The Tales of series tends to get a lot of flak for sticking to its roots but Tales of Berseria is a bit of a departure from the usual experience. Bandai Namco have done enough here to make the series interesting again – which is something I never would have expected after the last few entries.
You see, Berseria brings the focus back around on telling a compelling and relatable story, something the series has really pushed aside for some time. It’s a dark game with themes of death, revenge and how the eternal struggle of “good versus evil” is often left to how you see it.
The bulk of the story centers on a young girl named Velvet. As the series’ first true female main character, she ends up suffering a lot of hardship. The game opens with a look into her family and daily life before she’s catapulted into a gruesome event that sets her on the path to revenge.
While Velvet may not be the most fleshed out Tales of protagonist, she becomes a character that grows as result of the rest of the cast surrounding her. The characters in Berseria are colorful, likeable – each with different motivations and personalities as they face their own trials and tribulations throughout the course of the story. Your party members alone are motivation to see this thing through.
The story is fun; simple in a lot of ways, but complex in others. It certainly kept me invested enough to see what happened through the heartfelt end.
The battle system in Tales of Berseria has undergone a number of improvements as well. Instead of a more analog stick-based system as in previous games, Berseria's gone and mapped important abilities to the face buttons on the controller. This time it's all about combos, and setting up and executing them based on your menu preferences is key to taking advantage of enemy weaknesses in battles. These systems are expansive and continue to grow as Velvet works her way through her journey.
In Berseria, actions in battle are reliant on a feature known as the “soul guage” – a bar that depletes itself as you use attacks. Because of this element, you can’t really just go in there and button mash. There has to be some sort of strategy to your movements depending on the situation. A low soul gauge means you’ll do less damage so it becomes equally important to take advantage of guarding or stunning enemies to take back souls.
As with other Tales games, Berseria also features flashy ultimate attacks known as Mystic Artes and the Break Soul mechanic. Break Soul is a new battle system that lets the player exceed the maximum limit of performable artes in a combo. Each character has their own complete with special effects. Indeed, the battle system is smooth and satisfying. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Traversing through Berseria’s world is also somewhat different from past entries. During the course of the story, Velvet and friends align themselves with a group of pirates and it’s here you’ll make use of their ship services. You’ll eventually have the ability to travel around the world map using a series of menus. Zones are a lot more compact and focused in as well, tightening the overall game experience.
The game isn’t without some gripes, however. Dungeons are fairly bland for the most part. I found myself slogging to get through the majority of them, especially in the back half of the game. There’s a lot of backtracking, repetitive design and head-scratching obstacles.
You’ll find the visual style by now is extremely dated as well. Yeah, it’s nice they finally got the PS4 version running at 60 frames, but the PS3-era visuals aren’t doing the game any favors. The same can be said of the music, which unfortunately feels like another retread.
That said, Berseria does have a decent amount of bonus content to keep you busy. When you’re not fully focused on the story beats, you can send your extra pirate ship out to different lands on expeditions for rare items and the like. Other mini-games include fishing, serving and even one with balloons. There’s also a lot of little items here and there to collect and character-focused side quests that add more flair to the world.
If there’s one thing I had to say about Tales of Berseria: don’t sleep on it. With the wealth of other games out in the first half of the year, it’s going to be tough, but this game really impressed me. The main scenario and cast were fantastic, and there’s more than enough there with just them pulling the whole game forward.
Sure, there’s the typical Tales of jank – and it’s something they need to work on. But I think they’re getting there. Eventually. Hopefully.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.