Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tales Of Berseria A Mix Of Dark And Light

Before we get started, the screenshots were taken from my phone. Again, share play is blocked from the PS4 which is frustrating because it means no screenshots and no streaming. The claim is that it's blocked because of licensing issues. They used two songs from the Japanese band Superfly so instead of just blocking where the songs were used, they blocked the whole game. The only area that wasn't blocked were the battle arenas. They did this for Tales of Zestiria too and it's ridiculous.

 Tales Of Berseria has been an interesting game for me in the tales series because it was a bit different right from the beginning. The Tales stories are varied with different themes and lately a few of them have been a bit dark, but Tales Of Berseria may be one of the darkest ones story wise. It changed things up, but did it in a way that made it work really well.

If you have never played Tales of Zestiria I suggest you play Tales Of Berseria first and then Zestiria because Tales Of Berseria is a prequel to Tales of Zestiria. Berseria takes place in the same world a thousand years before the events of Zestiria so there is a lot of history and connections with certain characters who appear in both games. It gives you a lot of origin story goodness with those characters as well. It also shows you what the world of Zestiria looked like before and how certain towns evolved and their names changed. It's quite interesting to see the differences and recognize the historical connections between both games.

You can select the difficulty of the game ranging from simple to difficult. You can also choose which language you want the character voices to be in, English or Japanese. The voice acting for both the English and Japanese cast is well done and you can switch between the two depending on your preference. There are some add ons too with character costumes such as swimsuits and Alice In Wonderland themed costumes.

Another thing that is different is the fact that the protagonist of the story is female. After many male heroes in the Tales series there is now a female one; Velvet Crowe. Velvet isn't really a hero however. She feels more like an anti-hero because of the events that happen to her in the prologue. Velvet feels like a normal girl when you're introduced to her living in a small village and taking care of her younger brother who is sick with an illness known as the Twelve Year Sickness. They live with their brother in law Arthur and it's revealed that their sister who was married to him died the year before. It sets everything up so you get an idea about who Velvet is and what her family means to her as well as her friends. You get to explore the village and the surrounding scenery is very pretty and the atmosphere definitely feels like a Tales game.

Velvet exploring the woods near her village.

The happy feeling doesn't last long because of a traumatizing event that turns Arthur into a villain who betrays his family in the worst way and causes Velvet to go from being a human girl to a demon that feeds on other demons known as a Therion. Three years after this happens we are shown a prison cell where we see a Velvet that feels nothing except for rage and a need for revenge on the very person that betrayed her.

There is an escape and Velvet meets a couple of people who become her allies on the way with the same goal, escape the prison. She gets a new set of armor and honestly it made me raise my eyebrows. While I understand that Velvet is a demon now so she doesn't really feel the cold or feel anything, I found the armor to be incredibly impractical. For me it didn't offer a lot of protection and felt like needless fan service. The nice thing is you can change the costumes for everyone in your party so I switched back to Velvet's original villager costume which I liked better and seemed to offer more protection during battles. I know it's a matter of aesthetics, but I like what I like. 

I was not a fan of this armor. 

Once the prison escape is out of the way, you get to explore the world of Berseria. It is vast and there are a lot of things to see and do. Your party grows as you continue the adventure and it adds a couple more things to the battle system. One new thing is that you swap skills and mystic artes in and out easily via the item menu which is convenient. The second thing is the soul gauge which I really detested. Basically you have a meter that shows empty red slots and you need to fill up the meter with blue slots by stunning or blocking enemy attacks. When the meter is full of blue slots showing that you have consumed enough souls you can unleash mystic artes attacks or special attacks known as break soul attacks. When done right, you can chain together devastating damage on your enemies.

It is definitely a different way of doing things, but the soul gauge could be incredibly irritating and hamper battles a lot. Battles that should have been over in a couple of minutes would end up dragging along because of trying to chain attacks to build up the soul gauge meter. It took a lot of fun out of battles for me and made them pretty tedious. That's not a good thing for a game. 

Battling with the soul gauge is not fun. 

It wouldn't be a Tales game without the usual anime skits that pop up. There are many relating to the main story, side quests, and character side quests. They're always fun to watch and it shows some great character interaction and adds a bit more depth to some of them too showing a bit of their back story or how they are feeling about things. There are also some extra anime skits with the costume add ons that are pretty hilarious.

There are a couple of characters who are rather unlikable at first, but once you get to know more about them as the game and story progresses you come to understand their reasons for their actions and it does change how you feel about them slightly. The big theme of the game is emotions versus reason and you get to see a lot of that with the characters and the people they interact with during their adventure.

Anime skits are always a fun thing in every Tales game.

You don't have to only explore the main story. There are a lot of side quests that you can do. You have a ship in Tales of Berseria so you can sail all over the map and discover new areas such as different battle arenas. These are on remote islands and you fight waves of monsters to earn extra money, costumes, accessories, and weapons. You also have a scout ship which you can send out to explore for a set amount of time, usually 30 minutes. When it returns you receive items such as new recipes for cooking, treasure to sell, and a variety of armor and items for your party. Your party numbers have skills that will increase your luck during these scout missions so the more successful they are, the more loot you will get.

Another familiar face from Tales mini games are the Katz. These feline creatures appear again and you collect an item known as Katz spirit orbs. When you find a Katz chest, you need a certain number of Katz orbs to open each one and find a Katz in each. For each Katz you find they gift with you costume accessory items like x-ray glasses. 

Finding a Katz is just one side quest you can do.

You can also participate in mini games with the Katz you find in different towns and earn Tales Coins. You can trade the coins to the Katz for Normin (a special type of seraphim in the Tales games) costumes for each character and other costumes. There is a card game you can play as well and you receive items for each game you win. Then there are code red hunts. These are elite monsters that Velvet and friends can hunt for bragging rights and a lot of money during their travels. Each one is a little more difficult than the last, but it's a fun challenge and it's a good way to level grind.

Velvet tries on a Normin costume.

The big thing is the story for Tales of Berseria. While it is the darkest story a Tales game has had, there is also a great balance of light within it. Yes at first Velvet is focused solely on hate and revenge, but gradually that changes because of certain characters. The story shines here with how it paces that change and allows it to happen slowly and naturally. It's nice to see the changes in Velvet and how they happen, but it's also great to see that her interaction with her allies causes them to change as well.

Exploring the world of Berseria is interesting and never boring. For the most part the dungeons are easy to navigate and as with previous Tales games the enemies are visible on the map so you can approach them and battle. I just wish the soul gauge was not a part of the battle because it continued to irritate me especially in the final dungeon. The final dungeon was awful. It was way too long and it was an overly complicated maze of warp portals. It dragged the game out longer than it needed to be and felt like an exercise in futility. I was relieved by the time I got to the end of it and was ready to face the final boss.

The story itself is rather depressing and I felt that this seems to be a theme with the Tales game of late. While I understand that not everything has a happy ending, I am really hoping the next Tales game has a happier ending because it's a bit of a letdown to have another story with a bittersweet ending in the Tales series. That isn't to say that I didn't like Tales of Berseria. I liked it a lot in spite of the darker story. I think the reason I liked it was not just for the game play and fun side quests, but for the right mix of dark and light. Yes there were many moments of darkness, but there were also quite a few moments of light that were beautiful. Tales of Berseria had a nice balance of adventure and action. It also had some great story telling that helped fill in some of the story gaps in Tales of Zestiria, but it also did a wonderful job of telling its own story even if it was a bit darker than others. It is a welcome addition to the Tales series. 

Some lovely Tales of Berseria art at the end credits.

*Tales of Berseria is available to play on the following platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Microsoft Windows

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