Sure, I took some flack when I said that Tales of Zestiria might be one of the best JRPGs to be released around that time, and one of the best in the series. But I was right — it had little to no other competition from JRPG titans (Final Fantasy XV & Persona 5 still aren’t out), and ran like a dream on PS4. I’m more looking forward to Tales of Berseria.
We got our sweaty palms on the demo build of the Japanese version of the game, which showcased a couple of areas — a beautiful beach area, and a more dour (though still great to look at) ancient ruins setting, with only the former having story cutscenes and skits. Firstly the game looks gorgeous in motion. As always the Tales Of artwork and character design is on point, and even the less vibrant ancient ruins still popped and looked great on PS4.
Battles load in and out almost instantly, and the standard battles that take place on the map can only last a handful of seconds (which it gleefuly logs for you in the results screen), meaning they can only last 8-11 seconds. The Tales Of experience is more slick and streamlined than ever before here.
The battle system itself is a tweaked version of the Linear Motion Battle System, this time called the Liberation-LMBS. Everything comes together to feel just that little bit more dynamic than some of the previous systems. Combos and Artes are plentiful, and just tapping out combos feels satisfying and fun. The ability of depth is there, but the system is still just as intuitive and engaging for anyone to play. even if they don’t want to delve too deeply into how the systems actually work. The demo does a good job at taking you through the system a battle at a time too, so it’s easy to pick up without it laying it on too thick, though Tales Of fans will be immediately familiar with the feel of things (and you can even play the demo with Tutorials turned off).
The Soul Gauge is the biggest change to the LMBS. Souls govern the actions you can take in battle, from using Artes to evading. These can be dropped by enemies mid-battle which you can then “steal”. The main deal with this is that when you have enough souls you can use each character’s unique “Break Soul” moves which have special effects and can extend combos, adding to the carnage you can wreak on enemies.
The way the party-system works in-battle is different now too, and allows for some on the fly character switching. You have 4 characters active at once, but now you can use the D=pad to switch characters in and out of the 4 slots as long as you have enough energy. You can even swap yourself right out too to take control of another party member. And yes, you can even use that to extend combos and make use of souls. This adds a pretty fresh new layer to the way battles can play out. Fresh and exciting the battles in Berseria really feel like the best yet. That’s pretty core for the series, and is a great thing to get right.
The maps had some nice little areas to explore, and you can even climb up things or jump around (at very designated spots) to find hidden chests. These hidden chests require gem pickups to open, which encourage exploring each area to get all of them. Skits are as present as ever, but this time they’re even more animated, with more of a variety of full body reactions from your party which helps liven them up a bit.
If this is how good Tales Of can be even when still catering for a PS3 downgrade version, we have to wonder what the series will be able to accomplish when it goes balls to the wall for PS4 exclusively, maybe even with (dare I say it?) PS4 Pro support? It’s a bit of a shame that time can’t be right now for the Tales Of series, it’d be great to see what they could really have done completely unleashed on power for Berseria, but once again it feels like a great iteration of the series so far.