With a few days until release, Tales of Berseria has dropped a demo on the PS4 and Steam for players to get a taste of the newest Tales installment. It’s definitely a treat to be able to play the Tales games on Steam, and have the option to choose between console and PC.
I tried the demo myself on Steam, and it showed me a lot more than I was thinking would be unveiled in a demo. You have the option between Scenario mode or Battle mode. Scenario mode gives a look into the story, even letting you view a couple of the traditional Tales skits that offer quick, often-silly interactions between characters. You are free to explore a beach area and fight the monsters there as well to get a feel for the Tales series’ real-time combat.
In Battle mode, there is no story and you are tasked with defeating a couple of challenging monsters. This allows new players to get a feel for combat without spoiling the story, and also offers a test for series veterans who want to see how they face up to the slightly more difficult fights. For those new to Tales, it offers a fast-paced combat system where you can control a single character, switching between one of several different party members who are also present (and controlled by AI when not under your power) for the fight. In Berseria’s demo, you have access to six party members, with up to 4 in active combat at a time.
There are several things to keep yourself aware of in combat. For starters, if the character you’re controlling dies, you can command the AI to use a revival spell on you or use an item. You can also just switch to another character. It’s only game over when EVERYONE in active combat dies.
There are different types of attacks in Tales of Berseria. They are called artes. Martial artes are quick attacks that can be used to string together for big combos, where Hidden artes are very powerful, but cannot be used as often because they consume a lot of your Soul Gauge (SG). Malak artes are strong like Hidden artes, but are caster-oriented and generally take a long time to cast at the start of a combo. If you time your Malak arte in a large combo, the cast time will be shorter and you can take advantage of a spike in damage.
The Soul Gauge basically dictates how many times you can strike your opponents until your attacks become weak. You can gain souls back by stunning enemies, inflicting status effects, or just by simply defeating them. These souls are also used to go into a mode called Break Soul. Each character has their own special ‘Break Soul’ and in Velvet’s case (when you have at least 3 souls), you can give up one soul to restore your HP and BG as well as unleash Velvet’s Consuming Claw, a powerful attack. This ability activates with Break Soul and her HP drains as she fights, but she also gets abilities based on what enemy she’s fighting. The more Velvet loses HP, the stronger her artes become.
Of high importance is the Blast Gauge (BG), which is used for Mystic Artes which are learned throughout the game. If you have at least 3 BG, you can unleash a deadly attack, or choose to extend combos of basic moves even longer. To replenish your BG, the recommended method is to perform Break Souls. Simply put, you have to be very careful with how you use your attacks so that you can string together large combos and make the most out of your Soul Gauge. You can’t simply spam an arte and hope to get through a battle quickly. It certainly helps to have a strategy in place and take advantage of enemy weaknesses.
You have the ability to control any character that you want and, in previous Tales, you had to set that character ahead of battle. In Berseria, you can have up to two subs that you can switch out at the cost of a BG point. You can switch the character you are playing, or you can slide the subs down to an AI you want to switch out for a sub and use their BG points to swap them out. If you want to make sure you’re using the most out of your characters, there is a strategy area in the main menu that lets you change how the party members will act if you are not in direct control of them. I really liked this feature because it kept my party members focused, keeping the AI from just bleeding away their special abilities.
In terms of the story, the theme of the game is the protagonist, Velvet, seeking vengeance after a tragedy befalls her. I thought that Velvet would be a bit of a brick wall in the demo, which is the struggle with trying to make an apathetic character relatable, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a personality shine through during the skits that were available for viewing in the demo. I’m excited to see more of her character and how she develops throughout the game.
The character design looks top-notch, with vivid costumes and brilliant voice actors to match, each with very impressive experiences between video games and anime. The main character, Velvet is played in Japanese by Rina Satou, who also does Presa’s voice in Tales of Xillia (as well as many, many other voices in other media). In the English version, Velvet is played by Cristina Vee, who has done an extensive amount of JRPG voiceovers and did Nova in Tales of Xillia 2. So, these leading ladies are not unfamiliar with the Tales series! The Tales series always has a very solid foundation for voice work, and I love that they allow for fans to enjoy with either Japanese or English voices.
An interesting addition to the game that I discovered in the Battle mode was a hover board. I generally fool around with buttons aimlessly at the start of any game to see what does what, and found that one button let me jump on a hover board so I could travel in style. You still encounter enemies on the board if you run into them, but it is certainly faster than running. Generally, Tales has been very generous with how early they give fast travel, so the addition of a hover board made me wonder if it would be held back a little longer in Berseria.
From what I’ve seen in the demo, Berseria looks like a great new addition to the franchise and I’m excited for a darker flavor to the (mostly) upbeat games. Tales of Beseria releases on January 24th on PS4 and January 26th on Steam (with options for controller or keyboard and mouse).