To prove that this blog is not yet dead, here I am with a review on one of the games that I recently had the chance to play. This time, it is a bit of a different flavor as it is a JRPG (Role-playing game made by Japanese producers) that came out quite recently, on Jan 2017 on steam (a popular gaming platform). Here is the link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/429660/. It is rather expensive right now sitting at $49.99 US, but if you are willing to wait long enough, games usually have sales on big holidays such as Christmas or Black Friday.
By only watching the promotional video, it is very easy to believe that this is gonna be a great game with fantastic story entrenched in grim-dark mood and great anti-heroine centered plot. And why not? When one reads a good story, there is always the desire to “interact” with the world depicted by it. While a story-rich game allows exactly for one to do that, game makers typically focus on the gameplay aspect (as that is what gamer usually cares about), leaving the story part to disrepair. For someone who desire a little bit of both like I, Tales of Berseria (ToB) seems like a perfect blend of both elements.
Well, let’s talk about the gameplay first. I know the screen shot looks cartoonish, and perhaps a little bit silly. A player not as familiar with RPG games might be put off by his first impression. I had the same doubt. However, it turned out to be great! Unlike Action RPG games (or ARPG) such as Skyrim or Dark Soul, which put emphasis on the timing of combat moves, ToB essentially plays like a turn-based strategy game despite having a 3D, non-turn-based combat system.
Let me explain. Out of the four characters in combat at any time, the player only gets to control one of them. While the character that one controls do fight in hack n’ slash style, the controls are quite easy to execute even for beginners. It is much more important to strategize in the menu options. The brilliant design in this game is that there is something for players of all levels in this game. If one likes challenge and world exploration, one can play on the hardest level, not missing any conversations with NPCs, and crawls the dungeon often in order to beat the next boss. If one just want to read the story with minimal gameplay interactions, one can play on the easiest level, disregard all the side quests, and try to avoid encounters with NPCs while following the main plotline.
Even if one hates the combat system, there is a robust equipment collection and character leveling up system, going beyond a few categories of equipment and character levels, to make up for it. For example, the concept of leveling up would apply to not just characters, but also equipment, spells (called Artes in the game), cooking, navy exploration, and even vendor.
To be honest, I haven’t played many RPGs. Going by what I read online, ToB might just set the new industry standard in terms of RPG gameplay.
A word of warning at this point. Not everything is great with this game. The other side of the coin, story-telling, would likely disappoint people who are expecting a lot from it. Yes, an anti-heroine protagonist with sole purpose of revenge is a break from industry cliches of a young, male adventurer protagonist who eventually saves the world and gets the girl. It would have done well, had this concept actually be executed well.
The reality is that while main characters are not exactly flat, they are not as compelling as one would have liked. There are a few heart-wrenching scenes involving our protagonist coupled with great animation, but they are few and far between a myriad of soulless daily conversations that fills out the script. The overarching story line starts off decently, but disintegrate into the RPG industry’s most commonly used story recipe pretty soon, making the whole thing cliched. While these problems can be forgiven, the real problem surfaces. The antagonists are just, bad. There is no other way to put it. As a result, the opposition to protagonist’s side is quite lackluster. There is no real satisfaction to be gained by defeating these opponents, dragging the quality of the entire story down by a huge margin.
All in all, no matter what I say, I’ve spent $50 and 35 hours on this game, and it wasn’t a horrible experience. This might just speaks a larger truth. The core customers for RPGs don’t care that much about the story. They just want a game with great gameplay values. In the future, more and more RPGs with good gameplay and bad story will continue to come out, and certain people will happily pay for them. ToB is probably even above average in terms of story compared to its competitors, if my experience in other products in ACG is anything to judge by. It is a game with great gameplay value for players looking for different difficulty and gameplay styles, but one that would surely disappoint in terms of its story telling if one expects too much.
Final Score: 7.5/10