Valkyria Chronicles: Official Review
North American Release Date: 11/4/2008
European Release Date: 10/31/2008
Valkyria Chronicles is a very rare type of RPG, the SRPG. Its a blend of Strategy and RPG elements into one, and is not only the best in this very small genre, but is up for one of the best games this generation has to offer.
The story is relatively simple, in an alternate universe on the continent of Europa a small country: Gallia is being sandwiched between two warring factions who depend on Gallia for a resource, Ragnite. During 1935 EC, Gallia is invaded by the neighboring Empire in an effort to seize their vital resources. The player takes the role of the Squad 7, a group of Gallian militia men and women in an effort to protect their homes.
As mentioned previous Valkyria Chronicles is a rare bred of game. Its not often people would think to connect RTS and RPG, and the blending of the two has resulted in wildly different games. VC is no different in this regard. Essentially your force is comprised of 2 tanks and a certain number of soldiers you pre-determine before a given mission. The soldiers and their capabilities vary depending on their class. You have the Scout, which can move the furthest but doesn't deal as much damage as some of the other units, the Shocktropper, which can move less than the Scout, but can deal enormous amounts of damage to enemy troops. You also have the Lancer, your standard anti-armor unit who can move the least, the Sniper, who has the highest accuracy and furthest range, and the Engineer who can restock all your other units.
At the start of battle you are given a specified number of actions per turn, these actions determine how many units you can move in a given turn. Its a system which is both simple, but with the potential for alot of depth, which is always a must for any good strategy game.
Whats even better is Sega actually did it right this game, early on the missions are very simple as you get used to each class and when to use them. As the missions progress they require more skill and tactical thought on your part, as your tasks get more complicated and in some cases require you to split up your forces to tackle two things at once. Basically Valkryia Chronicles takes the S part of the SRPG seriously, as you can't just go blindly into any battle.
The system isn't quite perfect though, as you get deeper in the game you become more and more dependent on specific units, and to be quite honest the drastic separation in the movement range is not made up for with a drastic separation in damage. The end result is once you get your Scout up to a certain level, they become the primary focal point of all your strategies, to the point where your tank is only there to provide bonuses. While it doesn't make for a broken system by any stretch of the imagination, on the contrary I'd argue its a great one still, its a potential lost on Sega's part. To have a tank and not have it really be useful is just not a good idea.
The singleplayer campaign borrows some of its concepts from World War 2, but don't let that sway you. Its far from the world war 2 games we have had shoved down our throats. Instead World War 2 serves as a frame of reference for the alternative universe, developing its own world, characters, and countries instead.
Gallia, the country your squad comes from, holds the most Ragnite. It is a precious resource that runs everything, and you are invaded by the neighboring Empire for control over it as they prepare for war with another faction. What begins to unfold over the course of the game is a deeper plot as you discover there is more to the Empire than meets the eye. I will avoid any potential spoilers in this regard, but it makes for an interesting climax.
Whats more is as the story progresses the central figures of your unit are treated like your "party" in a typical RPG, they are the focus of all the character development as they fight through the war. While the story is not complicated in terms of themes, this is what will keep you playing. Not only are the characters interesting, but they are also well-developed as the overall story tackles everything on a character-level from love to racism. Its a great example of how doing little things can truly make a difference in how human the characters come across.
Whats also a nice feature, and should be a big plus for any RPG fan, is the new game+ feature. After beating the game, you can replay through the primary story with all your weapons and upgrades intact, whats more is you can re-acquire anything. Want both your Snipers to have the ultimate Sniper Rifle? Done! Want all your Scouts to have the best Carbine? No problem! It keeps you playing to make sure all your characters are decked to the max.
The only side-quests or side-content in the game is in the form of optional panels. These are character focused chapters and vary from being very serious to extremely funny (seriously, you don't have a sense of humor if Largo's chapter doesn't make you laugh). You are also able to play versions of the missions over again as Skirmishes. Sometimes they are the same, sometimes they differ wildly (particularly on the harder difficulties).
All in all the end result is a game which you can play for hours and multiple times without getting bored or doing the exact same thing every time.
My only real complaint with the singleplayer is how it is played out. This isn't like a typical RPG where you go from one point to the next without interruption. This story is told by chapters, and after every battle or cutscene you are returned to a central screen where you are able to select the next panel of the story. I like how this is in terms of presentation, but it would have been nice if Sega wouldn't bring you out after EVERY panel.
One of the most striking things about this game is the style and presentation. It is unquestionably unique and I am sure many of you have seen it already in various outlets. It is called the CANVAS graphics engine and was developed by Sega.
Essentially what Sega did was take cell-shading and expand on it in a way that made it more unique to the overall feel of the game, make it more "comic-book"-esque. Its a nice contrast to the bland-color scheme of many other modern games, as this is very colorful and engaging visually. Whats more is the thematic presentation is kept throughout, so while this game doesn't feel realistic like say Final Fantasy 13, Uncharted 2, or Dead Space, it is still immersive.
Its a very hard thing to describe, and while the "war" aspect of the game isn't emphasized at all in the visual department, its still unquestionably compelling and works well with the overall feel of the game.
- The gameplay is a very unique RPG spin on your typical strategy game. Its both engaging and fun once you get used to it.
- The single player campaign has alot of stuff to do, missions are nice and varied, story is engaging, you have access to a New Game+ feature and skirmishes.
- While the game doesn't have the best specifications as far as graphics go, what it does have is alot of character. The style is unique and works seemlessly with the overall game.
Overall: 9.5/10 Brilliant
- Valkyria Chronicles is not a game for everybody, the battle system isn't intense and can be easily exploited if you know what you are doing. What Valkyria Chronicles is though is unique and fun. There is nothing else out there like it, and at the end of the day its a game you will want to keep coming back to and is a fine example of what a game can truly be. Had it not been for a few mis-steps on Sega's part, this game would be perfect.