Tales of Berseria Review
When compared to the Xbox One, the PS4 in my home gets very little use. Outside of a few great exlcusives such as the Uncharted Series, having a PS4 in my house doesn’t serve much more of a purpose. That is, except for one series that I have been a fan of since the PS2 – The Tales Of series. While the last few titles have been a bit underwhelming – my previous two favorites are Tales of Symphonia from the GameCube days and Tales of Vesperia from the Xbox One – I knew that Tales of Berseria was a darker, more plot driven title than previous installments. The classic Tales Of mechanics, coupled with characters I cared about and a story that was interesting, brings the Tales Of series to a new level on the PS4 and PC.
Tales Of Mechanics All Here
Most of what makes the Tales Of franchise so successful and different from most other JRPG’s is how well the live action combat is done. I’m not really interested in most turn based JRPG’s, so obviously this series is a go-to for me. Not a ton has changed in the battle mechanics, which have been fairly constant throughout the series with minor changes with each release. Minor changes are brought in here, though, to streamline play.
You can still free roam around the battle area as you please and normal attacks and the use of items in battle play out as they have before. That being said, Hidden Artes can now be mapped to specific keys, allowing players to unleash a powerful chain of attacks. While deciding which artes to map for ultimate effectiveness can take some time, once a solid mixture is in place, battles against harder foes will become significantly easier (all be it not too easy!). Skills have also been changed, and provide players with a more difficult task when choosing which armour or weapons to use.
In past Tales titles, you almost always equipped the most powerful weapon, or most defensive armour. While you can still do that here, the new Skills mechanics make that decision a little more difficult. Skills are, more often than not, tied to specific weapons and armour. As you battle, a Skill gauge will fill up, eventually allowing you to use a powerful skill. This whole system replaces the FP concepts from previous games were almost all actions would fill your gauge. Now, a less powerful weapon could have a superior Skill, making it a better choice over a few extra points of damage.
A lot of people won’t like this new system, but it does make every piece of collectible loot useable in some way. In past titles, so much of what you would receive would instantly become a sellable or junkable item. Now, hard decisions need to be made before disposing of weapons and armour. Disposing of weapons or dismantling them to upgrade other items, quickly becomes a chore in Tales of Berseria. You will collect a lot of loot. Within a few hours, you will have so many items in your inventory that managing it all can seem daunting, even to series veterans. Less, and preferably more valuable, Loot drops would have made the entire experience just a hint better.
The Premier Tales Of Story
Past Tales games have all basically followed the same plot: evil antagonist arrives on planet; antagonist threatens to destroy planet; hero and his/her party saves the world from the antagonist, and restores everything to perfect order. To be fair, this plot line has worked for Namco for a LONG time, so to borrow the phrase, “Why fix something that isn’t broke?” Unlike Final Fantasy and other popular JRPG titles, Namco is churning out a Tales game almost every year, and things did need to change to keep the audiences attention. The definitely succeeded with Tales of Berseria.
What makes this title so compelling is the way it unfolds. This has nothing to do with saving the world, but rather, it is a quest for personal revenge. Our protagonist, the powerful and strong willed Velvet Crowe, is hellbent on destroying Artorius, for his role in the sacrifice of her younger brother, Laphicet. As the team around her grows, Velvet begins to show a compassionate and friendly side, but under the service her need for revenge still shines through. Tales of Berseria is a revenge story as opposed to a world saving story, and that is what makes it so dark. Themes are explored in Berseria that Namco has never presented before. There is no jealousy between party members, no real group of goodie-goodies; the characters here are more varied than ever before, and seeing how each reacts as the story unfolds is half the excitement! Everybody grows, and almost all of the mremain memoriable, even after the credits roll. This is the highest praise I can possibly give to Namco. While so many companies struggle to provide a great story and good gameplay, they almost always fail. Namco does better than most.
Not all is well…
Aside from the terrible loot management, not everything is OK with Tales of Berseria. While a number of minor annoyances are sure to pop up – mostly based on personal preference than something actually wrong – the biggest issue I have with this title is the very bland and frustratingly easy dungeons. The layouts are fairly straight forward, and there won’t be much for you to feast your eyes on. Entering each dungeon was more of a chore than anything else; I rarely looked forward to entering them; the boss fights that waited for me at the end was generally the only redeeming quality of each.
If you love JRPGs, or have been invested in the Tales Of franchise for a long time, picking up Tales of Berseria is a no brainer. Despite the issues I had with the title, I still had tons of fun exploring what the world had to offer, and unraveling the story behind Violet Crowe. If you are looking for a darker JRPG experience, look no further than this title. The developers have done an excellent job!