Tales of Berseria Review, Valentine’s Musings

Greetings, mor-*HACK*-tals.  As you can probably tell, even old EWE is *ACHOO* subject to a sinus infection now and again.  It is decidedly unpleasant.  Perhaps this is why, after I submitted my initial thoughts on this insipid holiday devoted a human emotion that causes nothing but pain and misery, Edi-*COUGH*-tor convinced me to allow him to speak on the subject, and let me focus on the later game review.  (Editor’s Note: Your post was so heartrending and miserable it would have resulted in mass-extinction levels of suicides.)  And what’s your point, exactly?  Whatever…you people all seem to like Editor’s sad-sack, mushy take on life, so fine – enjoy the next bit because when we get to Tales of Berseria, you’re stuck with me again.

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Hello, friends!  Now, despite my chastisement of EWE for his…rather dark thoughts on Valentine’s Day, some of what he had to say has merit, I believe.  (EWE’s Note: SOME?!?!)  So, I don’t really want to talk to the traditional, happily-in-love Valentine’s Day couples out there – because quite frankly, if you need a day or an excuse to celebrate having that kind of love in your life, then you are missing the entire point of it.  Every day, every moment that you get to spend with that person is a reason to celebrate.  Every chance to show them you care, be it with flowers or candy or just a hug or a hand squeeze is something you should take at every opportunity, not just one day out of the year.  So while we wish you the best (EWE’s Note: Uh, who the fuck is “we?”)…while I wish you the best, I think there are some others that are more in need of attention right now.  This is for everyone who’s without a valentine, even if they know who it would be.

This day can feel harder than others, but the reality is that it isn’t – it just brings focus to something you think about in one way or another every day.  But just remember – it isn’t about you or your value.  The problem lies with the other person not recognizing it.  Don’t let that hurt you, today or any other day.  I know that it’s hard, and I know that it is going to hurt no matter what I say – I know because it hurts me too.  But you are stronger, and better, than that.  If the person you love is worth being patient for, then don’t let today be anything other than one more day.  And if they are not, then let today be the first day of moving on.

And if you are someone out there reading this who may be overlooking or dismissing or discarding someone as “not good enough” or “not worth their time” – ask yourself, really ask yourself, if that person you so easily dismiss weren’t a part of your life, would you truly be better off?  Would you be happy?  Or maybe, is it easy to say that because you’ve come to take that person for granted?  That’s a dangerous thing.  Because depending on what you may believe, we all only get one shot at this life.  One.  And we never really know when our story, or their story, could come to an end.  Yes, it’s nice to think about the perfect person just around the corner who is going to be everything we’ve ever dreamed of since we were children – except that we were children, and children have to grow up.  Nobody is perfect.  And while you are so busy looking past someone who loves you for the next best thing, you never know when you might turn around and that person you took for granted, that person who loved you and supported you and cherished you while you ignored them, will be gone.  We only get a finite amount of time with one another.  Spending it with someone that truly loves you, even if they aren’t perfect, or what you always dreamed of, is a worthwhile way to live in that time.

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Ugh…and with that mindless, sappy drivel now over with, it’s time for something that actually matters – my review of Tales of Berseria.  As I stated recently, there had been a horrible audio bug in the Steam version of the game that had made playing it enough to make me want to kill…even more than I normally want to.  Thankfully, that bug appears to have been fixed with the most recent patch, and so I can bring you my full thoughts on this recently released entry in the long-running Tales franchise.

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As I’ve said before, I am a latecomer to the Tales series, with my introduction being Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360.  But oh, what an introduction it was!  I’d of course heard of the Tales tried-and-true real-time battle system, and its heavily anime-inspired stories and settings, but what truly, truly hooked me about Vesperia was its CHARACTERS.  And above all the rest stood the main protagonist, Yuri, and his foil, Flynn.

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Yuri is the dark-haired one, believe it or not.

For the first time in what felt like forever, the world had a pure, noble, lawful-good knight as a hero to the people…and THAT WAS NOT YOU.  Nope, that was your old frienemy, Flynn.  Yuri, the main playable character, was everything I wanted out of an avatar in a game – a dark, driven anti-hero vigilante.  And when I say vigilante, I don’t mean in the Batman, I-am-good-just-scary sense.  If you were a bad guy and Yuri found out about it, he was PUTTING YOU IN THE FUCKING GROUND.  Not because he was forced to, or because you’d backed him into a corner and there was no other way.  Just because you fucking deserved it and he could.  Case in point (SPOILERS if you care about them in an Xbox 360 game at this point), at one point Yuri and the crew save a town and it’s people from the machinations of a corrupt government official.  The people laud them as heroes and the official is locked in prison to await trial for his crimes.  In the dead of night, Yuri breaks him out of prison and sneaks him to the edge of town.  The official gleefully believes that Yuri must have been hired as a mercenary by some of his wealthy contacts to help him escape judgment.  NOPE.  See, Yuri had figured all along that if the official were brought to trial, he’d just find a way to bribe or manipulate himself out of the consequences for his crimes.  So Yuri broke him out of jail and got him out of town JUST TO FUCKING MURDER HIM AND TOSS THE BODY OFF A BRIDGE.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is my kind of goddamn hero!  (Editor’s Note: Yuri does go through some character development, folks.)  Shut up – he was fine as he was!

Anyway, this little stroll down memory lane was just to set the stage for this revelation – the cast of Berseria is BETTER than the one I loved in Vesperia, up to and including Velvet Crowe replacing Yuri as my favorite Tales protagonist of all time.

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I would strongly suggest you listen to her.

Velvet started out pretty upbeat for a girl who had lost her parents, and then later her sister, to the recurring waves of demonic activity in her world.  Left with only her younger brother and her brother-in-law as the centers of her universe, Velvet is understandably upset when those last two remaining pillars of her world are ripped away from her right before her eyes – and when she tries to stop it, she has her left arm lopped off and is chucked into a pit with some kind of Eldritch Abomination.  Said horrific monster decides to chuck her back up to the surface with 1. a new, monstrous, demon-devouring arm, and 2. a burning desire for revenge to the exclusion of all other things.  Oh, and an outfit that isn’t too shabby either.

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Gee, which one am I SUPPOSED to be staring at again?

Now, this wouldn’t be an RPG or a Tales game if Velvet and her ever-growing motley crew didn’t wind up facing off against a threat much bigger than they initially realized, but it’s Velvet’s constant desire for vengeance that drives the plot forward.  Guy you want dead is now the head of a massive theocratic world government?  Don’t care.  Upsetting the balance of power could potentially endanger the world?  DON’T CARE.  Usually in this genre, even if a character has some type of ulterior motive or driving goal that they are initially following, it is quickly subsumed by the overriding goal of “saving the world” and largely forgotten.  Velvet doesn’t forget a goddamn thing, and neither does the player.  You will know every fucking second that Velvet wants to kill the man who took everything from her, and nobody had better get in her way.

It helps sell this point that Velvet’s English voice actor does a tremendous job of conveying this dark, driven, single-minded tone through her work.  Overall, the voice acting is above average for a Tales game, and for most JRPGs in general, but it isn’t on the level of a Metal Gear Solid or Last of Us.  Some voices, whether by design or not, are incredibly aggravating, and you will quickly come to dread whenever their character portrait appears on screen.  But by and large, the voice acting overall is acceptable.  The musical score is even better – one of the best I’ve heard in an RPG since Skyrim.  The diversity between exploration themes, battle tracks, and menu background music all play well off of one another and had me nodding my head along with the rhythm more than once.

Speaking of menus, one quick note here – the menu artwork in this game is absolutely breathtaking.  If the anime art style of the Tales series is your thing, then you’ll just stare at the menus in wonder.  I did not include any screens here because quite frankly once the entire party is gathered, to show a menu screen of them would be to spoil a rather important plot point.  But sufficed to say it is phenomenal.

On to the bread and butter of any Tales game – the combat.  Berseria once again utilizes the classic Tales real-time combat, triggered upon coming into contact with an enemy while exploring.  This transports the party to a separate battle arena, in which you can freely roam and move while attacking your enemies.  You only control one character directly, but can switch that character freely.  Once again, the mainstay of combat is Artes – a huge variety of physical and magical attacks that are learned throughout the course of the game and can be set in various combos to the four face buttons on the controller.  Use of Artes are governed by the Soul Gauge – when you run out of Souls, you must defend and wait for them to replenish to continue attacking.  Souls can also be stolen back and forth or spent on special attacks – giving combat a tense tug-of-war feel as you balance Soul spending and replenishment to drive your combos higher and unleash greater sustained damage.

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The interplay between combat and the story is what is going to drive me to replay this game at least once upon completion.  There is so much nuance and depth to the combat that it is possible to get lost in trying to master its intricacies, but at the same time the story is so good that you are driven to continue it.  Thus, the temptation to simply button mash your way through the game on the initial run is very strong, and on the normal difficulty levels this is very achievable.  Once the initial run through the story is complete, the game begs the player to return at a higher difficulty and become a true artists at its delicious combat system, and I for one will be heeding that siren call.

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If anything, some aspects of the game are a bit overly complicated and thrown at the player very quickly in the beginning.  After almost every battle for the first several hours, some new element will be addressed in a tutorial screen.  It happens with such frequency in that time that it quickly can overwhelm the player and you may very well forget about the last thing you were told as you are bombarded with the next and the next.  While it doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience, it just feels like they may have tried too hard to cram too many good ideas into one gameplay system.

Visuals are gorgeous, and the art style is the classic Tales anime-inspired fare.  It is not exaggeration at all to say that playing this game is like playing through your favorite anime series or film, except that in many cases the level of animation and detail surpass even that.  Magic and Artes effects in battle are stunning and did not contribute any slowdown whatsoever during my gameplay with them.

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That’s going to sting a little.

All in all, Tales of Berseria is just a fantastic anime-inspired RPG.  If you are a fan of the genre, or of the series, or just of good games in general, you should definitely give it a try on PS4 or PC.  The PC version seems to have addressed the nagging audio issue, and I experienced no other issues with it during my play sessions.  As a newer Tales fan, I can say this is my favorite game in the series, and I’ve heard many veterans of the Tales franchise saying that this was the shot in the arm that the series needed after languishing a bit in the last few entries.  A definite thumbs up here – the developer’s village gets spared for another day.

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That’s all for tonight, kiddos.  Tell someone special that you love them.  If they know what’s good for them, they’ll love you too! – EWE

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Quick Game Hits & An Apology

Good evening, mortals.  First things first…sigh…I’ve given my word to Editor that I shall begin tonight with a sincere apology for missing another entry of #FrozenFoodFridays.  I believe that I have informed you of the past couple of weeks being difficult for me – and they have been particularly bad these last couple of days.  But that is no excuse, considering this blog has always been my outlet for when things are difficult for me, and #FrozenFoodFridays has been a mainstay segment of it.  (Editor’s Note: We haven’t been hurt this badly since our fiance walked away.)  Silence, fool!  I will NOT allow this to devolve into some kind of therapy session.  (Editor’s Note: Oh, if anyone needed therapy…)  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

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Now then…with that out of the way, let’s see what EWE has been up to in his gaming time, shall we?  And with a backlog to rival that of the lovely and talented LightningEllen there is plenty for me to bounce around between.

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Let’s start with one of my most anticipated, and least (currently) played, games, the recently released Tales of Berseria.  Now, I’m going to be honest here – and I feel like I may have said this before, so bear with me if I have – but I am a relative newcomer to the Tales series, with Tales of Vesperia being my first experience with it.  Vesperia went on to become one of my absolute favorite RPGs of the Xbox 360 generation.  Since then I have played Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2, as well as Tales of Zestiria, and while I thoroughly enjoyed each of those games, Vesperia remained my favorite, primarily due to it’s incredibly well-written and diverse cast of characters.  So how has Berseria stacked up?

Unfortunately, much like the last time that I mentioned this RPG, I am not far enough into the game to be able to really say, due to the ongoing PC audio bug that creates a horrific screeching/droning noise during almost every single battle in the game.  There have been a couple of patches released, and I have not tried the game since the most recent patch dropped, so hopefully this issue has now been resolved.  But until it is, I just cannot bring myself to play much of this game.  Based on my limited experience so far, I can say that Berseria’s protagonist, Velvet, reminds me a bit of Yuri from Vesperia, in all the right ways.  The tone of this game is much darker than the Tales games after Vesperia, which I enjoy thus far – Velvet’s quest for revenge has just begun for me, but holy FUCK does she have a solid motivation for wanting it.  I mean, not that you really NEED a motivation for wanting revenge…(Editor’s Note: Don’t start.  You’re just hurting.)  Oh, shut up and let me be bitter, would you?

As a Tales game, one would expect combat to be the highlight of the experience, and sans the audio bug, one would be correct in that assessment.  The action-packed, combo-driven Tales combat is honestly at it’s peak among the games in the series that I have played, being fluid and forgiving enough to allow button-mashing to be effective, but with nuance and depth that mastering its intricacies is highly addicting.  I don’t want to get into much more detail on the rest of the game due to my limited time with it thus far, but if you are a fan of the combat in the later Tales games listed above, and if Vesperia was a great game to you, then you’ll want to try this out.

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Next up, I decided to spend some time with a game I picked up during a recent Steam sale for almost nothing.  Can’t beat an old Diablo-style lootfest, right?

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So, everyone loves Diablo clones, right?  I mean, sometimes you just want to kill everything in sight and collect oodles of treasure that explode from their corpses.  But most of those games share a similar, fantasy setting – so one of the most refreshing things about Titan Quest, both the original game and the recently updated Anniversary Edition, is it’s setting of Egyptian-dominated myths and legends.  The Anniversary Edition upgrades the graphics of this classic to make the game more palatable to modern gamers.  But even without the graphical upgrade, this game is just fun.

You really don’t need me to analyze much in the way of the gameplay systems in this loot fest – click on shit until it explodes into loot, do this until you level up, assign points to skills, traits, and abilities that help you kill shit more quickly and efficiently.  Rinse and repeat until you are a physical god laying waste to everything in your path.  The audio is well done, but nothing particularly memorable has jumped out at me in my play sessions thus far.  This may be in part because when I’m playing a game like this, I tend to put on other music or something so I don’t really notice the in-game audio.  I haven’t experienced any technical issues during my gameplay thus far, but I will note that the NPC text is somewhat small and difficult to follow in the tiny chat bubbles that appear over their heads.  But this is a small complaint, outweighed by many more fantastic Diablo-esque tones that scratch every itch that a compulsive loot-gathering dungeon crawl should.  Even at full price, it’s a great cost-benefit ratio, and if you find it on sale, snap it up.

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And finally, I’ve been feeling the urge to jump back into an MMO again lately.  Not because I have the time or money or patience to do so, but because I have no life whatsoever and probably stand no chance at love or friendship outside of either the Internet or the MMO gaming community.  So, I dusted off and updated my Elder Scrolls Online account – since there is no monthly fee, I could remind myself of why I don’t play many MMOs without killing my budget deader than it already is.

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Now, in order to make things a bit more interesting (Editor’s Note: or just because he’s not all that bright), I have taken a sleep aid just before I fire up the ESO client each time.  This resulted an an…odd looking Dunmer Nightblade named Evil Wizard Esq (at least I retained consciousness long enough to name him) who has engaged in a few beginner’s adventures that I have little to no memory of at all.  At one point, I woke in the middle of the night to find I had apparently murdered a villager while trying to talk to her and now the guards were…upset.  I frankly didn’t see the problem, but sadly they did not agree with my point of view.  In the days and weeks to come, I will try to keep you updated on Dunmer EWE’s adventures throughout Tamriel.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  Thanks for sticking around, and again, I am sorry for the missing #FrozenFoodFridays entries.  Since I have not contributed to your culinary requests recently, I will instead leave you with some advice from Editor.

Do not take for granted the people in your life that love you.  Maybe you think they aren’t good enough for you, or aren’t what you pictured in your imagination, or that you can “do better.”  But in reality all you’re doing is demonstrating a complete lack of caring for someone that likely cares about you quite a lot.  And while I doubt that you are out there reading this (you know who you are), on the chance that you are, you may tell yourself whatever you like to help you sleep at night for treating someone who loves you like a piece of refuse.  You may say that I am not good enough to be worth keeping around, even when you just recently expressed how glad you were to have me in your life.  But no matter how hard you try, where you look, or what you tell yourself, you will never find anyone who as honestly and truly loves you as I.  For now, you will be glad to be rid of me, to be able to see me around but never have to speak with me outside of the briefest of moments.  But someday, sooner or later, you will miss being able to pick up the phone and know I’ll be there for you; you’ll miss the warmth of being next to me and communicating so many thoughts and feelings without exchanging any more than a glance or two; you’ll miss me doing silly little things for no reason other than to show you that I wake up every day and choose you as the person I want to be with.  I don’t know when that will be – but I’m not going to just let myself be continually hurt until it comes.

Until next time, minions…be kind to one another.  Life is too short to do otherwise. – EWE