That’s right, I’m done talking about Square Enix for a while! Mostly since I ran out of titles to pick on…Anyway, today we’re taking a look at Tales of Berseria, the latest installment in the Tales series. For anyone unfamiliar with this series, Tales games are JRPGs that usually involve you controlling a group of about six people doing your average RPG type things. For me at least, the series has been a bit hit or miss. Some games have been fun and engaging but some have just been downright annoying to play, even to the point where I just said screw it and moved on. The last game, Tales of Xesteria (and where do they come up with these names?) was alright, if a bit boring and predictable in my opinion. When I read that Berseria would be a pre-sequel to that game I was skeptical of trying it. Now I’m damned glad I did.
Just a forewarning, some very light spoilers ahead.
The story opens with the tragic backstory of the main character, a girl named Velvet Crowe. Ten years before the start of the game she lost her parents and sister on the night of what would come to be known as the Opening. A plague known as daemonblight swept across the land, transforming people into savage monsters. Seven years later, she and her sickly brother Laphicet are still living in their village along with her sister’s husband, an exorcist named Arthur. Exorcists in this game are those who can form contracts with spirits, referred to as malak, and have the power to slay the daemons. Ordinary weapons have proven ineffective against them, which is what has made the spread of the plague so catastrophic. Aside from, you know, your loved ones randomly turning into wolf men. Velvets life has resumed a sort of normalcy by this point, with her taking care of her brother and training under Arthur, who she sees as a mentor. All of that goes to hell on the night you start playing when Arthur, now calling himself Artorius sacrifices her brother in a ritual that will come to be called the Advent.
Child murder is never the answer.
She attempts to save him, only to have her arm cut off and both her and her brother fall into a pit while Artorius looks on dispassionately. His ritual is successful though, and the resulting lightshow sends Velvet flying back out of the abyss, her missing limb now replaced with a wicked daemons hand capable of consuming other daemons (among other things) and feeding their energy to her. In the ensuing battle she devours the many daemons who are swarming the cape where the ritual took place, but immediately afterward realizes that she has killed all of the people who once lived in her village. She collapses, fade to black, and return to the present, where she is imprisoned in a solitary room of stone and mortar. A masked spirit appears to free her, and the adventure begins in earnest.
I won’t spoil more of the story here, especially since that already felt long winded. The story is fascinating and appealing to me in the extreme, because of how much it blurs the lines between good and evil, right and wrong and light and dark. Velvet is not a nice person in this game. She is hellbent on getting her revenge and slaughtering Artorius for killing her brother and she will do whatever it takes to accomplish this. At this point Artorius is basically the savior of the world. By preforming the advent, he was able to establish a means of fighting back against the daemon threat and restore some semblance of normalcy to the world. But his regime is borderline tyrannical, enforcing specific laws of religion, how to act and think, imposing reason over emotion and the many over the few to a degree that can be disgusting to witness. He’s also done some pretty horrible things to achieve this ‘peace’ which hasn’t even solved the daemon threat, just pushed it back. As you work against him, you’re technically causing harm to large groups of people, but at the same time what he did in the first place was wrong. It creates a deep moral dilemma if you stop to think about it as you play through.
Tales games usually do a good job with character development but this one takes the crown. Every member of your team has a deep story and unique personality that you will actually see grow and change as you play through. Playing the “bad guys” brings a new perspective to things and makes the interactions that much richer…and amusing. The game also takes place about 1000 years before the events of Xesteria, so you’ll catch a lot of references and explanations that relate to the two games, along with a familiar face or two. If you did play it (and I would recommend it, it’s not a bad game by any means) note the parallels between Sorey and Artorius, it’s interesting.
Combat is more or less the same as any other Tales game. You assign artes (abilities) in different strings assigned to each button. Battles are open, meaning you can run around in a locked circle and you can switch between characters at will. Each character also has unique special abilities that make them stand out in a fight. I have to say this game feels significantly more fluid then some previous ones. They’ve done away with the action points of previous installments and replaced them with a mechanic called souls, which refill as you kill enemies or just by backing off for a few seconds to recharge. Means a lot less down time in a fight, for which I am exceedingly thankful.
Do I recommend this game? F*** yes I do. Tales of Berseria brings a unique and interesting cast of characters and a deep, morally complicated story that drew me in completely. This hasn’t happened for me with their games before, so A+ there Bandai Namco.
And on that note, I’d like to end with a question for a change. What do you feel makes for a more interesting enemy in an RPG? Someone who thinks their doing the right thing and is willing to commit any number of atrocities to achieve their aims? Or someone who is legitimately evil and enjoys causing pain and suffering for its own sake? Let me know in the comments below. Happy gaming!