After 25 hours with Tales of Berseria, the verdict can already be delivered: The latest Tales game is surely the best JRPG of this generation so far. Hold on, you may ask now, better than Final Fantasy XV? Yes, it is!
Blasphemy!!! How dare someone claim this? (Let’s all breathe out and keep reading please.) How comes? Well, there are a few reasons. Let’s just have a look how Tales of Berseria compares with its RPG pals Final Fantasy XV and Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (let’s agree to leave that annoying subtitle out please):
The battle system. In this regard, all three games come close. All of them boast real-time combat that can be easily paused for tactical breaks, all have at least 4 party members on-screen all the time, and all three are fun. But still, Tales of Berseria has the deepest system with the most options by far – you can freely create and mix from 4 different combo trees, you can change them quickly mid-battle to adapt to your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, all 6 team members can be controlled in battles and they all have different uses. But there’s more to Berseria: In battle, you can also give basic orders to your team, and you can swap team mates quickly, enabling powerful attacks. Oh, and you can also trigger a massive attack via R2, and a super-massive attack via L2!
The micromanagment. Here, Tales of Berseria offers clearly more than FF XV, where you can only buy a handful of weapons, and you can upgrade even less of them, while that’s pretty much it. However, in Berseria, you can upgrade each and every piece of equipment, and all of them give you different bonuses depending on the upgrade level and the mastering of that piece of gear. Additionally, you can eat before battles (sounds familiar, right?), but here, it’s only good for one battle and for one team mate, so you need to be careful to see who eats what. Lastly, you can choose a title which comes close to the job system in Star Ocean, to give your team members even more bonuses.
The story. Well, Star Ocean’s story is nothing to write home about. It would actually be a surprise if anybody remembered any of it. Final Fantasy XV is more intriguing and yet strange – parts of the story is hidden in the background, but when you need to watch other media and it’s not all in the game to get everything, you’re witnessing bad writing. Yes, it will always be bad writing when the game itself is not enough to tell the whole story, simple as that. Berseria though tells the story of a band of outcasts on the quest to topple a theocratic regime. Yes, it’s almost a JRPG trope these days to bring down religios zealots, but hey, so is pretty much every game out there … Most importantly though, everyone in the group is likeable in a way, and everyone also follows their own agenda that is only revealed very, very slowly.
The pacing. While the backtracking in Star Ocean was almost unbearable and the story would progress too slow at times, we know it’s completely off in FF XV: Shit happens, but you still cruise around leisurely. Imagine you’re on your way to get married – would you rather stroll around chasing monsters or be on the way to your future spouse? Unless you like living your life as a bachelor and prefer living with a boy band, of course … And who knows, perhaps Noctis fancies a certain mechanic groupie … Or you’re on a very important mission but it’s fine to explore dungeons because that’s what we all do on our way to work, don’t we? Anyway, the pacing in Tales of Berseria is near-perfect. Even if you are exploring a dungeon, you get fed pieces of the story that do a good job to stop you from grinding, because you definitely want to progress the story.
The characters. Star Ocean … had some people in the party. The protagonist and his female side kick (this time natives to your usual fantasy world with science fiction here and there), that knight-like guy, that mage person, those two people from outer space, that mysterious little girl (actually the most interesting character of the group), we’ve seen them all before though. Final Fantasy XV has the so-called boy band, the villain, and then a cast of extras. The bond between the group is not really explained in the first 20 hours of the game (unless you’ve watched the anime, and sleeping in certain camps unlocks some scenes), making it a bit like a random road movie with random people on a random drive. Tales of Berseria though excels here – you have the grumpy protagonist Velvet, a demon who would sacrifice everyone to get closer to her goals. She is a great and slightly dark and twisted protagonist, and there are 5 more likeable characters (one paragraph could be written about each of them,). The witch Magilou definitely stands out – she’s pretty crazy and yet not too crazy. And the then you have the stereotypical kid character who is actually not that annoying for a change, believe it or not! And last but not least, the banter is simply hilarious. But beware, it’s stereotype galore!
The graphics. Okay, Final Fantasy XV wins here. Easily. Tales of Berseria look good enough, and the anime style suits the game well, but some levels and dungeons look merely like upgraded PS3 style.
With all of it combined, the three games fare differently in Rabidgames’ opinion: While Star Ocean had the battles and evolving the characters’ prowess as well as the serie’s staple crafting system to offer yet was lacking worthwhile stories and a good narrative, while Final Fantasy XV lived from the battles and the open world, yet the open world also slowed down the game a lot. Oh, and the magnificent summons were surely a sight to behold, it might be a problem to step an inch too far into the Western open worlds Tales of Berseria has the deepest gameplay and upgrade systems while also managing to gives us the best story with the best written characters for a while. It simply feels fresher than the competition despite never leaving JRPG territories.
Rabidgames rejoices: It’s a good time for JRPGs. The PS4 gets quite a few of them, and soon there’ll be Nier Automata and Persona 5. And then, the eye-watering remakes of Final Fantasy XII and one of the best games ever, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time! Let’s see if Tales of Berseria can keep the crown, but one thing is for sure, there’s plenty of food for us hungry JRPG fans. Maybe we can even dream of another golden era again!