The Tales of series has been very persistent over the years. Always in the shadow of larger JRPG franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it has continued on with its own style and mechanics. Last year saw the release of Tales of Zestiria and a game that made a return to a more familiar fantasy setting, and Tales of Berseria is again a game in a similar vein, although the fantasy setting is mixed with other themes such as pirates and some more advanced elements.
It's funny how Bandai Namco comes up with titles for the franchise. Tales of Berseria is based on the word Berserk, but with a "Tales of" spin to it. Hence, Tales of Berseria. The Berserk in question, a warrior that is in possession of an uncontrollable power, is main character Velvet Crowe.
The theme of Tales of Berseria is that of emotion and reason. Velvet Crowe is described as a character full of "intense emotion", but that sounds like an euphemism if ever there was one. Three years ago she was betrayed by someone she trusted, she lost her folks and her left hand was cursed and possessed by some mysterious power. The latter happened during an event known as Scarlett Night, when a mysterious illness or Daemonblight affected certain people and turned into violent Goumas. She's clearly out for vengeance against the person who wronged her. Or at least she is at the start of the game. We expect things to transpire that may soften her resolve and perhaps open her up to reason. She'll meet her counterpart in a young innocent boy called Laphicet - he comes from the opposite end of the spectrum.
"Velvet has a dark atmosphere compared to the other heroes of previous Tales of titles," says producer Yasuhiro Fukaya. "But please understand she is not a dark hero... Players can see other aspects not seen in the main story, and actually she has intense emotions and her atmosphere is really dark, but players can see she has a little gentler past, so please look forward to see how Velvet actually is."
Velvet is not an entirely novel character in the JRPG space, but she's not your typical main character either. She's the kind of character you'd expect to find as part of the group, but perhaps not as its leader, and in fact she's the first main female protagonist in the long-running franchise. Her greater cause is vengeance, and so instead of rallying a group to save the world, the rest of the characters that form the group will join the adventure for very different reasons. There's the unlicensed and rarely serious witch, Magilou. Eleanor Hume is another very interesting character as she belongs to the Abbey, an organisation that has risen to power fighting the daemonblight and those affected by the sickness, in order to purge the lands. And there's Eizen, a pirate whose ship you'll use on your travels. Overall the cast is predictably eclectic, perhaps more so than what is usual in the genre.
There isn't much in terms of connection to other Tales of games in terms of story or characters, but the continent the game takes place in what will later become known as Glenwood (Tales of Zestiria), other connections may also exist but as with much of the story Bandai Namco are keeping most of it secret for now. In fact it was a struggle to get Yasuhiro Fukaya to commit to anything outside of the basic premise of the story.
As you'd expect the battle system has been given a few new features that you'll need to learn how to master. There is the Arte combo system, that lets players assign and customise attacks as well as the Soul gauge that feeds the Break Soul system. This essentially lets you unleash more artes as well as an additional powerful special action. These are also different for different characters, so Velvet for instance is focused on dealing a lot of damage, whereas other characters may have healing, support or defensive focuses. Something that wasn't detailed was a sort of tag-team system where you presumably can switch in a second character, otherwise the battles work much like in the previous game where you have some degree of control over how the supporting characters behave in battle.
"Tales of Berseria is really different from the previous ones," says Yasuhiro Fukaya. "I especially want to emphasise that the battle system for Tales of Berseria is really brand new and different from the previous titles' battle systems. Players who are familiar with the battle systems from earlier games will easily see how different Berseria's battle system is."
The camera system in battles is something that the team has received a lot of negative feedback on in the past, and the camera is now fully under player control, which hopefully players will appreciate.
The main benefit of developing mainly for new-generation hardware (PS4) and high-end PC (there is a PS3 version in Japan as well), according to Yasuhiro Fukaya, is that no punches are pulled in battle scenes. These will be presented in 60 frames per second without sacrificing any detail or turning down the number of enemies on screen. While we were only treated to a couple of brief battles during the demo (on a beautiful beach setting), the combat does look very promising. Tales of Berseria represents one of the shorter gaps between Japanese release and European launch in Tales of history, as the game hits Japan this August with a European launch planned for early 2017. Good news for European fans.