Combining strategy gameplay with fantasy elements is hardly a new concept but when Sega put together Valkyria Chronicles back in 2008 many people saw it as a great success. After various ups and downs throughout the years the company has returned with something quite a bit different. Set in the same universe as the original series but best taken as a completely separate entity, does the action RPG that is Valkyria Revolution offer a worthwhile experience?
As previously mentioned, it is worth noting that Valkyria Revolution features a number of similarities to the Valkyria Chronicles games so various shared terms will pop-up but do not expect any connection between the series outside of these phrases. Set in the year of 1853 CE the continent of Europa is a powder keg waiting to plunge itself into war and the tiny kingdom of Jutland has been pushed to the brink. With the Ruzi Empire forcing an economic blockade on the small land, the Ruzi Empires’ sights are set on the massive Ragnite that the country possesses.
With Ragnite being a precious azure mineral capable of generating large amounts of power as well as giving users potential magical properties, the land of Jutland is at their wits end as hunger spreads and the sick die from illnesses that would easily have been treated if medicine was allowed through the blockade. As such the anti-Valkyria unit known as the Vanargand, led by Amleth, begins an assault on a Ruzi base just as the kingdom of Jutland announces their plans for war. The only problem with this is the fact that the princess of Jutland, Ophelia, is with the unit and witnesses an event that points to the true motives of Amleth.
It is interesting to note that the story is told through the frame of a history lesson. Years in the future a student pursues his teacher to learn about the true nature of the events that took place during the war, the events that have since been painted over for unknown reasons and left Amleth and his friends labeled as traitors. This means that although players are given some clues as to what happened down the line; they are able to gain some extra perspective for these events thanks to the way it is being told.
Unfortunately while Valkyria Revolution’s storyline is rather gripping at times, it is also one that can be tiresome to deal with at times and it is primarily thanks to the way that the story is told. Between battles every major story point involves cutscenes that features the main characters talking to one another. This wouldn’t usually be a problem but many of these cutscenes are incredibly bland to watch as the characters are given very little in the way of animation, occasionally to the point that players will need to keep an ear out for who is actually talking as scenes often show characters from behind.
It also doesn’t help that these cutscenes are incredibly long in nature and feature some rather lengthy load times between scenes. There are even moments that can be described as “bathroom breaks” where a cutscene will end and place players back with the teacher and student where they can save the game and look at old scenes if they wish. Also it is worth noting that thanks to the fact that these scenes are cutscene only, there is no way to fast-forward the dialogue or advance it in any way other than simply watching it as any attempt to move things along will simply skip the entire cutscene, a few of which can run up to fifteen minutes long, leaving us with an interesting storyline with some intriguing characters that do get explored quite a bit if you choose to delve into them, that get dragged down through the tedium of the story’s presentation.
Once you step onto the battlefield you’ll immediately notice that Valkyria Revolution is taking full advantage of being a more action based RPG. Rather than taking turns and taking potshots at enemies your character and their squad, as well as other AI compatriots and your opponents, will move around the field in real time. It is a bit odd however that although the wait time is almost negligible, there is something of a turn system in the form of action gauges. Whether it is attacking an enemy with a melee strike, shooting at them with a gun, tossing a grenade, or using a Ragnite spell everything has a small cooldown you’ll need to wait for. This can lead to some strange confrontations where the action will feel like it is stuttering slightly and can pull some of the impact from the fights.
For those who do want to take advantage of some remaining strategy elements it is possible to give specific commands to your allies and have them use skills or simply swap to them yourself to take a more hands approach, leaving your previous character to the AI. Thanks to the fact that your ally AI is sometimes unreliable, occasionally getting stuck and sometimes delaying their skill use, the latter option is the preferred route for tight situations. Even the cover system still exists in small form as players can hide behind sandbags and various other debris to avoid taking damage from incoming fire but it is worth noting that thanks to the same butting being used to vault over walls being the one that crouches against it, there will be more than a few times you’ll end up either blowing over your cover or coming to a complete halt.
It is worth noting that various character advantages and disadvantages remain in Valkyria Revolution. This means that some characters might fight better on their own or deal extra damage with certain skill types though they might end up suffering from stat losses from disadvantageous “potentials.” Along these lines players can also spend their time outside of missions grinding towards upgrading their parties’ equipment, upgrading various skills, and attempting to build the most effective classes possible since some of the boss battles can be quite troublesome in this game.
While taking on standard enemies in a battle field that is usually fairly straightforward may seem like easy pickings at times, the bosses often feature unique weaknesses that must be targeted and if you come into the fight unprepared you may end up coming face to face with death. This means that while the shift towards an action RPG may have bothered fans of the classic series, there is still plenty of challenge to be had here and even a few light-strategy elements mixed in, though occasionally these elements get in the way of the “action” part of the game.
Visuals & Audio
Earlier I mentioned that the majority of the cutscenes in Valkyria Revolution lack anything in the way of major animation and while this remains true, there are a few standout moments that look exceptionally well handled. This is partly due to the fact that the “Gouache” engine gives a unique look to everything in this game with a hand painted design style. This leads to gorgeous looking character models on the majority of the cast as well as some great looking cutscenes though it is worth noting that some of the stages you battle on can be a bit bland at times.
Accompanying the great style of the visuals is some outstanding musical work featuring Tasunori Mitsuda as the composer. There are numerous tracks that fit perfectly with the aesthetic and feeling that the game is going for at any given time and really help bring certain moments to life. The English voice work is also handled well enough though thanks to some satisfying localization work and this is something to be quite pleased about considering how lengthy most of these scenes can be.
Although Valkyria Revolution may not be what many would expect from a game with Valkyria in the title it does serve as a serviceable action RPG with a decent combat system and a solid storyline with some great characters. Unfortunately each of these elements is weighed down by issues that are impossible to ignore. With the action combat slowed down due to action gauges and story sequences being terribly long with no option to move things along at a quicker pace, be prepared for a game that has a lot to offer but can’t stop getting in the way of itself.