As I am installing Nier into my PS3, so I can play the game I’m really looking forward to (Nier: Automata) when it comes out, I wanted to take the time to talk about my experience with the game “Tales of Berseria”. This is the first “Tales” game that I beat, although I had played Tales of Berseria’s sequel game, Tales of Zestiria (Tales of Zestiria was released in 2015, but Tales of Berseria is a distant prequel released in 2017… get it?), but that game felt very empty in a lot of ways. I played 20 hours of that game, but I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The story was okay and the battle system wasn’t that fun. Tales of Berseria, on the other hand…
You play the game as Velvet Crowe, a 16 year old living in a small village in the woods, taking care of her younger brother, Laphicet, both of whom are raised by a step-father/ step brother figure, Arthur/ Artorius. Later that night, both Artorius and Laphicet disappear, so Velvet goes looking for them, but finds that Artorius kills Laphicet as a part of a sacrifice to rid the world of Malevolence. In the process, Velvet turns into a demon with the power to consume other demons. Artorius then traps Velvet in a prison, keeping her alive for 3 years, which is where the main plot picks up. Happy start. I won’t go further into detail, because I really want you to experience the game for yourself, because the story is absolutely the strongest part of this game. The twists, turns, characters you meet along the way, the comedic bits, the depressing bits, the satisfying bits all make up a story that is probably one of the best I have yet played, at least in my opinion. All of the party members are very well developed to where I cared for pretty much everyone in the party. Each had their own back story and moments in the story to make them stand out, which made me care about each of them. I have to talk about how awesome Velvet Crowe is. She is a strong, female protagonist, bent on revenge against the man who murdered her brother and will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. She starts off driven by anger and despair, but by the end of the game, she becomes more focused and while her goal doesn’t change, what drives her to her goal changes. A question posed early in the game and continues to be asked all the way until the end is “Why do you think birds fly?”, which this game presents two different outlooks on this question and how to live in general: logic and emotion. A logical outlook would be that the bird does it to survive, while emotion would say the bird does it simply because it wants to. It’s a question you have to answer for yourself, because while the characters have their own answers, they are for the most part different than each others, so you must ask yourself that question.
The graphics in the game are good, at least to my eyes. This is coming from someone who just recently played Final Fantasy 7 for the first time and didn’t really mind the blocky, lego-like graphics of the characters. This game looks like a 3D anime, which I am content with. There isn’t amazing details, but it’s more cartoony, so I find no harm in it looking like it belongs on the PS3 or PSVita (even though this game was made for the PS3 in Japan, so again, I don’t feel like it’s the game’s fault). The overall look of the maps and the world look great though. I like how nice the backgrounds look, even if the game is only a collection of maps, making it feel linear. I feel like Western audiences harp on graphics too much to enjoy what is underneath, which is a great story with a pretty fun battle system.
The battle system of the Tales games are slightly different from game to game. In Tales of Berseria, each of the face buttons have 4 moves associated to each. In the “Artes” menu, you can change what each button and subsequent button press does with unlocked moves. Each move has an element type, which you need to pay attention to if you don’t want to get clobbered. Always check to see what the enemy you are currently up against is weak to and map out your moves accordingly. This game honestly feels like a 3D JRPG fighting game, with a customizable combo system, which allows you to create your own style of play. Let’s face it though, you’ll more than likely select your moves for each button for different weaknesses, find out the enemy’s weakness, and then mash the corresponding button. It is called Tales of ‘Berseria’ for a reason… ’cause ya know… Berserk. You’re kind of pushed to be more aggressive in battles. You will be messing around with equipment, upgrading your favorite piece of equipment, and swapping things around to give you better stats. It is a JRPG after all, so it’s a numbers game, but player skill is also very important. There are also costumes and accessories that you can unlock throughout the game, which can be anything from awesome, to fitting for one or two characters, to down-right stupid. But, you will be spending 45-55 hours in this game before you see the credits, so have fun while you can.
I bought the soundtrack from a Japanese CD store on Ebay. Let that tell you how much I enjoyed the music that I heard in this game. I will admit that it’s not my favorite soundtrack, but a lot of the music in this game was really good. Velvet’s Theme (which I don’t think I heard for half the game until a certain scene), the boss battle themes, and the opening anime intro are awesome examples of the music in this game. Motoi Sakuraba, who also did music for the Dark Souls series, the Star Ocean series, the Valkyrie Profile series, Infinite Undiscovery, Eternal Sonata, the Golden Sun series, the rest of the Tales series, and more (seriously, this guy has an incredible resume), did the soundtrack and it is great. I don’t think there was a single song that overstayed its welcome, and I enjoyed the music when it was going for a light hearted tone, among the overall darker story, at least compared to the rest of the series.
The overall vibe of the story is a lot darker than how I have heard the rest of the Tales games are, which I can attest to if they were anything like Tales of Zestiria, although I have heard the contrary. This doesn’t mean that the whole game is dark and depressing, but rather the opposite. While Velvet is a demon, who is thirsty for blood and revenge, there are characters like Magilou and Bienfu, both of whom are goofy, but don’t feel out of place. The whole party is made up of anti-heroes which makes this game feel unique. In Tales of Zestiria, you play as the Shepherd, who is trying to rid the world of Malevolence, while in Tales of Berseria, you are trying to KILL the Shepherd, who is trying to rid the world of Malevolence. The difference is that the Abbey in Tales of Berseria is corrupt, but because they use “reason” to justify their actions, they create no malevolence, so they are “right” in the eyes of this world. Emotion breeds malevolence, so emotion and free will create problems in this world, so the Abbey wants to rid the world of both… get it? In this light, your party goes from being villains to being anti-heroes. This doesn’t mean that you do good things in this game though, there are no real good guys in this situation, which I can really appreciate, because not everything is squeaky-clean.
So, Nier has been installed into my PS3, waiting for me to sink my time into it before its sequel comes out, so I’ll wrap up my thoughts. I spent 53 hours in Tales of Berseria before I rolled the credits and I honestly don’t regret my investing that much time into this game. I learned a lot from the story, the music was really good, the gameplay was engaging enough to not wear out its welcome (which can be very easy to do when playing one game for 50+ hours), and the ending made me tear up. The ending was very satisfying, but also made me feel empty and depressed. The story is what really sells this game for me and what kept me playing it consistently playing it for 3 weeks. This game will probably wind up in my Top 10 games I have played, because the story is just that good. It made me reconsider going back and finishing Tales of Zestiria, it was THAT good! If you can’t tell, I really liked this game a lot, but I can only recommend it if you understand a few things about it ahead of time. 1. It’s VERY anime and I get that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, 2. The script and dialogue is massive, so prepare to spend a lot of time listening to people talk, 3. It is a JRPG, meaning complicated story, with less emphasis on the world map, and more emphasis on characters, grinding and NUMBERS!! 🙂 The game is a collection of maps with a lot of backtracking, so there isn’t an open world. This is a style of gameplay that isn’t appealing to Western audiences, I get it, but I feel that the sacrifices made to be its own thing pay off. This is one of the best surprises I have experienced in gaming since I got back into playing video games. It’s not so much of a surprise that the Tales series is third only to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in Japan. If you can play this game with an open mind and enthusiasm, then that is all you need to enjoy this game, at least for the story.
That ending though…