Telling Tales: Worldbuilding in Tales of Berseria

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Og-preview by seoul-childWatch Sakimichan take on BandaiNamcoUS’s #TalesofBerseria and explore the benchmarks of creating such a rich world.
Worldbuilding in Tales of Berseria
Author: damphyr
Artist: KheilaHirai

There’s something truly magical about losing yourself in an engrossing narrative. It’s amazing how a story can call to the soul, or how we can sometimes feel like we know a fictional character better than the person sitting next to us. How to successfully craft a narrative capable of captivating fans has long perplexed studios and independent creators alike.

While countless have struggled to create this magical formula just once, the Tales of series has been crafting vivid, captivating worlds and characters for 20 years. Along the way, their creative team has picked up a few tricks regarding successful storytelling and applied them to each new title. Tales of Berseria, the 16th game in the main Tales of series, has been infused with hard-earned wisdom, which can be utilized by anyone who dreams of spinning their own tales about worlds and characters all their own.

Justice, Passion, and Vengeance: A theme to guide the narrative

Many a creator finds that their stories grow in the telling, becoming far larger and more complicated than intended. One way to avoid this bloat is to limit the number of narrative points within a story, ensuring every subplot and side quest somehow ties back into one of the central themes. Making use of recurring themes has the additional benefit of helping fans feel comfortable in a sequel or spinoff world by providing them with something familiar, even as they embark on an adventure in a new setting.

In order to craft a clear and focused narrative, each Tales of game begins with one central theme, which becomes the central pillar for that title, with plot and characters all growing from this idea. Each theme is decided upon by the game’s producer before any work begins, with inspiration drawn from current events and the global climate.

Originally, Tales of games tended to revolve around a theme of justice or faith, but bold new steps were taken when Tales of Zestiria decided upon a theme of passion. Tales of Berseria has deviated even further from tradition by crafting a story around the theme of vengeance. The game’s protagonist, Velvet Crowe, is a cursed young woman who must defy the alleged holy order of her world and seek to avenge her family, all while desperately trying to cling to what remains of her humanity.

The game’s protagonist, Velvet Crowe, is a cursed young woman who must defy the alleged holy order of her world and seek to avenge her family, all while desperately trying to cling to what remains of her humanity.

The main story of each game is supplemented by secondary subjects, topics which help expand the story and add a bit of variety and spice to the narrative. The struggle for peaceful coexistence between several races is a central theme in all of the Tales of games, and it appears once again in Tales of Berseria. The world of Berseria is one of turmoil. Humans are being infected by the Daemonblight, a mysterious sickness which causes both mankind and beasts to lose their minds, transforming them into savage, violent monsters. A group of humans, known as the Exorcists, have made it their mission to purge the land of these infected beings. In their quest, the Exorcists have enslaved a magical race of spirits, known as the Malakim, stripping them of all sense of self and using them as tools in their quest to purify the land. With forces powerful enough to start a holy war at play, one has to wonder… are the motives of the Exorcists truly as pure and noble as they would have humanity believe?

Soulcrafting: Creating characters with depth, breadth and personality

Because the Tales of games take a story-first approach, characters are not designed until after the narrative has been completed. With the personality and overall plan for each character solidified, concept artists set to work, bringing the faces of the newest heroes and villains of the Tales of universe to life. While creating their designs, concept artists are encouraged to play, explore, and push their limits in order to create unique and interesting characters whose appearance both reflects and highlights the essence of each personality.

The Tales of games have featured a wide variety of party members, male and female, human and inhuman, but until Tales of Xillia, all the protagonists had one thing in common: they were male. Tales of Xillia took a different approach, creating two lead characters: one male and one female. Milla Maxwell proved a very popular hero, and her success helped set the stage for Velvet Crowe, the first solo female protagonist in the Tales of universe.

Velvet and Milla may share the title of leading lady, but their similarities end there. Milla stood as a shining example of the typical Tales of protagonist: a swordbearer dressed in light colors, dedicated to protecting the world above all else. Velvet stands in stark contrast, shrouding herself in tatters of black and red, lashing out against her enemies with a fast, furious fighting style. She uses a combination of a lance and her crimson claw, the horrific deformation of her left arm, the first step of her transformation caused by the Daemonblight curse.

Passionate and driven by revenge above all else, Velvet is an unlikely Tales of protagonist. Her writers had to strike a careful balance in order to keep her a three-dimensional, relatable character. While Velvet may have a shadow over her soul, a kind heart still beats within, as revealed through her relationship with Laphicet. Despite a troubling start, Velvet comes to both love and respect the young Malak, even going so far as to name him after her departed brother. This rich dichotomy helps highlight the hardened-yet-still-human soul Velvet hides.

Character Interactions: The banter that binds

Creating complex, believable, relatable characters can be a challenge, and while it may feel counterintuitive, this process is often made easier by the addition of more characters. Velvet’s portrayal as a character with a shadow cast over her is made successful due to the bright souls of her companions. Protagonists who are standoffish or mostly silent often require a host of strong and verbose teammates in order to give fans insight into their thoughts and motivations.

Discontented with the tradition of relegating character interactions to cutscenes, the Tales of games allowed their characters to converse during battle, after battles, and even pioneered the “skit system” to provide their characters even more opportunities to chat. Skits play out independent of the main plot, and in Tales of Berseria, are composed of everything from deep discussion about the Daemonblight to intense debates about the all-important question: Which are better -- cats or dogs?

The Tales of series takes advantage of every moment possible to enable character interaction, including on the battlefield. Within this high-pressure environment, characters express concern for teammates who takes a particularly hard blows and thank friends who heal them. If characters have a strong-enough bond, players will occasionally be treated to a brief interaction between friends after a fight. In Tales of Berseria, this most often manifests as Velvet expressing concern over Laphicet after a harsh encounter.

Finding creative ways to allow fans to enjoy character interactions without hindering the progression of the story can be a challenge, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Surprising fans with charming, silly, or insightful conversations at unexpected times can help create a sense of camaraderie and dimensions to your characters.

The potent combination of story, character, and teamwork have helped the Tales of series craft many successful narratives over the years. With these tools in mind, how will you craft your next story?

How do you stay disciplined as a professional artist?

“Oh man, that’s a great question. Right now I’m more of a freelancer, and it’s very hard for a freelancer to keep up with a schedule. I do have a schedule now. I’ve learned from past experiences of sleeping at whatever hour I want, which to be honest, sounds great, but it’s not a great thing long term. It messes up with your head and your health as well. So definitely, I would recommend just sticking to having regular work hours.”

Where did your nickname, Sakimichan, come from?

“I have no idea… I was super into anime, so I wanted to make a Japanese inspired name. It was pretty random. I just came up with it - I had it on my Neopet account, so I just transferred it on my DeviantArt when I joined.”

How do you deal with art block?

“We artists, we all have our blocks. For me, there’s been times, but I guess I’m just the type of person that is a bit more positive. I get really sad sometimes when I can’t come up with an idea, but that doesn’t last too long for me. If I had any tips for those of you that do have art blocks and have trouble overcoming them, try to take a break, play some video games, hang out with friends, watch movies for inspiration. Sometimes, if I feel art block, I will just keep drawing until, well, I wouldn’t sleep, I’d just draw until I feel like ‘okay, I’ve got something here, I can work with that’. It’s like I’m trying to find new techniques.”

How do you know when you’re done with a piece?

“It’s a very complicated thing for me because I’m very picky and I usually spend more time refining it towards the end than the start. The start can be a lot faster. In the first three hours I would get maybe eighty percent done. And then I will spend ten hours after for the small details. It depends on if you’re a picky artist or if you’re not that picky.”

Do you have any tips for artists trying to learn anatomy?

“Yes, definitely. I would definitely recommend going to live drawing classes, just because I was once in a 3-D animation program. My teacher always said if you want to learn anatomy, you’ve got to observe it. So, live drawing is good. Also, anatomy books are quite good as well. If you guys go online and look up Anatomy For Artists, you guys will find so many anatomy books. To be honest, any of them are good as long as they have diagrams of anatomy that you can reference off of and practice.”

If you had to collaborate or try a different style for a day: what artist would you choose to collaborate with, or what art style would you try out for that day?

“I think as a digital artist, I would love to work with a traditional artist, have them teach me their ways, because I’ve lost connection with a traditional method. It would be great because I’ve seen some amazing Youtube videos of traditional artists and how they could work with watercolor that just blows my mind. I have no idea how they do it. And it would be really cool to collaborate with an amazing traditional artist, to have them show me their techniques.”

Watch the Full Interview Live Stream

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anonymous's avatar
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krazii1331's avatar
Finished the game. I was kind of disappointed, angry, happy, and stuff at the ending because I'm used to dramatic endings but this one was kind of over the top and felt a little last minute put together. Overall though, I still give the game a 9.5/10 stars because of the sheer creativity in it.
yakkette's avatar
HeartlessMar's avatar
Love this game X3
Talvace's avatar
1. I think the things that have helped me grow as an artist is being able to watch my favorite artists do livestreams. Not only am I able to ask them questions about how they do certain things, I'm also able to watch it as they do it. It's definitely help me improve my skills.
2. Draw everything you struggle with. If you are intimidated by backgrounds or a certain perspective, tackle it head on. The only way you're going to be able to learn how to do it is if you practice, so don't put it off, just start doing it. It may take a few tries, but you'll see improvement faster than you think!
3. Nope, I haven't seen playthroughs of them or played them myself, although I may look into them now. 
srolic4ever's avatar
1. When i joined to Deviantart someone told me that she love  my draws, and I'm really not good at all, so it's make me keep up on drawing and now it's my best hobby :D

2. Don't do to another what is hated by you. (It's can be connected to everything we doing in our life)

3. Yes, Monkey D Luffy, Oda create a Romantic art, It's called One Piece, and the character who really amaze me every time because his personality is Luffy, he believes in everything he doing, he don't care what that everybody think about him, and he have a pure soul!Hug

Sorry about my English
vynif's avatar
Video games can be a good refesher when you have art block.
pt018's avatar
Never get on Velvet's bad side.


Fan: Hey Velvet can you get Naked?
Velvet takes out her claw and drains the life out of the fan.
Fan:I'll... take that... as... a... no.
ArtofChase's avatar
Tales of Berseria is the story of a producer who was so obsessed with  voice actress he inserted her into its proquel (Tales of Zestiria) to the detriment of the game. Then, he created a prequel just so he could live out his fantasy of marrying her.
Ammaranth's avatar
For me games have always been all about the story.  I grew up on "old school" Square RPGs like Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger.  It wasn't until much later that I stumbled upon the Tales line of games, and when I did, it was a real treat.  Xillia will always have a special place in my heart, especially the scenes with Milla in the ghost world.  The way they captured that sense of the otherworldly while still seeming believable and authentic was pretty amazing.  I don't know that I have a lot of wisdom to share, but one thing that I would agree with from the interview is that even though being creative is more art than science, it helps to have some structure to keep things on track.  Working at odd hours in all kinds of interesting places sounds appealing, but the fact is I get most work done at my desk, during regularly scheduled sessions.  It's good to be flexible of course, but rather than stifling creativity I find that having a sense of structure removes distractions, allowing me to focus and giving more opportunities for creative things to happen.  
lumenix's avatar
RECBDRAKEplz's avatar
Really well done art work! Sakimichan's art always looks nice :)
soft-presence's avatar
I've loved sakimichans art for a while. kate-fox has also helped me grow.
fallengone's avatar
  1. How has a fellow deviant helped you grow as an artist? Help me become a tales of cosplayer and artist
  2. If you had one bit of wisdom to share with fellow creators and world builders, what would it be? Dont give up. Keep trying because you will do it. Cosplay craft draw you can do it
  3. Is there a particular Tales of story, scene, or character which deeply impacted or moved you? When senel and Shirley finally kiss. I was also happy with the senel chloe ending. I also cried at grune death :(  
  4. Yggdrasil tales of symphonia by fallengone dark Jay cosplay by fallengone Senel Tales of Legendia Come on by fallengone Grune Time by fallengone Velvet fan art by fallengone
fallengone's avatar
i cosplay senel
Midnight-Synesthesia's avatar
I hope this Tales of Game isn't rendered unplayable with glitches that haven't been ironed out.
mothaura's avatar
So beautiful! thank you so much for the amazing tips on digital art, you have been an amazing inspiration to me for years now so seeing this was amazing!Llama Emoji-23 (Shyness) [V1] 
Trevoso's avatar
Nice!!! Some chance this game on Nintendo Switch?
KathyAB's avatar
Este juego realmente se ha hecho popular xD lastima que soy pobre y no puedo comprarlo y tampoco buscar la version crackeada (?
delcarte's avatar
1.) Surprisignly, Sakimichan has indirectly helped in the past a lot. During my first years on dA, which were years ago, I discovered her through Naruto fanart and had been following her. She was a huge inspiration (among other fanartists at that time as well). I rediscovered her through her Princess Elsa piece on Facebook, and was amazed at how much she improved, it was like "What? That's the sakimichan from then?!", so I started following her once again, and she has been providing so many tutorials and inspiration ever since!

2.)It's hard, and can be very frustrating, and you may come to points where you think it's all worthless and your effort is for naught, but honestly. Just keep going. Get inspiration through every possible thing. You are in a garden? Take pictures of it. Someone dropped a Vogue magazine? Take it with you for references. And Ikea mag? Take it. You recognize someone elses idea being similar to yours? It can be frustrating, but stick with it nonetheless. Everything can provide new ideas, every artist you see can make you discover new tricks. It's not really wisdom, but it's something I stick with. A simple "never give up!" I guess.

3.) The Coffee Scene! ...ahem, I am joking, but as Milla is my favorite, I'd take Xillia. I love Millas entire character and design, and the story around ToX 1 and 2. However with everything I have seen so far of Berseria, I suspect it to quickly take over. I have been in love with Velvets design already since the first low res leak, and anticipated every new information, so I guess once I get to play it, Berseria will be my favorite.
HectorAdame's avatar
1.- Never has a deviant helped me, at all. 
DeviantArt has very clear subgroups that only watch certain artists and never move from there, so having feedback (or any kind of comment, really) is a luxury.

2.- Yeah, I have one piece: a classroom isn't the only place to learn; you have internet and books. Sure, you have a teacher behind you to tell you your mistakes, but that role can be easily taken by a community, like a facebook group.

3.- No. Mainly because I hate the gameplay of these games. And the world and the characters feel as bland, cliché, flat and boring as most anime today. Besides, the games feel endless! 
SnowdustDragon's avatar
1. How has a fellow deviant helped you grow as an artist?

Nearly everyone that's on my watch list has inspired me to do things that I wouldn't normally try. They're artwork has been an example to help me achieve more and I try my best to do that. Plus having someone like suzanne-helmigh send me a motivation message to keep on drawing was a great push to continue to create art.

2. If you had one bit of wisdom to share with fellow creators and world builders what would it be?

Just keep drawing, even if it's just a scribble. Thumbnails can become great ideas later on. I don't know how many times I've done a little scribble and come back to it months later and turned it into something amazing. Also Research, Reference and Review. It's always a good thing to look up something that you're working on, get photo references, it amazing how much it can improve your work. And be old school. Sometimes going back and doing an anatomy or life drawing class for a day can help revive the way you draw.

3. Tales of Symphonia
There's a scene in the snow town Flanoir with Lloyd who's the main character and Kratos (who's kinda a good guy/bad guy) who's his father and he tells his son how his mother died. It's a really touching scene. It made me paint a picture of Kratos in that landscape that has never left my wall. It was a real painful time in my life when I had lost a very close friend who had moved away and I felt really alone. 
The story has never left me, nor will the painting on my wall. And it's also how I became a fan of the tales of series franchise. My friend returned who is now my fionsae and I continue to love the series. 
jastius's avatar
  1. How has a fellow deviant helped you grow as an artist?
I love the tutorials here. They show you technique and everyone here is encouraging.  The community spirit in the forum's and the group's is really amazing. 
  1. If you had one bit of wisdom to share with fellow creators and world builders, what would it be?
World building is great but you've got to break in your shiny new toy sometime.  Your world is a plan. A suggestion. You have to let your characters breathe. You build it, then step back and let them play.  Every plan changes once it's put in motion. You need to be flexible and let your characters grow and change. 
  1. Is there a particular Tales of story, scene, or character which deeply impacted or moved you?
I like how the tales series doesn't back off from diversity issues.  That they too have flaws and vulnerabilities, whether they are physical disabilities or the mental demons that plague them.

anonymous's avatar
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