Review by thirtyninesteps
"Dude! Where's the Beef?"
Here's an idea. Take a dungeon crawling RPG. Put in a few...oh what the heck - up to 6 customizable characters. Add a boatload of weapons and armor. Throw in some slick graphics. Now back that up with rock solid gameplay on top of a great story. Well, the story bit might have been asking for too much, but at least we get good gameplay right? ...please? Unfortunately, Valhalla Knights plays like a poor man's MMORPG that is neither massively multi-player nor online. Its got merits, but dang it if it keeps your attention longer than it'll take for you to read this excellent review.
Let's take a look at the positives first. As mentioned, you can have up to 6 characters in your party at the same time. If you want, you can actually create more characters, but you can only take out 6 at a time. The rest will have to stay behind at the guild. When creating a character, there are 5 races to choose from - humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, and machines. Elves are smart and good at magic. Dwarves are naturally dumb and strong. Halflings are superfast half-humans - think Verne Troyer as a ninja. Machines are robotic slaves. They're like dwarves: big on brawn but none too bright. Humans, on the other hand, are the most well-balanced race of all and biggots on top of that. I know because I am human and I chose to make my entire party out of humans because I'm such a racist moron. Joking aside, you also get 4 initial jobs to choose from and if you literally play your cards right - 4 advance jobs. They're your typical run-of-the-mill RPG jobs (fighters, wizards, and such) so I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, that the only job the game forces you to use is the Priest. Otherwise you'd tear your hair out at not being able to recover HP on the field. What I do like about the job system though is that you can stack up to 2 subclasses on top of your primary job. So for example, you could create a fighter with a priest and wizard subclass so that he could kick butt and cast both defensive and offensive magic too.
Another great thing about this game is no random battles! Booyeah! Enemies are clearly visible and reasonably easy to avoid in dungeons. Run into an enemy to initiate a battle. During battle you control any one of your 6 characters. The rest are controlled by the at-times spotty computer AI. Luckily, another plus about this game is that you can customize the AI. Each character has their own "thought points" that you can use to adjust what they do like fight or cast magic. Although, we've seen it done better before in other games (FFXII comes to mind), it serves its purpose well here.
Lastly, to shake things up a bit, there are several subquests that you may partake in by signing up for them at the guild. They're a welcome addition, but are mostly really boring messenger type missions. Go here, get this, come back. Most of the time you get rewarded with gold and sometimes an extra character. It'd be better though if the rewards were something like rare weapons and magic.
Now on to the negatives. First there are literally only about 10 dungeons in the entire game. They have to recycle the levels a few times in order to extend the playtime of the game. In the game's defense, they add new monsters and treasures each time through so it's not exactly the same experience, but I can't help but feel as if they only paid their developer for 10 small stages and tried to figure out a way to build an entire game out of those. Although the graphics are pretty, they're not so pretty that I wouldn't like a bit more variety!
Next up is the really bland story. Ok, I'll be the first to admit that most video game stories are the stuff of Hollywood hacks, but it didn't even feel like they were trying in this game. The main character of the story is the generic stiff you create to begin the game. He is the only character you create that says anything, but you really wouldn't notice when his most famous quote is "..."! Somewhere in Valhalla Knight's there's a story about the hero's father and betrayals, but really without the lack of a strong lead we're back to the olden days of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy.
Speaking of olden days, VK hearkens back to those days by automatically deducting half your gold when your party gets whacked. It's really more of an annoyance in this game since you don't automatically earn gold after every battle, and it leads quite nicely into my other gripe about this game - gaining experience. We've got 2 major problems here. The first is that the amount of experience earned is based upon the highest leveled character in your party. This unfortunately makes it difficult for lower leveled characters to catch-up. Second big problem is that tougher battles don't reward significantly larger amounts of experience. I'm currently fighting battles in a middle-of-the-road dungeon that yields about 70 to 100 experience points whilst battles in the final dungeon get nary over 100. Ok, so you do potentially get better item drops, but the experience situation is still quite sucky.
The final suck I have on this game is the atrociously low item limit. You can only carry 30 weapons, armor, and general use items - COMBINED!!! Given the sheer amount of equipment you have as well as the different jobs you need them for, this is really inconvenient. The only workaround is to create new characters for the sole purpose of holding onto items.
In the end, what we have is a game that feels very rushed and unpolished. Its as though there are several missing dungeons and several lines of dialogue missing. They could have easily fixed a lot of the quirks on this game, but maybe they just ran out of time. As it stands, you get a glimmer of a great game, but that's about it. Recommended, but only if you are a fan of the genre...or if you're not and I really hate you. heh.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/04/09
Game Release: Valhalla Knights (US, 04/17/07)
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