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Review: Tales of Berseria – Edgy Can be Cool Too

The Tales series is a long-running jRPG series and can more or less be Bandai Namco’s version of Final Fantasy, only they don’t tend to take a decade to release a new installment. Another notable thing about the Tales series is how it basically runs on a formula that never really changes, except until now. Tales of Berseria, counterpart of Zestiria, decides to go with something more akin to the DC Universe’s ‘Suicide Squad.’ This time, you’re not that concerned with saving the world and is just out for revenge against the hero who saved it. You also get accompanied by a merry band of social rejects that have their own reasons for following you. Snide banter, brooding protagonists and a lot of combo mashing ahead, let’s see if the revenge-a-thon turns into a cringe fest instead.

Production (2.5 / 5)

  • Feels great in terms of responsiveness in battle
  • Both versions of audio are worth listening to
  • Animation looks generally improved, but lacked application
  • PS3 graphics with great frame rate, which is mediocre at best on PS4
  • Maps are generally uninteresting and lack any features

 

The glaring problem with this Tales of Berseria on the PlayStation 4 is the fact that it was originally being developed on the PS3 and it shows. Dated shaders and models that could use more detail are clearly apparent on the game. The saving grace is that it generally runs on a smooth 60 FPS if there isn’t an excessive amount of effects happening on the battlefield. But this is more of a compromise than something I’d praise, especially coming from having played the likes of Final Fantasy XV. Admittedly a steady, tame camera which has been a problem for this series and other games by Bandai Namco is here and is welcome to have. This is especially helpful in battles that become hectic especially when several small skirmishes are going on. Being able to tell how your allies are doing and where your immediate enemies are is huge deal here and you can always tell that at a glance.

However it’s hard to say the same for overworld maps as a lot of it is generally reused assets and getting lost or disoriented after a battle is very possible, as you are faced with a generally  boring world without any interesting visual features to speak of. The game has to rely on map indicators for you to realize that you can interact with objects or terrain in certain ways, which makes exploration really all about finding these.

Finally, the voices are notably good in Tales of Berseria, be it English or Japanese voice-overs. I actually switch between them every now and then Though I’m fairly certain that more conservative tastes will favor the original Japanese VOs especially with consideration of Magilou, a hugely popular character of the game.

 

Mechanics (4.5 / 5)

  • So. Much. Better combat than Tales of Zestiria
  • Focusing on balancing risk-reward situations never makes combat feel boring
  • Development system feels grind-ey but generally worth it
  • Game needs to be on Hard mode to have any of its nuances have any real bearing on how you play

 

Yes, Zestiria’s battle system could be better, and Berseria showed how it can be done. Simplified controls and expands how you can utilize specific artes within your combos, allowing access to 4 interchangeable combo strings. Being able to edit it even mid-battle allows you to custom fit for your arsenal for whichever enemy you’re handling, particularly handy when dealing with bosses. How much of it you can access depends on your soul gauge, where you normally start with 3 and can have upto 5 charges. However having higher amount of souls will make you vulnerable to more damage and status attacks, which can force you to lose charges. Dealing huge combos against your enemies basically requires giving the enemy souls through cancelling ‘Break Souls.’ There are also ways to gain charges in both in offensive and defensive methods, each presenting their own risks. And that’s the beauty of the title’s battle system, there’s no real situation where you can guarantee your advantage, and the momentum can completely change based on a mistake you or your opponent makes.

Unfortunately none of this will really cross your mind unless you’re playing on higher difficulty, because you can generally get away with anything on Normal mode. So if you want the thrill of battle, consider playing the game on hard difficulty.

Apart from that, the characters level up and learn passive skills through the equipment they eventually master, much like FF9’s system. Which will definitely tempt min-maxers  who will want to beef up each character they have with everything they can possibly get. Another type of mastery you acquire in the game is with the use of artes, which is quite literally based on the number of times you’ve used  certain arte in battle, so you can more or less ignore it unless you’re trying to get the small bonuses maximized.

 

Content (4 / 5)

  • Generally plenty of fluff, but rather welcome
  • Pirate ship exploration for loot
  • Each character has a unique play style
  • Map exploration is rewarded in small and big ways
  • Optional bosses and surprise bosses very fun
  • Several quite engaging mini games
  • Stories around characters are okay but may have trouble holding together as a whole

 

While some may not be so thrilled that the game basically goes through an episodic format of featuring each character while keeping the main plot at bay, I find the writing pretty okay considering that the supporting cast. They’re probably the strongest and more interestingly written characters I’ve seen within the Tales universe in a while. Starting out as a band of misfits, the writing slowly peels off the layers of each character through revelations in the story or with the VN-style conversations they have with each other, which at the same time helps them develop their relationships and their own characters. In short, I was never really tired of listening to the cast, as plentiful scenes as they might have.

Apart from that, the Tales of Berseria offers a variety of mini-games that offer a change of pace from the travelling from point-a-to-point-b grind. One felt like Diner Dash, and there was also a combo rush game that I sank so many hours into, and there’s even a card game that took a bit of playing to understand how to win.

Exploring maps to its full extent does also reward you in small and big ways, from getting ‘katz spirits’ that is mainly used for you to unlock fashion chests, to finding loot and finding optional bosses, heck sometimes you even get ambushed by one. All of these can be entirely optional, but do offer rewards that you may find worth your while.

  

Much of the content within the game gives no real impact to your actual playthrough aside from loot bonuses or cosmetics, so most of the extra material they had placed in does feel tacked on, which is a shame considering how engaging all of it really is. It would have been a big deal if playing them would have given you something more valuable within the game. It also seems that this has completely replaced the presence of side-quests, which would have been a huge plus had Bandai Namco decided to throw a few in between major plot points.

 

Features (3 / 5)

Tales of Berseria offers are pretty standard for a game of the Tales series. You get a standard set of DLC costumes that do have their own skits to unlock. They also offer a set of free loot that should make the grind a bit easier especially at the start.

 

For those who want to max out but don’t have as much time, they’re also selling XP/Grade multipliers where I would highly recommend getting the XP multiplier as it’s super cheap (1.50 USD for 1.5x XP) and saves you a lot of time in terms of grinding.

 

Overall (4.5 / 5)

  • A very refreshing experience with it a strong supporting cast
  • Has a noticeable amount of content that seems tacked on
  • Generally engaging battles makes for a rather fun grind
  • Hopefully much better graphics by their next title

 

During the entire time I had handled games on PS4 I’ve yet to lay my hands on a jRPG title that really gripped me. However, Tales of Berseria seems to have answered what its predecessor lacked. The edgy tone that the main story takes does not do justice for the self-aware and savvy supporting cast and actually explores a lot more than the premise lets on.

 

Admittedly, the graphics could have been much better. It’s probably going to be the root of any real issues some may have with the game. Hopefully by the next installment this would be aptly answered, it would also be a huge plus if talking to usual NPCs gave us a lot more animation than just a mouth giving minimal movement, that really served as a peeve during my playthrough as it could be hard to tell who you’re talking to within a crowd, and not much else is really happening.

However if it’s anything you’d commend Tales of Berseria for, it’s the clear effort to innovate their age-old formula for games with new ideas that makes the title marry itself to more modern gaming sensibilities. Most notably, combat is being responsive, fluid and fun with Velvet, yet there’s another 5 characters with unique play styles you can experiment with.

 

If you’re a jRPG fan and think the Tales series may have had an off game lately, do play this game. If you can handle a bit of a graphic downgrade and want to enjoy an RPG this will probably sate that hunger, especially if you’re receptive towards anime.

 

Going berserk with Tales of Berseria is fairly worthwhile, scoring 3.7 / 5
This title is available on PlayStation 3 and 4, and also available on PC. This review is based on the author’s experience with a PS4 playthrough.

 

Tales of Berseria gets a score of 4.5/5.

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