Not the right kind of revolution.
Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3 stands as one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It featured a unique blend of active and turned based strategy combat engine that was as challenging as it was satisfying to conquer. Highlighting a cast of lovable characters, it told a mature story about the cruel nature of war and the indelible mark it leaves on every life that it touches.
As beloved as Valkyria Chronicles has become over the years, being ported and remastered to multiple platforms, the series as a whole has had a rather difficult road reaching the heights of the original game. The sequels, Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 were PSP only titles and the third entry never even made it to the states due to a myriad of reasons. So, when I heard that the Valkyria Chronicles series would make its triumphant return to home consoles once more, I was overjoyed and teeming with anticipation.
The result, however, doesn’t give much reason to celebrate as Valkyria Revolution is a step away from all the core fundamentals that made the original a bonafide classic.
Platform: PS4/Vita, XB1
Played on: PS4 Pro
Voice Acting: JPN/ENG
Played: 20~ hours
Standing over the grave of the infamous “Five Traitors”, a student of history inquires his teacher about the the true nature of these detestable five- those that started a war for their own personal gains and pulled Jutland into a whirlpool of chaos. As the wise professor begins to shine a light on the truth not written in the history books, it starts to become clear that these traitorous five were much more than what he was taught to believe.
From a narrative standpoint, it’s a solid hook as I was introduced to each of the main characters and learning about their influences on the war along with their motivations. There’s a fair bit of clever political espionage and manipulation of information to bring the common folk to their cause which was welcome change of pace from the typical JRPG story. All in all, it’s a tale of revenge- dreamt up by a group of individuals with the talent and determination to try and pull off something seemingly impossible.
Amleth and his Anti-Valkyria Unit known as “Vanargand” takes center stage as the driving force of the war and the hope of the people of Jutland- Princess Ophelia, who deemed it necessary to take to the frontlines to rally the common folk to their cause and prove that she is deserving of the love and adoration of her people.
While I found the overarching story quite intriguing, the presentation of the story felt lacking in more ways than one.
It wasn’t uncommon have to sit through a 10~ minute cutscene that would go into another 6 minute cutscene that would go into a… you guessed it, another cutscene. Due to the poor pacing of the story, I found myself losing interest from time to time, especially when they were being unnecessarily verbose about things that were overly obvious and continued on for too long. Exacerbating the issue were the doll like character models which would just stand in place for the duration of the full cutscene without hardly a camera angle shift. Worse yet, the characters were not very expressive due to the simple and rather lackluster facial animations.
Even though such things would be minor complaints in most scenarios, in a game with such lengthy cutscenes, not making a strong effort to make them interesting to watch was a failure in priorities.
As I have sung praises about the incredible combat engine that mixed active and turned based elements together in Valkyria Chronicles, it would have been enough for them to use that engine once more, perhaps with a few minor tweaks. However, for some reason, they decided to go in a complete new direction and while it does still mix the idea of active and turned based in one, it’s nothing like Chronicles. Moving together as a squad, each character has a delay after each action that fills up overtime. With high morale, the turns are quickly refreshed and the player has the option to go into a menu to stop time in order to use special skills or order a teammate to use a secondary weapon or a skill of their own.
The player is free to move around, dodge or even block while waiting for their turn to refresh but as I found the turns to come back rather quickly, I found myself walking up to an enemy to mash the X button in order to get some quick attacks off. There is still the cover mechanic that can be used but I found them largely useless except in very specific missions where stealth was mandatory. Quickly dashing up next to enemies and mashing X or freezing time to throw a grenade or use some skills was more or less the extent of my strategy through most of my playtime and it felt neither challenging or fun.
There are weapons to upgrade through R&D and characters to outfit with better gear and upgraded skills but as long as I kept buying new gear when they became available, there wasn’t much importance to customizing my loadout except for a select few boss encounters with bloated health bars.
To call this new combat engine a downgrade from the original would be too kind as it is easily the worst aspect of this title as it tries to be both an action game and a strategy game at once and fails at both.
Luckily, it’s not all bad as the legendary composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who worked on games like Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Shadow Hearts and many more lends his talents to compose an excellent OST filled with epic tracks. There already is and will be continuous support of free DLC including helpful items and story scenarios which is always a welcome sight in this age of costly season passes. The game also retails at $39.99 and not the standard $60, which takes some of the bite away from its numerous failings.
Valkyria Revolution is a title that undoubtedly suffers due to the comparisons to its superior predecessor. However, when viewed as a standalone title, it features an interesting story with a cast of characters well worth exploring. Even though the combat engine is dull and flawed in many ways, it’s serviceable for the scenarios that the game presents and at a bargain price, you could do worse than pick up Valkyria Revolution.
Fun Tidbit – I generally default to the English voice overs for any game that offers it first but I found it to be too inconsistent in quality and switched over to the Japanese track and never looked back. This is why it’s always nice to have options!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.