Bandai Namco's Tales of series of JRPGs has garnishes quite a following since the series-founding Tales of Phantasia came out in 1995. Tales of Berseria is the latest entry into the long-running series and (despite the game visually showing its age) it's one of the better games in the franchise.
The game takes place in the powerful Holy Midgand Empire, which is the same location as 2015's Tales of Zestiria, and follows the story of Velvet Crowe. She's not exactly the happy-go-lucky type thanks largely to being constantly tormented by tragic memories from her childhood on top of being locked away for three years. She's unlikable for much of the early game thanks to her emo-ish attitude, but she also packs quite the punch thanks to her disfigured arm that gives her the power to feed off the power of others. Despite her cold exterior and freakish arm, however, she manages to amass a likable band of friends and allies as they fight against the Daemonblight (an affliction that turns humans into monsters). The story is long -- some 70 hours or so -- but it's good enough to keep your interest through its entirety.
The story is intriguing and checks all of the boxes to make it a good Tales of game, but Berseria falters a bit in terms of gameplay -- more precisely, combat gameplay. The game features what's known as a Linear Motion Battle System. It's largely considered to be one of the first types real-time battle systems for JRPGs and was widely used in the genre. New systems have come and gone since its inception with some JRPGs like the recently-released Final Fantasy XV all but re-inventing combat in the genre. While Linear Motion Battle Systems are dependable and solid, it does come off these days as dated.
Mapped onto each of the face buttons of your controller (or mouse if you decide to go that route) is a string of four different moves that your character can execute. Different moves are, of course, effective against different enemy types and the game does give you the option to pause the action to adjust combo chains if needed. You can fire off as many as five of these at any one opportunity and that does limit just how far your combo can go. You also have the option to perform Break Souls, which are powerful techniques that yield their own combat-altering results. It should be noted, by the way, that you can only control a single character at any given time during combat. Your party's other members are controlled by the game A.I., but don't fret too much about this lack of control. Rough orders can be given to the A.I. as to what targets the other characters should focus their attacks on or when they should look to heal. For the most part, the computer does a fairly good job at taking care of your party's other characters but it's not exactly perfect. Thankfully, you can swap out your actively-controlled character and give direct orders from that character's perspective instead.
In terms of the game's A/V presentation, Tales of Berseria really boasts some outright beautiful cut scenes. Outside of that, however, the game looks and sounds like a mid-era PlayStation 3 title. The game lacks some of the more intricate visual details that gamers have become accustomed to seeing on the current generation of consoles and that PC gamers have enjoyed even before that. The visuals simply look dated. The folks over at Bandai Namco really need to bring things up to date in this department with the next Tales of game.
Playing on PC, it's quite evident that Tales of Berseria isn't made for keyboard and mouse. While it can be done, it's clunky and unappealing as the controls just don't work well in such a layout and scheme. Simply put, the game all but requires the use of a gamepad. If you don't have one but want to have this game in your Steam library, get one. You'll need it.
When it comes down to it, Tales of Berseria benefits greatly from well-done combat despite its increasingly antiquated battle system and a rather good story. The visuals might look a bit flat, but that does little to detract from what is largely a very good JRPG.
Final Score: 8.8 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.