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How Tales of Berseria could have been a perfect multiplayer action romp

Content of the article: "How Tales of Berseria could have been a perfect multiplayer action romp"

I got Tales of Berseria in a Monthly Humble Bundle last year and initially bounced off it because of its somewhat dull intro, but I've gotten about 15 hours in recently and I'm completely on board with it. JRPGs and anime are usually pretty hit-or-miss for me, but the combo-based action combat is addictive and the main cast of characters are a bunch of lovable assholes who are really growing on me. I was super excited to try out the co-op mode at a friend's house last week and I've gotta say it's almost great but its shortcomings will make it unenjoyable for anyone aside from player 1.

I'll start with what I enjoy about the multiplayer. The combat system is pretty great. Essentially, you assign four attacks or abilities to each button. You can press the button to execute one step in the combo for each respective face button. Your combo will always continue where you left off on each face button, so if you do 2 attacks on button A, if you press button B it will continue from the 3rd attack you assigned to button B. You have a cooldown bar, but its refilled by perfect-dodging attacks or killing enemies. Overall it's pretty flexible and the combos feel fluid regardless of which character you play. The multiplayer combat works pretty well and I had no issue keeping both players on screen at all times.

However, I only played the game with my friend once and it was immediately clear that he probably wouldn't want to play it again. Our biggest gripe is the overworld. Your party leader is the only one who appears on the overworld, which leads to some awkward story moments and forces players 2-4 to sit around doing nothing.

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In terms of the story, this game will often have smaller fully-voiced non-cutscene NPC interactions where characters will talk, but their character models don't actually appear on screen. On top of this, there are many visual-novel style optional scenes where characters will talk while an anime-style portrait of them moves their mouth and makes small gestures. This is fine, but somewhat immersion-breaking, and I think the game would be much better if the 3D models followed you around and did the small animations rather. These visual-novel moments feel like a watered down version of Last of Us and Uncharted where you can interact with your allies or the environment at certain moments for some optional dialog. Characters will talk about things in the nearby vicinity or their feelings about the events that are unfolding–and I like moments like these as the characters have good chemistry–but instead of showing them interacting with the environment or each other it switches to visual-novel mode. I don't dislike this style of storytelling, but I would feel even closer to these characters if we could see the fully rended 3D models.

As far as gameplay goes, because only the party leader shows up in the overworld, the other players pretty much have nothing to do while you're outside of combat. I think a simple fix for both the immersion-breaking issues with the story and the backseat nature of co-op play would be to make the other party members controllable while you explore. I also think it would be beneficial to do away with random encounters and just let you attack enemies when you see them like in Final Fantasy 15. The game world is full of hidden treasures/secrets and it would give the other players some more agency if they were at least able to interact with the world while you're outside of combat. As it stands this game leaves the other players with pretty much nothing to do outside of combat.

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I'm learning game design via some online tutorials so I know enough to realize that making these changes would fundamentally change how the game's dungeons and overworld would have to be designed. Based on the quality of the content that is already there, though, I don't think this would cause a significant increase in production time, but this decision would have to be made early into production. I think this game is great, but it's co-op aspect is a bit boring for the other players. I asked my friend if he wanted to play again and he gave me a firm "no". I was kinda salty, but I understand why he didn't want to play again. There's usually beer and marijuana involved when I hang out with my buddies and this could've been a great game for that up there with Castle Crashers or other brainless co-op romps. I think the combat is a perfect balance between the stat-focused technicality of a turn-based JRPG and a button-mashing action game, almost like a co-op version of Kingdom Hearts. It feels very unfortunate that the lack of interactivity outside of combat pretty much ruins the co-op experience.


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