Confession: despite being a die-hard JRPG fan borne from the pixelated fires of Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy 1 and Suikoden, I haven’t given much attention to the Tales series. Take this as a disclaimer that I’m not that familiar with what the other Tales games are like. All I knew before going in was that the series had a colorful anime art style and a sizeable following. Now, I love me some anime but I’ve also been burnt by games that tried too hard to replicate their art and stories. The results always seemed mediocre, cliche-riddled messes. After spending some time with Tales of Berseria, I realized that my ignorance towards the series was nothing short of an embarrassment. Berseria’s intriguing world and flexible combat system have given me more than enough reason to give the rest of the series the fair shake I denied it.
Story and Setting
A big part of playing a JRPG, naturally, is having a good story told through the eyes of a compelling cast of characters who adventure through an intriguing world. Tales of Berseria not only quashed my expectations of a shallow repetitive anime story but also surprised me. For starters, Velvet is the kind of female protagonist you can root for because she grows from both her struggle and the characters that surround her. That’s also telling on how well fleshed-out the rest of the loveable cast is. Few were the moments where I felt that the pacing of Berseria’s narrative beats wasn’t keeping me engaged. A few of the quests that involved going back to previously explored areas could have probably done without the back-and-forthing but they’re few and far between enough to not be egregious.
As a whole, the game plays more or less how you would expect. You traverse through a vibrant and perilous world to advance the story and complete quests. Although some side quests were somewhat tedious to complete, they did a lot to provide some more insight about the world of the game. Traveling on your commandeered pirate ship is quite enticing as it gives the world a grand sense of scale considering a lot of the zones feel relatively compact and straightforward.
Combat in Tales of Berseria is where it’s all at. The game makes use of an action-based system within the confines of an instanced battlefield. You won’t be unwillingly pulling in more monsters as you can in games like Xenoblade Chronicles. The combo system of Berseria is incredibly addictive, particularly when playing Velvet herself. Every important ability is mapped to the face buttons which gives you instant access to whatever attack and ability you need. Once you fill up your character’s Soul Gauge, you’re able to unleash devastating final blows that look both flashy and impactful. There is an intricate strategical element when you mix in enemy weaknesses and different party setups.
What Sets Tales of Berseria Apart from Other JRPGs
I want to preface this section by stating that it’s an absolute travesty that we don’t get a lot of JRPGs with couch co-op. My wife and I picked up Tales of Berseria because we were hot off the heels of playing Eternal Sonata – highly recommended – together and we wanted to find other co-op games like it. Berseria, admittedly, takes quite a bit before you get your first party member that enables the feature.
Tales of Berseria has all of the trappings of a solidly made JRPG, including mini-games, side-quests and a fair bit of secrets to look out for. The involved combat and engaging story, though, were what truly made the game stand out. From a certain point onwards, JRPG combat tends to grow stale leading you actively pray to the RNG gods that random encounters would stop. Berseria makes leveling your party much more palatable thanks to its battle system and that monsters are all visible on the map.
Who Should Play Tales of Berseria
I don’t know where this game stands in comparison to other Tales games. I’ve read that Velvet and Co’s romp is darker than the average title in the series. If you’re a veteran you’ve probably played this already but if not due to it not being as more lighthearted, I’d say give it a fair shake. As a newcomer, I didn’t feel left in the dark with the story nor with how the game plays so if this is your first Tales game, definitely dive in with confidence.