Now that the party poppers have been set aside after the Tales series celebrated being 20 years young this past year, this momentous occasion became a spark a point of renewed energy behind Bandai Namco Entertainment's esteemed Tales of series.
Where anniversary release Tales of Zestiria looked to the past by returning to themes touched upon in the series' infancy, it is Tales of Berseria that takes a confident, and more daring, stride forward in charting its next chapter.
Players will be cast into a world still recovering from the Daemonblight outbreak that it suffered three years ago when a Scarlet Moon rose upon the horizon. A disease that changes humans into monsters has come; the world's people have grown to fear becoming afflicted by such curse.
Standing proudly at the center of this tale is Velvet Crowe, a somewhat fierce and strong-willed character that marks the first solo female protagonist to appear in the series.
With producer Yasuhiro Fukaya sharing that Berseria will be “a tale of emotion versus reason,” he added that the name itself is derived from the word berserker. That is reflected in Velvet who, unlike the party that will accompany on your newfound quest, is a far darker character driven by her strong and, at times, hot-headed emotions.
While Bandai Namco are remaining partly secretive about certain elements pertaining to the narrative that underpins Berseria, it is an experience that will feed on the strife between Velvet and those who choose to shut off their emotions in believing that only practical reasoning can restore order to the world.
She will have several traveling companions: Laphicet, a Malak boy who once didn't have the will to live; Rokurou Rangetsu, a samurai that owes a debt of gratitude; Magileux, a witch that practices unlicensed witchcraft and is often an icebreaker in conversation; Eleanor Hume, a clumsy exorcist who hates Velvet but always tries to do what's right; and Eizen, a loyal reaper that treads his own path and gives his enemies no mercy.
But, more about her left hand. Said to be key to both the story and game system, artwork released so far has only shown it wrapped in bandages. When unsheathed it takes on a more monstrous form, a claw crimson in color that Velvet will attack with in battle.
Combat itself has undergone a considered evolution in Berseria , now named the somewhat dramatic-sounding Liberation Linear Motion Battle System. Within battle scenarios, players can now freely move the camera with the Left Stick in response to community feedback. Of course, anyone reading will be more interested in the wider enhancements that have been made.
The most impressive is Arte Combo, a combination system that allows players to freely set their favorite Artes to respective buttons on their DualShock 4. With a total of 12 slots, there is plentiful room for experimentation with such a design choice not only enabling deeper customization, but also lends itself well to empowering your party with a wider array of tactics to dominate in battle.
Given this was a European-based preview event for the title, Bandai Namco were also quick to note that they're not slacking on their localization efforts for the title: both English and Japanese voice over are on deck, with text and subtitles set to be additionally available in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian besides.
From all that was shown, I came away with a resoundingly positive impression. As a hands-off presentation, it is hard to judge precisely how the game plays at this point in time, but everything that I saw only served to encourage me about how Tales of Berseria is shaping up. Early 2017 may seem a way off, but this is a title that should most certainly be frantically scribbled on any Japanese RPG fan's most anticipated list.