Review by trancejeremy
"Quirky old school style dungeon crawler combined with MMORPG style combat"
Valhalla Knights is something of an unusual blend of RPGs. It's very much an old school dungeon crawl at heart (think The Bard's Tale or Wizardry), combined with a more modern real time battle system more akin to a MMORPG than traditional RPGs. It's something of a weird mixture, because while it can be fun to play, I'm not sure if would completely satisfy anyone. It also requires a lot of grinding.
Like most dungeon crawlers, there isn't much of a story. You play a human hero who has lost his/her memory. You wake up in the small town of Palida. A mysterious voice in the head tells you to do things. So you do. Which basically consists of going where the voice tells you. It starts off in an old castle prison, but then you go through some mines, a forest, an old fort, and some rather unusual places.
All in all, while the dungeon environments are quite varied, there aren't a whole lot of dungeon regions to explore. Some get repeated, though the miracle of time travel (an easy way for the developer to save money by re-using assets).
Besides just following the voice, you can do quests from the local adventurers guild. Unfortunately, these quests are not very well explained, and honestly, I do not see how you can do them without either looking at a game guide or by pure luck. Most of them basically involve you going to someplace and then triggering a tiny cutscene of you doing some sort of action. The quests do seem to be optional, though.
The quests are where the quirky nature of the title comes in. Many of the quests are either odd, or bittersweet or touching. For instance, one quest has you putting flowers on the grave of a child's father. Another involves a marriage of a dog (to another dog). This added a lot to the game, but there aren't really a whole lot of quests. At most, 3 quests per dungeon region (some don't have any).
Character customization is both complex and shallow at the same time. You only have 4 basic classes plus 4 advanced classes that have to be unlocked (by getting items from monsters you kill), plus one special robot classes. However, each non-machine race can have levels in any of the classes, and select 3 of those classes at any given him (1 main class and 2 sub classes). Which provides a lot of variety. I'm not sure the end result though is much variety, because there aren't a lot of stats. And in order to get the extra 4 advanced classes, you have to do a lot of grinding in very specific areas.
The item system is the same way. You have a lot of different slots, but the results generally aren't very different.
There's very much a lack of feedback. For instance, rather than each piece adding x amount to your armor or weapon level, you simply have a small rating which may or may not go up.
Combat is pretty simple. In a lot of ways it's like MMORPG combat, you generally fight against "mobs", of several creatures (usually 6). You basically build your party by having tanks in the front row, with support units in the back (hopefully). You can control one character, attacking is basically done by just hitting the x button repeatedly, or selecting a spell from a menu. The rest of the characters are handled automatically by the AI. Although you can have them control all if you want. (This actually lets you "autogrind" by setting it for that and leaving your characters in an area for a while).
The detail of combat is pretty impressive though. Many times you will fight 4 different types of creatures in combat, sometimes 5 (out of 6). Some are just color swaps, but often they also have different weapons and animations. And some of the combat animations are also pretty impressive.
The graphics are quite impressive, actually. They aren't particularly colorful, but nicely detailed and sharp. You can stop and use a first person view any time you want, and look up and down, and you can see ceilings and such. In battles though, when you have a full party, and use spells, there can be some slowdown.
The sound is pretty much forgettable, though. There is one nice musical piece that plays while in town. I think that's the only music in the game. It's a nice though. I found myself humming it. Reminds me of the music from Conan the Barbarian. No speech either.
There really aren't any noticeable loading times in the game. Maybe 2-3 seconds when you change dungeon regions. No loading at all when you are in town and enter/exit buildings except sometimes when you enter or leave the inn. When navigating your character menus, only when changing equipment is there a loading pause, presumably because it has to load the new graphics. But very impressive.
My rating is pretty much strictly for fans of dungeon crawls. If you are looking for an RPG with a good story, memorable characters, and lots of cutscenes, look elsewhere. Even old school dungeon crawl fans might be turned off by the new school combat system, slow level advancement, and amount of grinding. But if you have a lot of patience, or free time, you might have a lot of fun with it. C or 7/10 here
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/07
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