Now playing: Magilou's Theme – Extended
Context: Tales of Berseria was the first Tales game for me. Back when it first launched, the design of Velvet caught my eye, reviews were highlighting how her story was darker and a real step away from traditional JRPG storylines, and and I was sold, staying on my list since then.
Writing this after completing the story including most side missions I could find, credits rolled at about 82 hours.
tl;dr: Tales of Berseria is a great modern action JRPG featuring an endearing cast with a mature, multilayered and unique main story that's darker than most and I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a go, especially if you have never played any Tales games before.
– The Great –
Velvet Crowe – First Solo Anti-Heroine of Tales and Her Crew
So I might be a little biased, but thirst for Velvet aside, veterans of Tales have also highlighted how well put together this rag tag cast of diverse outcasts are.
In Tales games, there is a unique storytelling technique known as Skits, that will come up at random that's essentially a 2D cartoon, where the cast members involved will hold a conversation about various topics ranging from dietary habits, teenage struggles, heavy breathing and moaning behind a locked door to murdering family (heh). These serve to provide characterization for the cast as well as world building, while they are totally optional, your growing love for the members and their quirks, coupled with never knowing what sort of skit can happen next makes it a mystery treat each time the skit option presents itself.
The crew are well designed and stand out from each other easily enough, with strong writing to color how their relationships are not just with Velvet but with each other as well, and I am so thankful Velvet is not a silent protagonist like Adol from Ys or those from the Persona series. Her interactions with her crew shine a light on different aspects of her personality, which include her strengths as top tier wife material, cruelty as top tier mistress material, single minded hatred as top tier demoness material…
The Story of Malevolence Chapter 1 – Revenge Done Right, Saving The World
It is not often personal revenge serves as the biggest motivator for a protagonist/main character in any story, especially those of the poisonous, burning hatred kind Velvet possesses. In the early chapters, she sends others to their deaths for her own purposes without blinking, all to serve her own purposes of pursuing revenge having broken out of her cage.
Our impression of Velvet was not a defender the likes of Samus, a hero of good the likes of Yuna, nor a free spirit defending her own right to exist ala Bayonetta, but a wounded, rage filled animal let loose onto the world. Granted, the tutorial level at the start paints her as a loving sister in law and sister in a world first learning about the monster threat, who shows signs of her martial artes training while hunting, the writers created a character that not many of us will be able to readily like or relate to.
Therefore, to inject levity and alternative characters for the player to ask questions about, they placed others around her as soon as was suitable, while simultaneously planting the mystery seed that in order for the world to be saved, Velvet's revenge must come to fruition.
While Velvet's need for bitter revenge never wanes and she is true to her character throughout the entire tale, she absolutely runs the gamut of trials and tribulations thrown her way, with more than once having to confront the fallout of her actions. Her depth as more than a mindless killer surfaces, she smiles more, grudgingly puts up with some of the antics of her crew, comes to care for others again, leans on others for different reasons and fence sitters and simps alike are given permission to fall deeper in love with her.
I would also like to praise the game's story for marrying their major plot beats with underlying emotional interpersonal stakes, and doing it well. While challenging the entire religious hierarchy that serves as the big bad, not only do the crew members come to terms with their identity and personal decisions, but those on the side of the antagonist as well, they react accordingly and there is sufficient payoff for each of the beats, with time and dialogue dedicated to flesh out what has occurred and how the characters are affected.
World Building – Little Touches Big Impact
While the world does not see huge environmental changes based on your quest completion, I like that the in game NPCs' dialogue changes with your actions. While some say the same thing, enough new dialogue can be found that I give it points for world consistency and storytelling.
There is a lot of heart in the writing.
– The Poor –
Combat is a chaotic button meshing mess. There is some strategy, with resistances and weaknesses and companion switches on the fly, but playing on a keyboard, it's a chaotic keyboard meshing mess.
Tutorials stretch deep, well into mid game. Even after leaving tutorial levels, walls of text will still occasionally appear to instruct you on the latest game mechanic, before abruptly leaving without really needing you to master anything new.
Side mission pacing and placing is a bit of an enigma. Right after you have unlocked the final confrontation, the game decides that now is also the best time to flood you with all sorts of side activities to discover and companion quests to complete for more content and character building. Quest givers also appear seemingly at random across the entire game world – with quest hunting a chore unto itself.
After powering through all the side quests and finally telling myself "okay, this is it, final boss fight time", the game slaps me with the largest and most complicated dungeon yet. Stretching my play time by a further 2 hours. Ergh.
– Caveats and Thoughts –
As it is a prequel, you will inevitably appreciate the game more if you played the sequel first. If you come to love the characters, there is good news and bad news. Good news, there is more to them than what is presented in this game, bad news, Tales of Zestiria is nowhere near as loved as Berseria is.
Music is competent enough, though only 3 tracks stand out to me: Chance Meeting with Myself, Magilou's Theme and the abbey's march.
I may or may not have given this game extra points because I found Square Glasses for Velvet really early. Also, Prisoner's Outfit and Jacketless Outfit ftw.
Magilou surprised me. I was wondering if she ever snaps out of her sassy, blithe mode, she did not, but she still has character growth in her own way. She also has a lot of fans who appreciate her DFC. Cool!
I wished that Tales of Berseria had alternative endings. What if doing more of your companions' quests gave you a better ending? What if Laphicet masters his flames before the final confrontation!?
Upon assembling the whole cast, at 35 hours, I felt like the main plot immediately stepped up a gear because the real fight was beginning, and the Dragon Ball subplot came up. At 59.5 hours, WHAT A TWIST. I suffered my own Blue Screen of Death moment – my mind was absolutely blown!! My heart wept so hard for Velvet, my violent babe, please be okay…
– The Score –
On my personal scale, Tales of Berseria gets 8.0. Behind in the same band, Dead Space and Yakuza Kiwami 2. They score better than Wasteland 3 at 7.9, slightly edged out by Evil Within 2 at 8.1.
Did you play Berseria? Are you considering getting it? Do you disagree massively with what I put down above? Let me know! Would love to know what you think of the game if you played it, or if you are a Tales veteran.
If you made it this far, I really appreciate it. Thanks for reading!
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