Takes of Berseria – Back to Form
The “Tales of” game series is a bit of a funny one for me, before Tales of Berseria, I could never describe myself as a “tales of” fan. It has all the components of a game I should really like but never quite hit the mark in joining the games I consider to be RPG elite alongside Final Fantasy and Persona. Painfully linear dungeons and below-par stories have held it back. (Looking at you, Tales of Zestiria!)
Every game seemed to have one flaw that prevented the “Tales of” game going from good to great. However, I can safely say that Tales of Berseria suffers no such fatal flaw. Sure there are not so great feature but they become mere idiosyncrasies in comparison to the larger picture. Make no mistake, Tales of Berseria is a great game!
Set in the same world as Tales of Zestiria, it is easy to fall prey to concerns the story could follow a similar simplicity and straightforwardness offering nothing interesting to the medium. In contrast to this, Tales of Berseria seems to go out of its way to differentiate itself as a prequel.
You follow the story of Velvet in seeking revenge against the Artorius as leader of the Abbey for the murder of her brother as part of a ritual. As part of the ritual Velvet becomes a demon and alongside her motley crew following the path of revenge and Velvet’s own retribution.
As per usual the five-point review will focus on five features.
This excellent video by Zaffrerevolution (like and subscribe!) does an excellent job of explaining the story and what makes this story so good. The key thing for me as a player is how character-driven the story is. This for me is my favourite type of story. Remember seasons 1-6 of Game of Thrones? The story was so strong here because it was character-driven and only fell off a cliff when not steered by George RR Martin thus becoming more focussed on spectacle than the characters.
The story is clear and has a grey theme. You can understand the motivations of the protagonists and antagonists alike without necessarily agreeing with either and the game is not afraid to present your party with their fair share of less than desirable features. The relationships and rivalries further strengthen the plot and story meaning but more on that later in characters.
This is possibly the strongest area of Tales of Berseria. The clear motivations of the characters allow relatable empathy with their motives. Even the antagonists have clear goals presented.
Artorius is an interesting antagonist with a tragic backstory similar to Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV. Obviously, the two stories differ substantially but you are not awaiting DLC content to understand something essential to the narrative plot. The two most intriguing characters for me were Velvet and Magilou and this was mainly through their respective counterpoints in the game. That is not to say the other characters were not as good but the two mentioned have strong relationship-driven plot points.
Velvet is seeking revenge for her brother’s murder to the hands of Artorius.
Magilou is simply along for entertainment and serves as comic relief although her back story is far more serious.
Eizen is searching for the captain of his ship.
Laphicet is trying to make the progression from lifeless husk to his own person.
Eleanor starts as a hostage but later becomes disenchanted with the operations of the Abbey.
Rokurou is seeking to defeat the greatest swordsman who also happens to be his brother.
The fact I am able to summarise the endgame for each character with no research whatsoever is key here and a testament to how well written the characters are.
For a combat system that is so fast-paced and surprisingly deep. There is a big focus on the souls gauge and combos to build it up. Despite the fact you are able to play with any character I won’t lie it was very rare I used anyone other than Velvet. Afterall I felt like she deserved the retribution the most. In addition to this, she was easily the most fun to fight with, the fast-paced battle mechanics were so absurdly fun I could almost feel my own bloodlust as I battled.
As well as this you are able to customise the battle system assigning a different attack move to each button for each of the four stages as well as an additional one for blocking which does become more important towards the end of the game. This means there are a wide variety of iterations to your attacks further compelling you to change it up. You can also hot button your team to play defensive or go all-out attack as well to help if you are struggling or see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The one area that I saw as a small weakness that I will include here is the weapon upgrade system. Much of the loot you get is useless and you will find yourself dismantling it for other materials to upgrade your weapon of choice often the one with the highest attack. Often I had picked up at least 10 versions of the same weapons I already have and it belittled the discoveries of new weapons for me. For me, there wasn’t a noticeable enough benefit to picking other weapons that despite being much later game was hitting for much less even with the potential for upgrading.
Nevertheless, this is a minor critique that I feel I had to add here.
One of the best ways to judge the music in RPG games is how much do you remember certain tracks and for what reason do you remember them?
To give an example the Final Fantasy series is often remembered for how magical the soundtrack is. The music is remembered for the emotions it stirs up. Events like the death of Aerith are not only remembered for the impact of the incident but also the stunning musical score it exhibits.
On the other side, some series struggle with their music. As good as the latest Dragon Quest was, the music was below par and quite frankly irritating. “Forgettable” would have been a term I would have preferred to use to describe it.
Tales of Berseria on the other hand nails the background music in terms of not interrupting or irritating the listener. It also has some excellent pieces to boot. The music played on the first Scarlet night when the malevolence presents itself is haunting and sets the pulse racing.
Whilst it is missing some really memorable pieces like the Final Fantasy franchise. The Extreme, One winged Angel and Dancing Mad spring to mind. It does a good enough job to ensure the music adds to the experience rather than detracts from it.
5) Graphics and Aesthetics
Tales of Berseria suffers a small amount of criticism to do with its graphics. Aesthetically I like the look of this game and the styling presents itself well particularly in the darker segments however it is easy to argue the game has not shown much progression graphically compared to previous instalments.
At the same time, this was not enough to hamper my enjoyment of the game, as noted above I was able to enjoy the Steam version with pretty maxed out graphics meaning the graphics looked quite appetising to me.
Seeing the initial screenshots of Tales of Arise possible don’t help things either as there seems to be a giant leap engine wise between what was offered in Tales of Berseria in comparison. Nevertheless, the styling of the game is quite pleasing in my opinion and a little bit more graphical could have given us one of the prettiest Tales games to date.
Overall this is a great RPG game and maybe one of the best Tales games to date. It was not to see the team switching it up and trying something new story-wise and long may it continue.
Great game and a must-play for any JRPG fans.
If you enjoyed this you should check out my review of Trails of Cold Steel here and follow the link below if you want to purchase Tales of Berseria on PS4.