I don’t quite realise when it happened, especially as I gave Tales of Zestiria a somewhat negative review, but I’ve found myself enjoying Tales games a lot more in recent years and ended up falling in love with Zestiria when I went through it again in anticipation of Tales of Berseria.
Tales of Berseria learns from the mistakes of Zestiria, such as it’s relatively barren world and vague directions (the latter of which could still use improving), and it’s even re-hauled the combat system in a way that feels far more intuitive. Looking back, I’d argue that Zestiria tells a wonderful story that I think back on fondly now, but Berseria should win back those fans that felt that Zestiria moved away from what Tales is, and what they want from the series. With more focus and developed exclusively for PS4 and PC, Berseria feels like a tighter experience in ways that its predecessor did not.
Berseria follows Velvet Crowe whose younger brother, Laphicet, is murdered by their brother-in-law as part of a ritual. Failing to save Laphicet and gaining powers of a Daemon in the process after Artorius fails to sacrifice her too, Velvet is defeated and locked away on Titania, a prison built exclusively for Deamons. Her kind nature lost after several years in prison, Velvet is set free by a third-party and thus begins her adventure to hunt down and defeat her former family. Berseria spins a darker yarn for the series but this is in no way a fault — Zestiria told a pretty bleak story too. The characters are colourful with sparkling personalities, such as the Tales series is well-known for, and you’ll come to care for each of them. As advertised, this is a story of emotion vs reason and whilst Velvet has a clear goal in mind, things come to light in a way that can change everything. It does take a while to get going, though!
Berseria mixes up the Tales gameplay mechanics and it’s all the better for it. The series’ Artes have much less of a focus in exchange for combo-heavy battles — it feels far more fluid, and more moves feel relevant whereas I felt the majority of Artes didn’t feel worth using. All 4 face buttons are assigned to attacks, and you can re-arrange and mix the combos how you like — you’ll find yourself doing this often to take advantage of an enemies weakness. Another cool addition is that once you have more than four people, you can switch between them on the fly in the heat of battle — this means you can better use all of the characters rather than picking favourites, and can be a real life-saver during some harder fights. Wandering the vast areas is simple too although the directions can be a little vague and the map can be unhelpful, but otherwise the areas themselves are quite nice!
Berseria, as expected with Ufotable at the helm, has a gorgeous opening video with outstanding visuals and a wonderfully unique aesthetic, and the game itself feels and looks smoother than its predecessors. It’s still sorely lacking when it comes to the character’s 3D models in cutscenes which, although they look fine, can come across as stiff and frozen — it can pull you out of the experience a little when the character’s expressions don’t match their voices. Fortunately, there’s a lot of dialogue when it comes to the series’ well-known skits, and the new way they’re presented might be the best across the series. Character design is brilliant and there’s a lot of variation in the areas you visit, making Berseria quite the delight to look at.
It took me until writing this review to realise that Cristina Vee voices Velvet which surprises me as she’s usually known for high-pitched, cheerful characters rather than the solemn Velvet. However, this is one of my favourite performances of hers yet and I loved hearing her voice! Cristina Vee is joined by some other great voice talent including Erica Mendez, Erica Lindbeck, Benjamin Diskin, Amber Connor and Monica Rial, and all give excellent performances that bring the character’s vibrant personalities to life. Berseria, unsurprisingly, also boasts a catchy soundtrack with tunes to match the darker tone of the game, but it still feels like something that wholly belongs inside a Tales game.
Tales of Berseria is a strong addition to the long-running series of JRPG’s and it’s sure to please those that were disappointed by Zestiria. I won’t say it’s a return to form as I don’t think Zestiria is a bad game but I’m fond of the new combat mechanics, which keeps battles far more exciting and active than I previously found them to be, and I quickly grew to enjoy the cast and their interactions. It’s a fine JRPG for PS4 and it ties in nicely to Zestiria, and although you don’t need to have played it it does add to the overall experience. Tales of Berseria won’t change your mind if you’re not a fan of the series but if you are, it might become one of your favourites.