Anime, Author's Recommended, Game Night, Review, Video Games

Tales of Berseria is an Underrated Gem

Oh, wow. I almost forgot about that character analysis I did of Velvet a while back. I’m fairly sure I had meant to review this game way back then. But hey! Better late than never, right?

My relationship with the Tales games is… weird. I’ve played plenty of them and I’ve liked them all! But I’ve only ever finished one. This one. In fact, I’ve finished it twice.

Granted, I was mostly drunk the second time around. But that’s beside the point.

Tales of Berseria stars Velvet Crowe, a simple country girl. After her brother-in-law, Arthur, kills her actual little brother, Laphicet, in a ritual, she is turned into a man-eating demon and imprisoned. Three years later, she escapes, along with a crew of psychotic idiots in Rokurou and Magilou. Her goal: to murder Arthur- Artorias- and avenge her brother, no matter what it takes. Even if she must become the Lord of Calamity.

My six favorite goofball assholes.

I love the story of this game! You essentially play as the bad guys, at least in the eyes of all the NPCs. You are the Lord of Calamity, the leader of a merry band of assholes out to do whatever they want. It explores incredibly interesting themes of emotion vs reason, all captured by one question: “Why do birds fly?”

The party is easily one of my favorites in any RPG. Each character has a distinct personality that plays super well off of everyone around them. The group chemistry in this game is amazing! From the brotherly bond of Laphicet, Rokurou, and Eizen to the bickering rivalry between Velvet and Eleanor to the whole group’s impatience with Magilou’s bullshit, they’re all a delight!

And their personalities are explored a ton in the Skits. If you haven’t ever played a Tales game, Skits are small optional dialogues between the party members. These range from discussions on recent events in the plot to light-hearted conversations about something random. These are used wonderfully to flesh out each member of the party, and they’re so damn enjoyable to watch that you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping them.

Eizen out here spitting facts.

These are serviced by the spectacular voice acting. The original Japanese is amazing, of course, but I kind of prefer the English dub! Cristina Valenzuela is Velvet; she puts so much emotion into the character that it even puts the Japanese actress, Rina Satô (who is also great, don’t get me wrong), to shame. Erica Lindbeck perfectly captures the insanity of Magilou, as well as her more serious moments. Benjamin Diskin is fantastic as Rokurou and Taliesin Jaffe nails it as Eizen. Everyone does a great job as their characters.

Though I feel bad for Monica Rial. That Bienfu voice must have been murder on her throat!

Not that the narrative is flawless. Some of the dialogue is pretty awkward. The side quests are few, and most of those are really forgettable (except for Magilou’s Menagerie; that one is just a collection of skits, but it is hilarious). They’re small issues in the grand scheme of things, though. All in all, I love the story to death!

Presentation wise, this isn’t the most pretty game in the world. It has an interesting style, but it isn’t especially impressive. It has a sort of water-color plus anime aesthetic. I like it, but there are definitely other games out there that do similar styles better.

Miss, would you like some clothes to wear beneath your edge-lord rags?

My main gripe is the character designs. Mostly because they’re a bit… much. There are some solid ones; I think Eizen, Eleanor, and Laphicet all look great. But Velvet’s design is just… wow. Ease up there, dude. You might cut yourself on all that edge.

Luckily, there are the alternate costumes. These range from simple extra touch-ups to entirely different skins. Unfortunately, all the great ones are locked behind a DLC paywall. Bummer.

There is a lot of DLC for this game. Most of them skins. Some of it being just in-game items. None of them seem all that worth the price tag. Which is oddly high.

I do love how the skits look. They’re just simple 2D anime sprites of our characters talking to each other. Each character has a surprising number of poses, each of which carries a lot of expression. Plus, a lot of characters who aren’t even in your party have sprites for skits!

And the music is absolutely incredible! Velvet’s theme is a banger that is consistently used in my music playlists.

Now, let’s talk about that gameplay. Buckle up, boys and girls. Cause this game has mechanics out the fucking wazoo!

*Deep Breath* Here we go.

Combat in Tales of Berseria is an exercise in creativity. Each character has dozens of special moves called Artes. These are tied to each of the four face buttons. Four can be placed onto each button; each one leads into the next, leading to different combos. You can use as many Artes as you have little blue gems next to your character’s portrait; once those are gone, you’ve got to wait for them to recharge.

Near that area is a tiny little number. That is essentially your super gauge. You can use that to unleash an ultra-powerful special attack mid-combo or to swap your current character out for one of the two party members waiting in the wings. If certain criteria are met, you can unleash an even more devastating super move.

You can play as any of the six members of your party, each one with different abilities and play-styles that you can freely swap between during battle. Velvet has simple moves and monstrous special abilities, Rokurou can parry, Laphicet and Magilou are casters, Eleanor is an extremely straight-forward warrior, and Eizen is a combination of brutality and magic. Each one has an insane amount of depth beneath their surface.

Beware: each character has a voice line for each attack. When all four party members are on the offensive, the game becomes a mess of sounds lapping over one another. On top of the visual flare of each move all going off at once, combat is a complicated and visually overwhelming experience.

There is so much more than that. Elemental effects, parries, knock-downs, critical hits, some stuff I probably don’t even remember was in the game, the list goes on and on and on and ON!!!

And all of that is just the combat. Let’s talk about equipment and stat management!

Each piece of equipment has a mastery gauge. As that climbs upwards, the item’s stats improved. Once its maxed out, you can keep using it, or swap over to a new item. On top of that, each one has up to two random special effects that boost your stats even further. This encourages you to swap gear frequently and not just throw away what you had before; maybe that old weapon has a certain buff that you might need later on. Or maybe you just want to keep using the cool-looking weapon you like; that’s an option, too!

It isn’t just your gear you need to keep track of. You’re party also needs to eat! Well, maybe not need. But with the stat bonuses and battle boons given by food, you’d be a fool not to. You can set the game to cook the same recipe over and over automatically or you can do it manually. And of course, each character has their own cooking experience levels.

How do you get these recipes? Well, that’s where the scout ship comes in. While you’re playing the game, your scouts explore the world, collecting various treasures for selling and recipes for eating. What rewards you get are mostly random, dependent only on how many of the three skirmishes your ship wins each expedition. This part mostly plays itself, so don’t worry too much about it. All you really need to do is send the ship off and see it back.

Tired of everything having an EXP bar? Guess what? Even the merchants have one! The more items you buy, sell, or upgrade, the more the merchant will level up. The higher level the merchant, the cheaper the items, and the more of them you get. Thankfully, the level is shared between all merchants, so you won’t have to micromanage that.

Did the last few paragraphs overwhelm or confuse you? Rest assured, the tutorials do an even worse job of presenting this information. Because each tutorial is just a wall of text that is only sometimes followed by an actual gameplay demonstration. You need to read and memorize paragraphs, pages, of text in order to understand what is happening. Hope you’ve got a good memory. Or you’re patient enough to read something over and over again. This game is pretty bad at teaching you how to actually play it.

As for traversal, it is simple. Each area is its own segmented level, be it a dungeon, a field, or a city. While they’re each visually distinct, they don’t have anything gameplay-wise to help them stand out. They’re all just hallways with ladders to climb. Even the puzzles aren’t unique; it’s just activate or deactivate certain things in a certain order. Luckily, your movement speed increases gradually over the course of the game, and you get a cool customizable board to skate (float) around on, so you’ll be able to get around pretty quickly.

Among all of these areas are the Class 4 Danger Zones. These combat trials push you up against waves and waves of enemies. These are tough, but they’re fairly rewarding.

Similarly, Red-Class monsters wander the world. These ultra-bulky boss battles are tough and highly rewarding. Not only do they give you Gald (currency), but they even unlock passive buffs that permanently stick around your party! Granted, most of them are only active on Hard mode. But still, it’s cool! Plus, the battles themselves are easily the most fun in the entire game.

As complicated as it is, Tales of Berseria is a fun game. Sure, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing half the time. But that’s still plenty enjoyable. Besides, on the rare occassion where I actually manage to pull-off a badass combo, I feel like a god made manifest!

Also, there is co-op. Did I mention that?

If you haven’t played it, I’d recommend giving Tales of Berseria a shot. It’s hard to learn, but the story makes it more than worth playing. If you can, get some friends together and do a co-op run. Whether you play alone or together, though, you might just have a grand time with it.

Especially if you make a drinking game out of it. Trust me, you’ll have a grand time of it.

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