compared to those in Zestiria. Even though Zestiria’s towns were beautiful, they ended up coming off as a little overly ambitious and boring. Berseria improved on this by adding more towns people to speak with and secret areas to discover. I found myself impressed with each new town I discovered and enjoyed learning more about the surrounding areas from NPCs.
The Tales series has always found a way to satisfy my itch for a story rich JRPG with deep character development and exciting combat. In that regard, Tales of Berseria does not disappoint. The story is gripping from the very beginning and keeps hold throughout the entire game. When it comes to the new battle system, I felt that Tales of Bersaria proved to be easily accessible to newcomers as well as offer extra benefits to those who’d like to master it. Even though the environments lacked any big steps forward for series, I felt myself constantly exploring and enjoying every moment. Berseria has quickly become not only one of my favorite games in the series, but also one of my favorite RPGs of all time.