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Tales of Revival.

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    Tales of Berseria

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Tales of Revival.

    A major step up from Tales of Zestiria, Berseria could be considered the best Tales game released in years. Perhaps the last game in the series that earned any sort of endeavor was Tales of Xillia. The series began to dip with Xillia 2, and Zestiria was argued as one of the least popular games in the series. What Berseria brings back to the table is a cohesive, darker storyline and feasible camera angles.

    Berseria starts the story with Velvet Crowe, a girl living in the village of Aball with her brother, Laphicet, and her brother-in-law, Arthur. They live a happy life until one day, the entire village is turned into fiends known as "daemons". Slain by Velvet, she encounters Arthur sacrificing Laphicet on an altar. As she confronts him, Arthur condemns her to the abyss, only for her to return, now transformed into a creature known as a Therion. Her left arm now transfigured into a massive claw, she hunts daemons to empower herself. She’s imprisoned for three years in the island of Titania before being freed by a mysterious, masked woman. The journey begins with Velvet’s unquenchable thirst for revenge against the brother that damned her.

    From the start, the story is much darker than any Tales game. The "Scarlet Night" has a blood-red moon, and a sacrifice is made. If you’ve read or watched the series Berserk, you have probably picked up on a number of cues to the story, especially during the Eclipse. The name Berseria is perhaps almost a direct reference to the manga’s name, while the theme of revenge runs parallel in both.

    The gameplay mechanics are perhaps the best in any Tales game. While this was covered in Zestiria, the camera is free-roaming and sits behind you. You can adjust the angle to any you please. Anyone familiar with Symphonia, Abyss, Vesperia, or Xillia remembers the camera sat at a fixed angle. This one feels more free. You’re roaming through passages between towns, another cue from Graces and more recent games. There is no overworld, but the passages serve as mini-dungeons, so to speak. You’ll be fighting enemies along the way.

    The battle system is by far the best in the series. While it returns the Graces and Zestiria formula of mapping abilities to buttons and identifying enemy weaknesses, what’s new are the special abilities. Triggered by a press of the R2 button, Velvet unleashes Consuming Claw, the ability to power up herself while healing HP. She can incorporate this ability into combos,  is impervious to knockback, and unleashes a devastating move in the end.

    Velvet is also joined by five companions. Laphicet, a malak, Rokurou, a wandering swordsman hellbent on his own revenge, Eizen, a pirate with the Reaper’s Curse, Magilou, a mysterious witch, and Eleanor, a member of the Abbey, who wields a spear. Any of these characters are playable, and have their own special abilities. Eizen, Laphicet, Magilou, and Eleanor are all casters, while Rokurou fights with a swordsman style. Eizen is also capable of fighting up close hand-to-hand, while Eleanor is trained with a spear.

    Visually speaking, it’s standard Tales fanfare, in HD. It’s not a giant step-up from past games in the series. Tales of Vesperia, released in 2008, was the first Tales title released on an HD console (Xbox 360). Tales of Berseria was also released on the PS3 in Japan – the native console for the title. As a result, the visuals are by no means mindblowing. However, it’s serviceable, and the animations are quite good for the fast-paced action scenes.

    The audio is also standard Tales quality. I’ve always found the Tales series to be on the lower end of Motoi Sakuraba’s work. Sakuraba is my favorite video game music composer, and his works have expanded from the Tales series to Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, Eternal Sonata, Dark Souls, and many, many more titles. That being said, while the dungeon themes are often ambient and unremarkable, several themes stand out. As per usual with the series, the battle themes are intense, upbeat, and dynamic. Velvet’s theme, in particular, is a beautiful and inspiring theme that starts with a piano. The final dungeon theme is also intense, raring the player to go the ends of the world and beyond to encounter their final opponent. In particular, the final dungeon theme is perhaps my favorite in the series, or at the very least, as good as the "Interstitial World" from Xillia. Look up "The Way of the Embodied Dragon" if you are curious.

    However, for all it’s worth, why the 7.5 and not an 8? It’s the best Tales game in a while right? Well, the game is not without flaws.

    The most glaring of them all is the pacing issues. Dungeons has "pseudo-puzzles", which require little thought, but tons of backtracking. You may be getting lost, take a wrong path, or need to light or douse torches in a certain way. But in the end, they’re not your standard Zelda fanfare by any means. They’re simple. But there is tons of backtracking in the game, and you will be doing it in large-scale dungeons. This will eat up time considerably, going back and forth. The final dungeon itself is perhaps the largest of all Tales games as well, and with as much battling as you might be doing, you may not finish it for at least 2-3 hours.

    On another note of pacing, skits are a common source of Tales. They’re sources of lore, dialogue, and comedy. However, they are placed everywhere in the game. Minutes upon minutes of time will be spent watching these. Some of them will open up automatically. While more storyline is always a good thing, you are perhaps overwhelmed with the amount of content there is. The skits themselves are great. They’re well-animated for their humble beginnings, but it’s worth noting they will eat up considerable time and will happen constantly during dungeon treks.

    I feel pacing issues are the biggest opponent of many Tales games. Thankfully, there’s a system that allows you to save literally anywhere in the game. You can also change the difficulty level as you see fit, at any time in the game. If not for the long back-and-forth treks, this game would receive a higher score. If you’re willing to dive-in headfirst to see, then I cannot recommend this game enough. The story is fitted with as many dark moments as there are comedic and even tender moments, with the cast taking care of each other and fighting alike. With a rogue band between a daemon, a therion, a pirate, an abbey member, a witch, and an innocent little boy, they’re constant foils for each other, some of which doing as they please and breaking authority. The story covers authority, religion, and the difficult, ethical decisions one must make when pressed with a dire choice.

    For all intents and purposes, this is the longest game I have ever played in my life. I cleared the storylines of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles in 60 hours. Save for only a few side-quests, I finished Tales of Berseria around the 80 hour mark. If you don’t do side-quests, you’ll be sitting around the 75 hour mark. For what it’s worth, this is both good and bad. Tons of content, but also tons of skits and padding to fill it up. On the bright side, once you’re done, new content opens up. The game has a postgame dungeon, a cameo battle from past Tales games, and more side-quests. You can also send out your ship to keep collecting treasure, which includes costumes and tons of Tales references from past games. And there are also mini-games to be found in the world from the Katz and various other characters.

    If you’re looking for an RPG with a strong storyline, this is the game I recommend. If you have a PS4, do get this game. If you’re a fan of anime, you will enjoy the dialogue, animations, and the cast. The Tales series has a reputation for having strong casts. And as far as storyline goes, this is easily my favorite since Vesperia.

    Also, if you’ve never played a Tales game, this is an ideal jumping on point!

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