After a rough day at my other job I needed a way to blow off some steam, so I did something I almost never do anymore. I bought a game from a store! Usually I download games onto my console, but even then I don’t often buy games on launch. Something possessed me to buy Tales of Berseria though. The promotional trailers and such piqued my interest, so I thought it would be worth giving a shot.
The most recent Tales game I played was Tales of Vesperia (you can read my review on that here). Since then Bandai Namco has released five main series Tales game. Some things have certainly changed since my last visit into the Tales universe. In fact, it was all a little bit jarring, as I ignorantly assumed everything would be the same. Regardless, I’ve overcome that unfamiliar slump and new learning curve so without further ado, I give you a review of Tales of Berseria.
You take control of Velvet Crowe, a young woman imprisoned in a dark keep along with murderous convicts and even demons. She reflects on how things led to this and the quest begins. At least the prologue begins. The prologue could not be a more stereotypical JRPG plotline if you had to fetch medicine for your sick brother or if your small hometown village was destroyed.
Oh wait, both things actually happen. No I’m not kidding. You have to slog through this simplistic uninspired prologue before you get to any of the real meat of the game. It’s okay, because the game makes up for itself.
The game brings you back to present day, and Velvet is still imprisoned. Velvet has one intention: Breaking out and killing the man who imprisoned her: Artorius. She has more motivation to kill other than imprisonment, but I won’t spoil that. The one issue is that Artorius has become something of a savior to the world since Velvet last saw him. He protects people from demons, has assembled a government of powerful exorcists, and the world has become a better place. But… rather than having a moral quandary about this, Velvet could not care less. She does not care what will happen to the world or even if she dies, so long as she can take Artorius along with her.
A common selling point about the Tales series is the characters. The developers often go out of their way to take the heroic JRPG protagonist and turn it on its head. Tales of Berseria is no exception, as almost your entire party consists of anti-heroes. The entire world considers the party to be enemies, being demons, traitors, or ruthless rogues. Despite their intentions of stirring up trouble or even murdering others, they still manage to be likable and have very light-hearted conversations. The characters also hugely develop throughout the journey, so don’t take everything you see from them at face value.
The combat system is very different from what I am used to. Instead of normal attacks and special artes, every move you obtain counts as an arte. When you learn these artes you can set them to a four stage combo by using cross, circle, triangle, and square. It is… hard to explain. In fact, combat as a whole is needlessly convoluted. I still don’t understand some of the mechanics that the game supposedly told at the beginning. It took me a little while, but now I get the gist of how the combat works.
I think the new system has some pros and cons compared to the other. You no longer have to worry about TP (mana) as Berseria removes the bar. Characters expend souls to use moves, and can only have a maximum of five at any time in battle, but you start most battles with three. You gain souls in battle by defeating enemies or inflicting status ailments. If you fail to do this or if a party member steals your kills, then tough, you can only pull off 3 hit combos by yourself.
If you receive a status ailment then you lose souls and only performing a 1-2 hit combo is agonizingly annoying. Blocking is needed to refill your souls. If you try to attack too often enemies can break your combos just by blocking, so the game forces you to look for openings rather than attack endlessly. But you have a lot mobility than previous titles, giving you an edge. Especially when preserving souls and avoiding counterattacks.
Personally I still prefer the original combat system, but I don’t think the combat is objectively any worse or better than previous titles. Just different. The combat is still very fast-paced and looks cool. Furthermore it still offers the option of multiplayer combat, something absent from most RPGs.
One thing I have a major issue with is the equipment system. Enemies drop tons of weapons and armor. Weapons and armor that you already have or really don’t need. That’s still okay, but the weapons do not stack like so: “Amber Blade (x2).” No. Instead every single piece of equipment has its own slot even if they have the same attributes. So your equipment inventory looks incredibly cluttered after a few enemy battles. You can dismantle these additional weapons for materials. But I dismantle so many things, to keep my equipment orderly that I have maxed out a bunch of my materials. And obviously those materials are useless if they manage to stay at 99 throughout the game. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I don’t see the point such an unintuitive system. Rant over.
The game feels a bit shorter than the average Tales adventure, and doesn’t have quite as many side quests. There are a few optional powerful monsters to fight and some mini-games here and there. The most interesting sidequest is the “scouting ship.” Basically while you are in the game, you send the scouting ship to several locations. Once the ship returns it brings back items such as food or treasure. It takes about 30 minutes for a ship to return from the voyage, and time passes while you are just playing through the game or even if you stopped playing the game. The fact that this side quest works while you aren’t thinking about it is very reminiscent of the town building in Bravely Default. I enjoy it. Though it is frustrating if the ship keeps finding only food after three consecutive voyages to the same area.
Overall I enjoy the game quite a bit, and the equipment system isn’t enough to deter me. The story is great aside from a few uneventful parts here and there. The characters are very refreshing and combat rarely gets dull. It does remain a very niche game however. If you dislike anime in general, I cannot imagine you will enjoy it. Personally, I still rank Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Symphonia higher. However Tales of Berseria is still great and fans should not overlook it.