Valkyria Chronicles was one of my favourite games on PS3 (and favourite HD Remaster on PS4) ever released, a beautifully created Strategy RPG which introduced me to a unique world with a focus on gun fights, utilizing cover, and squad management. In pre-XCOM: Enemy Unknown days, this was a giant step ahead for the genre and the added picturesque look was the icing on the cake.
You could almost understand my surprise when the latest title, Valkyria Revolution, didn’t have most of what made the previous game great, opting for a real-time action RPG game. Of course, Valkyria Revolution is considered a Spin-Off rather than a sequel or prequel, telling a new story filled with new characters and focuses on a new war.
The thing with Valkyria Revolution’s story is that there is so many sup-plots that pop up that it’s hard to follow. Being told 5 generations after the actual game as a history lesson on the war between Jutland and the Ruzhien Empire, and the Traitors who started the war. Specifically we follow one such member of the Traitors, Amleth Grønkjær, who is in charge of the Anti-Valkyria Squad, a team who handles the difficult missions and designed to take on Ruzhien’s vicious Valkyria, whose power alone has helped Ruzhien defeat their deadliest enemies.
Amleth’s squad includes the likes of Ophelia, the Princess of Jutland, who joins the squad in order to raise morale amongst her people and help justify the war. The game focuses the story between The Traitors and Ophelia’s view on the world and the war around them.
While the story uses many different plots to tell the story, it all makes sense and builds up the world that Valkyria Revolution runs, and I appreciate the story telling for the idea of letting us decide for ourselves if the Traitors actually betrayed their country or not. That being said, the game can go a long while before giving you back controls with long, and many, cutscenes which could put Kojima to shame. Even after sitting through most of the cutscenes, some do get cut and can be accessed via a history book when you are brought back to the lesson.
The gameplay is the most drastic of changes though, as they moved from a solid Tactical RPG to an Action oriented RPG. As the Anti-Valkyria Squad, players will take control of up to 4 different soldiers and engage in battles with the Ruzhien army. Each character has a unique weapon, a sub-projectile weapon, grenades and their own set of magic based on various elements which reacts as an area or range attack. Most of the missions usually consists of defeating a specific unit type, capturing bases or defending bases.
Sadly, it feels like the game is almost too easy when it comes to regular battles, to the point that my 3-year-old daughter picked up the controller and captured an enemy base equipped with tanks and a ton of soldiers keeping up a cross-fire, all were beaten using just the basic action command, which does a combo of strikes per action bar, and plenty of health left for all party members.
This did change thankfully in the boss battles, which includes the titular Valkyria, in which strategy came into play as these battles required the use of switching characters to use specific magic elements to find weakness and resistance. These battles are definitely the highlight of the game’s combat as they provide a real challenge in comparison to the cannon fodder you deal with most of the game.
Revolution borrows slightly from Chronicles with the use of personality traits in your squad, these traits tell how the squad member will react in battle and provide some stat increase or decrease depending on the results (example, a womanizer will have a faster action bar if in a squad with women, while Allergies will decrease accuracy in grass-land locations). In Chronicles, this worked well as you could hire new soldiers to join the squad, however Revolution has a set cast, while some of the effects can still be felt, it isn’t as strong as it was in Chronicles where it gave face-less foot soldiers more life.
Another feature borrowed from Chronicles is the return of an amazing soundtrack and some beautiful artwork. Music is highly important in the world of Valkyria Revolution and the opera style songs can be both uplifting and chilling to hear. While the graphics see an improvement with a new engine which makes the game look like a painting come to life, with noticeable parchment details and brush-marks, it is easily one of the best looking games of this year so far.
I want to say, I did love my time with Valkyria Revolution, even while writing this review I almost felt too critical of the title because for everything I wanted to pick apart, there was another feature that almost overpowered it to make me ignore it. Such as the amount and length of the cutscenes being on the too long side, yet so well done thanks to the graphical design and storytelling. Or tackling waves of cannon fodder in what feels like a long grind, only to have those boss battles which actually pushes your abilities to good use.
Valkyria Revolution is definitely a mixed bag, but one that if you’re a fan of war stories with a blend of supernatural elements and some beautiful music that I highly recommend.