The Tales series has been running for what feels like my entire life – partly because it has. I remember being a little kid and barely being able to wrap my head around Tales of the Abyss, and I remember being in middle school and the time devoured by Tales of Vesperia. It’s an iconic franchise that puts out games year after year, and while some of them end up being misses, a lot of them end up being great hits. With Berseria coming out at the end of this month, it looks like it’s going to be one of the hits.
Every Tales game involves a new group of heroes embarking on a new journey in a new land, but despite that they usually end up falling into some familiar JRPG tropes. Tales of Berseria couldn’t be further from that territory. While the setting is a familiar one of demons and witchcraft, the narrative, and many of the characters who play a part in it, feel so refreshingly different from the kinds of characters I’ve seen in past games. Velvet Crowe, most importantly, is probably the most interesting Tales protagonist I’ve played as. Her motivations and morality, and the events that shape them, help set the foundations for one of the strongest narratives I’ve seen in a Tales game.
Of course, the gameplay is just as strong. One of the things that sets the Tales series apart from other JRPGs is their realtime combat system, and it’s a system that’s been improved upon year after year. You don’t have randomised encounters, but see enemy characters on the field who, if you come in contact with them, transport you to a battlefield for your party to fight a group of enemies. There are no turns, as characters expend soul points in real time to perform attacks and abilities, which earn either by waiting patiently, performing just-dodges off enemy attacks, or chaining together effective combos of attacks.
When you get a hang of combat, you’ll rarely find yourself in a situation where you can’t perform an actions. This is especially true once you unlock the ability to perform Break Souls, which expend a full soul gauge to perform a powerful attack that not only resets combos, but restores some soul, giving you the potential to infinitely chain together attacks as long as you perform the right ones at the right time.
The combat has a great deal of nuance to it. While you can certainly mash buttons and hope for the best in most scenarios, you’ll eventually want to take advantage of bonus effects and statistics, and perform moves that perform optimally at certain points in battle. You have four face buttons that each perform a string of attacks, and you can modify these chains to your heart’s content in the equipment menu.
For fans of visual customization, you also have access to a wide variety of costumes and accessories for your characters. With just a few hours of playing, I already had access to a handful of different costumes, hairstyles, and accessories. They all show up in cutscenes as well, so I definitely recommend giving all of your characters ten gallon hats and aviator shades to really enhance the narrative experience!
There’s a lot of auxiliary systems and features that help add more depth to what you’re doing. There’s plenty of fun party interactions in little “skit” dialogues you unlock as you wander around the world, and they help flesh out the characters a lot more. On top of that, you’ve got things like random stat bonuses and extra skills for weapons, so no two weapons are ever exactly same thing, and you’ve also got a cooking system not unlike that of the Monster Hunter series, which gives you stat bonuses before battle. It all works together to create a fun, balanced experience that keeps its feet in the story and the gameplay in equal measures.
Tales of Berseria has been a hell of a good time so far. Everything about it is right up my alley as a fan of Tales games, but for people no experience with this series, Berseria feels like it could be the best time to jump in. It represents the best of what the series has to offer, all tied together with a unique narrative premise, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of it turns out.
- Developer:Bandai Namco Studios
- Publisher:Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Platforms:PS4, Windows
- Release Date:27/01/17