The newest entry in the long running Tales series releases tomorrow in North America and later this week in the EU. Bandai Namco’s Tales of Berseria is darker than Tales of Zestiria, but for those that played Zestiria other than some minor tweaks you’ll feel right at home.
Tales of Zestiria is the story of Velvet and her quest for vengeance. This adventure takes place in the same world as Tales of Zestiria but 3000 years before the events in Zestiria. While it’s not required to have played Zestiria to understand Berseria for those that have you’ll be privy to a lot of “oh I see what they did there” moments. They won’t always fill in all the gaps for you but it’s easy to see how the iconography of the exorcists in Berseria turned into those of the Shepherd for Zestiria.
Early in the game Velvet loses someone close to her and to make matters worse the perpetrator is someone she had viewed as family. After the events of this sacrifice Velvet is transformed into a demon. For the next three years she is kept underground in a cage and all sense of her former naivety is lost. This sweet caring girl transformers into a cold heartless women that satiets her lust for vengeance by devouring demons with her arm until she can break free.
While Velvet is trapped in prison the man that wronged her works with the main church at the time and establishes an order that destroys the demons that have come to populate the world. The world has come to view this man as a hero. Only Velvet truly knows what he did to establish this order of exorcists and regardless of the outcome she doesn’t feel the sacrifice he made was worth it. It’s easy to look at Velvet and sympathize for her loss. It’s also easy to see how in the face of annihilation of the world how this man could have made the sacrifice that he did. Ambiguous decisions always make for a more interesting experience than black and white ones.
The majority of the game has made it’s way to the West in tact but there was one scene that was slightly altered. This scene showed a small child impaled on a sword in the East. In the western version this child is killed by magic. The sacrifice was still made and that is the primary motivator for Velvet. You still witness the child being killed and in the western version the scene is a bit longer and grander. You’ll see an entire ritual. Having viewed both versions of the scene in context to the entire game I feel the western one carries more impact with less shock value. This slight change is for the better and your enjoyment of the playing experience shouldn’t be negatively impacted for it.
The combat system has undergone some minor alterations from Tales of Z. You’ll still have the paper, rock, scissor effect of using hidden artes, martial artes, and mystic artes. Enemies can also have weaknesses or strengths against certain elements. The different artes will have elemental affinities and you can use these to your advantage against your enemies. You can program a chain of 4 different artes to one key. You can have four different chains programmed per character at once. The problem is unless you have the difficulty cranked way up you won’t really have to worry about your attacks. The game has very deep levels of strategy that you can just gloss over and the game becomes a button masher which makes for a boring experience. Even with the difficulty at moderate or higher you’ll have to make a series of serious mistakes to worry about losing a battle.
One of the biggest character progression changes is that you can earn abilities from your equipment. As you battle while wearing your gear you’ll earn mastery points. Once you’ve mastered a piece of equipment you’ll inherently know it’s mastery skill even if you take that gear off. I found myself leaving weaker pieces of armor on for longer periods of time in order to master them and carry certains latent skills forward with me. You can also upgrade your gear through breaking down old or duplicate pieces into materials and using those materials to strengthen other items.
There is no lack of items to be found in the wild. There are collectibles all over the place. Represented by little glowing dots spread across the map. Treasure chests can also be found across the world, in towns, or in dungeons. There are four types to be discovered to include a pink one that stores Katz which may or may not reward you with a cosmetic item when you release them.
Two new additions for Berseria are code red demons and an Expedition system. While Tales of Z had elite type enemies throughout the world in Tales of B there is a group known as the Bloodwing that will send you after these stronger than normal daemons. To tie into the nautical theme of Berseria you’ll be able to send your ship off from the menu on Expeditions. While out on expedition your crew can discover items to cook with, new recipes, and treasure that mainly act as flavor to fill out the lore of the world. There are also a number of mini games spread throughout the world but most of them fail to delivering a fun experience.
Velvet takes a lot of flack throughout the game from her peers over her outfit. During those short cutscenes that the Tales series is known for, and there are no shortage of them in Berseria, and side conversations characters will comment on her clothes, or lack thereof. One even goes so far as to offer to make her something to wear. Velvet comments that she can’t really feel the cold now that she is a demon. On a deeper level the developers actually do a decent job of tying in her outfit as an outward reflection of the change she has gone through internally.
While Berseria is only available on the PS4 and Steam in the West it is very apparent it was made for the PS3 in the east. The zones are small and the graphics are substandard for a current generation title. From the textures to the low poly objects this game looks dated before it was even released. Hopefully the next one will take advantage of current technology. Also while the game has made iterations to its systems they are starting to feel a bit dated as well. It might be time for Bandai Namco to shake up the gameplay and freshen up the franchise. While you tend to know what you are going to get with a Tales game they are starting to feel a little long in the tooth.
- Going in you know what you are going to get
- Good cinematics
- Skill Progression / Equipment Upgrades
- Graphics are dated
- Franchise feels a bit stale