Tales of Berseria – Review

Why is it that birds fly?

Well, of course there is no actual reason for it.  It’s not something they choose to do consiciously – it’s simply a result of millions of years of adaptation and evolution.  But I suspect the person who asked this doesn’t really want a true answer, but a more poetic and uplifting one that is completely not true.

So anyway, I finished my first playthrough of this just a couple days ago really.  I usually play through these games at least twice and there’s bound to be stuff I missed the first time, and an ‘EX Dungeon’ at the end which on a normal playthrough would require a absolutely horrendous amount of grinding to be a high enough level to take on.  So you want the EXP bonuses you can get with a New Game +.  So yes, I haven’t done that bit yet, but I’ve finished the main story and got to say… actually, I really, really liked it.  It’s not without flaws, but still might be my favorite JRPG’s yet.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first game in the series to have a sole female protagonist (Xillia let you choose between Milla and Jude), Velvet Crowe.  Despite that, I’m sorry to say there is a fair bit of dialogue that’s reinforcing stereotypes – boys are interested in ‘weird’ stuff like technology and exploration, while girls prefer to stay at home to discuss cooking and cleaning.  Although it’s not too bad really – Velvet’s a capable fighter from the beginning and the other female companions are a powerful witch and a exorcist (kind of a knight, really).  Another important thing is that this is in fact a prequel to Tales of Zestiria.

Like the Final Fantasy series, most the games in the Tales aren’t really related to each other, but this one is basically setting the stage for the previous title.  I’m not sure exactly how long before Zestiria it’s supposed to take place… a good few centuries at least I’m guessing.  There is a familiar face you bump into a few times, and you get a glimpse of Edna who doesn’t much different.  Those are Malaks/Seraphim of course.  I don’t know if it’s ever explained if they ever actually age or grow up at all, or whether they just have a form and are stuck with it.  Mikleo seems to have grown up normally but maybe that’s just because of his ties to Sorey?

Anyway, that’s an aside.  So, Velvet’s story is tragic.  And it gets more tragic as you go along.  It starts off cozily enough as these things usually do, until some event turns her world upside down.  You then start the game proper by breaking out of prison, setting fire to a port, becoming a pirate, destroying a fortress, and wondering if you might in fact be the baddie here.  Of course it’s not really that simple, but interesting that you see a lot of things from the other side that you did in the previous game.  Anyway it all builds up to a very bittersweet ending but that sets everything up for the sequel.

Velvet is joined on her adventure by five companions.  First is
Rokurou, a kind of samurai I guess, so despite also being a daemon he’s driven by a code of conduct and honour.

Then Magilou, a jester/witch who doesn’t help much in the beginning but in the end is actually very helpful indeed, so it’s a good thing Velvet doesn’t kill her.  Basically, she’s a contrast to the perpetually sombre Velvet by constantly joking and messing around.  Although her humour is quite sinister sometimes.

Usually, there’s a child character in these games, of whom Edna is obviously the best.  This time though, we’re stuck with Malak Number Two, who gets renamed Laphicet.  Turns out he is actually quite important in the grand scheme though.

Speaking of Edna, the next companion is in fact her older brother, Eizen.  So if you’ve played the previous title you know what eventually happens to him.  I keep wanting to tell him that he should really go visit his sister.  He doesn’t have to change his life, just maybe once a decade at least stop by and hang around a bit.   But anyway, he’s first mate on the Van Eltia searching for the missing captain.  He’s ship is your primarily method of getting around between the different islands in the game.  (Also, exploration is a important and a good way of making money in the game).

And finally Eleanor, a noble and dedicated exorcist who wants nothing more than to help people, even though that sometimes against the Abbey’s rules leaving her conflicted.  Again, she another contrast to Velvet who has little problem using anything and anyone to achieve her own ends.

Anyway, overally I did really enjoy this.  The world actually felt huge, which it didn’t really in Tales of Zestiria, and nothing is black and white, which I guess seems to be really the entire point of the game… also something about free will and birds.

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