The next mainline entry in Bandai Namco's Tales of series, Tales of Berseria, hit the show floor with an exploration and combat demo. RPGamer Pascal Tekaia got a chance to learn more about the upcoming pirate-filled adventure.
The Tales series is one of the big names in Bandai Namco’s stable of franchises, and the upcoming sixteenth title in the series, Tales of Berseria, has lost none of the charm or quality that has made it such a household name. Each game in the series represents a standalone story, and Berseria is no exception. We know that Velvet Crowe, the game’s protagonist, has gone berserk and is on a personal vendetta against the Big Bad that killed her family — hence the name, Berseria. While her story may be a vengeance tale, nothing is yet known about the motivations of Velvet’s party members, of which there are five. I got the opportunity to put Velvet and her companions through their paces, squaring off against some aquatic adversaries, with my guide Simon from Bandai Namco by my side.
Being the first Tales entry to come to nextgen PlayStation 4 (though a PS3 version is also in the works), it’s no surprise that the game looks absolutely stunning. Of course, choosing a blissful beach setting for the demo level helps: With realistic water physics, not to mention the astounding shades of blue water and yellow beach sand, the game was a visual feast for the eyes. Then, when encountering an enemy while running through the environment, the game smoothly switches over into battle mode, the game’s bread and butter.
The combat system in Tales of Berseria has been affectionately dubbed the “Liberation LMBS,” due to the amount of customizable freedom it offers players this go around. Though only four characters participate in battle, the remaining two are able to be swapped in and out at any given time. Even so, the game’s AI takes over control of the squad, while players only directly control a single character in fluid, realtime combat. The combat system is all about chaining together customizable combos, and this is where the Liberation part kicks in. Each character has four combo tiers that can be assigned. In these combos, each face button — X, Square, Triangle, Circle — is a different attack, mapped by you, the player. Each of the four combo tiers can be set in this way, with a different (or same) attack assigned to a face button. In this fashion, any four-button input chain will result in a combo that you yourself have dictated. X,X,O,O will result in a four hit combo, using whatever moves were assigned to the X button in tiers one and two and the O button in tiers three and four. This leads to, if my math is correct, 256 possible combos...for each character! Naturally, since the build was entirely in Japanese and I had no time to learn any specific moves, I am happy to report that wild button mashing also has its virtues.
But still there’s more. Each character has an individual Soul Gauge, which depletes by attacking in combat, but refills itself when an enemy falls, or slowly over time. When the Soul Gauge is filled with three or more marks (out of a possible five), the character can use an extra powerful Soul Blast ability. Each character has a unique Soul Blast; some may be an offensive flurry of blows, others an extra powerful blocking maneuver. Soul Blasts can be used as many times as one wants, though since they eat up a mostly filled Soul Gauge, players may be discouraged from indiscriminate sword swinging, and make characters back off from time to time.
Throughout my gameplay experience, I was amazed by the fluidity of both the graphics and the ease of combat. Switching between characters on the fly is as simple as holding the left bumper and sliding from one character portrait to another. Swapping characters in and out works in the same manner. The combat interface also seems to suggest special dual character attacks can be performed by teaming up the reserve fighters with an active combatant and unleashing them, though this is a pure hypothesis, and didn’t make its way into the demo. To the untrained eye, the combat may look too frenetic to have any order, but to a player who has orchestrated the chaos by creating every complicated combo, it should flow as smoothly as the rest of the game does. Tales of Berseria releases in Japan August 18, 2016, and is currently scheduled for “early 2017” North American and European releases.