By Joe Sigadel / February 10th, 2017
|Title||Tales of Berseria|
|Developer||Bandai Namco Studios Inc.|
|Publisher||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Release Date||January 26, 2017|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PC|
|Age Rating||T (Teen)|
Velvet Crowe is an angry, troubled young woman. She and her brother Laphicet are the victims of a phenomenon called the Scarlet Night, which transforms the people of her village into werewolf daemons. Having no way to fight them, she tries to flee, only to find her mentor Arthur (Artorius Collbrande) has captured her brother and put him to the sword (or in the localized version’s case, a magic spell activated by piercing his weapon through a magic circle). A magic spell ends up killing Laphicet as he drops lifelessly into a large, dark pit before he’s consumed by what appears to be a glowing golden dragon. Velvet’s fury transforms her into a daemon herself, after which she puts down the werewolves, forcing her to kill every last villager. However, she too is captured and thrown into prison for three long years, being thrown weaker daemons to feed upon to stay alive.
And this is how Tales of Berseria begins. Berseria is quite a bit darker than previous Tales games, which makes it a refreshing departure from the rest. Velvet herself is not what you’d call a heroic protagonist. She is, for the most part, selfish, acts on impulse and fury, and only takes along allies because it makes her ultimate goal of killing Artorius out of revenge and fighting the forces of The Abbey that much easier. Concerning the particular scene depicting Laphicet’s death at the beginning of the game, I’d like to share my thoughts on it. By depicting the killing act using magic rather than the original stabbing, it blunts the impact of the shock and anger you’re supposed to feel along with Velvet for the rest of the game. You can also clearly see blood on the front of Laphicet’s clothing as he is falling to his doom. But in any case, killing children in video games is a very, VERY touchy subject, and by no means is it one that makes people comfortable to talk about. It is interesting to note, though, that moments like that push the limits of what is acceptable to view in games with Western eyes, at least in its original scene.
Velvet is no less traumatized either way. She usually speaks with a bitter irritation in her voice, showing little patience and trust for anyone whom she feels might get in her way, sometimes lashing out and reacting violently to both friends and foes alike. How much of this is due to her daemon transformation, or her unrestrained fury towards Artorius, is up for debate. She is tortured by nightmares and flashbacks constantly, feels betrayed and is slow to trust and rely on others. Yet, for someone who for the most part lets emotions rule her actions, Velvet is also methodical when she needs to be and takes the lead by forming plans to disrupt and sabotage The Abbey’s operations. These usually involve theft, destruction, kidnapping, hostage taking, killing, assault, arson, and scaring the living daylights out of people. Or in other words, piracy.
When the commoners start calling her the Lord of Calamity, she simultaneously embraces and struggles with her new identity, and she knows all too well that her sins pile on and weigh on her. Thus, Velvet is not an “anti-hero” like Yuri Lowell was in Vesperia. Yuri was a man who challenged the corrupt noble government from the outside to help the poor and downtrodden using unscrupulous methods. Velvet’s motives are selfish and singular, she cares not one whit what happens to the world, or anyone else, so long as Artorius is killed by her blood-red hand. At least, until she meets the malak who would “replace” Laphicet. The new Laphicet is emotionless and doll-like at first, but eventually develops feelings and a sense of self-awareness and identity, becoming truly alive as his character evolves a great deal over the course of the game. The relationship and bond between Velvet and malak Laphicet, along with their mutual opposition to Artorius and The Abbey’s ideology of Reason, sets the theme of Tales of Berseria. As her surrogate brother, malak Laphicet’s emerging free will makes him receptive to be taught about the merits and failures of both extremes and what it truly means to live and be his own person.
The combat system in Tales of Berseria is a marked improvement over Zestiria. Now you can customize combos on the fly using four different buttons to string them together, which is great for targeting weaknesses and creating move sets which allow you to attack with devastating chains and Mystic Artes to really put the hurt on your enemies. There’s no Armatization this time, so it’s back to controlling four different characters on the field. You can switch someone in if your BG meter is at least level 1, and doing this is useful if you’re in danger or you want to keep a combo going with them. Just like with the other games, you’ll get a better Grade if you increase the difficulty, don’t use items, don’t let anyone die, etc. At the time of this writing, the player AI is bugged, which is unfortunate, but Bandai Namco stated on Steam that they are working on a patch to fix it, along with a 7.1 surround sound bug, which I think might affect the sudden increase in volume during battles.
You’ll be happy to hear that Tales of Berseria does run at 60 FPS at 1080p on PC, however, there are times that the framerate will occasionally drop noticeably. This only seems to happen when there are heavy effects going on, like in a snowy area or when there’s a lot of magic and flashiness being thrown around. For reference, I am using an EVGA GTX 970 to review this, so you might have to play around with settings like lowering the draw distance or other effects that might be affecting it. Berseria looks great, and there are places like Velvet’s hometown that have detailed and pretty environments, but there’s no question that it still looks like an anime game from the PS3 era.
Tales of Berseria is one of the best Tales games I’ve played in a while. It’s bold, dark departure from previous games in the series is a welcome change in storytelling. It has some surprisingly shocking and dark moments, but the skits help lighten the mood with comic relief now and then. Motoi Sakuraba does a fantastic job with the soundtrack too, which is also a bit darker in tone and at times gets downright nightmarish, but still has that same adventurous feel when you’re exploring the field maps. The battle music is rockin’ as always. And may I say, the opening song by FLOW “BURN” is amazing. I highly recommend Tales of Berseria to add to your Japanese RPG collection on Steam. It can be yours for $49.99, and it took me just under 50 hours to complete the main story.
Review Copy Provided by the Publisher
Bandai NamcoMotoi SakurabaPCre-reviewReviewSteamTales of Berseria