Developed by Bandai Namco and continuing the Tales franchise, Tales of Berseria is an action RPG that Japan has had since August last year. It’s a tale of betrayal and revenge, of logic versus reason; it manages to transition seamlessly between dead serious and bizarrely jovial tones, all the while providing deep characterisation, a stellar story and gameplay that really isn’t half bad.
I won’t try and hide it, I’ve really fallen for Tales of Berseria in spite of my initial scepticism. That kind of over the top anime style has always just looked too ridiculous for my liking, so I’ve ended up steering clear of quite a lot of similar looking titles. I’m quickly realising that preconceived notions are rarely helpful, because what I perceived to be simply another Final Fantasy (I’ve never really played that series either, they’re all the same) turned out to be the best game I’ve played since mid-last year.
The narrative is by far the best part of this game, mainly due to how well fleshed out the protagonist is. Velvet is a perfect example of ‘the anti-hero’ done right because, regardless of her flaws and her sins, the player is always able to see her actions as justified. Her struggle to achieve her goal is not only admirable but inspirational, as I’m sure many would agree. It doesn’t stop at Velvet though; Tales is chock-full of fascinating characters that pose as either friends or foes, and I found myself getting quite excited when a cut scene would begin, because it meant that I could see these people interact with one another in a way that is nothing less than compelling. At various points in the game, an icon will appear indicating that a ‘skit’ can be viewed. These are miniature dialogues between party members that focus on a particular subject that has recently come to light: many of them are surprisingly light hearted, and so act as a kind of comic relief from an inevitably grim destination. The fact that these characters are always interacting in a variety of small ways brings them very close together in the player’s eyes.
The visuals are nothing to be sniffed at either; Tales always looks pleasingly vivid and crisp, never being afraid to seem liberal in its use of colour. Each character appears unique and original, while the designs of the main party contrast each other so well that the player is never completely lost during a particularly frenzied skirmish. The first thing that jumped out at me was just how little Velvet appeared to be wearing in her main outfit; it was rather comic when I realised that this also jumped out at some of the other characters, as we trudged through the snow. On top of this, I found myself to be quite impressed by the sheer quality of each animation. Attacks seamlessly flow from one to the other regardless of which order they’re performed in, and that’s quite a feat considering just how many individual attack combinations there are.
Combat is ruddy complicated to begin with, I’ll not lie. It consists of timed dodging, blocking, any number of abilities, special attacks, elemental weaknesses, souls, food and typically more enemies than you know what to do with. It all sounds horrible, but as I progressed I found that it was all remarkably intuitive. Button combos are defined by the player, so I assigned each of the face buttons a particular style and order of attacks to simplify things. I have always hated trying to remember button orders, so I was genuinely surprised when my mashing transcended into square square circle triangle, or my ever beloved X X X right trigger square square. I should probably also mention that every party member is a playable character, both in combat and while walking around the town, yet it was never a mechanic that I fully used. Sure I’d have loved to play as the psychotic witch for a little while, but I’ve spent far too much time figuring out which attack I want to trigger on Velvet’s third triangle press. There is so much potential for variety here that I think I’d find it difficult to ever truly get bored.
Tales of Berseria really is quite a specimen, and I can’t say enough good things about it. All the time I was playing, I felt immersed in this vibrant world of clearly defined characters and emotion-heavy narrative; all the time I wasn’t playing, I was thinking about how much I loved every part of this title. I’ve just about hit the fifteen hour mark and feel as though the experience is coming towards its unfortunate conclusion, but there are still any number of trophies that hint at so much more content. The very fact that I cannot bear to see this one end should be testament enough to whether or not you’ll pick this one up. I, meanwhile, have a newly discovered franchise that I need to devour.
Tales of Berseria (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
A combination of complex characters and gameplay makes this one as satisfying as it is enjoyable. Even if you haven’t played any of its predecessors, Tales of Berseria is more than worth your time.