Thanks guys. I'm glad my post hasn't fallen on deaf ears. I have some time now so I'll continue on and explain why it's a bad Tales game, but let me address some things first.
I actually think it's the absolute *worst* Tales game by those respects. I'm not going to argue and if you disagree and like the game, by all means. But the movement is the thing that absolutely kills the game, and maybe the series.
This game is just ok. There's fun to be had. I wouldn't go out of my way to play it before any other Tales game but if you enjoy delving into the combat for the series zestiria has some cool ideas... and some frustrating ones.
Ohoho. This is my favorite in the series... and actually one of my favorite games ever. Actually, it's the funnest game I've played, period, though that was through co-op. It's still really fun single player, and the combat absolutely takes it. But I won't go into detail about it just yet. I might make another post about what Tales games to play if you're getting into the series though.
Anyway, since I'm going to go into the series history, let me explain my stance and my stake: Tales is my favorite game series. My avatar here is from the series. I have a separate one on twitter from the series. Today I wore a Tales shirt. I run social media and also write articles for Abyssal Chronicles, which is pretty much the main source of information on the series the west has. Basically what I'm saying is, I've dedicated my life to this series, and I'm not happy with the direction the series seems to be headed. Berseria in particular makes me actually depressed to think about. I'm not gonna stop playing the old games, because they're some of my favorite games and I just enjoy them that much.
All that said, time to move onto my main point.Why Berseria is a bad Tales game
This can also be rephrased asWhy Berseria is Tales in name only
Or perhaps more directlyWhy Berseria just straight up isn't a Tales game
I think that's the most accurate thing to say. So I'm going to delve into the series and what makes it unique, and what makes each game, well, a Tales game. There are lots of recurring elements in the series, but there's only two aspects that stand out as something that is definitely Tales.
1. The Linear Motion Battle System, or LMBS for short. Whether or not an individual game is good or bad... it's having this that makes it play like Tales. This is actually the MOST important part of a Tales game, as it's been there since the beginning and each iteration has its own name.
2. The Skit System. This only came about in the second game, Tales of Destiny, as the party chat system, and wasn't in Eternia, the third game, but it's been added to remakes of the first game and has been in every game since.
So there's only two things that DEFINITELY make something a Tales game. And I'm arguing that Berseria isn't a Tales game. Why do I say this? Well, let's talk about Skits first.Skits
The skit system is the main way the Tales series delivers characterization and commentary on the story, settings and characters. The basics of the system are like so: After fulfilling certain requirements outside of battle, you'll have the option of pressing the Skit button to view, well, a skit. A short conversation between party members and then some where they talk about all manner of things. Often humorous, these flesh characters out in a way that other RPGs don't. If this system sounds familiar, it's because Tales is actually one of the most popular and influential RPG series in Japan, and other series have tried following suit. Final Fantasy itself tried something similar with Active Time Events in Final Fantasy 9, while other games would try copying the skit system wholesale like Square Enix' recent titles Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler, to varying degrees of success. I've even heard that Dragon Quest sometimes uses a similar system. All that said, Tales is the series that invented it. And it's definitely the series that does it best.
I know so far it might seem like I'm talking about a purely story element, but in my opinion skits are actually a big part of the series' gameplay. It's one of those things where story and gameplay go hand in hand... skits are basically rewards, kind of like achievements, for going out of your way to do all manner of things and experiment with the game. As an example, here are some choice skit requirements:
-Get a really high combo count
-Run away from many battles
-Get stuck on a puzzle for too long
-Do a no items challenge run
-Have a character wear and fight in a bath robe
-Eat ice cream in the tundra
Essentially, a lot of thought is put into the skits, and it leads to the game ending up feeling more alive and polished, like they thought of everything, when you decide to play a certain way and the characters end up commenting on it, like your playstyle is something they're canonically doing. It's a big part of the RPG aspect and is a good reason for the series to remain an RPG series rather than an action series. Tales of The Abyss even had skits for each boss fight that you can view if you lose to them and get a Game Over, where your party thinks about how they can beat the boss. They're funny, but they also provide hints and help players actually think about the boss' design to come up with a strategy.Berseria's use of Skits
So where does Berseria fall in? Does it not have skits? Well, it does, but it's not that simple. See, before the game came out, the skit system was HEAVILY marketed in the west, more than other tales games. And the presentation of the skits are really flashy and dynamic, too. Many people went in thinking there would be a lot more skits than usual.
There weren't. There was actually a lot LESS skits than usual. The reason why the game gets to boast about its skits... is because they put skits after every cutscene. Skits after cutscenes aren't uncommon in the series, but they're usually optional and provide alternate viewpoints on events that transpired, or sometimes the game just pokes fun at itself. Not Berseria. A cutscene just transitions into a "Skit" as if its part of the cutscene, and the events/dialogue continues. It's less a skit, and more that they couldn't be bothered to fully animate the cutscene in 3D so they just use their skit system to fill in what they didn't do. This isn't a skit, it's just a cutscene in the skit engine.
That doesn't mean there's no optional skits. There are! They're just... so few and far between compared to other games. They pretty much all entail just going somewhere at a certain time that you'll usually go at that point in the plot. And until near the end of the game, most of them follow a formula:
Someone, usually Eleanore or Laphicet, makes an observation or asks a question
Rokurou, contributing nothing to the discussion, says "I don't know, I'm a demon" or something along those lines. I'll emphasize "I'm a demon" because he uses that exact phrase every time.
Magilou essentially also contributes nothing, either by pointing out she's a witch or just saying her catchphrase "Magikazam"
Eventually, Velvet pops into existence and tells everyone to shut up and get back to work. This is the main character, but instead of using the skits to learn more about her, she doesn't exist for most of them.
So basically, the few skits you do get don't feel worthwhile. They're not entertaining, you don't learn anything about the characters, and they don't talk about anything you actually do while playing. There's no skits for doing combos or using certain moves a lot. They're just there. Berseria is a miss on this aspect, so that's strike 1.
(By the way, if you'd like to read a little more of my thoughts on skits, as well as other fans, we did a little column on the subject over at Abyssal Chronicles
. If you check it out, be sure to ctrl+f and search for Berseria, you can see I'm not the only one who had a problem with the way that game used skits)Linear Motion Battle System
The Tales series is a series of Action RPGs and this is the name of the battle system. However, to simply call it an Action RPG would be an oversimplification. It's better to not think of it as a simple action RPG or even an Action Game. I'll explain why.
LMBS is the main battle system in the series. In fact, there's specific names for each game's iteration of the battle system, such as Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (FRLMBS) or Three Line Linear Motion Battle System (3LLMBS). This is the most important aspect of the series and is there even when skits aren't.
But what is the LMBS?
The LMBS, to put it simply, is a Fighting Game Battle System
. Yes, those fighting games. I'm talking Street Fighter, Tekken, Soulcalibur... even Marvel Vs. Capcom and Fatal Fury. The series is based on, inspired by, and continuously has borrowed from fighting games. Furthermore, the main developer for the series is Bandai Namco, which are the developers for many fighting games. Tekken and Soulcalibur are their main ones, but they've also done two Smash games (4 and Ultimate), Pokken Tournament and Ehrgeiz, among others. And that really shows in the Tales series. If you're a big fan of fighting games, like I am, and you play a Tales game, it should be really obvious... and to a lot of people it isn't, because unfortunately there isn't a huge overlap between fighting game fans and RPG fans.
Why is it called LMBS? That's because it is characterized by just that: Linear Motion. You move in a straight line towards (or away from) your target. If this sounds weird, it's just what fighting games do.To put it simply, the Tales series is a Fighting Game RPG series. Alternatively, it's an RPG series where, when you enter an encounter, starts to play like a Fighting Game instead.
Let's move on to specific examples of the LMBS.
The original LMBS was 2D, as you can see here. It drew mostly from street fighter and SNK fighters. The main character's moveset, which is a recurring moveset in the series that is usually used by the protagonist or at least one other party member, is even technically a shotoclone moveset: A projectile, a jumping anti-air (or DP) and a move that lets the character advance while attacking. But they also have many, many more moves... so much so, that the main control scheme for the series, which lets you assign which move comes out for certain combinations of direction + button, is nowhere near enough to be able to use all their moves at once. So some games in the series even have an option called Combo Command which instead turns into a fighting game style command list, with quarter circles and DPs galore. Here's Cress' moveset from the first game, and you can see the fighting game style input required for each move on the right hand collumn.
I'm a fan of Final Fury's input in particular...
The series would continue producing 2D games up until the DS era, to many fan's dismay, as many people feel like the 2D games have the best battle systems. I don't disagree...
Not every game has combo command. But they retain Linear Motion and fighting game elements. Here's a few examples.
Tales of Symphonia is the first game to bring the series into 3D. But it stayed true to Linear Motion. The game does not have any 3D movement at all. This is hard to notice with groups of enemies from just looking, but when you have a one-on-one fight like the second picture I linked, the game takes a complete side view and the fighting game influences become increasingly clear. This might feel weird to play, but if you're into fighting games it's completely natural- it just places all fighters on a 3D field and lets you change targets. Movement still takes place in 2D. There's many other fighting game elements, such as breaking an enemy's guard by crossing them up (hitting from behind), knockdowns and OTGs and even classic Street Fighter style Dizzies. There's even bonuses for getting first attacks!
(By the way, the PSP Yakuza games used a similar system- only allowing you to move towards and away from opponents, but you could switch targets placed on a 3D field. The devs for that game were also fighting game devs, specifically some Def Jam games, so basically I honorarily say the PSP Yakuza games are Tales games, or at least, they're more Tales than Berseria is.)
This is Tales of The Abyss. Every Tales Game has at least one one-on-one fight against a character on equal footing as you, which is where the series feels most like a fighting game. What Abyss did though, was add 3D movement in the form of Free Run, which you can see being done by the character on the left in this image. Free Run lets you move around the field in any direction-however, it's a crutch. It's for people not used to linear motion and was never intended to be the main way to move. To that end, the developers introduced Start-up and Endlag to freerunning, making you have to commit hard to the decision to do so. You also cannot attack, block, backdash or jump during free run. That's not to say it doesn't have its uses, but many skilled players strongly suggest to limit your usage of Free Run if you actually want to play better. Furthermore, Namco also included a mechanic from their own fighting game series Soulcalibur- the Run Counter. In Soul Calibur, Run Counter is when your attack hits someone using 8 Way Run and does extra damage. In Abyss, this is implemented by every attack being a guaranteed critical hit on you if you're free running. Every 3D game in the series since then would have Free Run, and would impose their own restrictions on it. Tales of Vesperia actually did add Free Run Attacks, and the PS3/Definitive version even let you cancel into and out of Free Run, but when cancelling Free Run you could only do so towards the target, so it wasn't a true 3D movement when using it that way.
By the way, Symphonia, Abyss and Vesperia can be considered a "trilogy" as they were the three games developed by Team Symphonia before Namco would dissolve Namco Tales Studio and start developing the games in-house. That said, several other games in the series can be considered "Team Symphonia" style.
Tales of Rebirth, one of the last games by the other Tales developer team, Team Destiny, uses a very unique take on LMBS called the Three Line Linear Motion Battle System. Essentially, the fights take place on 3 lanes, and moving between them lets you dodge attacks and change targets. It's also optional, and the game is perfectly possible by ignoring the lanes. This makes the game closer to an arcade beat 'em up... but fans of SNK fights would recognize this as being a direct copy of Fatal Fury's battle system, which was also based around moving between 3 different lanes.
Team Destiny Games were more experimental than Team Symphonia games, but it never got rid of Linear Motion and never lost that Fighting Game Influence. So that brings me to...https://imgur.com/9ey8vlG
Tales of Graces/Tales of Graces F, the last game Team Destiny would make before Namco Tales Studio was dissolved.
(You'll have to click the second image link- I don't know how to embed it, sorry!)
Tales of Graces F is the *furthest* removed battle system in the series from its origin, focusing on 3D battles and 3D movement... but it did so without getting rid of fighting game influence, and without getting rid of Linear Motion. Basically, where most Tales games drew their inspiration mostly from 2D fighters such as Street Fighter or Fatal Fury, Graces F instead took from Namco's 3D fighters like Tekken and Soulcalibur. Free Run is still present, but so extremely nerfed nobody uses it, and doing so is a death sentence. See, there's a meter on the bottom known as CC, and while the meter usually just handles combo length, free run turns it into a stamina meter and RAPIDLY drains it, so you'll only run a few steps. Furthermore, it also moves you *extremely slowly*. At this point, the mechanic only exists to let you know it's a bad idea, so you stick to linear movement.
How does the linear movement work? It's 8 way Run from Tekken/Soulcalibur, although rotated. You press up to move towards your opponent (regardless of where the camera is or where you're facing- this is important in co-op mode). You press down to move away. Pressing left and right does nothing... But tapping the stick in those 4 directions quickly is a different story.
Tapping, or pressing while holding the guard button, lets you quickstep. Quickstep up to move towards the enemy, down to step away (Backdash), left to strafe clockwise, and right to strafe counterclockwise. This is way faster than free run, still moves linearly, and is intuitive to fans of 3D fighters. It can be weird to play with at first, but once it clicks, it *really* clicks. And hey, it's not all too different from God Hand which has similar dodging options.
It also takes something from Soulcalibur specifically- the Horizontal/Vertical strike system. This is even explained in the tutorial- some attacks are vertical and some are horizontal. But it expands on it and creates perhaps my favorite dodging system in any action game. See, quicksteps don't have true invincibility frames, but they do have conditional ones. Backsteps are completely invincible to horizontal attacks, Sidesteps are completely invincible to vertical attacks, and Frontsteps are completely invincible to projectiles. But you use the wrong step, and you'll get hit (unless you move your hitbox out of the way completely). Furthermore, the invincibility doesn't work on a window of time like most dodge moves, but rather it grants one hit of invincibility. So a single sidestep can dodge a one hit vertical strike, but a multi-hit vertical spell will hit you after one sidestep. However, a successful dodge with a quickstep makes it cancellable, and you can chain the quickstep again, letting you repeatedly dodge until you have a moment to strike. This is what's happening in the little gif I posted that you have to click through. It feels like a true evolution of 8 way run and I'd love for Namco to even make a whole new fighting game with these mechanics. Despite Graces F being so far removed, it still has linear motion and it still has fighting game influence and elements, so it's still a Tales game. This is how you make an experimental title without getting rid of the series identity. Later Tales games would use a similar quickstep system.
I could keep going, but this wasn't intended to be a post about every Tales game's battle system, so those few will suffice. I hope they paint a good picture of what the series is... and what Berseria isn't. So on to my main point.Berseria's battle system
I've already explained in the previous post exactly why the battle system sucks. Everyone who's played the game can see those same flaws. But here is what's, in my opinion, the true sin the game commits, the thing that kills the game and maybe the series, and the thing that makes me big time depressed thinking about it.There's no LMBS
Just like with skits, the game was marketed with LMBS. However, the unique name they gave was Liberation Linear Motion Battle System. They Liberated us and let us move freely.I didn't ask to be Liberated
The game does not feature any linear movement at all. Movement is entirely free run, with no restrictions, and there isn't even an *option* to turn Linear Motion back on. They took the one thing the series had from the beginning, the thing that made it unique, and threw it away. What we have in its place is your standard, run of the mill move around in 3d and hit things game. Sure, that's not a bad thing necessarily, it's what most action games do... but it's generic. Every game does it. I don't want to play just any game, I want to play Tales, but Tales isn't here. It's Linear Motion Battle System in name only, because there's certainly no linear motion. It's just Battle System. I can't even give it the benefit of the doubt and say it still has fighting game influence at least, but it doesn't. Not even those 3D Arena Anime fighters that also have free 3D movement. It has none. Knockdowns are random, OTG/Restands don't really exist, the asinine hitstun rules means attacks don't really have framedata like other tales games. There ARE quicksteps but they're no longer conditional and work more like windows of invincibilty so you can treat it like a standard dodge move, there's also barely any hitstop, if at all, so fighting doesn't even feel as responsive as other tales games. There are certainly some misses in the series, bad Tales games, but I can handle them, because they're still tales games. This isn't just a bad game. It also kills the things that makes the series unique, and because most RPG fans don't seem to care about gameplay, you barely see anyone talk about this. Berseria almost turned me off the series completely.Will the series ever return?
Maybe. Who knows? They ended up making a mobile game, Tales of The Rays, that has linear movement and fighting game elements (and is actually really good). It's sad that it's F2P and has a better, more fighting game influenced battle system than the 60 dollar Tales of Berseria, but it does. They also remastered Tales of Vesperia and expressed interest in porting later games. But on the other hand, the next game, Tales of Arise, looks like more of the same. Maybe the battle system won't be as bad as Berseria, but it also showed a complete lack of Linear Motion and also a regular old dodge roll out of free 3D movement. I'm not a fan, and it might just be the first tales game I won't play.
So that settles it. A comprehensive list of exactly why Tales of Berseria just isn't a Tales game. As a wise man once told me, quite recently at that, "Enjoy the Of Series". That's certainly what it feels like. It's an Of game with the trademark Battle System.
this might sound doom and gloomy, but I feel that strongly about Berseria and what it spells for the series as a whole. I have some hope, but it's not much. If it's truly a shell of its former self, then I'll move on. There's no shortage of action games and action RPGs to play. But what hurts is that there's nothing out there like Tales. There's no other RPG that Plays Like A Fighting Game out there. Closest is Valkyrie Profile and the games that are based on it (Exist Archive and Indivisible) but those are more like turn based games where you're taksed with constructing a fighting game combo, not really a true fighting game RPG.
And... that's all I have to say for now. I hope I've made it very clear what Berseria represents. I'd also like to say that I'm not alone, there are many people who are into the series who feel the same way as me. Most of them are more hopeful about the future, but we can all agree on Berseria.