Game Review: Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
Platform: PS3 Published: Sega Developed: Sega Genre: Strategy RPG
Great mix of turn base and real time elements
Game offers several recruits to choose from
Level up system makes it easy to experiment with different members
Music & voice acting are superb
The "CANVAS" engine looks gorgeous and works very well with the game
The saving system can be easily exploited to redo mistakes
No expert levels are offered for the campaign, only the skirmishes
Some "weapons" in game are shown but not used until the DLC content
The way the BLiTZ system works is very satisfying, the combination of turn base and real time works like a very sophisticated game of chess
The CANVAS engine gives the player the experience of playing in a work of art
Secondary characters have their own charm and background story letting the player feel a connection to them, a great detail
Valkyria Chronicles has showed a new way of making strategy games. The BLiTZ system makes a very good use of turn base and real time elements. The game's story and art make it stand out above any other game out there. Valkyria also showed how important the little details can be. The emotional connection it can establish with the player is a direct result of this which is one of the biggest reasons this game is so good.
Valkyria Chronicles is set in a fictitious Europe, called Europa, reminiscent of World War 2. The conflict is between the Empire, to the west of Europa, and The Federation, to the east of Europa. The situation escalates when the Empire decides to invade a small neutral country between them called Gallia. As the Federation tries to fend off the Empire they discover that the Empire has in their possession a Valkyria, a woman with the power to wipe out entire cities single handedly thought to have existed only in legends.
The game follows the story of a young man called Welkin Gunter, son of the famous war hero General Gunter from EWI, Europan War 1. After a raid to his hometown of Bruhl, he is dragged into the war by becoming the Lieutenant of his own squad, Squad 7. Now the player has at his/her command an entire squad to launch missions against the Empire.
At first glance, Valkyria looks like your typical turned based strategy game. However, after the first couple of missions, one gets a better feel of the more intricate aspect of the real time feature. Valkyria has several characters to choose from to build your squad, including some cameo appearances from Vyse, Aika, and Fina from Skies of Arcadia. It also features an easy to approach class system which breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each class. This helps when assembling your squad. The storyline and artwork work particularly well, while you won't find the most realistic looking graphics, you instead experience a gorgeous artistic feel.
One of the things that Valkyria does well is balancing the learning curve of the game. During most of the game, I found myself trying to plan out every move I would make before making it, much like in a chess match. The real time aspect of the game comes when moving your units in the field, if you run in front of an enemy unit, the enemy will start shooting. This helps it from being just another turn based strategy game. The terrains and maps are diverse enough to keep you interested, from battles in desserts to battles in the woods and the beach. The storyline is good enough to keep your attention and even care for the characters.
The music complements the game very well and keeps you engaged in both the game and the story. It was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the Final Fantasy 12 composer. Another great feature of the game was its replay value. Once you clear the game, it will let you go back and replay any mission or any skirmish, which are practice battles, in hard mode. The upgrade and level up system are also very robust allowing the player to either have a well balanced team across your units or specializing in a particular class. Leveling up your classes, also allows you to issue orders on the field which can be crucial for the game. The Orders can do different things such as healing units, boosting stats, etc.
While I like most of the game, there are some things where I think they could have done better. For instance, since most missions can take about an hour or more, depending on your skill, they allow you to save at anytime during battle. This can be convenient but lends itself to be abused; for example, you can save the game, play a turn and see what the AI does in a particular situation, if you mess up you can simply load back before the mistake. Another thing that I would have like to see is to have a hard or expert setting for the story mode and not only for the skirmishes, since you keep all of your items when you clear the game, the missions become just about plowing through your enemies. The terrains offered in the game were diverse but I would have like to see variants happening in the field like rain, although they did do something for the desert stage, though it was too short. During the course of the game you get to see a Valkyria in the battlefield which makes you want to somehow be able to unlock her to use in your unit. Yet you are left with that wish unfulfilled.
Some of the shortcomings of the game are addressed in the downloadable missions now available, such as the chance to play as the Valkyria and an Expert mode, but only for the skirmish. In conclusion this game is an innovative approach to this genre and must have for the PS3 and I would hope that for any sequels that it might have, they would addresses these minor issues