I’m overjoyed to be writing the Tales of Berseria review. After Tales of Zestiria(review), my enthusiasm for Tales games waned a great deal. Thankfully, Berseria addresses most of my issues with their last iteration and even makes fantastic use of the lore built by its predecessor.
If you’re unaware, Tales of Berseria is a prequel to Zestiria. It’s a Japanese RPG with real time action gameplay featuring a party of four that are interchangeable outside of, as well as during, battle.
I thoroughly enjoyed the combat system. Each character has depth to them. The main story is heart-breaking in the best way. Tales of Berseria redeems the franchise in many ways, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. For as much as I do adore this entry, the problems that have cropped up since the new generation of consoles are more apparent now than ever.
With all of that out of the way, here’s the full review. Don’t forget to drop me a Comment to Read at the end. I want to know how you feel about this game. And don’t miss my Top 5 Tales Moments feature, which was created before I played this. So no Spoilers, nor will there be any in this review.
Look and Feel
In many ways, Tales of Berseria is the best looking Tales game to date. The anime cut-scenes are as great as ever, without being over-used. The in-game engine is utilised for some gripping fight scenes. The characters themselves are striking in their design. The battle animations are smoother and the user interface (menus etc) is as it has mostly always been.
At a distance, the environments look pleasant too. Look too closely, however, and you’ll start to notice the disparity between character and background. Tales games are beginning to look flat. That’s one of the reasons most of the game’s locations aren’t every memorable. Though, saying that, Berseria is more of a character driven piece. Still, it’s disappointing. It has variety in its landscapes (grass, sand, snow, mountainous etc) but nothing worthy of note. There’s no illuminated city like Trigleph (Xillia) nor is there a natural beauty like Halure (Vesperia) and its cherry blossoms.
I hope remarkable locations and environments make a return in future installments. As for Berseria, unremarkable world aside, the characters themselves steal the show. The emotion Velvet expresses in her eyes as she lunges for an opponent. The desperation in Laphicet’s face as he cries out his deepest desires. It’s all very well done. Tales games may be falling behind the times technically, but it’s that heart that beats inside of it that makes it so endearing to me personally.
Tales of Berseria is, at its core, a tale of reason versus emotion. Logic versus passion. The embodiment of which is found in our antagonist and protagonist. Velvet Crowe’s (your main character) story is one of more than just her hatred. It’s her struggle.
The supporting cast are diverse in their personalities and motivations, with each paying off in a big way throughout the game. I thought the pacing of the story was remarkable, even within a fifty-hour long game like this. Ordinarily I’d be hesitant to recommend you invest that much time in a game, as I would be with Final Fantasy XV, but Tales of Berseria is a tale that needs to be seen.
My main issue with the cast of Zestiria was that they had little-to-no depth. Their motivations were foggy or just plain uninspired. Berseria sets up Velvet’s struggle right out of the gate, and her arc is rewarding to watch. She’s no one-note Sorey, that’s for sure.
To say too much would be to risk spoiling an excellent plot. I’ll just leave this section as vague as I can, but Tales of Berseria has been a great ride with loads of optional exposition via side-stories and animated skits.
Velvet is the star of the show, but Magilou is a close second for me. That said, each character is worthy of praise in this particular tale.
I play the Tales games in English because I’ve always found the localisation efforts of Namco Bandai to be top notch. There’s the occasional hiccup (Milla’s audio in Xillia….) but they’re usually exceptions to the rule.
Berseria’s cast deliver on the emotional tale being told. I was sold on every single one of them. Even Rokurou, whom struck me as a little “off” at first, comes in to his own as the game reaches a critical point in his personal narrative.
The two characters that annoyed me, even though they were well suited, were Bienfu and Kamoana. Just wait until you hear them. My God. Their voices could pierce diamonds.
There are a few minor issues with what’s being said and what’s being subtitled later on in the game, but in a game that’s so huge, it’s hard to catch everything. Nothing egregious, just a few different words during some skits and scenes.
The Zestiria Connection
For those of you wondering how Berseria’s prequel status comes in to play, it’s mainly about the over-arching themes. It’s almost like an origin story for the lore that was established by Zestiria, without being too closely linked to the characters themselves. It’s not necessary to play Zestiria beforehand at all, but there’s plenty of fan service for those that did. In short, you don’t have to worry about playing Tales of Zestiria. Though the knowledge of that game would enhance the experience, Berseria stands tall on its own merit, overcoming the shackles of its lack-luster companion.
I will say that Berseria’s dark and gritty theme is harmed but its half-arsed portrayal of certain moments. I’m not talking about that moment. Rather Bandai Namco’s insistence on pursuing a lower age-rating. I understand wanting to avoid gore, but blood is a fact of life. When something is cut, it bleeds. It doesn’t have to splatter the walls and/or camera lens. It just has to sell the moment. Unfortunately, Berseria shys away from this fact when it matters most.
The emotional resonance of the moments aren’t lost entirely. It’s just that, particularly with Rokurou’s story, it’s an essential part of each character in some way. There were many times throughout the game that struck me as odd because it didn’t deliver on its violent action. Perhaps the problem lies more with the ratings board rules than it does Bandai Namco, but given the intensity of this game and its characters, an 18 rating would have done wonders for the story-telling.
The gameplay in Tales of Berseria, as with most Tales games, builds off of previous entries. Whilst that left Zestiria’s battles feeling uninspired, the ability to chain combinations endlessly with the right tactics in Velvet’s “Break Soul” mode makes for a satisfying combat system with numerous possibilities.
I even did a Let’s Play! Watch below and don’t forget to subscribe to the MGL channel.
When you’re not fighting, you’ll likely be exploring the world. Main story progression is indicated by a star on the minimap and worldmap. Side missions / conversations are indicated by green exclamation marks in a speech bubble. There are mini-games to take part in which earn you “Tales coins” for the purchase of hard-to-find or unique goods from select vendors.
The fields themselves have been condensed by consist of a more varied landscape than previous Tales games. I can appreciate that, as travelling in Zestiria was a bit of a chore at times. I will say that Berseria’s fast travel system is weak, though. Because of how the narrative unfolds, there’s a lot of restriction to where you can and can’t go almost all of the time.
Tales of Berseria features a four-party battle system with the ability to switch extra characters in/out dynamically via one meter of the Blast Gauge (BG). The player can take control of any party member and set the others to be controlled by AI. They can also automate the entire party or set all to manual so that only one controlled player takes action.
Each character has “souls” that are used with combat actions. Different moves require more or less. Souls can be increased by landing weak point attacks and stunning enemies, meaning that combo chains can be never-ending if you’ve assigned the right moves to your selected player and exploit enemy weaknesses. It’s a great system that rewards you for paying attention and can punish you if you don’t.
As you attack and activate the Break Soul mode (R2 on PS4 with three souls or more) for each character, they’ll build BG. With enough BG (and once the ability has been learned) you’ll be able to pull off a Mystic Arte – the character’s limit break etc – by expending at least three of the BG gauge. The Mystic Artes in Berseria do more damage based on the current combination chain so timing them is more important than just using them.
The Arte of Battle
Artes are your combat abilities. You’ll learn new artes as you level up (max. 200 according to the trophy list). The Arte assignments are modified in the main menu. A grid of four-by-four can be seen. There are four stages to a combo, and four face buttons. Artes can be assigned to any stage and any button within this grid. This allows for a seriously impressive range of abilities to have to hand on hand. A vastly improved system over previous Tales games.
By using artes, they’ll increase in the damage they deal. They’ll also consume less of your soul gauge per use. Each with their own weak-point targeting system and elemental affinity (or non-elemental), customising your arte load-out is a matter of life and death at higher difficulties. Thankfully, the game rewards higher difficulty play and arte planning with special items that add major benefits to well-executed attacks at higher difficulties.
For the task masters out there, there’s a fair amount to do outside of the main narrative. From the main menu you can send a scouting vessel out for thirty minute trips to retrieve loot. They’ll come back with cooking recipes, valuable items for selling to vendors and some interesting memorabilia from across the Tales franchise, prompting short conversations between characters.
Speaking of short conversations, the skits (short, animated overlays that can be played as a prompt appears) return. I love the skits, especially when the characters are this good, but Berseria may have gone too far. There were times where I’d get three at once after having just been forced through a non-optional skit. As much as I enjoy both the skits and the exploration, I feel as though the frequency of the non-optional skits in this game creates a very stop-and-start feel to an otherwise fluid experience, which is harmful. Too much of a good thing can ruin it.
There are card mini games as well as tests of strength and skill via the adorable Normins. I wish there were more varied games, but they’re a fine distraction. These mini games will net you the aforementioned Tales coins.
Cooking makes a return, granting benefits every time you eat, and each character can cook and gain new, additive skills for their dishes such as reduced stun time and increased health with every meal.
Leveling Up and Equipment
Leveling up is as it has always been: kill enemies, get experience and gald (currency). By linking enemies you can fight them at higher levels and receive greater rewards. There’s also a chance of a “Dire Foe” appearing after defeating the enemies. These enemies can be brutal, easily resulting in a game over, but running away is always an option. Also, defeating them yields special items that can’t be found elsewhere.
As you level, you’ll learn new artes. Aside from character level, equipment skills make a return. By equipping an item (weapon, accessory, armour and ring) you’ll earn mastery points with each enemy you defeat. In addition to the extra skills granted by equipping said item, the “Master Skill” at the top will be permanently affixed to your character when the item is “Mastered” by filling the points gauge. I like this system. It reminds me of Vesperia’s Blastia system, encouraging you to try out new equipment, even if it’s not as good as your preferred loadout, for that mastery bonus.
Hunting down major threats is worthwhile. The Bloodwing agents will pay you for the trouble. Not only that, but they too, like Dire Foes, drop special items that enhance the overall gameplay experience in some way. The game tends to deliver the hunts in a well-paced manner, meaning you’ll often come across the monsters organically whilst exploring. If not, you can eventually go back.
New Game +
As always, Grade is earned in every battle. Grade being a currency for purchasing bonuses after completing the game for New Game+ mode. With Berseria lasting a cool fifty hours, and that’s me giving up on side-quests part way through, there’s a whole lot of value for money in this game, and additional run with triple experience can’t hurt.
Having controlled every character manually, Velvet is the most fun to play in my opinion. Her overwhelming break soul attacks using the daemon arm look fantastic and feel smooth as anything I’ve played. Chaining the combinations together to absolutely devastate a strong opponent is my favourite aspect of the game.
The Dire Foes can really take you by surprise on Hard mode or above. A few frustrating game overs came my way, resulting in slogging through a lot of admittedly enjoyable dialogue to get back to where I was. Save often folks! To Berseria’s credit, it has a single quick-save slot for you to use any where as well as main save points for multiple main saves.
Just when the maps get too big, you’re granted a hover-board that can eliminate low-level enemies just by riding in to them. It’s fun to ride but has to be activated in each area to prevent you from simply soaring over new places.
Tales of Berseria tells a fantastic, engaging story and delivers an exciting, highly-customisable combat system that may be a high point for the series on both counts. Unfortunately, it’s held back by its flat backgrounds and tendency to avert its gaze from the savagery of its own material. I’m no censorship cry-baby, but in this case it actually detracts from the excellent tale being told.
That said, the game still stands tall. The characters are great, the lore is interesting and it actively makes me want to give Zestiria another chance with the context this game delivers. Velvet Crowe is a main character worthy of inclusion on anybody’s Top Ten list, and her supporting cast aren’t far behind. I’ll no doubt dive in for New Game+ at some point, but until then, I’ll look back fondly on this experience.