Tales of Berseria has the pressure of following up a game that was largely seen as a disappointment, with Tales of Zestiria regularly referred to as one of the weakest installments in the over 20-year-old franchise to date. With a series that is bound so much by its own commitment to traditional RPG tropes, there’s really only so much that can be done to shake things up without aggravating the fanbase. Unsurprisingly, Tales of Berseria does keep things familiar, but it wraps everything up in a darker and more emotional tale that packs quite the punch.
The game doesn’t waste any time in trying to pull at your heartstrings, as the initial happy girl living a happy life in a happy village intro quickly goes south. A tragic event costs protagonist Velvet Crowe the life of a loved one and her own humanity, as her village and all of its residents succumb to a disease known as Daemonblight. Daemons now roam the world and pose a serious threat to humanity, though there are also those who appear righteous on the surface that pose an even greater threat. Velvet finds herself on a journey that is fueled by revenge, but her travels reveal that there’s much more going on than meets the eye.
Due to the events that happened during the fall of her village, Velvet has been transformed into a bitter daemon and regularly feeds on other daemons in order to survive. This gives the game a darker and more morbid tone than recent games in the series, but it’s kept from getting too dark thanks to a varied and memorable cast. Through both the main story and the optional conversation scenes, each of the game’s characters shine brightly with great dialogue that makes everyone feel fully-realized and important to the plot. Characters like the hard-nosed pirate Eizen or the justice-seeking Eleanor add depth, whereas characters like the carefree and wild Magilou add plenty of laughs and surprises. The story that Berseria tells is one that drags from time to time and goes a little too “out there” when all is said and done, but it’s the strength of the characters that keeps things engaging.
The way that Tales of Berseria unfolds is similar to previous entries in the series or really any classic RPG in general: you go to a town, stock up on supplies, go to a dungeon, beat the enemies, beat the boss, and repeat. It’s not anything that hasn’t been done many times before, and in certain aspects Berseria doesn’t even execute this formula particularly well. One of the most important aspects of the RPG formula is to ensure that the places you go and the dungeons you trek through are memorable and challenging, but that’s only partly true for Berseria. While visually some of the game’s locales look very impressive with vibrant colors and a whimsical aesthetic, the game’s dungeons are once again a series of uninspired and mostly straightforward pathways. There are some very basic puzzles that have you dealing with switches in order to open new paths, but they’re not enough to make the game’s dungeons interesting outside of combat.
Berseria’s combat system is consistently entertaining
Thankfully, combat is a big part of the game and it’s also its strongest feature. The game uses a variation of the linear motion battle system, which allows players to freely roam around the battle zone and manage the camera as they see fit. Various attacks are mapped to each of the four face buttons on the controller, leading to lots of interesting combo attack possibilities that utilize skills called Artes. What truly makes the battle system shine is the Soul Gauge, with each character having a separate gauge that holds up to five souls. These souls are depleted when Artes are used, and if you run out of them you become more vulnerable to attack deflections and being put in a staggered state. Acquiring enough souls allows characters to initiate a Break Soul, which lets characters exceed combo limits to pull off marathon combos to quickly dish out big damage. Finally, a separate blast gauge can be utilized to pull off very powerful Mystic Artes, which regularly turn the tide of the battle when executed.
Four characters are allowed to battle at a time, though the party eventually increases to six characters in total. As a result, you’re able to swap in other characters with a push of a button, which comes in handy when one of your characters is running low on HP. Both enemy and ally AI is solid during all combat scenarios, filling their roles adequately and allowing for challenging and rewarding battles to happen regularly. It’s a great feeling when you really get the timing of the combat down and you learn the best combos to use on certain enemies, as it allows you to do well in battle even if you appear outmatched statistically. Berseria regularly dumps enemies on you that you can avoid entirely if you want to, but combat is so much fun that I didn’t find myself skipping many battles.
Of course, you’ll regularly acquire loot throughout your journey that will go towards the improvement of each of your characters. You’ll get new weapons and armor that can then be enhanced with the right items to be made even more powerful, and that same equipment comes packed with skills that can be mastered if you defeat enough enemies while they’re equipped. You also learn plenty of new Artes throughout the adventure, which you can then map to different buttons and create new combos before taking them into battle. Certain Artes come with different status effects, so carefully configuring your move set prior to taking on an enemy of a particular type is very important in being able to take them down more efficiently. It’s a system that works well, as the sheer variety of moves keeps combat from ever getting stale.
Tales of Berseria isn’t a reinvention of the series, but it delivers a more emotional story mixed with a great combat system to make this adventure worth taking. The game’s fantastic cast keeps things entertaining even during moments where nothing particularly noteworthy is happening in the plot, and the way the character’s develop throughout the game is endearing. The dungeons are nothing to write home about, but the game’s consistently-thrilling battles are able to pick up some of the slack.
Tales of Berseria
- Available On: PlayStation 4, PS3, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco
- Developed By: Bandai Namco
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: January 24th, 2017
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Tales of Berseria isn't a reinvention of the series, but it delivers a more emotional story mixed with a great combat system to make this adventure worth taking."