My first real experience with the Valkyria franchise was the remake of the original game that was release last year. It was a beautiful experience that introduced me to a franchise I’d had interest in before, but hadn’t played. The turn based tactics married beautifully with cover mechanics and light third person shooting. I was immediately hooked. Fast forward to this year and I was again excited at the prospect of getting back into that world again with Valkyria Revolution. The experience hasn’t quite been the same.
Valkyria Revolution is a spin-off of the regular Chronicles timeline of games. It’s set in an alternate universe to an alternate universe where Europe is again at war. This time, though. It’s not all about guns and tanks. Swords and magic make an appearance. The game is set, as mentioned, in a universe that’s different from the already established universe. It takes place 100 years before the events of those games. War has broken out between two major powers. The Ruzi Empire is the dominate force in the area. Jutland wants to break free and rule themselves so they start, as the name suggests, a revolution. However, the events of the war are all controlled by a group of five people known in the story as the Traitors.
You play as Amleth Gronkjear, the leader of this group, though you can and most likely will play as all of the members of the Traitors, and the Jutland army. The game moves away from the more turn based strategy feel of the Valkyria games into a more action RPG style of game. You have full control over the characters movement, but attacks aren’t fully in your hands. You’ll start the attack animations, but, like a more action based RPG, once you press the button they just follow the motions of their attack animations. When in those attack animations you’ll more often than not be pulled past your opponent. If you’ve got the camera locked on them you’ll get dizzy from the constant camera swings. If you don’t you’ll lose time taking damage while trying to swing the view back to where you can see who you’re fighting.
Where this game really falls down is the story. Don’t get me wrong, the story is good. It’s interesting, but it takes so much of the focus of the game that it’s hard to be ready when the time for gameplay happens. It’s told through extended cutscenes in which you can set the controller down for what seems like a half an hour at a time before ever picking it back up again. Early on in the game it was nearly an hour before I had control over a character and even then it was for a brief five minutes. All told, though I didn’t have a clock with me, it felt like for the first 2-3 hours of the game I played maybe 30 minutes of action. This was all during tutorials. The idea of these five people being the driving force behind the war for these two countries is interesting. The main characterAmleth, however, just feels like the whole things is revenge against the Ruzi Empire for something they did to him in the past. He comes off as less sympathetic than anyone.
Another thing that really drags down the experience are the animations. The game, despite being designed for modern systems, feels trapped in the PS2 era. It’s beautiful, there’s no doubt about that, but all the characters feel stiff. They don’t move fluidly through cut scenes. They don’t interact in any realistic ways to the environments around them. Characters will swivel on the spot when interacting with someone else. It feels like they’re waiting for specific things to happen before they act. The mouths don’t move realistically to the words they’re saying. It’s not like they’re synced to another language. It’s like they just move up and down while the character is talking. It doesn’t look convincing at all. When they move around and need to turn they’ll walk to a point, swivel and then continue moving. Nothing feels like it’s taking advantage of modern systems in anyway. It just feels ‘old’. If this was a PS2 game it would be incredible, but on modern hardware it just feels off.
Many of the gameplay systems aren’t explained very well or, if they are, aren’t used to their fullest extent. They talk heavily about the use of cover in the game, but when it comes down to actually needing to use that cover it’s all but useless. It really just feels like it gets in the way more than it’s helping you. In Valkyria Chronicles cover played an important role and making good use of it could make or break a combat encounter. In this it’s a means to have a flashy animation as you jump over the wall wielding your sword. Most of the character’s main weapons are close combat weapons so cover doesn’t really make much of a difference. You can use it to shield an incoming attack, but if you want to fight back you have to leave the cover or use up your precious secondary weapon ammo, of which you have little of. Your friendly squad mates are also utterly imcompetent. They either stand around waiting for you to tell them to do something or they charge recklessly into battle taking large amounts of damage in the process.
In between battles you have the ability to wander around a town getting a feel for what the citizens think of the war around them. You can talk to people and gather information. You can buy and sell things at shops, much like in a JRPG. The streets are more or less lifeless, though. Walking around you’ll see a small handful of NPCs at best other than the shop owners you need to interact with.
Ultimately Valkyria Revolution feels like a bunch of interesting systems just thrown together that don’t get used at all or just don’t mesh together well. The story focus takes away from the player’s experience and the times when you get to to push buttons on a controller don’t feel all that great themselves. I like when developers try to do something different with their franchises. I can see what this game was trying to go for, but it doesn’t go far enough one way or the other to make it worth playing. It’s sitting uncomfortably in the middle of a couple different genres it tried to be, but couldn’t commit one way or the other and that hurts it more than anything. I just can’t recommend this to anyone other than the most die hard fans of the lore. If you really want to try your hand at a Valkyria game pick up Chronicles because it’s fantastic.
Review copy of the game provided by Sega
Played through the full story
Total Play Time: 40 hours