Review by Slasher424242
The 16th Entry, Tales of Berseria Revives the JRPG Genre
Tales of Berseria, produced by Bandai-Namco, is the 16th main series entry in a game series started in 1995 with the release of the land breaking title Tales of Phantasia. Tales of Berseria has a long history blended with storytelling that will keep even the newest players in the franchise wanting more.
Released late in 2016 for Japan, early 2017 for USA, Tales of Berseria instantly made an impact on critics and players alike, creating its own way and reviving a long troubled genre of gaming with a thought provoking story, fresh takes on classic character tropes, and a host of gameplay innovations that make each battle more enjoyable than the last and keeps the player engaged in all aspects.
Story - 87° - Warm!!!**
Tales of Berseria is a departure from the traditional male protagonist role, and introduces Velvet Collbrande, a hearted, yet hard headed 19 year old protagonist on a mission of revenge. Along her way, she meets unlikely, unwelcome and sometimes odd companions, forming a rag-tag band of Daemons, malakhim and magical beings as the group traverses the Gands in search of Velvet's ultimate goal.
While revenge stories and quests seeking vengeance have often gotten the short end of the stick, Tales of Berseria strives to keep the story feeling fresh, adding in many elements of an adventure quest and allowing the player to explore the world around them, and creating dungeon areas varying from short walkways, to deep and expansive explorations filled with danger and dungeon grinding within their vast and varying designs.
Each of the main characters that are accompanying Velvet have their own unique and intricate backstories, tying in with each other's history at some times and with other entries in the Tales of Franchise.
Tales of Berseria also tells the story of how Tales of Zestiria's world came to exist how it does today. Taking place in the distant history of Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria helps to fill in many plot holes and story arcs started in it's predecessor and helps to connect both games more firmly to the main Tales of: Franchise history as well. Berseria keeps up the long held tradition of finding ways to incorporate ties and references, quick and elaborate to other entries. Among them, Tales of Symphonia, Vesperia, Xillia 1&2, Graces/f, Phantasia and Legendia are among the more notable references through the games story.
As is also tradition through these other games, Tales of Berseria features both Main Story Quests, Side Story Skits and Quests to help you understand the world being played in. Velvet and crew are not the only interested parties in the world, and not the only interesting things going on. NPCs dotting and scattered around the map help the player to intuitively find out more from their surroundings and unlike other RPGs where NPC chatter was sometimes unwarranted or useless, Tales of Berseria's NPC chats try to keep all information relative to the players current standings and point in the story, conveying necessary details and elaborating on the backstory or local lore to create an immersive and deep story that can be appreciated by fans of the series and newcomers alike.
For these reasons, I give Berseria a Hot 87/100 score for Story, and really making an alluring, intricate storyline that does not rely on old tropes and tired rehashes of the same things over and over.
Music and Sound - 95° and blisteringly hot!
With every entry into the Tales of: Franchise, there come many additions into a growing library of iconic yet independant musical tracks. With notable tunes making reappearances in the game from previous installments or referenced in current content, the ambient soundtrack makes for an enjoyable listening experience that does not detract from the world around it.
Composed and arranged by renowned Composer Matoi Sakuraba, comes a history of video gaming legend spanning nearly 3 decades of work. Having influenced and created music for games such as Eternal Sonata, Infinite Undiscovery, Dark souls I, II & Artorias, Exist Archive, Golden Sun, Granada and Bravely Default, Mr. Matoi has a pedigree rare in today's gaming industry making him one of the great composers alongside names such as Nobou Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda.
Starting his career with Tales of: from it's entry title Tales of Phantasia, he has worked as Musical Composer for Phantasia, Hearts/Hearts R, Graces/Graces f, Destiny 1&2, Eternia, Rebirth, Symphonia, Xillia, Tempest, Abyss ans Zestiria. Single handedly creating some of the most iconic music of this series his masterful renditions and creative streak spanning this series shows no signs of stopping short of greatness.
Alongside the musical talents of Mr. Matoi, there is a full list of accomplished and talented voice actors that give life to the characters created for this game. While at times the english version of the game can sound awkward at times, it gives no ground to the Japanese cast full of energy and really bringing the game to it's potential.
With the beautifully crafted, yet iconic music paired with such a wonderful pedigree, I give Tales of Berseria, with respect to the problems with the english voice acting, a blisteringly hot 95/100 for musical composition and sound.
Gameplay - 80° and warm
With every entry into the Tales of: franchise, there are innovative and interesting additions and changes made to the series' patented Linear Action Battle System. Taking notes from some of the harsher failures of Tales of Zestiria and the clunkiness felt in games like Tales of Graces, Tales of Berseria found a way to deliver actionable content that gives a much stronger tie to the gameplay itself and more comprehensive character controls.
Previously in several entries gameplay controls had been somewhat awkward and obtuse, producing some odd effects and preventing players from utilizing all their available skills, especially in the combat arena. Expanding greatly on the combat system alone, Tales of Berseria is able to fix and move past many of the issues expressed over the battle system in Tales of Zestiria and move into a strength all its own.
Keeping traditional things such as magical or physical attacks as hidden or martial artes is a staple of the series. However a new addition with the Therion Ability of Velvet as well as a soul charge system give added depth and complexity, yet at the same time a much more understandable and naturally feeling battle system.
The only downside I have for this is the use of character models, naming and reuse. There seem to be very few enemies that feel new, or feel like they belong in the world. Many of the later game enemies feel and look like straight palette swaps of previous enemies fought in the game. As with Zestiria, there is a lot of reuse on the part of enemies and not in a good way.
Dungeoneering is also a problem at times, giving the user a much more challenging adventure only if they are unfamiliar with the linearity of dungeon design. This game falls into the same problem that Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim fell into with very ornate, yet simply designed dungeons that do not offer any true challenge. When you think challenges of a dungeon, I like to think back to Legend of Zelda style designs such as the Temple of Fire from Ocarina of Time or skilled challenges from the days of platformers. These just seem to add in more enemies for more difficulty on the battle side, and unfortunately Tales of Berseria falls into this pitfall like many other JRPG games out there.
For these improvements, and steady progress in making the combat a more interesting and strong part of a game devoted to battle and taking into consideration the shortfalls of exploration, I give this area a solid 80/100.
Cast and Crew of the game - 90° and darkly lit
This section, I want to discuss at bit more in detail about the characters who make up the story. Velvet Crowe, being the protagonist of this game produces a much darker tone than many other games of this series and certainly of many of it's contemporaries. Throughout much of the game, Velvet and Crew are a band of misfits, in a world who despises their actions and while it's hard to see that they aren't out for a good cause, many times during the story it's discussed and brought up that, motivation is key. Motivations of the group and actions taken are very selfish and self serving, giving the group a harsher outlook than most. Velvet herself, is a very strong yet mentally fragile character serving as the makeshift leader of the group. Everyone around her doesn't come to her simply because she is rallying them to her cause, most are there just because it suits their needs at the time.
The entire goal, is vengeance against the church's leader, a man known as Artorius Collbrande, Shepherd of the Abbey and Legate Exorcist. However convoluted, Velvets Target is also the leader of the Church called The Abbey, who has brought peace to the world. This sets a very dark tone for the game, as you are essentially playing "The Bad Guy" and as RPGs go, this is not a very common thing to do. This is one of the main ways that the story stays as refreshing as it feels, giving the player something more to aspire to, challenging personal morals and asking deeper questions. The innocence portrayed in Sorey from Tales of Zestiria and the Brashness of Lloyd in Symphonia contrast brightly with a character and cast like Velvet Crowe.
While not exactly revolutionary or ground-breaking in this regard, I give the Cast and their devoted writing a solid 90/100 for innovative yet dedicated exploration, and for taking a route not often taken in traditional hero based gaming.
In All, I give Tales of Berseria a solid 92/100 score. It is refreshing in many aspects and brings true many of the more subtle aspects of RPG gaming, while at the same time challenging what it means to truly be "the good guys".
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tales of Berseria (US, 01/26/17)
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