Tales of Berseria presents a world in which monsters and daemons run amok and only a small ragtag group of anti-heroes can prevent humanity from becoming lost to an ever growing malevolence. It’s a dark tale of loss, revenge, manipulation, and how sometimes the most unlikely of people can band together for a greater good.

Although the game has a large cast of fascinating characters, it’s the first one you meet, Velvet Crowe, who steals the spotlight. Velvet is a young woman living a simple life in a small village. She spends her days hunting boars, cooking delicious quiches for her neighbors, and relaxing with her younger brother and brother-in-law. Her life might not be the most exciting, but she’s surrounded by people she loves and tackles every day with a smile and a positive attitude. Sadly, all good things must come to an end.

When an unexpected tragedy hits Velvet’s village, her life is changed forever. Her sweet demeanor is traded for seething anger and hatred, revenge becomes her new motive in life, and she won’t rest until she’s able to right the wrongs that have transpired. This is all done in a painfully realistic way where you get to fully understand why she changes so drastically and seeks revenge.

On her quest, Velvet teams up with an assortment of oddballs, maniacs, and ruthless individuals. One of the things that sets Tales of Berseria apart from other games in the genre is its cast, specifically due to the fact that it’s not comprised of a bunch of goody two-shoes. For all intents and purposes, your party is comprised of anti-heroes. Sure, they’re all working together to destroy the person responsible for ruining Velvet’s life, but the means in which they’re willing to go to achieve their goals are far from heroic. Threats, violence, and even murder are all on the table, and it makes for a more entertaining story this way.

From the flirtatious and witty witch Magilou, to the highly trained swordsman Rokurou and the cursed pirate Eizen, your party is full of interesting characters. They all have their own reasons for joining Velvet, but the game never reveals all of these reasons until it’s ready. One of the strongest parts of the game is traveling the world with your companions and engaging in conversations called “Skits” which allow you to learn more about them and the world as a whole. This is game with a very rich lore and a universe full of rules that are a delight to learn. Those who enjoy world building and character development will have a lot to love in Berseria.

One of the things that I really appreciated was the ability to switch between the original Japanese voices and the English dub. While purists may wish to play with the Japanese voices on, I found the English dub to be exceptionally good, especially in the performance of Velvet. I played with the English voices for roughly 95% percent of the experience, and while I would love to play through again with the Japanese voices, it’s hard to dedicate another 85 hours just to play the game in a different language. It’s also worth noting that the words spoken by the English dub don’t always line up with what’s written in the subtitles. It’s rare that these disconnects happen, but it’s extremely noticeable when they do.

The combat in Berseria is easy enough to pick up and work with, but it also has a staggering amount of depth that can come across as overwhelming. You have a selection of moves which you can assign to the face buttons on the controller (more moves are unlocked as you level up) and you chain these moves together to create custom combos to destroy monsters with. You have a Soul gauge which dictates your ability to use moves, with each move depleting Soul energy in the process. The Soul gauge also has small diamond icons that represent the ability to do special moves. Doing these special moves will cause a lot of damage, but then limit your Soul gauge afterwards allowing for fewer attacks.

Different moves also have different elemental properties to them, allowing you to target your enemies weaknesses for more damage. You can also stun enemies, launch them into the air, pin them to the ground, and create devastating attacks to damage multiple enemies at a time. Unfortunately, the game throws all of these systems and mechanics at you incredibly early on, giving you a lot of different things to try and learn and manage at once. For the first couple hours, I would just spam the same combo over and over to clear fights, but I slowly caught on to the more nuanced aspects of the combat and had a blast with it.

One of the parts of combat that is equally awesome and overwhelming is the ability to switch to any character in the party at any time. Each character has their own unique set of moves and abilities which perform vastly different from one another. Some characters are more melee focused with their attacks working as soon as you press a button. Others use magic which deals more damage and attacks from a distance, but also takes a few seconds to channel, leaving you vulnerable to enemy attacks. Switching between characters on the fly to get access to different abilities for the right situation isn’t a new concept, but it sure is a fun one.

In between conversing with your companions and slaying monsters, there’s a whole slew of side content to explore in the world. From playing cards, fishing, hunting, sending out scout ships for supplies, and finding ingredients to cook recipes, there’s just simply a lot to do in Berseria. Almost all of these activities grant you “Katz Souls” which can be used in special shops to unlock new fashion items for your characters, such as hats, jackets, costumes, and other accessories.

There’s also dungeons to explore, but most of these are tied to main story events. They contain small puzzles and countless enemy encounters, but that quickly becomes less exciting the more dungeons you go through. Not only are the puzzles extremely easy, the layout of the dungeons themselves are a chore to go through. Most of them are simply long hallways connected to rooms where you either solve a puzzle or fight a few enemies. I would have to loved to see some more variety in dungeon design, or at least some interesting things to collect or fight during the numerous long hallways.

Despite some of these smaller issues in the game, the strength of the characters, the story, and the world are worth the price of admission alone. If you’re a fan of great stories in games, or well written and memorable characters, then you should make sure Tales of Berseria is on your radar.

FINAL VERDICT

Tales of Berseria is a massive RPG that, while seemingly overwhelming at first, is worth the commitment. It tells a dark story of loss and the way it changes someone into a dark force to be reckoned with. It’s emotional and heavy, but it’s also one of the finest stories of 2017. The cast of characters is robust and it’s a pleasure to spend time with them, learning all of their quirks, personalities, and backgrounds. Likewise, the combat is incredibly fun to play with, but it does take some perseverance to dive deep into its systems and grasp all of its mechanics. There’s a large world to explore in Tales of Berseria, and while it does stumble a few times (especially in the dungeon designs) it’s a highly memorable game that’s among one of 2017’s greatest.

Final Score: 9/10

– Zack Burrows