The Valhalla Knights franchise has been around on portable PlayStation systems since its franchise debut in 2006. With the release of the PlayStation Vita, K2 LLC and XSEED are once again looking to deliver an action roleplaying game to folks with that fantasy itch. How does the newest entry into the franchise hold up, though? Will it feast alongside the warriors in paradise or should it be vanquished to Niflheim for eternal punishment? Let’s find out.
The tales have long been told of a rare treasure that can grant a wish to anyone who finds it. Legend claims that W. Flockhart, a notorious criminal, found such a treasure, but vanished and was never heard from again. Known as “Flockhart’s Legacy,” you are sent into Carceron Prison as a spy in order to locate and secure the treasure against your will – but there is much more going on inside the prison than you ever could have imagined. Now the clock is ticking and you’ll have to use everything at your disposal to uncover the treasure of legend.
At its core, Valhalla Knights 3 is an action RPG to the core. When the game starts out, you’ll create your own character, choosing race, job class, and customized looks. As you progress through the story, much more opens up to you, letting you choose the play style that best suits you.
There are initially four races to choose from: Human, elf, dwarf, and halfling. As you progress through the story, you can unlock three races with which you can create allies. Beyond the choice of race, you’re also given the option of a job class. This can range everywhere from mage or priest to archer, soldier, and beyond. When all is said and done, there are around 20 job classes you can choose, as well as the opportunity to take on subclasses. This presents great flexibility, really giving the players control over their own destinies.
As you complete quests and vanquish foes, you’ll be awarded with experience, just like virtually every other role playing game. With more experience comes more levels, which boost your stats. You’re also granted skill points which accumulate over time, eventually allowing you to get new skills for the classes you’re playing.
On top of customizing your skills throughout the game, you’re able to continually build up your arsenal of weaponry and armor. Depending on your class, you may be locked to certain weapons, but each weapon boasts a combat style all its own. Gearing up is a satisfying experience in and of itself, as your physical appearance changes with each new piece of gear. I love it when games do that. Why can’t every game do that!?
Combat itself can be both a satisfying and frustrating experience. Dispatching a large group of enemies quickly has a great sense of accomplishment tied to it, and looting the corpses (and occasionally chests) is a great way to find new gear of useful items. When you’re running around the world with your weapon drawn, however, targeting enemies is about as accurate as hitting a Lamborghini with a spitball after you’ve been spun in circles. Even though you can take out enemies in the field, there’s absolutely no easy way to target them before they officially “engage” in battle with you. It feels both frustrating and completely unnecessary. Once you’re engaged in combat with enemies, the mechanics can shift a bit. Targeting specific foes becomes much easier and everything flows a bit better.
From the perspective of progressing the story and taking on quests, Valhalla Knights 3 quickly turns into an absolute grind. Your party will initially consist of three members you can switch between at-will with the Select button. Without giving you any real guidance, though, storyline missions can quickly ramp up to require a party of six, and even still you’ll have to spend an hour or two taking on side quests and fighting mobs to earn what you’ll need to properly toughen-up and outfit your full squad. It feels like an unnecessary hindrance to proceed through the story.
Dealing with vendors in Carceron is a weird situation all unto itself. Early in the game, you can go to the slums and deal with them as you would expect to any other vendors. Once you’ve progressed beyond what paltry gear they can offer, though, you’ll have to deal with the concept of paying for your vendor. That’s right – you have to shell over money just to look at their wares. It goes even deeper beyond that, though.
The vendors you have to pay to deal with are often quite scantily clad. As you purchase armor, gear, new soldiers, quests, or whatever else from them, though, you’re given the opportunity to play a mini-game with the name “Sexy Time,” where you have to try to pop bubbles and give the vendor a kiss. You can also give them gifts. If you invest enough into them, you can eventually take them to the hotel…for obvious reasons. It’s an entire system that feels both pandering and off-putting, and would have been better left out.
On top of the hyper-sexualized vendor interactions, the game has a few other problems. The constant grind to keep up with the story is frustrating enough, but the game will also beat you to death with loading screens, which is somewhat baffling given how poor the game looks compared to its Vita contemporaries. Also consider the lack of a good quick-travel system, and you’re left burning up a lot of time just to hoof it to where you want to go.
As much as it pains me to say it, Valhalla Knights 3 is probably the single worst looking Vita game released to date. It looks like a PSP game that has been ported to the Vita without any consideration of up-rezzing the graphics, which is a real shame since games like Ragnarok Odyssey are so sharp and colorful. Animation also feels weird. NPCs don’t really walk in the environment so much as they moonwalk through the environment. The scale of movement to environment feels disproportionate. The developers made sure they properly animated the physics of the female anatomy, though.
Valhalla Knights 3 genuinely has a fantastic soundtrack. Whether you’re running around the prison and dealing with NPCs, or squaring off with mobs out in the world, you’ll enjoy the orchestral tunes that accompany your exploits. The sound effects fit well enough. When you’re involved in conversations, though, there will occasionally be some odd spoken clips that don’t really fit. Otherwise, the sound design in Valhalla Knights 3 is quite enjoyable.
Overall, Valhalla Knights 3 is a really difficult game to recommend. The soundtrack is fantastic and the combat and progression systems are fun, but the game very quickly becomes too much of a grind. On top of that, several poor design decisions, rough-looking graphics, and bawdy hypersexualization drag down what had the potential to be an incredible Vita experience.
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