Game Review : Tales of Berseria

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Game Review : Tales of Berseria four-half-stars

Players set out on a journey of self-discovery as they assume the role of Velvet, a young woman whose once kind demeanor has been replaced and overcome with a festering anger and hatred after a traumatic experience three years prior to the events within TALES OF BERSERIA. Velvet will join a crew of pirates as they sail across the sea and visit the many islands that make up the sacred kingdom of Midgand in an all-new adventure developed by the celebrated team behind the TALES OF series

I’m just going come right out and admit that I was extremely skeptical of Tales of Berseria and its main character, Velvet Crowe. Not only was she dressed in the oddest outfit possible (complete with tons of straps that somehow miraculously held her outfit together), but she had huge breasts spilling out of said scanty outfit, a demon wolf claw (something so obviously made to cater to fan boys), and a massive, stereotypical chip on her shoulder.

 

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Velvet, her claw, and her insane outfit.

Same-old, same-old, I thought. Plus, I didn’t make it through Tales of Zestiria, the last entry in the long running series, so I was afraid my love affair with the series was coming to an end. And I was also disgusted that Tales of Berseria involved pirates. Can I just take a moment to say how much I hate pirates ever since Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? I don’t want to steer a boat for 5 hours—unless it’s Windwaker. 

 

But as I learned on release day, I was SOOO wrong about Tales of Berseria, and not just about the pirate part. And I am still kicking myself for not ordering the Collector’s Edition. I was surprised to find that Velvet Crowe was everything I ever wanted and needed in a heroine, what Lightning of Final Fantasy XIII should have been, and her journey and growth as a character even brought me to tears. Likewise, Velvet’s reluctant relationship with Laphicet, a malak, who reminds her of her deceased brother. Her relationship with Laphicet, whom she dubs Phi, was so good and what Lightning and Hope’s relationship in Final Fantasy XIII never quite managed to be, though it tried. Watching Velvet push Laphicet to become his own person and develop his free will, while he in turn supports her for herself—vengeful, loving, and determined.

 

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Medissa and Komoana were just two of the many solid side characters.

As if that kind of character development weren’t enough, the rest of the cast was just as impeccable—each having a rich story that I actually cared about, and a wonderful sense of humor. To accompany this strong cast, there were even more richly developed side characters, who were featured in sidequests and main events.  I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a “Tales of” series game since Xillia. Before I knew it, Tales of Berseria was not only competing with Tales of Vesperia for the title of my favorite “Tales of” series game, but one of my favorite games of all time—it was just that good.

 

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Bienfu was the only character in the game I couldn’t like!

I ended up putting 100 hours of time into my first play through of the game—and I still have many things to do in the game! Though I have hit triple digit levels, I still haven’t maxed out my characters’ levels or their gear. I also haven’t completed the last level of the optional, post-game dungeon, which is super challenging and requires both strategy and quick reflexes. Many times throughout the game, I found myself thinking, “This game is the EPITOME of what an RPG should be.” The story and the characters were perfection (okay, Bienfu is super annoying, but it’s fun to see him constantly irritate the rest of the party members too), the villains shocking and utterly detestable, the relationships new and interesting, the customization was fabulous (as in all “Tales of” games), and the side quests and cameos were delightful.

 

Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria
Velvet is my favorite female “Tales of” series character ever.

Despite my initial reservations about Velvet, I played the game as her almost exclusively—something I don’t usually do. In past “Tales of” games, I flitted from female character to female character, casting heals and dealing damage alternatively. But Velvet and her claw, which allows her to do super amounts of damage and pretty much tank everything, are too hard to pass up. I began to play other characters once I beat the game and found myself in the EX dungeon, but not to my usual character-hopping extent.

 

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The main cast of Berseria is complex, well-developed, and absolutely hilarious.

My attachment to Velvet wasn’t because she is the only good character in Tales of Berseria, however. In fact, I liked each one of the main cast, with Velvet and Eizen as my absolute favorites. I liked innocent Laphicet and his ability to forgive and somehow understand Velvet; Rokuro, and his simultaneous cheerfulness and thirst for the death of his brother; Magilou, and her constant mischievousness, Eleanor and her lack of experience and tragic past; and Eizen’s obsession with underground tunnels, fine art, his sister, and his acceptance as his inevitable fate as a dragon. Heck, I even liked the super side-characters, who were just as fleshed out as the main characters! Kamoana, Medissa, and Dyle, as well as Oscar and Theresa, added to the heart of this often tragic story—proving that out of great suffering, comes even greater love.

 

But Eizen and his moral code, perpetual bad luck, quest to find Aifread—the missing captain of his pirate ship, and his subtle camaraderie and understanding of Velvet, quickly made him my favorite male party member. I, of course, also loved all of his dragon moves and the foreshadowing of his eventual descent into a malevolence-corrupted malak and an eventual dragon. Too freaking cool. And yes, my shipping goggles were totally on for Veizen, aka Velvet and Eizen.

 

Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria
Artorious, the first Shepherd, and the main villain.

And if every good character needs an even better villain, Tales of Berseria went above and beyond on delivering them. Artorious, Velvet’s brother-in-law and the first ever Shepherd, murdered her brother and turned her into a Therion daemon at the same time. He then locked her up and used her daemon claw to feed on other daemons to keep alive, harnessing her despair and power in order to summon the god, Innominat, who would end free-will and the world, forcing it to start over in a cycle of death and rebirth. Pretty darn evil, huh? At the same time as Velvet struggled to get her revenge, Rokurou vied to kill his brother, Shigure, a legate of the Abbey; Eizen sought to find and kill whomever took Captain Aifread, often fighting Zahveid in the process; Magilou mustered the strength to fight and defeat her former master, Melchior, the shadow of the Abbey; Eleanor was forced to betray the Abbey and everything she thought she knew; and Laphicet struggled against the twisted reincarnation of Velvet’s brother. In short, all the conflicts that each character faced were complex and utterly riveting.

 

Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria

Likewise, the tie-ins to Tales of Zestiria, namely the way the Armatus was introduced, which blew my mind. Seeing Oscar and Teresa’s deaths at the hands of Velvet, due to the dedication to the Abbey they served, was heart-wrenching. To see her crumple into herself after their deaths, and believe she was the same as Artorious, was even worse. It was very hard to see a main character break, and I wasn’t sure Velvet could come back from yet another devastating blow to her psyche. But watching the party members, who had previously just been sticking together out of mutual gain, pull her back from the edge was so touching and poignant.

 

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I also really enjoyed the effect of the party’s battle to change the fate of the world, stopping the cycle of rebirth of the planet and humanity by pitting themselves against the god Innominat. This defying of fate is what was notably missing from Final Fantasy XV, where the protagonists all just accepted the hand they were dealt and sauntered off to meet their deaths. Instead, in Tales of Berseria, the characters raged against the way things were done in the past, consequences be damned. And we see the far-reaching effects of their actions at the end of the game and again in Zestiria, with malaks becoming invisible to their non-magical human counterparts, like they were In Zestiria.

 

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I thought the ending was a letdown.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with the ending of this game. I was hoping for more for Velvet and Laphicet and was disappointed by both of their actions after the final boss fight. I was outraged that Velvet decided to live in eternity with her twisted brother, now Innominat. I couldn’t believe that she would spend eternity letting him feed on her and keeping the vengeful God in check at the same time with her claw. I am not sure what I hoped would happen for the ending, but it wasn’t this. A part of me wishes that Velvet had become a malak or something and got her peace at last, instead of engaging in this interminable struggle . But nevertheless, I felt letdown when the credits ended and there was no happy ending for Velvet, the first Lord of Calamity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also dismayed that Laphicet did not follow Velvet’s wishes for him, to live happily and to explore the world, and instead became the dragon god, Maotulus. Ugh. I was even more disheartened that Laphicet could become a dragon and keep his will, while Eizen was doomed to lose his forever when he became tainted with malevolence and became a dragon. Worse yet, the lives of the remaining characters are only hinted at in the ending scene, and also in the anime crossover, Tales of Zestiria X. But I guessed that any sort of truly happy ending would have been out of place for the story and Velvet’s struggle for vengeance. Plus, a happy ending would have also left too many loose ends for Zestiria, the first “Tales of” series game I did not finish and couldn’t quite like, whether in anime or game form.

 

 

However, there was plenty to like about the game even with the lackluster ending and the game had just as much to offer in way of gameplay as well! Side quests were everywhere, and were not only interesting, but provided development to the story, characters, and the world. I felt attached to the smallest of characters, and wanted to complete every single side quest, instead of dreading them, like I did in Final Fantasy XV—where I was constantly forced to find the same man with a broken down car, deliver vegetables, and complete super easy hunt quests. Plus, many of the sidequests involved cameos or hints to previous characters in the series. I couldn’t believe that I got to see Jude and Milla from Tales of Xilla on the PS4! I totally squealed in delight! And even better, their appearance happened in a way that didn’t disrupt the story or take away from the goals or battle prowess of the current main characters—something which was quite the feat. Plus, fighting them in a boss fight was pretty damn hard and very nostalgia-inducing! Nothing like getting hit over and over with “Shimmer Spin,” a move that I remembered using all of the time as Milla in Tales of Xillia 1 and 2.

 

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I have sadly only seen Velvet’s ultimate Mystic Arte on the internet.

The battle system was much more refined than that of Tales of Zestiria’s and even had working camera angles, woohoo! I liked that the upgrading of gear was similar to Zestiria’s, but simpler; I was thrilled that Tales of Berseria did away with that damn chessboard type system, which I hated. My only complaint was that Velvet’s ultimate Mystic Arte was such a pain in the butt to use! Not only does the player have to stay in her Therion form for over 20 seconds, but also has to have at least a 5 battle gauge, and a 3 hit combo or more to use Nightmare Claw, which in turn, triggers the Mystic Arte. It’s enough to make me pull my hair out. At the time of this review, I still haven’t managed to use her highest level Mystic Arte, despite using every other character’s level 3 and duo Mystic Artes!

 

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Velvet is confused why screenshots are blocked.

My only real complaints about gameplay other than the Mystic Arte debacle were that I couldn’t take any screenshots on the PS4 and that the Colosseum events were replaced with Administrative Zones. Namco Bandai, the developer, blocked screenshots and gameplay recording for everything, but the Administrative Zone 4 islands, which are similar to Colosseums in previous titles. As a screenshot addict, it really bugs me that I’d have to buy screen capture device for my console, which already has one built-in to the system. I really don’t understand why the developers block screenshots, as the game was released first in Japan, and spoilers are already out there. As a result, all of my screenshots for this review came from YouTube videos, as I do not have a screen capture at the time of this review.

 

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Velvet in the Administrative Zone 4 Island in her pirate outfit.

I also didn’t like that the Colosseums, which are usually pretty challenging and take up a good bit of time, were replaced with Administrative Zone 4 Islands. These were islands that were travel-restricted by the Abbey due to their level of dangerous daemons. I found the islands and their daemons super easy to defeat, beating them on my first try every time, and I sorely missed the challenge and excitement that the Colosseums of earlier titles in the series brought.. In previous entries in the “Tales Of” Series, you were required to fight solo as different party members on different difficulty levels.  But in Tales of Berseria, you instead fight with your entire team, making it a lot easier than playing as a character you’ve never even touched before.

 

Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria
One of the many mini-games.

Despite these small snafus, the game had plenty of other things to keep me occupied—like the endless amount of mini-games! There’s Slash Beat, Hover board racing, Chamballoon, different types of matching games (these are seriously hard), fishing, the notorious waiting tables game, Bienfu jumping, and so much more. I really don’t know how Namco Bandai releases these games so often, because they have so much more content than Final Fantasy XV, which took 10 years to make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And throughout the game, I could look pretty awesome while I was playing. Like all “Tales of” series games, Berseria has tons of customization options! The game was literally a girl’s dream! I love to look pretty or cool in my video games and get frustrated in games like Destiny, where I’m forced to wear an ugly robe or cloak for better stats. And like usual, I dropped a decent amount of cash buying DLC outfits, attachments, accessories, and even hair styles for my party members! And if that weren’t enough, I also got all the free unlockables for the characters within the game, which includes jacketless and alternate colors options, swimsuits, hot tub outfits, winter outfits, Normin outfits, and more. With all of these in-game unlockables, you don’t even have to drop any real money to try different looks. Makes Final Fantasy XV’s measly customization attempts look pretty poor, huh?

 

Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria

Ultimately if you are looking for a great game, look no further than Tales of Berseria. It’s full of amazing and memorable characters, moving storytelling, evil villains, great gameplay, fabulous customization, fun mini-games, and tons of content, which will keep you playing for 100+ hours, with even more left to discover. This was definitely one of my favorite games of not just 2017, but of all time, and must-play for any fans of JRPGS.

four-half-stars
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Game Reviews - bloggingwithdragons.com - Tales of Berseria

Posted April 27, 2017 in Games

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