Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy-RPG for the Playstation 3 developed and published by SEGA. You take control of the Welkin Gunther, Alicia Melchiott and the Gallian Militia, experiencing the story of an extraordinary group of average people coming together to save their homeland.
Valkyria Chronicles combines tactical gameplay with third person real-time action, creating a truly unique battle system. Players oversee the battlefield from a bird-eye view before taking control of a unit and guiding them to complete a wide range of task such as attacking enemies and capturing enemy camps. Choosing from a diverse roster of characters, players must keep their characters alive during battles because if they die and are not evacuated, they are gone forever.
Valkyria Chronicles has a wide range of RPG elements anchoring a character-driven story beautifully illustrated as the game progresses.
A Wonderful Story:
Described by one of its producers as not a war story but "a love story that just so happens to be taking place during a war", Valkyria Chronicles is a heartwarming story about friendship, love, loss and forgiveness that is impossible not to be touched by. It deals with themes such as racism and death in a deft manner while maintaining an earnest optimism and sense of humour throughout.
The characters are wonderfully believable, with each main character experiencing marked character development throughout the story. The story remains linear but it fits the way the story is told, and the plot remains cohesive throughout. It's not an overly complicated plot, but it allows the focus to remain on the story of these characters.
Amazing Art Style:
Bottom line: this game is absolutely beautiful. SEGA uses their CANVAS engine to make the game look like a continuous water-colour painting. The game is wonderfully animated throughout, telling its story through a series of panel scenes with full cutscenes interspersed. The interface is also fantastic, the story is framed as part of a history book, with new pictures and maps in it representing story scenes and battles
An Innovative Battle System:
Valkyria Chronicles' battle system BLITZ is a mix of third person action with tactical gameplay that is unlike any other. These styles complement each other very well, creating a distinctive style of gameplay. Battles require a great deal of strategy and there is a very real sense of accomplishment when you finally complete a mission, and careful planning is rewarded. There are also a number of different missions including capturing the enemy base camp, defeating a boss or destroying a strategic target which help to add some variety.
The World of Europa:
Inspired by WWII-era Europe, the setting stays grounded while mixing in fantasy elements, maintaining a unique but distinctive and well-realized world. Each character and country has a detailed backstory, and there is an extensive library of world-lore that can be accessed at the menu.
The Learning Curve:
It takes a lot of trial and error to learn to nuances of the battle system. The game explains the mechanics and rules, but it takes a long time to really understand how to succeed. This can make for some challenging battles until you get the hang of things. Valkyria Chronicles really requires its own style of tactics, using strategy that you would use in XCOM or Fire Emblem will make the game extremely difficult. However once you get a feel for the battle system, it comes together like nothing else and is extremely satisfying.
Imbalances in the Battle System:
Certain elements in the battle system such as Orders can imbalance and almost break certain battles if overused. In particular, the Scout class is quite overpowered in the later-half of the game. Although it is fun to try and discover how to win battles in one-turn, some battles can feel a little bit broken, not requiring anything more than just running past the enemies to win and finish with an A ranking. It would have been to nice to be able to master battles like that but still require more in the way of tactics so the victory feels deserved.
A great aspect of this game is that individual character do not level up, but rather the entire class of unit level up. This is helpful in simplifying leveling up your squad, but the only way to grind for experience is in the skirmishes. There are 10 skirmishes which are essentially repeats of story levels and they get quite repetitive
As mentioned before it takes a significant amount of time to feel comfortable with the battle system, and the first few main story battles ease you in to this. After this, there is a very significant difficult spike where a good understanding of battle tactics is needed to succeed. This is not a bad thing in itself but the game does a poor job of adequately preparing the player for these battles. In particular, there is one chapter that is almost impossible to beat without significant frustration for a first-time player without some sort of walkthrough.
The later chapters in the game alternate between difficult and easily won battles. Thankfully the difficult battle never feel cheap, but it would be better if the game had a more even difficult progression. However, some grinding is definitely required, and the game rewards skilled players with more experience, putting players learning the battle system at a disadvantage as they try to progress.
Valkyria Chronicles is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking RPGs to come out in recent years, and deserves to be played by everyone. The well-written story and beautiful art style are tantalizing, drawing the player into the amazing world presented. In addition, Valkyria Chronicles is a fresh experience unlike anything else on the market and its battle system is a joy once mastered.
The minor-gripes I had with the game regarding the learning curve should not stop anyone from experiencing this masterpiece, especially if you are a veteran JRPG player. The game is perfect for strategy-RPG fans as well as those looking for a starting point with strategy-RPGs willing to put some time in to learn its battle system. Clocking in at around 35-40 hours, this game requires some time-investment but is very worth the effort you put into it.
Valkyria Chronicles remains a breath of fresh air on the Playstation 3 and deserves to be played by gamers of all types. It has aged extraordinary well, with the battle system still feeling as innovative now as it did in 2008, and the art-style has still not been matched by any other game. Don't miss out on Valkyria Chronicles.
This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves' official review format.
This is the first part in a series of reviews covering the Valkyria Chronicles series. Look for my Valkyria Chronicles II review coming next month, and my Valkyria Chronicles 3 E2 review in the future.