Most entries in the Tales series are stand-alone stories. You can pick up games like Tales of Vespiria, Tales of Graces, and Tales of the Abyss, knowing that’s it. You’re set. The 40-60 hour adventure will tell you all that you need to know. That isn’t true of Tales of Berseria. While this is a game that can stand-alone, on its own, very well, it’s best when paired with Tales of Zestiria. The two games complete each other, offering a fuller picture of a world where different species are divided and certain characters practically demand resolution.
Note: major spoilers for Tales of Berseria and Tales of Zestiria will follow.
Tales of Berseria begins its quest to further validate and explain the journey Sorey and his friends take in Tales of Zestiria almost immediately. The former sees us rising up against Heldalf, a Lord of Calamity, who was corrupted when a Shepard cursed him. But it’s Velvet that is the first Lord of Calamity. She develops the name for herself, with her villainous actions in the pursuit of Artorius cultivating her reputation. We know from the first game that someone with this title is a person to be reckoned with and fear, but it’s the second game that helps us see how the title became an infamous one. Yes, the Shepherd concept is introduced as well, what with Artorius being the first, but while Zestiria focuses on what a Shepherd is, Berseria is more about a Lord of Calamity.
In each case, it’s a sacrifice that leads to the Lords of Calamity becoming who they are. Velvet is an ordinary young woman living with her brother-in-law, Artorius, and younger brother, Laphicet. When Artorius sacrifices Laphicet for what he believes is the greater good, Velvet becomes a therion. It leaves her infected and on a terrible path. Heldalf was a Rolancian general who took Camlann while pretending to protect it, then abandoned it when Hyland, a real threat, attacked. They did this in front of Maotelus and Artorius’ throne, leading to his corruption. When Michael the Shepherd discovers both Mikleo and Maotelus had become hellions due to malevolence, he killed Mikleo as a sacrifice and cursed Heldalf to a life of loneliness, immortality and malevolence.
It also allows us to see what people with two very different mindsets accomplish when going by the moniker. The Lord of Calamity Velvet is an antihero in Tales of Berseria. She wants to kill Artorius for very personal reasons. But, at the same time, her opposition of both him and the Abbey is doing a very positive thing for the world. It’s saving Malakhim from enslavement, some daemons from persecution, and everyone from having their emotions and individuality sealed away. Heldalf, under his curse, was attempting to remove sorrow from the world by killing everyone.
But Tales of Berseria isn’t important to Tales of Zestiria by showing us another Lord of Calamity. It’s critical for the background it offers on additional characters. We get to see so many people debut here. Eizen is one of them. He’s a Malak and older brother of Edna, who joins our party in Zestiria. While people who played Zestiria may know him as a dragon in that game, here he’s an ordinary, albeit cursed, Malak. While his actual transformation into a dragon isn’t covered, we’re able to see and know him before it happened, as well as others who will go from Malakhim to dragon. It provides a hint at Zaveid’s true age, since he makes his “first” appearance here. When Velvet, Eizen, and her group need to get past a barrier, the group runs across Zaveid. He’s also against the Abbey, but not keen on working with others. Which means a boss fight with the party pitted against both Eizen and Zaveid. His whirlwind nature and personality are shown off, as he does what he came to do, then leaves.
But the important revelation regards Maotelus. Maotelus doesn’t get much explanation or build up in Tales of Zestiria. We’re left chasing Heldalf for much of the game, before this new opponent is brought in out of left field. We just know he’s the most powerful Seraphim that is supposed to protect the world, but instead has been corrupted by the malevolence he sought to stop. Our entire time with Tales of Berseria is showing us how a young, innocent Malak like Laphicet would be willing to become Maotelus. We watch as he bonds with Velvet and the other people of the world, develops a personality, and comes into his own. He and the Abbey’s praetors, Oscar, Teresa, Shigure, and Melchior, become the Five Lord Malaks.
To see a journey like the one in Tales of Berseria, where part of the purpose is for Laphicet to discover who he is, and then have it end with him achieving his destiny, is a very strong and compelling thing. We see a young man grow into what’s basically a god. Then, to learn that Tales of Zestiria is a build up to Sorey being able to help complete the process by purifying him, which completes his cycle and story.
Even Tales of Berseria and Tales of Zestiria’s endings complement one another. In each case, our hero is offering himself or herself up to make things right. Velvet offers herself up to the original Laphicet, now Innominat, so he’ll be sealed away. She willingly enters into an endless cycle where he’ll use his power to supply her with malevolence, while she’ll take his malevolence and turn it into more power to consume. Sorey willingly sacrifices himself to purify Maotelus, sleeping for hundreds of years to remove the malevolence from him. Each one offers himself or herself for the greater good.
Even saying this all now, reading isn’t enough. Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria are so intertwined. If you go through one, you can’t skip the other. You have to play through and experience both. It’s only then that you can appreciate the actions taken by the characters and lore developed between the two games.
Tales of Berseria is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC. Tales of Zestiria is available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC.