While everyone was looking forward to the latest episode of the Final Fantasy series (which we reviewed two month ago), many seem to have forgotten another classic of JRPGs whose sixteenth episode was first released in the land of the Rising Sun in August 2016, and finally reached the west in January 2017. Tales of Berseria had the heavy task of reconciling fans of the genre with the series mediocre (if not even disappointing) Tales of Hearts, Xillia or Zestiria. But will Tales of Berseria succeed in returning the series to its noble place in JRPG kingdom, or will it be one deadly hit for the franchise?
For many fans, the 2015 release of Tales of Zestiria was a rather massive disappointment in Bandai Namco’s emblematic JRPG series. One will question, among other things, its chaotic development, blatant technical delays, betrayed expectations concerning the character of Alisha or its many scenario inconsistencies. On the other hand, what can not be taken away from the game was its desire to propose a different experience from the rest of the series, in particular the fusion system, the open world and the fights that unfold without any transition. Tales of Zestiria is the result of a failed experiment, but which at least had the merit to have tried something new.
Now you ask me why am I going back to criticizing Tales of Zestiria when I’m reviewing Tales of Berseria? Well it’s pretty simple: Tales of Berseria is a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, but it is not mandatory to finish the latter in order to appreciate the story of this new episode. The title however contains many references to the universe of Tales of Zestiria, and while it would be optimal for you to have played the latter, you can also just watch the animated series of the same name, which will allow you to know the original plot and see the link between the protagonists of both games.
If Tales of Zestiria was a too ambitious title, Tales of Berseria is surely the one taking the least risk of the series. Although for the first time in 16 episodes we epitomize a heroine, Velvet Crowe, and not a hero this time, but a young woman who turned into Daemon and is on the path for revenge. The story is clearly one of the highlights of the title,mainly for this female lead characters that never falls in the clichés to which we are accustomed of Japanese productions. Velvet is a loving big sister, but also a determined young woman, able to face all the dangers she faces, full of class and charisma which is not unlike that of Yuri, the mythical protagonist of Tales of Vesperia.
Velvet’s quest is one for vengeance against the man who deceived her (her brother-in-law). The script is far more mature than that of the previous episodes, and the characters who accompany the heroine are also more nuanced than what we are used to in the series. Indeed, the protagonists joining you in the course of the adventure do it less for pleasure or envy than for the necessity or a glorious cause. The relationships that you will build between them are complex and excellently interpreted by the actresses who lend their voice to the characters of the game in English (you can also play the game in original Japanese with subtitles). Sadly, in the second half of the story, Tales of Berseria falls into the pitfalls that is well known in JRPGS, and a dead-boring hunt throughout the world which obliges you to walk back through a lot of previous areas. It is increasingly difficult to tolerate this in 2016 in my own opinion, unless there’s a shuffle in the challenge.
Another key highlight of the title is its combat system. Velvet is a woman who is thirsty for vengeance, and this bestial desire is reflected in one of the most dynamic combat systems that the Tales Of series has known… If not even THE most dynamic. It is based on a principle of evolving combos sanctioned by the use of “souls”, both for you and your enemies. You begin the fighting with three souls, which allows to chain up to three attacks. Inflicting enough damage on an enemy, dodging at the right time, stunning or killing a foe will allow you to steal their souls and increase the number of attacks you can chain. You can also perform a “soul break” to trigger a devastating attack, kind of an Ultimate. Note that you will have to be very careful with your soul gauge because your enemies can “steal” chunk of it. It becomes immediately complicated to return to the old days when your characters are limited to one or two attacks, and let’s not forget the famous Mystic Arts (special attacks specific to each character) and the Tag Attacks system that boost this already rich combat system.
It is almost a no-fault from the point of view of the fighting for Tales of Berseria. The fighting are dynamic, fun, and the title does a great job of teaching you one by one every subtlety of its combat system. The various special attacks make the clash visually impressive, with the title displaying a constant 60 frames per second, which can even be played with be fun up to four players on the same screen. That latter function is a bit weird though, and wasn’t fixed from the previous Tales Of games, as the screen is always centered on the Velvet, which can get quite crazy during intense fights. In any case the combat system is excellent, the protagonists and the plot are interesting… But unfortunately the other aspects of the title are not on par in terms of quality.
First of all, because of a simultaneous release on the PlayStation 3, you get a title that is visually below the current standards of PlayStation 4 releases. Don’t get me wrong, while the game is capable of displaying really nice effects powered by cel-shading textures. especially during certain cinematic scenes, and the chaos during battle phases makes it easier to bear, but the rest of the time you can not help but be disappointed. Some animations seem to come from a time when wireless controllers didn’t even exist yet, environments are often empty and NPCs seem to be glued to their spots in towns and villages. This whole is too “mechanical”, it lacks these little details here and there that could have brought a bit of life to this universe.
In addition, after the failure of the open world of Tales of Zestiria, it seems that Bandai Namco has changed the tactics. Do not expect to lose yourself in the plains of Tales of Berseria, or to carry out immersive quests that will make you discover hidden areas, because here you simply go from point A to point B. Your destination is constantly shown on the map (which can be a good thing) and you have no reason to move away from your main quest. While you won’t drift away from the quest, it kills slowly and surely the sidequests and the exploration aspect of such an adventure.
Tales of Berseria was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 digital code of the game provided by Bandai Namco. The game is also available on PC via digital stores, and on PlayStation 3 where it was originally released only in Japan in August 2015. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• First female lead in the series.
• The combat.
• The scenario is more mature than the usual Anime quirkiness.
• Back to its former glory
• Lack of ambition.
• Non-existent exploration elements.
• A technical delay in terms of visuals.