• Release date: Jan 2017
  • Time to complete: ~40 hrs

I'm not sure if Berseria is a good entry point to the Tales series, for even after 40 hrs of gameplay, I still didn't have a handle on the combat mechanics. Sure, I won my encounters, but I didn't REALLY understand what caused me to gain certain abilities (The "Soul Gauge" - I never got the names of the various techniques straightened out, either), which were more or less vital to having fun while playing (allowing you to use "Artes"). That's not to say the game doesn't introduce them with textual descriptions, but clearly they didn't stick, because most of the game I was more or less mashing my way through. There are a great many systems, mechanics, and of course the ever-present cooking elements, many of which frankly felt superfluous. Especially the ability to send your crew exploring oceans to find goods - which they would deliver back to you no matter if you were cut off from reality on an astral plane, deep underground, high in the sky... it was frankly a bit off-putting.

Even if I did fully understand the combat, I'm not sure I could have capitalised entirely anyway, since many of the bonuses are per-enemy type, but most battles had multiple types simultaneously in the combat. I guess you can outfit your entire party to cover all the bases, but frankly that'd be quite a bit of effort, and I doubt would even be necessary on the harder difficulty levels.

Speaking of the party, the characters are not only the reason I gave Berseria a shot in the first place, but by far the most interesting element of the game. An absolute rogue's gallery, most of your allies are criminals, pirates, and daemons - and each have a pretty interesting backstory, motivations, and plot resolutions. The dialogue between the various party members is frequently amusing, often thought-provoking, even if fairly long-winded when looked at in totality. The main character, Velvet, is a girl who is turned into a daemon in the first section of the game. She becomes almost entirely motivated by revenge, an absolute anti-hero, and a total badass. If you're tired of goody-goody protagonists acting for the sake of... well, anything, and want a cast of characters with far less altruistic (and in some cases nihilistic) desires, then Berseria might just be up your alley.

However, some of the alleys in the game will be revisted many times. There's a lot of backtracking and path-retreading on the map, and even late-game you will be going back to the same old places. At least near the end of the game you unlock a faster method of travelling, but it would have been nice to gain it earlier.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Tales of Berseria, however I certainly would have preferred the combat to be more clear and strategic. I got pretty much what I wanted out of the characters and story - but without them I wouldn't have bothered, and am unlikely to pick up further Tales games unless a similarly 'edgey' crew are introduced.

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