It’s been ten years since the original release of Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation 3. With a new game in the franchise on the way, I figured there was no better time than now to hop in
Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation 4 is impressive on almost every level. A unique JRPG that blends turn-based strategy with third-person shooting is complimented by creative and interactive maps. The story combines themes of war with fantasy in a surprisingly respectful way. Add a cast of likable characters to the equation, and you have a gaming experience that begs to be had.
The game starts you off in the small town of Bruhl where our three main heroes live. Welkin and his sister Isara first meet Alicia here and they quickly find themselves under the attack of the Europan Imperial Alliance. The destruction of their hometown prompts them to join the Gallian army where they form Squad 7.
The characters are one of Valkyria Chronicles’ greatest strengths. Each member of the main squad is interesting, but it’s the two main characters, Alicia and Welkin, who shine the brightest. What seems like a simple friendship at the beginning of the game, blossoms into something special by the end. Their love for each other and their inability to lose who they are in the face of war is very admirable.
The game handles the setting of war with a surprising amount of maturity. It touches upon themes of death and prejudice with a fair amount of respect. The only thing that seems out of place are the victory poses the characters do when they kill enemy soldiers. With all their talk of wanting the war to be over, and wishing for peace, it seems odd to have someone shout “yes!” when they kill an enemy.
Each character has a set of likes that affect the way combat plays out. Some characters work better with others, and some have certain environmental strengths and weaknesses. This adds an extra layer of strategy to think of when picking which units to place in your squad. With five different classes, the game gives you plenty of options, and plenty to think about.
The maps themselves get very creative as the game goes along. At first, you’ll be moving from a simple point A to point B, taking down enemies as you go. Later on, you’ll be placing your units strategically to figure out how best to blow up a train to collapse a bridge.
There’s a lot of room to get creative with every decision you make. A mission that seems impossibly long can be over quickly if you have the right crazy idea to do it. I took down one boss by using a smoke bomb and five different snipers instead of taking the game’s suggested route.
The only issue I have with the slow combat is when you’re on your second or third try and you have to sit through the enemies’ turns as well. When they have a lot of them, it can get boring waiting around. I found this to only be a problem in skirmish mode. Since that’s there for practice and grinding, I felt like a button to speed up combat would have been a nice addition. But it is useful to be able to watch the entire play by play of the enemy team. It gives you a lot of time to think and plan out where you want your soldiers to go. The game also gives you a lot of freedom with the ability to save during combat. If you save after every turn, you can reload when you mess up.
The experience system is also a little odd. You get a grade based on how many turns you took to complete the mission. The higher the grade, the more experience you get. This is unfair for new players who want to take a lot of time experimenting and figuring out how the game works. Although, to be fair, it does feel rewarding when you beat a mission on your first try in such a short amount of time.
The cutscenes also feel like a reward. In a lot of games, long cutscenes can seem like a chore to watch when you want to be playing the game. But the characters in Valkyria Chronicles are so strong that getting a glimpse into their lives is a nice way to kick back after completing a mission.
This is all presented in a jam-packed interface that comes in the shape of a book called “On the Gallian Front.” In it, you can find a ton of different pages that show you where to level up, buy and upgrade new weapons, choose the units for your army, and plenty more. Even more extras are added when you complete the game and go into New Game Plus mode. You can view your stats from every combat encounter, and you can check out the soundtrack as well. Valkyria Chronicles definitely doesn’t hold back on content.
Reviewed for PlayStation 4