Tales of Berseria Review
The Tales Series has recently been going through some tough times, with less than stellar entries over the past few years. Tales of Berseria is Bandai-Namco’s latest attempt at putting the series back on track and returning it to its former glory.
If you haven’t played one of the modern Tales games before, they are Action-RPGs in a 3D overworld. You will find yourself traversing a variety of overworld areas as the main character, and then when you encounter enemies on the field, or story-triggered battles, you will be transported to an arena along with your party members. This arena is where you engage in active time combat with the opponent.For a long time this has been my preferred combat style in RPG’s, allowing the player to choose whether they compensate for being at lower levels or with weak gear, with well-timed dodges, blocks, counter attacks and combos – or you can opt to minimise your reliance on raw skill and reflexes by grinding levels, equipping better gear and carrying plenty of healing items.
While Berseria doesn’t do anything to re-invent the wheel, it does continue to make minor refinements and changes that help to solidify it as one of the best combat systems in the franchise’s history. The key change relates to the “Soul Gauge”, which is a bar that will fill over time, but fills faster as you land hits on enemies. The lower the gauge is, the easier it is for enemies to block and deflect your attacks, encouraging players to maintain it at a healthy level throughout a fight. On the flipside, you can expend some of the gauge to activate special skills or when it is maxed out, activate a special state known as “Break Souls” where the limitations on the character’s abilities are removed, temporarily gaining access to a set of stronger attacks.
In between battles you can use the materials you collect as rewards and find in the overworld to upgrade your weapons and create stat boosting/healing recipes, adding an extra layer of customisation. You can also change the move sets of each of your characters and experiment until you find your preferred playstyle. With that in mind, those who don’t actively change up their moves and weaponry may find the combat quickly becoming repetitive, as most common enemies can be beaten using the same strategy.
Exploring the overworld is sadly far less engaging than these other systems. Environments are primarily linear and the majority of things you can interact with are highlighted on your map giving you little reason to explore. However, given the game’s 40+ hour length some will find comfort in easily being able to lock themselves down on the critical path for story completion, or ensuring they find all the key collectables in an area before progressing.
A core element of what can make or break a Tales game is the storyline and this is arguably Berseria’s greatest strength. Typically, Tales games have a fairly light-hearted story, usually with a rag-tag group of well-meaning heroes trying to save the world. Rather that following this path, Berseria is a story of revenge, filled with drama that is refreshing and satisfying. With that said, the game doesn’t lose the charm you would expect of a Tales game, with plenty of humour and charming moments. The core team of characters is sufficiently diverse, both in their characteristics and morals, creating some interesting dynamics within the group. It is worth noting that this game absolutely adopts the melodramatic storytelling style one would expect of an RPG with an anime inspired artstyle, so if the thought of that is already making you cringe – you have been warned.
Speaking of the artstyle, Berseria’s characters are well designed, and are animated convincingly, especially during the in game cutscenes. The same can’t be said for the environments however, which range from repetitive and bland to just okay, with textures that wouldn’t look out of place in a game from the PS2 generation.
The score, however, is fantastic, helping to capture the feel of any given area and accentuating the critical points in the story. The game allows you to play with either English or Japanese voice acting, based on your personal preference. While I primarily played with Japanese voices, what I have heard of the English cast also sounded great, so players should be comfortable choosing either character, knowing it shouldn’t detract of the engaging plot.
Tales of Berseria is definitely one of the strongest entries in the Tales franchise’s history. While the game is certainly not without its flaws, and at points can feel like it drags on a bit longer than it should, the refinements made to the combat combined with an engaging and satisfying plot, make this a game that RPG fans should definitely pick up.