Review: Tales of Berseria [Steam]

Release Date
NA: January 24, 2017; EU: January 27, 2017
Platform: PC, PS4
Publisher / Developer
Bandai Namco
T, PEGI 16

More than just a successor to Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria is a game that chronicles the tragic story of a band of villains and reimagines a foretold history through their perspective. In a world wrought by daemonblight with exorcists viewed as humanity’s saviors, Tales of Berseria explores the shadows present in everyone’s hearts and gives darkness the spotlight.

Steam describes the game:
A tale of emotion versus reason… In Tales of Berseria, players embark on a journey of self-discovery as they assume the role of Velvet, a young woman whose once kind demeanor has been replaced and overcome with a festering anger and hatred after a traumatic experience three years prior to the events within Tales of Berseria. Velvet will join a crew of pirates as they sail across the sea and visit the many islands that make up the sacred kingdom of Midgand in an all-new adventure developed by the celebrated team behind the Tales of series.

Despite Tales of Berseria being a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, it is not required to play Zestiria before playing Berseria as the latter takes place in the distant past to the point where even the positionings of land were different. Nonetheless, there are connections between the two such as how Sorey in Zestiria is the latest Shephard whereas Berseria introduces the first Shephard. A certain pair of siblings are also playable characters in their respective series.

The gameplay of Berseria is free-roam, real-time action with auto, semi-auto, and no auto control options with the ability to play any character in the party. A Soul Gauge system is used where if the amount of souls are depleted, enemies are more likely to block attacks. However, gathering souls can activate a Break Soul which removes the combo limit for the character. Soul are required for attacking, but can be replenished through blocking and defeating opponents. Artes are also utilized which consume Blast Gauge, which regenerate over time. The battle system allows for a lot of leeway for players to come up with various strategies for different enemies.

Nonetheless, the most defining feature of Tales of Berseria is not the gameplay, but rather the story and the characters involved. Instead of the typical “good against evil” premise, Berseria takes an opposite approach in which the plot is fueled by personal vendettas. Main heroine Velvet does not care for the fate of the world; all she cares about is killing the man that murdered her younger brother, even if that man is considered the world’s “hero.” Vengeance is the motive for the protagonist, not goodwill.

Due to the theme of revenge, Berseria’s tone is darker compared to a game such as Zestiria. Dark series can be subject to poor writing where unwarranted suffering or plot twists can be what drives them. Thankfully, Berseria does not fall into that category as plot points are well-justified and well-developed. The game takes a good amount of time setting up Velvet’s changed character so that she just isn’t “edgy” right from the start. The crowd NPCs themselves also help strengthen the plot. Instead of filler nonsense, interactions with these NPCs shed light on various perspectives of how society views certain matters such as the rise of exorcists or the threat of daemonblight.

The main characters are definitely the highlight of the series as each have memorable personalities that are not too overbearing. They also are not a random motley crew put together for the sake of having a party as each have their own reasons as to why they joined the group. Like Velvet, they did not join the party to serve the people, but rather to fuel their individual selfish motives. Despite working mostly for themselves, the group creates a sense of camaraderie with one another. Eizen is a Malakim pirate, Rokurou is a samurai daemon, Magilou is a seemingly carefree witch, Laphicet is a previously enslaved Malakim, and Eleanor is an exorcist. Though it may seem like a random gathering at first glance, the game clearly explains each individual’s reasons in coming together.

Many Tales of fans will find familiarity with Tales of Berseria’s soundtrack as Motoi Sakuraba returns to compose the game’s music. The tone of music shared affinity with the tone of the game with beautiful-sounding melancholic music accompanying tragic scenes. More light-hearted pieces are present in the background during slice-of-life and comedic moments. However, the best score must be the main menu theme which plays as Velvet slowly walks towards the screen until the series’ logo flashes.

Tales of Symphonia was my entry game to the “Tales of” series and I’ve been a major fan ever since. To me, Tales of Berseria is another great addition to the ever-growing franchise. Not only that, it was a major improvement to its predecessor Tales of Zestiria. Allowing both series to be connected also helped bolster their shared world’s lore. With how enjoyable Tales of Berseria is, I look more forward to the next major “tale.”