Game Commentary: Tales of Berseria

I finally finished Tales of Berseria over the weekend. I've done every sidequest available to me before the completion of the main story. I've only the post-game content (of which there is a quite a bit of) to complete but otherwise, I believe I can give you a review (sort of) of the game. I will mostly be talking about the storytelling because that's the essence of the game. Full disclaimer: this is my third Tales title I've finished.

The theme throughout the game is 'emotion vs reason' and Berseria does a great job handling it. From Velvet's passionate rage to Eleanor's evolving conviction, the game paces itself near perfectly, playing out each situation with careful consideration towards its characters and building on every aspect as the game progresses. By the end, you'd have figured out for yourself what the theme will mean to you as the characters themselves discover that.

The plot is quite straight-forward. I'd argue that linear plots are the best approach to great storytelling because while the plot may be linear, the journey is not. Berseria's entire backbone revolves around the 6 main characters. They are each broken in their own right and their journey takes them through the darkest of the dark, exploring the deep side of human emotion and of life itself. Again, the whole emotion vs reason theme comes to play a lot and some of the character arcs, I have never seen done before in gaming. Berseria understands its characters, spends time to flesh them out and takes a top-down approach to their development, eventually leading to characters that are neither black nor white. They are living, breathing individuals.

This is also very much aided by the optional skits available throughout the game. These skits add so much to the characters and their development that I wonder how this sort of story-telling is lost on many great developers. I was never told that the characters liked each other, I was shown their evolving camaraderie. Berseria does such a great job with the characters that finding even a comparison to other games is a challenge. For an example, if we take Final Fantasy XV, I can put the whole cast of that game together and I'll care less for them than I do for a single character in Berseria.

When it comes to the technical side of the storytelling, there are occasional hiccups with some of the voice acting (I chose Japanese voices) partly due to the cinematography and animation choice. Certain sequences had pauses between scenes/animations that detracted a little from being fully invested in the characters as their voice acting followed the pauses in turn. This is an easy fix but the Tales series seems to still be quite backwards in a forward moving industry.

Exploring the world with these lovable characters come with both the good and the bad. As I mentioned above, one of the good is that the characters are very well written with great development. You can't help but want to carry forward to reach the conclusion of their story. The other good is the battle system, which features a very action-oriented approach to combat, more so than Zestiria. I don't want to explain the battle system because you should at least know the brunt of it. Just know that you have to block and you have to dodge but you can also go all-out. It strikes a nice balance between going forward with a destructive combo or to back up and wait for an opening. The 'break souls' feature is also a great addition, adding a risk and reward system to the combat which changes function depending on the character.

As for the character progression system, Berseria takes the simple approach. You essentially have to use a piece of equipment a certain number of times to gain specific skills from it. You may have just equipped better armor but if the weaker armor provides a permanent stat boost if you master it, the investment might just be worth it. Besides that, you have what are called Potentites, gems containing gameplay changing functions like granting the ability to block to reduce damage against Mystic Artes for example. These are sort of like the AP skills in previous Tales games, but with the AP balancing focus removed. Once you get a Potentite, you permanently receive the benefits, whether its an active exploit or a passive bonus.

Now the bad comes in the way of the exploration itself. You don't run very fast and even with the introduction of a vehicle-equivalent, I still felt needlessly slow. Considering there was quite a bit of backtracking involved in the game, I needed a faster source of locomotion. Fast travel exists to aid movement between maps but it didn't really help when I wanted to traverse a single dungeon. It also didn't help that the graphics certainly did not meet PS4 standards. I would occasionally look at the artistic approach to the environment but that was about it. Again, please upgrade your technical team!

Nice art but please upgrade the graphics!
In terms of other features, cooking makes a return alongside a sea-exploration system. Cooking is a good enough system to never remove. The sea exploration adds to the flair of the game and provides some interesting tidbits about the world. The game also has some beautiful music which matches the tone of each scene perfectly. It isn't as expansive as the tracks in Zestiria but great nonetheless.

All in all, Tales of Berseria is a title that delivers an experience that is difficult to replicate and honestly, quite rare to find. It's one of the best JRPGs I've played and certainly sets the bar for what the Tales series should be achieving.

The story takes about 60 hours to complete. If I were to take into account every sidequest in the game including post-game content (which I have not yet completed), I'd say you have more than 100 hours of content available to you. Of course, if you're a fan of the Tales franchise, this shouldn't surprise you.

I should also mention that you don't have to play Zestiria to enjoy this game. If you did play it, there would just be a heck of a lot of 'Oh Snap!' moments. Oh, and an additional theme of duality will be present across both titles. I suppose that does add quite a bit of weight to this game.

Also, I do apologise for using stock photos only. Berseria blocks any sort of sharing feature once you reach the late game and I'm too much of an amateur writer to remember forward-thinking is a thing.

Best girl right here



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