Review by brochattey
"Should you pick up this unique strategy RPG?"
Valkyria Chronicles is one of those amazing games that may not be everyone's cup of tea. It has a deep narrative, addictive gameplay, and is very rewarding; however, this game will greatly exercise your patience. If you aren't thrown off by that, then you're probably going to love this game.
Gallia, a neutral nation, is being invaded by the corrupt Empire in an attempt to claim plentiful deposits of ragnite. The story begins with civilian Welkin Gunther meeting Alicia Melchiott on his way home. When the Empire launches a sudden attack on the village, Welkin and company must fight their way to safety. Upon reaching the Gallian capital, the group joins the militia forces and Welkin becomes leader of Squad 7. Among your squad is Isara, Welkin's adopted Darcsen sister; Alicia, a hometown girl next-door type; Rosie, a minstrel with strong prejudices; and Largo, a veggie-loving veteran.
Though the premise doesn't sound very strong, the game proves to be incredibly deep as you progress. I was amazed at how strongly I reacted to certain events and subplots. It never shies away from the realities of war -- love, betrayal, prejudice, politics, death -- and because you fall in love with the characters, it definitely resonates.
Gameplay takes the form of a turn-based strategy with RPG elements. The plot is structured inside of a history book, planting the idea that you are recounting a heroic war tale, and each chapter contains a few cutscenes and missions. After choosing a battle, you get to pick who you are taking with you and position them on the map. Once complete, you select characters and individually take control from a third-person perspective, thus allowing you to move, capture bases, and attack enemy soldiers. Additionally, each action performed depletes your limited pool of Command Points. Strategy becomes extremely important in later missions, so learn to spend your CP wisely.
You are given 5 classes of soldiers -- Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers, and Snipers -- each with their own unique talents. Scouts and Shocktroopers are foot-soldiers with varying weapon power and walking distances; Lancers are the anti-tank fighters; Engineers, though weak in combat, can heal tanks and remove mines; and lastly, snipers can fire devastating shots at long ranges. The game gets tough as you progress, and learning to utilize each class' talents is necessary for success.
Tanks play an integral role in combat, as well. Welkin's tank, Edelweiss, is present in nearly all missions and you are required to make good use of its artillery to overcome obstacles. Tanks also provide good cover and later obtain more strategic abilities such as smokescreen. The only downside is that I can't stand the tank controls; although, it is better than most tanks I've experienced. If you are left in a disadvantageous position simply because you couldn't turn the vehicle properly, you'll understand what I mean. Just remember to always cover your rear; one direct missile to the radiator means failure.
Here's where a majority of that patience I discussed comes into play. Missions are usually long affairs -- some lasting over an hour -- and if you make a critical mistake half-way through, you're looking at a lot of wasted time. There were some issues in terms of combat (an enemy should never dodge an unseen sniper), but most losses occur because of strategy flaws. That's fine, you aren't given an auto-win, but be prepared for intense frustration after losing a mission. The upside is that successfully completing a difficult mission is immensely satisfying. After an hour long battle, you'll definitely feel like you've been through an epic struggle.
The RPG side of things comes in with the collection of experience points to rank up your classes, and earning money for weapon upgrading. Each main story mission may only be completed once, but you are given skirmishes on the side for level grinding. Some purchasable side-missions even serve to expand the story's subplots, so it's worth it to try them out. Part of the game's appeal is aiming for a good score on missions, thereby increasing the amount of experience you are granted.
In the headquarters, you can upgrade your classes and gear, choose your squad members, or learn more about the world. Unfortunately, the menu is a bit clunky and slow to navigate when you want to check something quickly.
I love the art style of Valkyria Chronicles: drawn in traditional anime, yet styled as if a water-color painting came to life. It's unique and it works well. The only fault I have is that the environments are sparse and populated by generic looking grass and buildings. It's a small complaint, but I have no doubts that anime fans will appreciate the graphics regardless.
Whenever a Japanese-developed game includes the original voice track, I'm extremely pleased. The English dub wasn't too bad, but I always advocate experiencing the game in the manner it was originally conceived. I feel that Japanese voice actors add a passion to the characters that tends to get lost in translation; however, that's just my personal opinion.
The lack of trophies was disappointing. I know, I know, it came out before the trophy firmware, but a patch or DLC would have been nice. Still, the game has decent replay value for those who aren't ready to put down the controller after the 50 hour campaign. You can start a New Game+ and carry over your stats and upgrades, and hard mode is unlocked for skirmishes. Furthermore, you get the statistics tab, allowing you to see how well you did on each particular mission.
Valkyria Chronicles isn't for people who want fast action or a brisk story. Missions are long -- sometimes frustrating -- but they are especially rewarding to patient players who enjoy strategy. The game has a deeply moving story and cast that is underscored by the gorgeous art style. I highly recommend this game to anyone not shy of making the investment.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/09/10
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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