Tales of Berseria is a complete return to what made the Tales of games amazing in Abyss and Vesperia, good characters, amazing story and fun combat. For those that aren’t very familiar with the ‘Tales of’ series, they are a series of JRPGs that in most cases do not have any relation to each other story wise with the exception of a few (Symphonia, Xillia, Zesteria/Berseria) and are only similar in their combat systems, enemies and inventory items, sort of like Final Fantasy. What makes their combat systems unique is that they use a real time combo system that involves different key presses and arte chains in order to do vast amount of combo damage. Artes are essentially magic abilities (their reason for existing in each game changes based on the setting) that are special moves of sort. Berseria takes that to the extreme and only allows does artes as a form of attacks instead of other games of the series where you would do a combo of different attacks (high/low, punch/kick) and end it with an arte.
Berseria also allows for you to scale the combat how you wish whether you want the game to choose the combos best for the situation in which you would select the choose best option, you can set the combat to semi-auto and select arte chains that you would like to perform based on different buttons or you can go full manual and set a button and direction on left and right stick and that would perform the arte that you set to that (this is for experts only). The combat was a lot of fun and although got at times really easy there was never a time that I was really bored of doing different arte combos on enemies. Each arte has a specialty attached to it which included Earth, Wind, Water, Fire and Normal and different enemies would either have resistances to certain elements or weaknesses to such and you would want to best setup your combo to reflect that. On top of that the more you use an arte and weapon the more specialized that character becomes with such and gains new abilities that help in combat as well. There is also another feature that makes Berseria’s combat a blast in that you can switch blast character combos together provided you have the Blast Gauge (allows the use of switch blasts and mystic artes) to switch in new characters. When you perform a switch blast you can swap in another character and continue a chain of artes and switch back. This allows you to chain a whole group of unique combos and change combat at will.
Now this isn’t a game that takes 10-20 hours and you are done, I would say if you REALLY speed run the game you might be able to finish it just shy of 30 hours because you must level up otherwise you are not going to be able to get far on bosses alone. This means that you will need to fight a bunch of enemies in each zone as you progress on the story. The nice thing that Berseria does about that is the Dangerous encounters (chaining 2 enemies together to fight in one combat) allows for 5-10 times the XP you would get if you fought only one enemy. This also allows for the chance to spawn what’s called a dire foe that increases your XP gained and the loot dropped. I could go on a lot about the combat however I will say this, Berseria is the best combat since Vesperia and a vast improvement over the monotonous combat of Zesteria.
Some other features include the return of cooking which was a feature removed in Zesteria that is a nice way to be able to set stats before battles in order to help you slightly. Another feature is the option to send your pirate ship, the Van Eltia, on exploration of various seas in order to get items and gear to help you in cooking and to change the fashion of your characters. One of the last major features I’ll mention is the retrofit of the enhancement of items system. Originally in Zesteria if you had one or more of matching items you could combine it with another and increase stats and add abilities. The new system in Berseria requires you to harvest materials from weapons along with collecting them on maps and use those to enhance the items. I like this system more however that also means that loot drops happen a whole lot more often and cause a sort of Mass Effect 1 clutter of your inventory. I would also like to add that a few times during running between events there were large dungeons that required a lot of time spending backtracking and running around including the final dungeon and that took quite a bit of time to get around and that might turn off some.
!!!!!!!WARNING WARNING WARNING, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!
I’m going to do my best at trying to limit the spoilers for the story but due to this game being a very story rich game I will probably have to spoil it a bit. That said Berseria is a prequel to Zesteria in that it happens quite some time before the events of Zesteria. There are subtle events and references that are made to each game that are kind of cool so even though Zesteria’s combat can get tedious and monotonous, the overall story and the characters are still really well done and thus I would highly recommend you play Zesteria before playing Berseria. I feel like some of the characters and events have more of an impact if you play Zesteria before Berseria.
Tales of Berseria, as mentioned before, is a long time before Zesteria (if I was to make a guess I would say several centuries due to a few hidden tidbits here and there) in a world where there live humans, mystical beings known as Malak’s and Daemons. After the events of what is called the opening where Velvet first loses her sister and her [Velvet’s sister’s] unborn child Daemons have been attacking various cities, towns and villages. Fast forward 7 years later and on another scarlet night there is what is called the Advent where in Velvet’s Brother-in-Law, Artorious, sacrifices Laphicet, Velvet’s biological brother, to the Empyrean god called Innominat in order to allow for the creation of a force of exorcists that can quell the daemon threat. Shortly after Velvet is turned into what is called a special kind of daemon called a Therion who’s ability is to absorb daemons and malaks using her left hand. The main part of the game happens 3 years after the events in the advent where Velvet and a group of daemons, malaks and humans work together in order to get revenge and kill Artorious. I get it, it’s a lot to take in but the story is more than just a revenge story that I can’t reveal too much otherwise I’ll spoil a whole bunch of great twists. It is one of my favorite narratives in recent years and it makes it even better with the group of anti-heroes that you play that all clash but get along with various personalities (Magilou is best girl).
The engine for Berseria is the same modified engine that Bandai Namco has been using since Xillia which at this point has become pretty dated and with the PS4 being out for quite some time and PC releases now I would fully expect the next ‘Tales of’ game to have a brand new engine however this one is a bit older. With that the modifications are well done to the cel shaded graphics of the game but you can definitely tell the age on higher resolutions especially on PC, albeit anti-aliasing seems to take care of a lot of the jagged edges. However what is absolutely beautiful is studio Ufotable’s animated scenes which look like they took a lot of effort to make sure every detail was well drawn and the scenes look amazing. It is too bad that it seems like Berseria seems to have the least amount of those scenes out of any other Tales game.
Another aspect that Berseria did and did very well was the voice acting. With a lot of JRPGs you go in not knowing how the localization is going to be done and how well the voice actors can act compared to their Japanese counter parts however I feel like they chose very wisely for each part and each voice actor put what felt like their heart in soul into each character. You could definitely feel the personality of each character through their voices. That said the soundtrack is unfortunately just kind of mediocre. It is too bad that they went from such a fantastic soundtrack in Zesteria and, minus a few songs, most of the OST in Berseria is just meh. I feel like maybe it was rushed a bit after the release of Zesteria and trying to get the game out before the Berseria scenes that could spoil the game came up in the Zesteria anime series. On top of that a lot of the enemies make the same sound so it feels like they didn’t make a lot of effort in making the enemies unique and just copy pasted a lot of things from previous games however that isn’t the main point of a game like this so it didn’t bother me THAT much.
Overall Berseria is one of the best games in the series and a fine return to form. The story, characters, voice acting and gameplay are all top notch and the game is up there with my favorite, Vesperia. There are a bit quirks with soundtrack, sound effects and the story can be difficult to follow for some however this was an excellent game and an absolute must for those that like story rich games. As for the value of the game, this game took me almost 60 hours to finish and there are countless extra missions after that can add hundreds of hours to the game, easily well worth the $60 price tag.