Truly an impeccable follow-up.
** Spoiler Warning: While we’ll try and avoid most of the major spoilers for Tales of Berseria, there will be some for the title and major spoilers for Tales of Zestiria. If you haven’t played both games, continue with caution. **
The Tales series is very much like the Final Fantasy series, as in each title in the franchise is unconnected and tells a brand new story with new characters. There are some exceptions to this, of course, like the obviously connected Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2. On the other hand, some titles in the series do have loose connections, being set in the same world or timeline, but don’t require you to play both. Berseria and Zestiria fall under that category, with the recently released Berseria taking place thousands of years before the latter.
In a series like Tales, Berseria pulls off the impossible, retroactively fixing some of Zestiria’s story mistakes and actually making a better experience for it. The story links are admittedly small, but the more you dig into Berseria, the more you uncover connections between the two.
Tales games are usually about the bright-eyed heroes on a quest to save the world, and Zestiria fit that trope a little too stereotypically. It was all about the righteousness of the main characters taking down evil demons in the world. Tales of Zestiria, wasn’t a bad game, but definitely suffered from a few story issues, ones that most fans were quick to points out. Tales of Berseria, on the other hand, does a fantastic job of filling in some of these holes, and twisting some of the pre-established ideas in Zestiria to provide new and varied context on the overall story. Let’s get a few of these biggest connections cleared up.
Demons are the main enemies of Zestiria, an interesting fact when you start Berseria and find out the main character herself is one (although it’s spelled daemon in Berseria). Velvet Crowe, the protagonist of Berseria, goes through extreme trauma which ultimately turns her into a daemon, hellbent on revenge. She’s locked away for three years while Artorius, the man responsible for her misfortune, takes the world into a new era of peace controlled by his new religious order, the Exorcists. Artorius becomes what is known as “The Shepard,” history’s very first. This fact is important, because the main character of Zestiria, Sorey, becomes the Shepard in order to purify the world of a dark force called malevolence.
As Velvet emerges from prison and seeks revenge on Artorius, she begins to become known as the Lord of Calamity, the same title the villain of Zestiria bore. Throughout the game you see context and detail on the actions of both humans and dameons, and Berseria’s darker tone leads to some truly shocking moments. Velvet and her party definitely aren’t “good guys,” but neither are Artorius and his order of Exorcists. There’s much more of a moral gray area here, something that’s especially interesting considering the context of Zestiria.
The Shepard is supposed to be this divine figure that saves humanity in its time of need, from what we learn in Zestiria. However, that’s less than true in Berseria, and the entire point of the game is systematically taking down the Exorcists and Shepard Artorius. Of course, the entire time Velvet and crew are seen as monsters, while Artorius is the savior in the eyes of the people, even though his ultimate goal is to control humanity. The Lord of Calamity in Zestiria is definitely an evil being, another person warped an twisted in to a powerful demon.
Seeing the origin of that title in Berseria, however, shines a new light on things and makes you think about how different those two important titles and roles really are. Maybe the Shepard and the Lord of Calamity aren’t so different, just strong people put into different impossible situations, especially considering the tragic path Artorius also takes to become the Shepard.
Additionally, the divine power of Armatization that Sorey uses, also has a much more insidious origin. One of the exorcists, Melchior, stole the gun Siegfried from Zaveid and used it to make a copy. This, in turn, gave the Exorcists the ability to use Armitization which would inadvertently use the life force of both the Exorcist and the Malakhim tethered to them. None of this makes Sorey’s quest any less noble or important, of course, as during that point in time he was necessary to save the world from destruction. However, by showing us different layers of complexity to the world and lore, Berseria makes you pause to think about the purpose of everything.
A big point of Zestiria revolves around the beings known as Seraphim, invisible to most humans besides Sorey and a handful of others. Legends tell of a time when Seraphim and humans lived together and worked together, and could both see each other perfectly.
Flip to Berseria now, and we have beings known as Malakim, elemental humanoids that have a strong affinity for magic. Malakhim have been enslaved by the Exorcists in Berseria, and they’re tethered to individuals granting them the power to fight daemons. Although humans can see Malakhim, they’re believed to be nothing more than tools by most, a stark contrast to the godly worship of Seraphim in Zestiria. It’s an incredibly dark twist on some interesting lore setup during the previous game, that does a great job of showing how concepts, ideas, and religion can change over time in this world, even when one leads to the other.
Berseria does a great job of fleshing out some major characters that we learned little of in Zestiria. Zaveid and Edna’s brother, Eizen, in particular get a much more expansive backstory. Eizen is a Seraphim corrupted by malevolence in Zestiria, but in Berseria he’s one of the main party members. During the game you learn more about his past, and of course his relationship with Edna. Eizen suffers from something called the “Reaper’s Curse,” which brings terrible misfortune to those around him, causing him to live separately from Edna. Because of this he’s developed a hard personality, and when he meets Zaveid, one of the party members from Zestiria, the two butt heads tremendously.
While Zestiria shows us that Zaveid and Eizen have a past, Berseria forms another link between the two games by explaining to us just how different Eizen and Zaveid’s morals are, and even despite that, how the pair grows to at least respect one another. A former lover of Zaveid’s is alluded to in Zestiria, who we find out is a Malakhim-turned-dragon in Berseria. Eizen wants to kill Zaveid’s lover and release her from the cursed existence, something that Zaveid protests wildly. Despite this difference of views, Zaveid has a slight change of heart by the end of Berseria, and even agrees to kill Eizen should the malevolence ever turn him.
Back when Zestiria released, the fight with Eizen in dragon form held little in the way of emotion, besides just knowing he was Edna’s brother. Playing Tales of Berseria adds another layer of complexity onto that, as Eizen has a ton of development and is easily one of the most likable characters in the game. Knowing his ultimate fate, even after he fought so hard to save the world is heartbreaking, especially after you’ve seen so much of his personality and come to understand the depths of his love for Edna. Through playing both games, you get a better understanding of these characters and their relationship, making events even more emotionally impactful.
There are honestly many more pieces of lore and story that link together, adding a shade of morality onto two-sided ideas in Zestiria. You’ll see towns from Zestiria founded in Berseria, characters and their future generations linked together, and more. Perhaps most importantly, Berseria clears up just who the final boss of Zestiria is. At the end of the first game you fight a powerful divine dragon named Maotelus, and the game does very very little to explain anything about the being. Without spoiling the ending of Berseria, Maotelus ends up being a critically important character in the game, and directly influences the world that we see in Zestiria.
Tales of Zestiria had a host of gameplay issues outside of its story, but going back and playing the game after you’ve completed Berseria puts things in an entirely new perspective. Zestiria’s setup seemed a little too “power of good” at times, something that has drastically changed now. Berseria is easily the darkest entry in the series, and the context it brings to the story of these two games creates some incredibly varied themes.
Again, you can understand each game individually on their own if you want. However, you’re really missing out on the interesting dichotomy that Berseria and Zestiria build, without playing both. If you found yourself a bit disappointed in Zestiria’s story, give it another go after beating Berseria, and you’ll find an interesting new experience.