The Tales series of games is long running and its latest entry, Tales of Berseria, pitches itself as being a step forward for the series with a much darker tone.
Though still a typical Japanese role-playing game and a Tales game in every right, Tales of Berseria looks to break away from the standards and hold its own head up high. Sadly, the game is far from perfect and struggles to hold itself up let alone up high by any regard.
Jumping into the PlayStation 4 version of the game I spent most of my time with Tales of Berseria confused, not because of the story or plot developments but because I was trying to work out just what had gone wrong with Tales of Berseria.
The game opens with you playing through the events that unfolded three years before the main story takes place. Everything is well and good in the peaceful village life of our protagonist Velvet, sure, there are some daemons roaming around but as a whole it is all okay. This is until the events of a Scarlet Night, when the moon shines red and daemons bring hell to the people of the world.
It is during these events that tragedy strikes and Velvet loses both her brother and her humanity, consumed by the Demonblight. All of this is the work of her brother-in-law who, as you might have guessed, becomes the games main villain. From here on the game focus on telling the tale of Velvet and her lust for revenge.
As with any Tales game, Tales of Berseria has the combat system you have come to know and love, however, this time around there are some changes. The new Soul Gauge is a means to mix up the combat and make you be more aware of your actions. Every move you see uses up a Soul and you can raise, or even lower your Soul Gauge depending on how you perform in battle.
Making the most of an enemy’s weakness will let you stack up some more Souls to unleash stronger moves. Overextend however, and you will find yourself short on souls and needing to step back to defend and recharge. This system might sound a bit awkward but honestly it works in the games favour as you no longer rush in and mash buttons. Tales of Berseria makes you think about your actions and combos and how you engage each enemy you encounter.
That said though, in the early parts of the game I found myself mashing the Break Soul button and just ripping my foes to pieces. This is the act of using up a number of Souls to perform a powerful move unique to each character. Though there are trade-offs it is generally a sure-fire way to destroy an opponent. The challenge did step up as I move forward but honestly Tales of Berseria never felt like an unbeaten force. As a plus it did mean that there was not really much reason to grind early on and I could at least progress with next to no distractions. On harder difficulties, the challenge is increased so do expect to go through some grinding through levels here.
Outside of battles you will find yourself exploring the world in a number of ways. Tales of Berseria never truly feels open world but contains enough areas that feels like there is indeed a living world here. True, the maps can be long and sometimes empty but at least there is a range of environments and locations. The game is very linear though so don’t expect to go walking around freely and finding a number of hidden content and extra quests. There is plenty of content within the story but that is it. For the most part you will be journeying from one point to another following Velvet and her crew.
Sadly, It in is the delivery of its presentation that Tales of Berseria starts to fall flat. Though on the PlayStation 4 the game runs are a solid framerate with never dropping, it is limited. Though running on the PlayStation 4, Tales of Berseria was made for the PlayStation 3 and it shows. With low texture quality, limited poly models and a short draw distance that is honestly, a bit of a joke. Tales of Berseria is not going to win any awards for more technically impressive game. The animation quality also feels more flat then earlier games. Sure, the art style is pretty and the designs are interesting. They cannot take away from the issues that are present. It is a shame more than anything as it just makes Tales of Berseria not feel like a step forward for the series but rather a step back.
On a plus the artwork seen throughout the game used for conversations is still impressive and the cut scenes are great. In engine cut scenes make the delivery of the story a bit more manageable and pack some great moments of action and emotion. The animated cut scenes feel more powerful however with them taking on some of the more key story moments. The opening scenes which tell the tale of the Scarlet Night feels like something straight out of a Souls game and it’s fantastic.
As mentioned above story of Tales of Berseria focuses on Velvet’s journey to take revenge on those who wronged her. For that reason, you play through Tales of Berseria as an anti-hero of sorts. You see even early on in the game it is made clear that Velvet has only one way forward and will use anything and anyone to help her reach this goal. This means twisting and using people in ways you might not expect for a Tales game. It is a nice change of pace and means that you have some interesting and strong story moments during your time with Tales of Berseria. The world within the game might now be a world of, mostly, peace, with a religious establishment over seeing everything and the daemon problem, yet this means nothing to our hero as she looks to drive a knife into target.
Of course, the story is not all about revenge, though it is its focus, and you find a range of emotions throughout. With each party member bring more to the story and expanding the world around you. The characters within Tales of Berseria really help to define the world and story. It is a shame however that the script feels rather poor at times and the English voice cast can, more often than I would like, delivers a poor performance. Though at times the cast hit the note just right there are plenty of times where honestly I wish they were just not talking at all.
I think in the end what Tales of Berseria does is improve a small amount on a formula that we have seen and played before. The improvement might be good but sadly everything else just feels the same or falls to far short to really work. The story has a strong premise and opening but quickly becomes a poorly delivered adventure. With many plot points feeling underdeveloped and not used in their best way. I can respect Tales of Berseria for trying new things in the form of its characters, story and gameplay but by hanging onto its roots just a bit too much it doesn’t feel great.
For some, Tales of Berseria will be a great game. Long term fans of the series might very well be able to overlook the issues and press through to find enjoyment within the troubles. Regardless, I cannot say that I recommend Tales of Berseria and that is a shame. It feels nowhere near close to being a PlayStation 4 game and as mentioned before, is just to undeveloped. It’s a shame because the Scarlet Night concept was a promising and interesting one. You won’t be missing much but not playing Tales of Berseria.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the product provided by the publisher.