Game Review: Tales of Berseria (PS4)
06/02/2017 Leave a comment
Spanning more than two decades the Tales of franchise has established itself as one of Bandai Namco Entertainment’s biggest IP’s and yet despite its long running history, both in video games and entertainment medium, it’s a franchise I have paid very little attention to; that is until this year’s western release of Tales of Berseria. Of course I am familiar with the franchises previous western outings, namely Tales of Abyss, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Xillia and the more recent Tales of Zesteria; but unlike this year’s release of Berseria none of them managed to grab and secure my attention.
Ironically enough I’m not entirely sure what pulled me to Tales of Berseria; but as a newcomer to the franchise it has opened my eyes on what one can expect from such an expansive and engaging JPRG experience and, from my perspective at least, Tales of Berseria is a great place for newcomers to start as well as a place for fans to enjoy an exceptionally entertaining experience that will no doubt secure endless amounts of your time. So; with this being said let’s take a closer look at what the game has to offer.
So; what’s Tales of Berseria all about? Well without giving too much away the game puts you in control of Velvet, the female protagonist, who finds herself looking for vengeance on those who betrayed her in the past; namely the Exorcist known as Arthur. During this betrayal by Arthur Velvet acquires the power of a Daemon, a type of demonic creature that not only plagues the world but attack humans and animals without disgression; and finds herself using this ‘unspeakable’ power to not only escape from a prison compound but to extract her revenge upon those who betrayed her.
Along her travels Velvet encounters other like-minded-folk and as such this solo expedition for revenge soon becomes a group of humans, Malakim (magicians which can only be seen by Exorcists) and half-breed-daemon’s teaming up to achieve their own dreams and goals. It seems like a simplistic tale of revenge; but as you progress through the game a deeper storyline, especially for Velvet, beings to take root and it’s not long before a more complex and intriguing storyline – that also offers some references to Tales of Zesteria – begin to bear fruit. Although playing Tales of Zesteria isn’t suggested (or needed) it is possibly recommended for understanding some of the events within this game but alas this is only a minor set-back in a game which is riched with narrative dialogue and an expanding story.
As you can probably tell Tales of Berseria isn’t a game that can be played in short amount of time and for the best experience it has to be played in long sessions. For examples the events which lead up to Velvet’s desire for revenge (which we showed in our gameplay video) takes shy of just an hour to complete. This section of the game is ‘very’ dialogue heavy; but it serves the purpose of introducing the people to this world, its rules and in turn our main protagonist and the troubles she experiences which ultimately lead on to her quest for vengeance. Without this ‘background’ being explained we would not feel empathy for Velvet and I believe the story within Tales of Berseria wouldn’t be as emotionally strong as it is; but at the same time it can feel slightly tedious and long winded for those unfamiliar with JPRG experiences and those wanting to just “jump in” to the action.
Alas; the story within Tales of Berseria is only half of the enjoyment as while the games visuals may offer a PlayStation 3 styled quality at times the actual gameplay and combat systems are relatively solid. Tales of Berseria may seem like your traditional JPRG experience, with its customisable characters, experiencing grinding and ever-changing-parties; but unlike traditional JPRG titles – which opted for a turn based system – Tales of Berseria offer a more casual approach whereby so long as your character has gems remaining attacks can be pulled off.
It’s a daunting experience at first, as it is completely different to any other JPRG on the market, but it works exceptionally well. These gems, otherwise referred to as Souls, are located on the characters HUD screen and determine how many attacks your character can use. If all of the souls have been used then your character will be unable to attack. It’s not just a single straight-forward attack either as by pressing different buttons on your controller will result in different style of attacks being used – all of which can be combed together for greater damage. Of course that’s not all; as pressing the R2 button can trigger an ultimate style attack; but alas this will consume more souls and – at times – can potentially cripple your attack by restricting the number of souls available to use. These souls are not just used for attacking either; as the souls can also be used for defence against enemy attacks; so as per usual it’s best to plan your method of attack.
The number of souls at the beginning of the game will be limited to just three; but by gaining experience and levelling your character the number of souls will increase allowing more souls to be used. This basic description just relates to Velvet; as the other characters you encounter – of which become part of your team and fight alongside you – each have their own individual soul count with some offering higher or lower number of souls depending on the type of character they are.
As with any JPRG forming a good party of characters is key to surviving; but with Tales of Berseria this ‘complication’ has been removed. Every character you encounter will eventually be added to your party for use during combat; but unlike other JPRG titles – which would force only three or four of these characters to fight on screen at once – you are able to freely swap out characters at will. It’s an example that was shown in our gameplay video of the demo (and in turn something we explained in our narration of the Japanese demo) but basically if you have more than the allotted number of characters you can swap out to a standby character by pressing on the D-Pad. Each character can be swapped and in turn you can also choose which character to control while the remaining on-screen characters will perform attacks at will and more importantly you can issue commands to your AI team-mates for that critical attack.
Of course the number of times you can ‘swap-out’ a character is limited, just like the use of souls, but it offers that unrestrictive free-flow styled combat that you just wouldn’t expect from a JPRG title and in turn it also makes Tales of Berseria so much more accessible to those who are not accustomed to JPRG titles. Swapping out characters can be an important aspect of the game, especially with characters offering different play and attack styles, as while one opponent may be weak against physical attacks – to which Velvet excels at – another opponent may be strong against them.
As mentioned new characters are introduced as part of the story and each character offers something interesting to explore. I won’t go into their details here; but at times I enjoyed discovering the backstories of these characters more than I did actually progressing through the main campaign of the game. For instance we have the swordsman who is unable to wield the sword her carries, or the magican that opts to talk in riddles and then we have the young malakim that provides kindess to everyone. These are just a few examples; but the further you progress forward in the main story the more characters will be added to your party, and in turn, the more unique personalities you’ll begin to explore within them.
These personalities are also brought to life with the exceptionally high-quality produced English Dub, which of course features a few familiar voices within the anime voice-over-industry; and while some may say that the English Dub can hamper the experience; I personally found it to enhance it. Of course those wishing to experience the game in its original native language (i.e. Japanese) can do so; but I found that the English Dub provided some of its own unique charms – especially with the female characters and their potential comical outbursts during the visual-novel styled scenes.
The use of the English Dub, and in turn the original Japanese audio, is presented in many different ways that help the story move forward. For example by using animation, which has been produced to the same quality used in the Tales of Zesteria X anime series, in-game cut-scenes and visual novel dialogue the story is presented in a rather seamless manner. For the most part the animation and in-game cut-scenes appear when reaching key points of the game however throughout the game players can learn more about the world, as well as the characters they are travelling with, by pressing the triangle button to which a visual novel element will appear with the characters engaging in a conversation with each other. At times these conversations can seem pointless; but at other times they provide informative information about the world as well as some comical banter. Unfortunately however if you are not paying attention these prompts can be missed; but as they are not overly important to the story it’s not a problem if you do end up missing them.
Storyline and combat aside Tales of Beseria is an expansive game that will take an exceptional long number of hours to fully explore and while main quests will appear with a star side-quests can be accepted by talking to people scattered around in towns. Speaking of towns these locations provide players with the ability to buy items (such as potions, weapons and outfits) and – as you would expect – weapons and outfits to be equipped with accessories even changing the appearance of your character (i.e. glasses and hats). It’s your traditional JPRG mechanic brought into a new styled game; so those familiar with any type of JPRG game will feel right at home. In short; defeat monsters, gain experience, grind levels and use money to buy new weapons and items which will aid you later down the line. It’s the same old formula; but yet it feels refreshingly new and easily approachable within this game.
Overall Tales of Berseria may not be the most visually pleasing game, especially in terms of graphics, but in regards to the games story, its combat mechanics and it’s overall pacing then Tales of Berseria is one of the most entertaining JPRG titles I have ever played and it only gets better the more you put into it. More importantly the game is easily approachable for newcomers and veterans alike. If there is one JPRG title to add to your collection this year; then Tales of Berseria is the one you should add.
Tales of Berseria is now available for the PS4 and PC.