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March 20, 2017

RE: Tales of Berseria




I like how that makes it sounds like I’m super-down on Tales of Berseria, but it’s actually an actual line of dialogue in the game -- and arguably even a character’s catch phrase.  Still, it feels kind of appropriate, because there is an aspect about Berseria that makes me sad.  It doesn’t have to do with the quality of the game, though.  Well, not right now.  But my issue is pretty simple.

This game is friggin’ long, and it’s pissing me off.

As of this writing, I’ve put about 51 hours into the game.  That is a, uh, not-insignificant amount of time.  How many games could I have beaten in that time?  I don’t know (and I’ll get back to that point in a bit).  What I do know is that despite the time investment I’ve put into Berseria, story-wise it feels like I’ve barely made it past the halfway point, if that.  I’ve actually unlocked new game mechanics at the damn 40-hour mark.

For the sake of protecting you from spoilers, I’ll say that my biggest indicator of progression is the number of moves I’ve unlocked.  I know that everybody has three levels of Mystic Artes (read: super special moves, a la Street Fighter), and so far I’ve unlocked two for everyone.  Granted there are also tag team Mystic Artes -- which has been true of several Tales games, including direct predecessor Zestiria -- so that could mean I’m still only 50% of the way there.  On the other hand, I’ve also unlocked some high-end special moves and spells for my party, sooooooooooooo…it could go either way.

Depending on what happens in the next few hours of my playthrough, I might be able to intuit whether I’m near the end or if I still have another 50 hours to go.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the fastest gamer (or fast at anything, really), so it’s entirely possible that my play time is bloated by my own ineptitude.  Or because my dogs refuse to take a break from drinking water/stop begging me to go outside even though they just went/decide which room they want to be in.  Even so, I doubt it’s just because of my style.  Berseria isn’t an open-world game, but the sheer amount of density to it -- in its story, its gameplay, its themes and more -- give it the weight of one of the medium’s heavy-hitting releases these days.

At a base level, I’m okay with that.  I’m fine with a game being 50+ hours if it has the ability or quality to justify it.  For the most part, that’s what Berseria does.  Even if I’ve sunk a huge amount of time into it -- even if I’ve had to play well into the wee hours of the morn to slip in some extra hours -- I don’t regret breaking open the proverbial seal and hopping in.  What I do regret, however, is that because of Berseria, I can’t play any other games as much as I want (and need) to.  Like this one:

I mean, cripes.  This is the stuff about the video game industry that drives me up a wall.  For starters, you’ve got an onslaught of games coming out in a small time frame; Nioh, Nier, Horizon, and Zelda have all come out in the span of…what, a little over a month?  And not even that, in the case of Horizon and Zelda.  Those two dropped in the same week, within literal days of each other.  And now Persona 5 is looming large over them all.  And meanwhile, there’s a new Mass Effect that’s trying to sneak its way onto gamers’ shelves.  12 months in a year, and then every developer decides that their games need to drop in one.  That’s a lot to handle.

And what’s even worse is that for one reason or another, droves of games these days feel the need to be utterly massive endeavors -- time vampires desperate to turn holidays, weekends and days off into black holes.  I’m licking my lips over the prospect of playing more Zelda, but I’m utterly crippled by the thought that it means dumping another 40-50 hours.  Same goes for Horizon; I hear that’s another 30-hour open-world game to throw onto the pile.  I’d assume that Nier is shorter and more focused, but if it’s anything like its predecessor (and the Drakengard games), then it’ll take multiple playthroughs to get to the true ending.  Persona 5 is gonna be another 80 hours at a bare-ass minimum, and likely more on averageNioh is a Dark Souls follower, which means its play time could stretch to infinity if the player’s skill (i.e. mine) isn’t high enough.  And it’s just like…damn, does every single game these days have to go on for so long?  Do they?  Do they?

I guess it’s not worth dwelling on too much.  Again, I’m okay with Berseria’s length, and here’s why: depending on how the next event or two plays out, it’ll become more than just my favorite installment in the Tales series.  It’s threatening to become one of my top 10 favorite games ever.  That is, if it hasn’t already.

Notice the word choice, though.  I’m not saying that Berseria is the best installment in the franchise.  I’m not saying that it’s the best game around.  But it’s something I enjoy so earnestly and severely that I can’t help but give it top honors.  There are a lot of reasons why, and the only way I can explain them is to do a slew of posts on the game; it’s pretty much a given that I would, what with the time investment involved.  But until I actually start writing those posts, let me reiterate: even though Berseria is a long game, it’s one that (prior to further reflection and introspection) makes good use of its time.  It’s served and deserved.

More importantly?  It’s been a while since a game was able to draw so much emotion out of me.  I haven’t shed any tears (yet…), but I can’t think of another game that made me smile and laugh as much as this one.  I’ve felt empathy and pain when other characters faced dire straits.  I’ve felt hype as I landed some dazzling combos, or when one of my party members cut in with a Level 2 Mystic Arte.  And I’ve been legitimately shocked -- and enthralled -- by some of the heavier stuff in the game.  Again, I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but it’s worth remembering that this game is the prequel to Tales of Zestiria.  And it links up to that game in the best way possible.

It goes without saying, but since I haven’t said in a while, I’ll make it clear: better than Final Fantasy.

I should probably qualify that statement at some point, and I will.  But not now.  Ideally, I’d like to play Berseria to completion before I do anything else (like start writing about it), but I’ve LONG since reached a point where I’ve got the context needed to posit my thoughts.  On the other hand?  As much as I personally resonate with Berseria -- as someone whose every work, from blog posts to emails to text messages turns into an encyclopedia set -- I think it’d be best if I cut off here for now.  Because if the video game industry has grown increasingly allergic to making shorter works, I guess I’ll have to compensate.

I’ll say one more thing about Berseria before I go: I think I have an unabashed, unflinching man-crush on one of the characters.  This is basically my reaction whenever he does pretty much anything.

Well, that’s the SFW reaction I have, of course.  The other reaction features a lot more sensual licking.

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