I hadn't planned on this one at all, but it's put Yakuza 0 on hold for me. Tales of Berseria was revealed as one of the headliners for the next Humble Monthly, back on August 3rd, and I had been passing up on various discounts for months now.
Back when the previous Tales game, Zestiria, went up for Preorder on Steam, I jumped at it - I wanted that franchise on PC for sure, and it got me Symphonia as a bonus. Berseria launched on PC, and at E3, they announced the Vesperia remaster for PC as well. So yay.
The problem? Zestiria didn't engage me as well as it should have. The combat and equipment systems felt needlessly convoluted for somebody new to the series, and the on-rails gameplay was... disappointing. I barely made it a dozen hours in, unlocking the form changes and what not, but frankly, while I liked the characters, something just didn't click with me. I think it might have been a perceived lack of urgency - the protagonist Sorey goes off on an adventure to the capital with his spirit bro, and they end up with him becoming the savior of the world for some reason and set out to fight the Lord of Calamity to stop people from turning miserable and transforming into demons... but the way it was delivered those first hours was pretty slow and honestly didn't do enough to hold my attention and get me invested, so by the time it got going, I was already kinda bored.
So I was hesitant to buy Berseria, seeing how it was a prequel around 1000 years in the past, with a similar gameplay system overall and partially recycled areas (geography only changes so much, eh?). But oh boy I'm glad I started it by now!
Enter Velvet Crowe, a good-natured teenage girl turned cynical, wrathful avenger. From the intro cutscene on, things are a lot darker than Zestiria ever got during my playtime. Even the prologue, which initially kicks off with a happy mood, turns bad quickly. I hadn't even intended to play that night and was merely testing the options and all, but then blasted through the prologue anyway. Since then, I've played around 30 hours and might have barely reached the midpoint of the story, if even that.
The revenge plot, taking down the supposed savior of this era, is massively more engaging than the savior complex of Zestiria, no matter how it may develop later in the game. By the ten hour mark, I had already seen death and destruction, escaped a prison complex, devoured a character, beaten a couple of bosses and infiltrated a city that I'd end up burning down.
The party dynamic, even early on, was top-notch, both in terms of comedy as serious themes. Character motivations are well-represented, There appears to be so much more emotion in the entire core storyline, it pulled me in.
On top of that, I like the gameplay a lot more here. The equipment skill system isn't overly convoluted anymore and instead you learn equipment skills by, well, equipping them throughout battles. You know, like things used to be done. No tetris needed. The combat is still pretty on rails, but feels much more open and involving than Zestiria's. It feels faster from the get-go, and the changes/additions to the soul system and the lack of transformation nonsense score well for me. The sliding difficulty system is also pretty nifty, with me currently playing on Hard after raising it up from Normal to Moderate, and I'm likely going to raise it to Intense soon, to increase my battle rewards.
Funnily enough, Berseria is encouraging me to go back and start Zestiria over after I'm done, since in many ways, both games present sides of the same coin. I'm likely already benefiting from having played the beginning acts of Zestiria and learning about the core plot concept, and as a result can appreciate how Berseria flips it on its head and gives a wholly different view on things.It's really cool to see how history has twisted certain things in this duology. And yes, you can go in and start with either game, on their own they are closed stories, but they add further context to one another if you're familiar with them.
I didn't expect to be this invested in another JRPG, after struggling for the past year to even just bring up the time for the appropriately lengthy sessions needed to get anywhere with them. I had recently made up my mind to pick a game every month and finish it properly, rather than putting it aside for undetermined amounts of time. I might have overdone it a bit with Berseria this early, especially seeing how at my pace I'm probably in for another 60 hours, but hells to that. I'm having a good time!
.....and Magilou is golden.