I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.
The Tales series of Japanese RPGs are released by Namco. I’ve played Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Symphonia 2, Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria (ta-da!) and will probably play tales of Vesperia sometime soon.
With zero doubt, Tales of Berseria is the BEST of the series. I don’t have to play the others to know. You can buy the PC port on Steam, and it goes on great sales every so often.
This fantastic game has an epic, long story that follows Velvet – a girl whose life is upended when her brother in law sacrifices her little brother in a strange ritual to purge the world of evil. In vain effort to save her brother and stop the ritual, Velvet becomes a demon and is imprisoned on an island.
And that’s all just the introduction.
This quest for vengeance doesn’t match the completely lighthearted, save the world BS that comes standard with the rest of the Tales games. You’re out to fucking kill a guy who’s currently a hero of the planet, and you don’t care how that goes down. The game definitely has its emotional moments, and there were times I put my hands to my face in surprise and out of empathy for the characters. The least likable characters in this game were more likable than the best characters of Zestiria.
As far as gameplay goes, the Soul Gauge mechanic was fantastic. You could button smash pretty effectively if things got out of hand, but you could also learn your characters and become adept if you wanted to. The simplified item system in Berseria got rid of what made Zestiria unapologetically atrocious. The only game whose play and stats mechanics I think was better may have been Tales of the Abyss with its fields of fonons.
Berseria starts off as one of the best emotional whirlwinds of the Tales series, and it keeps going. Pretty soon after Velvet escapes prison, she sees a little boy who looks JUST LIKE her dead brother. Because she’s basically emotionally screwed, she steals him from the woman who owns him (yes, the kid’s a slave) and runs off on her stolen ship. The kid doesn’t remember being her brother, and in fact doesn’t talk much for the first part of the story.
Velvet continues on her search for Artorius, her murderous brother in law, only to find out that he’s become basically the Pope and hero to the entire planet. He’s allowed the demons to become visible, and now ordinary humans can fight off evil with the help of enslaved malakim. What’s more, Artorius plans to rid the world of evil once and for all by changing the hearts of men to no longer produce malevolence.
Velvet, as a demon who feeds off anger and malevolence, doesn’t like that.
So she travels the world looking for ways to stop Artorius’s plan. She meets other people whose goals at least temporarily align with hers to help out. In one rather emotional section, a young girl named Kamoana has been purposefully turned into a demon by Artorius’s church – but why? Velvet doesn’t care, so she abducts Kamoana, kills her mother, and vows further hatred of Artorius.
After rescuing other demons in similar situations, the crew discovers that the church has to create a specific kind of demon – therions – in order to feed a new, important malakim called Innominat. They must fight to capture all the therions, but it is too late – Innominat has arisen, and it is the actual Laphicet, Velvet’s brother!
In a weird twist of fate that actually made me squeal with delight, the Laphicet Velvet had been traveling with turns out to be not her brother, but her unborn nephew who was killed when Artorius’s wife – Velvet’s older sister – was slain as an earlier part of the ritual.
Anyway, it all turns out fine, but I won’t spoil the ending… it was pretty good.