Review by Menji
"World War 2: The RPG"
The British are coming, the British are coming - famously misquoted to Paul Revere warning the colonists that the British were indeed, coming. Valkyria Chronicles starts off with a similar feeling. The year is 1935, in a fictional Europe, cleverly named Europa. For years, two powers have fought for control of a valuable mineral that powers everything they use. From the east, we have the evil Europan Imperial Alliance they even attacked first! Definitely evil. From the west, a less organized group of countries known as the Atlantic Federation. Both sides are fighting for a scarce mineral, Ragnite, which can be used to create fuel. Gallia lies to the north. A peaceful nation that has remained neutral to the whole war. Unfortunately for Gallia, they are sitting atop quite a bit of Ragnite. Without a real army, they were quickly invaded by the Imperial Alliance. Forced to fight back, Gallia joined the Federation in the Second Europan War.
From there, the game introduces Welkin, the hero of the game. One day while frolicking in the field he is mistaken for a spy by Alicia. Alicia eventually realizes she has made a mistake when they return to the nearby village and must join forces when their village is attacked. Welkin and Alicia survive and fend off the first attacks for a bit until they join the militia. Outfitted with a tank, Welkin is appointed lieutenant of Squad 7 and thus the defense of Gallia begins.
Naturally there will be some problems. Not with the game but with Welkin's instant promotion as leader of Squad 7. Some of the veterans doubt his leadership ability and give him a hard time; cue mission to earn their respect. The other problem is that Welkin brought along his adopted sister, Isara. The problem being, she is a Darscen. Instantly I thought of dark skin and how the connotation that would spark in 1935. However, Darscens are not black, well maybe they are but there are not any in this game. Think of them as Jews which given this is a fictional World War 2 setting makes a lot of sense. Darscens are distinguished by their purple hair and are prejudiced against because of their ancestor's near-destruction of the land (definitely another Jew parallel).
As the game progresses, the gamer learns more and more about the Imperial Alliance. Part of their dominance is because they possess a Valkyur - an ancient race of people with godlike abilities. Such as the ability to fly across the land, resist any attack and destroy tanks with ease. As far as I could tell, there are no downsides. When the gamer views the enemy's meetings, it does not appear that the Valkyur is hurt in any way from the use of these abilities. Except that to change into the Valkyur form, one must come close to dying. Thus, the Valkyur has to stab herself in order to change. I must assume the form heals this wound because the Valkyur is fine when she returns to normal. With all that in mind, I can't understand the reasoning Welkin and his squad continually shove down the gamer's throat that this power is the Imperial Alliance's greatness weakness and they will lose because of it. When you play the game, you will see that this is certainly not the case. They certainly don't lose because of it.
The way the gameplay presents itself makes it appear quite in-depth but unfortunately it was not able to do what I wished it could. Starting from headquarters, the gamer can browse through potential recruits. As the game progresses, more recruits become available. There is a cap of twenty or so soldiers allowed in the militia and the gamer must decide how to balance it. There are five classes: scout, shocktrooper, lancer, engineer and sniper. Scouts are by far the most useful because a team of scouts can almost run through the game with little help from the other classes. Reason being they can move two to three times as far as the others. Shocktroopers pack a bigger punch but with their limited movement, they are better suited for defense rather than attack. Lancers move the least amount but are the only effective attack against tanks and other armored machines. Engineers have the ability to restock troops with ammo and disable land mines. Naturally, snipers just stand in the distance and eliminate any visible target. This may seem like a balanced group but aside from removing tanks; scouts can do just about anything and they do it the fastest!
There is definitely a point to doing things fast. The whole ranking system to give experience is based on how many turns it takes to win. Yes, turns, I probably should have mentioned it earlier but this game is turn-based. I never played any of the Fire Emblem games so I'm not sure if it is the same. To start, the militia captain briefs the gamer on the situation and then the gamer must choose which units to use (usually around seven to ten) and where to place them. Not exactly wherever but there are certain spots pre-positioned to choose from. Inconveniently, the game shows just a map and not the in-game layout prior to positioning units. I recall many times where I had to reload the game because an area was much different than I could imagine when I saw the map and my troops were at a huge disadvantage. Luckily, the player always has the first move and can move wherever he or she chooses. Usually the player has around eight or nine movements per turn. More or less depending on how many of the main characters are placed into action. Tanks take up two movements and all other units take just one. During a unit's movement, he or she can move wherever possible on the map. The game allows just one use of attacking or healing per movement but the gamer can choose to use another movement to move again. While the gamer moves a character, the game is live. Meaning if a unit moves within the sight of an enemy scout, shocktrooper or tank, he or she will be fired upon. Sometimes this can be a huge pain and the unit might even die before getting a chance to take aim. Once the aiming selection is picked, time stops and the player can take their time. Dying is interesting here. They don't really die and can be recovered if the player moves another unit over to their location and recovers the body. However, if a certain amount of turns go by, three I believe or an enemy unit touches the body; the unit is gone for good. Meaning they can't be used for the rest of the game!
While the overall gameplay is fun, there are plenty of minor problems that keep Valkyria Chronicles from being outstanding. Most of the battles take place in towns with seemingly multiple paths to take to achieve victory. Unfortunately there are really just a couple because many areas are blocked off despite looking accessible. So while it may look like four groups of units can bombard the enemy base, there are only two routes to take. To make things worse, there happen to be random enemies hiding out in these areas just waiting to attack. There are a couple levels with towers and accessible roofs. Again, these sound great in theory but don't provide much use. Sending a unit up there might reveal the location of an enemy unit but 99% of the time they will be out of range. It is also not good to leave them there either. Every single enemy unit now sees that unit as a sitting duck and will more than likely have a sniper ready to go. Each unit is given set of potentials that give positives and negatives during the battle. Some units don't like boys or like a certain unit and will have their accuracy, attack, defense, etc. go up or down depending on what their surrounding is. I appreciate the attempt at realism but some of the potentials are just stupid not to mention they are difficult to actually incorporate because they are only valid for a short distance from the object activating the potential. Despite these flaws, Valkyria Chronicles can be enjoyed by any time of gamer. There is definitely some strategy needed, especially more on the hard difficulty setting but nothing impossible. If you are looking for something different in a RPG, Valkyria Chronicles is right for you.
Squad 7, move out!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/27/11, Updated 01/31/11
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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