Years ago, on a mysterious and fearful event known as the Scarlet Night, Velvet and her brother Laphicet are saved from demonic beings by their brother-in-law and demon exorcist Artorius. With demonblight affecting the townsfolk, Velvet’s sister and her unborn child both perish in the event. Years later, after living a quiet life in their peaceful village with Artorius, Velvet and Laphicet’s lives are changed forever when the Scarlet Night returns, and Laphicet is sacrificed by Artorius to seal a pact with the demons. Velvet fights back only to be consumed by the demonblight, turned into a semi-demonic creature and captured in a cell. Spending three years biding her time and devouring demons that are fed to her, Velvet manages to escape with some help and seeks out her revenge on Artorius for the sacrifice of her brother.
Let me just say first off, this is the first time I’ve ever touched a game in the ‘Tales Of’ series – one that has been running for a little over 20 years, first making its appearance on the Super Famicom with Tales of Phantasia. Where many fans would understand the majority of what takes place in the game, I was totally lost – but this was a good thing, as it truly allowed me to understand more about the game itself, the first of which was the battle system. Using what has been established as the ‘Linear Motion Battle System’, fights are in a real-time scenario as opposed to typical turn-based RPGs and allow significant fluidity within a battle. Tutorial battles aside, the depth of this system really showed in the ability to customize multiple attack styles and tactics – plus the fact that you could effectively button-mash in a fight made it more action-packed. The game uses a ‘Soul Gauge’, which is a decisive gauge that determines the number of actions a player can make at any given time. Taking down enemies boosts the gauge and allows for flashier attacks, which can be learned and chained together, and organized through menus. I found myself wanting to fight enemies more often than usual because I really enjoyed the fighting system, which is something I’m not used to. This breaks up the consistent meandering throughout the overworld which could have either been trimmed down or made for characters to move faster through, as it gets relatively boring.
The game itself plays out quite like an anime both in narrative and visual styles – cutscenes are both animated and in-game, and the story progresses through these. It can get quite tedious to trawl through after a while; there’s a difference between basic dialogue for exposition’s sake, and describing every minute detail of every action occurring, and sadly the latter is what the game chooses to do. This, however, is probably the biggest flaw of the game overall (and the awful English voice acting that accompanies it), as the narrative itself is quite interesting – it isn’t often you get to see a half-demon anti-hero woman take the lead in a video game. Akin to someone like Kratos from the God of War series, Velvet’s lust for revenge of her young brother drives the story forward, through which we understand more about the characters and their emotional journey versus reason. Accompanied with some quite colourful visuals (except the consistent repetitiveness of the dungeons), the world of Tales of Berseria is pretty fun to explore, and there is always something to be chasing up on.