It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a classic JRPG, but the time has come for me to dive into another one. The Tales series is a rather illustrious one, so to gather some understanding of the series, I actually picked up Tales of Zestiria and made myself a little more familiar in preparation for Tales of Berseria. Tales games are renowned for how incredibly long they are, and this one is no different, however if you’ve got the hours to spare you’ll find a deep RPG with a classic feel.
Tales of Berseria is the 17th entry into the Tales series and is developed by Bandai Namco Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It is set in the same world as Tales of Zestiria, however it is set a long time prior to the events of that game. The world is shared by humans, supernatural spirits known as malkhim (seraphim as they are called in Zestiria) and daemons. During an event called ‘Scarlet Night’, an affliction known as daemonblight overwhelms countless humans, turning them into daemons. As the name suggests, daemons are bad. You assume the role of a young, 19-year-old woman named Velvet Crowe, who has been afflicted by ‘daemonblight’. As a result, she transforms into a daemon referred to as a Therion – a type of demon that survives by consuming other daemons and malakhim, which also increases their power. The story is rather dark, featuring a plot primarily based on revenge, as Velvet seeks to avenge the death of her brother who is so callously murdered by a band of daemon hunters called ‘exorcists’. The story is long and full of intricacies with some interesting characters in it. At many points I thought I was near to the end only to realise that I was nowhere near that goal. However, for the most part, the story is well written. Plot developments occur frequently but are generally easy to grasp and the narrative moves along at a good pace. The game also uses downtime in gameplay to explain things which helps the player better understand the characters and/or the objectives at hand. The level of thought put into the writing truly is something to marvel.
“Man I’ve got great teeth.” – Mr. Sword Guy 2017
Tales of Berseria features a wide array of characters with varying personalities. It aims to show the bond that beings can share when a common goal is shared. A lot of the characters who tag along with Velvet serve as interesting catalysts for character development amongst each other. My personal favourite is Eleanor, a young exorcist who has devoted her entire life to the eradication of daemons and wishes nothing more than their extinction. She has her reasons for this, however I won’t spoil that. Over her time with the gang of misfits, she is challenged in her beliefs and values and while she remains headstrong in her values, she also develops into something which most exorcists fail to be – human. However, while there are prime examples of great character development, there are also characters who just are plain boring. It’s a shame that the perfect example of this has to be Velvet. She starts off as a promising character with a lot of room for growth. She really could have been anything, but in an attempt to make her fit with the whole dark setting she is written to be an angsty, one-dimensional devil woman with little to no growth. Her character is shallow, with a one-track mind, bent on killing the person who killed her brother. I understand that she is supposed to a furious daemon, but there really could have been better development in regards to her character. Almost every other character in your band of misfits has something about them which makes them memorable, but Velvet is the equivalent of a teenage girl going through her emo stage and full of angst.
In terms of gameplay, Tales of Berseria shares a lot of similarities with Zestiria, however it also has some big differences. For starters, dialogue which is deemed essential is played out via cutscene-like animations. The way it is executed is very neat and about half of these scenarios have to be prompted by the player, so it is by no means constantly shoving it in your face. After playing Final Fantasy XV, it was nice to play a JRPG where the dialogue didn’t consist of ‘I’ve come up with a new recipe’. When walking around, gameplay is kind of restricted, but that is just the style of the game. Instead of treating overall gameplay as something like The Elder Scrolls or The Witcher, it treats roaming and combat as completely separate things. When walking around you cannot drop down ledges (aside from ledges which give you a prompt to do so) and do other things that most RPGs let you do. There are invisible walls everywhere, but once again, that’s because of the style of game it is.
Blonde hair, blue eyes white dragon.
Speaking of combat (what a segue), the battle system is very fluid. In a way, the combat is kind of like Final Fantasy XV, going for real-time action, however you have more freedom in what combos you use and fleeing is a little more of a task. As is with any JRPG of this nature though, the combos which you execute are flashy and thrilling. In fact, the combat system is quite deep. Firstly, you have your gauges: SG (stamina), health and BG (break gauge). Your move sets are incredibly diverse and customisable, taking into account almost every enemy resistance and weakness. There are two types of attacks you can do normally, martial artes and hidden artes. Stats like power, damage type and SG consumption all come into play during combat, and in typical JRPG fashion enemies have resistances and weaknesses. Some are weak to specific damage types, while others are just weak to martial artes (or hidden artes) as a whole. Different enemies have varying resistances and weaknesses. Learning the resistances and weaknesses of an enemy is very simple and requires little to no effort. Given the variety of enemies, it would be a little unfair for you to only be able to change your artes at specific points. Thankfully, you can change your artes at any time, including during battle, so if you learn that your specific move set that you have assigned is ineffective, you can quickly change it. In addition to all this you also have the aforementioned BG meter. There are various uses for BG, including switching out characters, landing cross-character combos and using powerful moves called Mystic Artes.
The game features a fair few puzzles which are quite well conceived in their design. The first one which I thought was really cool occurred in a dungeon called Palimedes, which really made me think. I haven’t had something like that since…The Last Guardian, so not long ago in fact. I’m a fan of a good headscratching puzzle as long as the game gives you the tools to solve it, and Tales of Berseria’s puzzles fit that descritopn nicely.
The sticks and stones didn’t work.
Visually speaking, the game is very pretty. Instead of going for photorealistic visuals, it utilises a unique style of cel-shading, whereby textures almost look like a detailed crayon painting. It has a bright and vibrant colour palette, helping make the game feel more hospitable, but it certainly does have its moments of dark, dreary visuals. Even with the lovely art style, it does away with the common black outlining that a lot of other JRPGs use. It really makes it feel like a game and not an interactive anime. However, some (but not all) cutscenes are done in a 2D anime style, which is really cool. Some of the more detached, yet cohesive moments in the game are portrayed this way. A lot of the moments where this happens are longer than the standard cutscenes in the game, so usually they develop the plot quite well. Overall, while the graphics may not quite be on par with something like Final Fantasy XV, but they still are something to marvel at. The best part about it is the game actually runs quite well, running at a beautifully smooth 60fps. It’s so good to see another game not let frame rates plunge as a concession to good visuals. BNS truly have done a wonderful job with optimising this title to run beautifully on the PS4.
Tales of Berseria gives players the option of playing the game with either English or Japanese audio. While this probably doesn’t sound like much to some, it really gives players more freedom as I am aware there are some people who prefer playing games of this style with Japanese audio as a means of getting that authentic JRPG feel. It also features your typical guitar riffs when punching and kicking the crap out of your foes. The music definitely makes it feel like a JRPG, with that slight tinge of melodrama.
Tales of Berseria is a great installment into the illustrious JRPG Tales series. It features great visuals, an interesting story and an easy to learn combat system. However, the main issue with the story is that Velvet, the main protagonist, is incredibly drab and one dimensional. Regardless, I would recommend this game to anyone who is interested in spending an impressive amount of time on a large, expansive JRPG.
Reviewed on PS4