Everyone knows about Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but there are plenty of other long-lived and much-beloved JRPG series out there if you’re hankering for some grinding. Persona, for instance, took off after its third game made a drastic thematic departure from previous installments, and there are plenty of fans out there when we’re talking about Bandai Namco’s series of Tales games.
The latest entry, Tales of Berseria, goes in a darker and more mature direction, and while it’s got some points of comic relief it’s still interesting to see a JRPG tackle some slightly more grim subject matter.
Years after a cataclysmic event resulted in daemons invading the world, Velvet Crowe is just trying to eke out an existence with her younger brother Laphicet and guardian Arthur. It’s a tough life, but their little family is making the best of things with what they’ve got. In true RPG fashion, that lasts for about five minutes before everything starts going downhill. When all is said and done, Velvet’s world is shattered, she’s become a Therion – a half-daemon wielding a daemonic arm and contending with an insatiable hunger for flesh – and she ends up recruiting other daemons (and stranger beings) on a quest for revenge.
If that sounds a little dark compared to how the plots of these games usually go, well, that’s about right! Velvet definitely crosses the anti-hero line more than a few times during the game, and the plot overall contends with much more serious themes than previous titles. Characters are visibly and graphically killed, the heroine screams in fury as she rips enemies apart, everything’s just kind of grim. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air, honestly, and in true Tales fashion there’s a ton of character development and growth that keeps the cast interesting regardless of how they’re ostensibly the bad guys.
Along with strong character development and world-building, Tales games are also known for their excellent battle systems, and that’s definitely the case here as well. As usual, the action-focused combat in Tales games makes fighting off mooks feel like a treat rather than a chore. Berseria’s combat feels a lot like the 3D system seen in Tales of Zestiria, though there are a few changes here and there to spice things up. Your attacks are limited by the number of Souls you have, and these can be gained or lost based on your actions in combat; most notably, Velvet’s ability to take a chomp out of enemies and absorb their power will consume your Souls in order to provide a temporary boost. Balancing attack and defense to ensure you aren’t out of Souls when you need them is key to success.
Like Zestiria, Berseria looks and sounds fantastic; unlike Zestiria, Berseria runs at a lovely 60FPS by default without requiring any modification or tweaking. Given that the recent port of Tales of Symphonia to Steam was beleaguered with issues, the high quality of this port is a breath of fresh air; while I’ve seen some complaints about ally AI on PC, this hasn’t been an issue for me so I can’t really speak to them. Voice acting and music are superb as well, which isn’t surprising given this is one of Bandai Namco’s flagship series.
The darker tone and themes help Tales of Berseria feel unique amongst its series; the closest comparison would be the vigilantism explored in the Xbox 360’s Tales of Vesperia, but even then that was a story about good guys who sometimes do bad things, not a blood-soaked tale of revenge. It’s an interesting touch that definitely merits some attention if you’re into the series at all, and as usual, the Tales titles are a good choice for people who are weary of the turn-based combat seen in other JRPGs. Check this one out.