Tales of BerseriaJanuary 24th, 2017
The Tales series has always been one of my favourites, but that’s made playing each entry increasingly more difficult. Since Tales of Symphonia, the seminal title released on Gamecube, the Tales formula has gotten increasingly familiar, and increasingly not-as-good-as-the-last. That’s not to do the series a disservice – Tales of Vesperia is one of the best the series has ever known, Graces F had one of the very best battle systems of any JRPG, Xillia had nice characters, and Zestiria… Well, that one was good?
As excited as I was for Berseria – as I always am for a Tales game – I felt more trepidation than ever before. Usually, I can barely wait to get stuck right in with a fresh world and characters, but this time I barely wanted to press New Game after watching the intro. Would it disappoint me as much as I was afraid it would, or would it hook me in?
Well, the good news is, I was hooked.
Tales of Berseria follows the sorrowful adventure of Velvet, a young girl tormented by tragic memories and locked away for three years to let her rage fester. The trauma she endured brought on the Daemonblight, a disease which transforms humans into disgusting beasts, disfiguring her arm and giving her the power to feed on others with it – be they daemon, or human.
It’s here where the game faces its first few issues – after all, it’s far from perfect. First off, Velvet is pretty dislikeable for much of the game, and her brooding persona gives me flashbacks to writing depressive posts on MySpace. Essentially, being an emo queen certainly isn’t winning Velvet any points with me, instead it makes her feel argumentative and harsh, rather than inspiring any pity.
But despite Velvet’s cold exterior, she quickly gathers a group of followers that are initially together due to mutual goals, but that evolves into real bonds that slowly develop over the course of the game. Magilou is a sarcastic, teasing witch, Rokurou is a war daemon – a Yaksha – and stays with the team for the battles ahead, Eizen is a pirate hunting a similar foe to the others, Laphicet is a young boy with the curiosity of a toddler, and Eleanor is a praetor exorcist, sworn sword of the Abbey – the government theocracy subduing the populace of the world. Tales games can hinge on a good cast of characters, so I’m happy to say this is probably the most enjoyable gang since Vesperia.
The other thing a Tales title needs to nail is the battle system – the Linear Motion Battle System is famous for being one of the first real-time battle systems to come to JRPGs and was legendary in its day – nowadays though, with games like Final Fantasy XV reinventing JRPG combat, I can’t help but feel it seems a little dated. Here, all four of your face buttons are swapped out from the standard menu, block and two attack buttons, instead all four are attacks which combo into one another.
This aggression-focused LMBS (Liberation-LMBS, as it’s known) does wonders when it comes to freeing up the combat and making it feel more dynamic than before. You can set artes (Tales’ name for attacks) to all four buttons, with four stages. Pressing A will use A Stage 1, again will use Stage 2, and so on, with you able to combine any of your artes in any order as long as you follow the structure of Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4.
You can’t attack forever, of course. Gone are the days of limited mana-like meters in favour of the soul system. You get a total of five soul blocks you can use – they fill with souls, allowing you to battle, and then empty as you attack. With a max of five, you can actually find yourself reduced down to one, limiting your combo potential – blocks can be earned back by fighting well and defeating enemies, or taken away should you get stunned or have your guard broken.
What’s nice though, is Velvet’s daemon abilities. As long as you have three or more soul blocks you can sacrifice the use of one to activate Velvet’s daemonic arm, which will lash out in an attack and be used as a combo extender. In her transformed state, Velvet has all her artes powered up and can unleash a special move at the end of her combo, which will end the state. Used wisely, the sacrifice of a soul block to transform can earn you three back, quite easily.
Since the combat system feels so improved and smooth, it’s also nice to see other aspects of the series have had similar upgrades. Skits now play out in an almost manga-panel style, with characters talking to one another in one panel, then swapping panels to zoom in on reactions, focus on other characters. Voice acting is much more common than ever throughout the game, too, with the English dub doing a great job of making the characters believable.
And on top of that – the PC port is actually very good. It runs to a maximum of 60FPS, and the native resolution doesn’t go above 1080p (1440p and 4K resolutions are upscaled – boo!) but other than that, there’s nary a complaint about performance, and even when simply upscaled, 4K supersampled manages to do a good job of hiding a lot of the shimmering and jaggies you may see at 1080p. All in all, a good port, one that’ll hopefully become the standard going forward with Bandai Namco games on Steam.
Tales of Berseria has some excellent, cinematic scenes, great voice acting and one of the better, darker, stories that Tales has ever had. It’s a shame that the drawbacks are often poor graphics that make the game’s PS3 origins all too clear, or as with all Tales titles, the overly familiar – bordering on repetitive – battle system, which is better than it has been before, but can still end up feeling far too mundane by the end of the game. And yet, despite all of its flaws, I enjoyed Tales of Berseria, and I look forward to where the series goes next.
PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.
With a fantastic combat system and a good story, Tales of Berseria feels like a return to form in a lot of ways, despite being more adventurous with the combat than ever before. A great series making a triumphant return.
- Great combat
- Fun skits
- Decent story
- Velvet, and some other characters, feel unlikable
- Forced skits feel like padding