Tales of Berseria is the sixteenth entry in the Tales Of series. Despite being deep into the series, Berseria not only manages to appeal to long time Tales fans with its host of improvements and innovations, but also manages to be fresh and exciting. This would be a welcome start for newcomers.
Berseria is also the first entry in the series to star a sole female protagonist in Velvet Crowe (Xillia had two main protagonists). Velvet’s story is a tragedy from the very beginning, and she’s a much darker and more bitter lead than you might be used to in a Tales game. But she’s not Shadow the Hedgehog, either. The writing in Tales of Berseria is fantastic, and while it is steeped in some dark and mature themes, it’s never feels too edgy or over-egged.
The writing in Tales of Berseria is fantastic, and while it is steeped in some dark and mature themes, it’s never feels too edgy or over-egged.
It’s one of few Tales games to share direct connections with another one, being set in the same world as Zestiria 1000 years prior. There are some interesting connections players of Zestiria will pick up on, but you could get everything out of Berseria without knowledge of Zestiria. It’s entirely self-contained.
The reason Velvet sets off on her Kill Bill-esque revenge journey is explained in the playable prologue, and you feel like you’re with her every step of the way. Her pains feel real, and while she does become a demon, her plight feels human throughout. Considering your party in the game mostly consists of demons and malakhim, it’s a story that is constantly asking what it means to be human. The English dub is great, and on top of having a hefty amount of cutscenes, there’s a tonne of “skits” to work through too – optional conversations that you’re prompted to watch in certain areas. These are more animated that they’ve been in any Tales Of game before. Despite their throwaway sounding name, all the skits are a joy to watch, and add a lot of characterisation to everyone. I wouldn’t recommend missing any of them.
All the characters that join Velvet’s party feel like they have a reason to be there, and their own goals they’re trying to achieve parallel to her own. Nobody is a cookie cutter companion, and they’ll all constantly surprise you. Even the main NPCs are very well rounded. Besides great characters, the game also takes you to a variety of gorgeous locations throughout Velvet’s quest – the ones that stood out most were the snowy coves of Hellawes, and the tranquil beaches of Izult and Haria.
Besides great characters, the game also takes you to a variety of gorgeous locations throughout Velvet’s quest.
It is a shame that early on Berseria is a bit heavy-handed with the bland cave style dungeons, but it quickly gains momentum at taking you to much more interesting environments – be they dungeons or fields. Not that there’s a huge difference. The maps in Tales of Berseria are all very similar in terms of function. There are only a handful of instances in dungeons that would really constitute being a puzzle. Mostly you navigate an area from A to B, stopping off along the way to pick up glowing treasures, chests, or Katz Orbs (which are used as currency to open Katz Chests – one way of obtaining fashion accessories). As usual, you can customise the fashion of your characters with all sorts of silly things that will then be used in cutscenes and battles, one of Tales Of’s best features.
The maps are also stuffed to the brim with roaming enemies. Touch them and you’ll instantly be transported to a fight with a group of enemies – if you get them without them seeing you you’ll enter a favourable encounter, or trigger a fight with more than one roaming group too close together and you’ll enter a dangerous encounter with more and stronger enemies. There’s also a chance that after an encounter with some regular enemies a Dire Foe will show up, a much stronger enemy – the type of which differs depending on the area.
Similarly, there are also hunts scattered around the areas, marked by a big red dot, that yield bounty rewards (as in money, not the delicious coconut chocolate). You can avoid enemy encounters easily by just running around them, but without doing your duty you’ll eventually become under levelled. There are options later to stop lower level enemies trying to jump you, or to instantly destroy them, which can aid with exploration you didn’t get around to the first time through.
There’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to read the situations well enough to carry out an optimum strategy and close it out as quickly as possible.
So, most of the time you’re not experiencing the excellent story of Tales of Berseria you’ll be going through a lot of battles. On average, most normal fights will take less than a minute, maybe even around 20 seconds if you get your strategy right. When battles don’t have load times between them, you’ll end up blazing through them fast. There’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to read the situations well enough to carry out an optimum strategy and close it out as quickly as possible. Even though there are so many enemies in each area, you’ll want to keep challenging yourself to clear them out as quickly as possible.
It never feels like it’s not your own fault for allowing yourself to get into a sticky situation.
Tales of Berseria uses a tweaked version of the Linear Motion Battle System, this time called the Liberation-LMBS. You can run around freely, swap between active party members, and even substitute inactive party members into the fight. Actions this time are governed by the soul gauge, which indicates the amount of stamina you have available and the length of the combos you can pull off. Enemies have their own soul gauge too, and you can steal their souls by killing or stunning them. To use your own special artes you’ll need to spend a soul, which gives it to an enemy, when you have three or more.
This gives every battle an element of push and pull, and constantly makes you evaluate the risk of what you want to use your souls for. If you spend one now – perhaps to enter Velvet’s Beast Mode which, in turn, can steal back but also quickly drain your own health — can you recover your spent souls by the time you pull of your special combo-ending move? Being low on souls forces you to play much more defensively as you try to win them back – but it never feels like it’s not your own fault for allowing yourself to get into a sticky situation. It sounds somewhat complicated, but quickly becomes second nature.
At most you’ll have a combo chain of four attacks, each mapped to each of the four face buttons. You can switch between which face button you’re chaining at any time, allowing you to freely move between combos. You can leave these to their defaults if you want (these will change themselves as you unlock stronger moves), or you can fully customise them. Different enemies have different elemental weaknesses and resistances, so that’s something you might want to keep in mind as you enter a new area.
Tales of Berseria is full of systems like this. Ones that can be as complicated as you want them to be. Sure, it’s always going to be optimal to tweak these systems yourself to make sure you’re fully answering all the problems the game throws at you, but just as equally the game’s defaults should be good enough to see you through. The combo settings can be as complex as you want.
The cooking and discovery systems are handy, but are never completely necessary. Tweaking your equipment and titles can yield some very helpful rewards, but just the same you can stick with the basics and just upgrade your biggest number weapons to continue on your way and be fine. There are some end-game optional areas, side-quests, and other content where you’ll really need to be on top of these, of course, but for the most part the game is fine to adapt to the desires of the player, and it’s great to see so much thought being put into this for those that just want to make it through the main story.
At the highest settings and 60fps the Steam version is a real dream to play, and a pleasantly surprising PC port.
The only area it drops the ball systems-wise is with the Velvet’s AI in-battle. You can switch between Manual, Semi-Automatic (the game’s default, which mainly forces your character to close the gap after you input an attack), and Automatic. Too many times in Automatic Velvet would enter Beast Mode, allowing her HP to drain completely to 1HP before she used her finisher to exit the mode – while I looked on in despair while eating soup. For the most part though, she’ll be able to figure it out in your standard cannon fodder types of battle.
It might not be the most technically impressive game out there, but as usual for a Tales Of game the visual design in Berseria is very much on point. While Berseria isn’t being released on PlayStation 3 over here, it was in Japan. It just makes me all the more excited to see what a Tales Of game can be like without hardware limitations being part of its design. With that said, we reviewed the PC version of the game, and at the highest settings and 60fps the Steam version is a real dream to play, and a pleasantly surprising PC port.
Not only does Tales of Berseria excel in telling a gripping and mature story, but it also has action-packed battles in some stunning environments. At times it can begin to feel a little bit repetitive, but when the writing is good enough to make you want to find out what’s going to happen next, and the mechanics that are being repeated are so enjoyable, that’s not wholly a bad thing. Fans should definitely enjoy everything on offer here, and newcomers should consider making Berseria their first Tales Of game – it’s a real treat through and through.