Tales of Berseria is s a story of revenge, a battle of reason versus will and a question about birds. As a long-time fan of the franchise, I’d place it as my favourite Tales game — but I acknowledge, as a complete package, it’s far behind any other installment. It makes a strong impression with its story and cast of characters, yet falters in its battle system. The weight of its tragic story alone elevates Tales of Berseria above most other games in the genre and helps to blur its many shortcomings.
Before getting started it’s worth exploring the link between the major plot device, vengeance, and gazpacho, the spanish soup dish. Both are famously best served cold, but only one will improve over time. Waiting three years to enact your revenge allows you to prepare and become a strong bad-ass. Waiting even three weeks for gazpacho will just give you mouldy soup; vegetables give very little return on time invested.
Food in general — not just soups, broths and stews either — is an important part of preparing for battle in Tales of Berseria. Over time you will amass an arsenal of recipes and they can be conveniently cooked and eaten automatically after each battle. Meals give various stat boosts or immunities when triggered bringing an element of strategy to fighting even before the battle commences. Sounding a bit like Final Fantasy XV yet?
Both food preparation and consumption — along with many other functions like items — belong in a list of gameplay mechanics that can be considered optional. At the top of that list is battle itself, and while you cant skip it entirely, you can easily fight only the battles you are forced to. I found the combat terribly boring and skipped it whenever I could; I quickly discovered I wasn’t being punished for doing so.
Tales of Berseria is an action RPG, meaning you will actively control a character’s movements, attacks, dodges and blocks whilst in-battle. Most of the fighting is done by chaining combos and inserting different types of major attacks, known as artes, to change things up and increase the combo counter. There is an absolutely outrageous wall of text to accompany this complicated battle system to explain its many nuances and depths. Thankfully this wall of text belongs in the aforementioned list of optional stuff.
Any time you are in a battle you simply need to try and keep to the back of the enemy and mash away until the fight is over. You could even pick your favourite of any of the face buttons and stick with it until the end if you so desire, but that only makes things excruciatingly boring. This is easily done on both difficulty settings initially available. There are no random encounters either, so you can avoid as much of it as possible if you want by evading enemies. By just fighting the bosses you will be reward with enough experience to grow strong enough to finish the game.
I know this sounds broken and more like a speed-run attempt than a casual playthrough, but once you realise this is the most efficient way to get back to the story it’s hard to refuse. As long as you snag yourself a new weapon here and there, you won’t have any trouble with the combat until you reach the optional bosses right at the end of the game. They are super tough so if this kind of thing is for you, you will need to do a lot of grinding — or maybe just don’t skip every fight — and invest a lot of time into developing and understanding the battle system to its fullest.
So how is it possible for this to be my favourite Tales game when the fighting is terrible? Easy. Its story more than makes up for its failings. This is easily my favourite Tales narrative and quickly became one of my favourite fantasy stories in any entertainment medium. Anyone who has played a few JRPGs or watched a few anime series can tell you that the stories can often become convoluted and hard to follow. The story in Tales of Berseria is a complicated one but at no point is it confusing.
I refuse to give anything away with regards to the story, but I will say that it is surprisingly dark and at times harrowing. The overall tone remains light for most of the time by using a lot of silly humour in the interactions between characters. It’s very Japanese and makes Tales of Berseria feel a lot like an anime.
On top of its stellar narrative, Berseria boasts an incredible cast of characters. They may seem cliché at first but as they come out of their shells they become well-rounded and relatable. In fact, every character — well, except one — is easy to relate to whether they are perceived as good or bad. The lines of good and evil are cleverly blurred throughout the entire story meaning even the nastiest of characters can not only show their motivations for a seemingly evil plot, you can also see why they make the decisions they do.
Character development is pushed to new nights with the use of the Tales series optional skits. These are additional scenes between characters that aren’t completely necessary to the plot but help to understand each character. There really is no better way to get to know a person than to hear what they have to say about each and every little thing. Almost everything is fully voice acted as well and to an amazing standard furthering the reliability of the characters and again helping to cement the incredible story.
This is a cross-gen game and it certainly looks like it — it’s not ugly by any means but it does look dated. There is also no overworld, so Berseria feels quite linear — especially with a lack of any real side-quests. Still its story is so engrossing it would be hard to put it aside for a while to do any other missions. If you’re a fan of Tales it’s worth checking out as it’s somewhat of a prequel to another entry as well.
Tales of Berseria was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.