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Valkyria Chronicles Review

December 11, 2009

Developer: Sega WOW
Publisher:  Sega
Platform:  PS3
Genre:  Strategic RPG
Players: 1
Release Date: 31st October 2008 (EU)

There has been a distinct lack of Japanese RPGs this generation which has left many gamers disappointed. Most of the good ones tend be exclusive to Xbox 360 so this means PS3 owners are even worse off than those with a 360. However, Valkyria Chronicles can more than make up for that. It may not be a traditional RPG and is more along the lines of a Strategic RPG but it’s still a fantastic game that will have you hooked from the start until the very end.

It revolves around the fictional Second Europan War which has taken a bit of influence from World War II. Although, the similarities with World War II are apparent, it manages to mix it in with other things to make it a story of its own. Even when it has a handful of Japanese RPG clichés in it (Orphans, young characters), it’s still an enjoyable tale with a likeable and well written cast which keeps you hooked on the game. Generally it deals with the horrors of war well, and like the rest of the story it handles it in its own way. This leads to quite a handful of emotional scenes which I’ll let you experience for yourself.

Like I mentioned earlier it’s not a traditional RPG and is a strategic RPG (Also known as Turn Based Strategy) so it may play differently from what you would expect. First of all, there is no exploration so you won’t be wandering around villages listening to people repeat the same things over and over again. Instead, the game takes the form of a book. It contains different chapters, each with episodes in them which makes this narrative work. It feels like you are progressing through a fantasy tale. The narrative is aided by a fantastic visual design which consists of water colours so it looks like it has been taken straight from a fantasy book. It is used to great effect in Valkyria Chronicles with fantastic colours, environments, character models and pretty much everything else too.

Just to top it off is the music which creatively mixes in war music with fantasy music, much like the game itself. It’s used to great effect in the game, with it highlighting some of the important parts of the game and just generally fitting in really well with the events. The score is great and gives it the fantasy/war feeling that I’ve been banging on about for this entire review so far.

The main reason it avoids being labelled as a traditional RPG is the battle system which is a lot more tactical than the majority of RPGs. Each round you get a certain amount of Command Points which you will use to control your troops or use orders. A normal troop will require one Command Point to control while a tank will require two. Once you select a unit, you will then control them in real time and can move them, attack enemies, heal and so on. The various classes will influence how far they can move, how powerful they are, the equipment that can be used, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right person for the job adds an extra layer of depth to the system and makes for a more strategic experience.

Each character also has their own set of special abilities known as potentials which will trigger at certain points. For example, some characters perform better on natural environments which, once again, make it more strategic as knowing the potentials can really help in battle. When you run out of CP, or when you manually end your turn, the enemy will have their turn which follows the exact same rules as you.

The missions stay varied throughout the game which keeps players excited and wanting to play. Some of them simply involve taking over a base, while others you need to destroy artillery. The boss fights are handled well too. You will be required to do the same steps over again to defeat some bosses but other factors are introduced to make you attack in a different way and change your orders.

I love the battle system but it does have its problems. These problems are quite difficult to avoid in the particular genre though. Fights can often last for quite a while, with many of the later fights lasting for over an hour. That’s not including the times when you die and have to load your save again. One frustrating aspect of it is when you wait for the entire enemies turn, only for them to exploit a weakness on their last move, forcing you to load, try again and then wait for the enemies turn to finish. It’s something else that is hard to avoid in the genre but it’s still annoying. Towards the end of the game it can get really difficult too, which means your death becomes more frequent and increases the length of the battles even more.

This isn’t just filled with battles though. The chapters normally have more cutscene episodes than battle episodes so there is plenty of opportunity to get engrossed in the story. However, the main side quest comes from the Headquarters. The Headquarters gives you plenty of options to get lost in. You are able to spend your money here to upgrade equipment or buy reports. Through the R&D facility, you can improve weapons and armour, as well as purchasing new parts for your tank. You buy reports through the “Writing on the Wall” which is run by Ms. Ellet, a journalist who is covering Squad 7. The reports are basically just optional chapters that go into more depth about the characters. Although they are optional, they are definitely worthwhile buying and playing because they happen to be the most amusing chapters.

You are also able to organise your Squad here too. Along with the equipment section you are able to organise your squad. When organising your squad you are allowed to take 20 members with you into battle, though only a certain amount (Depends on the mission) of them can be deployed to the battlefield. The rest of the troops will be kept in the reserves in case you need them later. Some places in the squad are permanently filled up by the main characters who are unable to die and unlike the other squad members; they will just retreat upon untreated injuries.  The other very important thing you can do at the headquarters is train your characters. Rather than level up through use, you will be rewarded experience points at the end of missions which you are then able to use on the classes. Upgrading the classes over individual troops works really well as it allows you to use the best people for the job, instead of being forced to use the same characters repeatedly.

This is a magical game. It is really deep and will have you engaged in the story and in love with the characters for every second of play. Over the space of thirty hours it manages to provide a role playing experience that almost revolutionises the Strategic RPG genre and there is nothing like it this generation. Every RPG fan needs to play this game.

+ Amazing design
+ Engaging story and fantastic narrative
+ Great battle system that allows for plenty of strategy

Battles can often last really long

9.5/10

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