Review by MJEmirzian
A highly innovative and well designed SRPG
Combat System/Level Design
Valkyria Chronicles features one of the most innovative SRPG combat systems in years. The battlefield remains fixed until a unit is selected, at which point your unit is placed in semi-realtime combat and allowed to move a limited distance and fire at targets or use items. Enemies will not move but they can spot your unit and make intercepting fire. The blend of first person shooter and turn based strategy is highly innovative and well designed. The combat system is slightly similar to Sega's long time SRPG series, Sakura Wars.
Taking actions in the game uses Command Points which are given every turn. The CP system adds strategy since you can take action with the same unit multiple times per turn or give out Orders. It's a good way to stress players to be efficient with each of their actions.
Players can issue battlefield buffs or attacks called Orders which are unfortunately too easy to abuse and break the game with. This is a weak spot in the games strategic depth, since most of it can be circumvented by using overpowered Orders on a Scout class unit. Other abusable features include save/reload abuse and level grinding. Like most SRPGs, if you want a challenge you will have to restrain yourself. Some sets of post-game missions like the EX-Hard skirmishes are less prone to abuse, but not immune.
The games 5 classes provide a wide variety of strategic depth as they all have their own strengths, weaknesses, weapons, and items. While the Scout, Shocktrooper, and Lancer classes tend to dominate, there's room for Snipers and Engineers in some missions/skirmishes as well. The tanks you're supplied with not only have a full arsenal of weaponry, but also smoke grenades to provide troop cover, adding more potential strategic depth. Each person you can recruit is unique with their own name, stats, skills, and backstory. Each recruit can be further customized by equipping different weapons to alter their combat performance. It's only until the post-game skirmish missions where particular characters and unique weapons start to have a bearing on mission strategy.
Level design is excellent with well designed maps and a variety of mission conditions. There aren't any 'filler' or otherwise boring, uninspired missions. There's always some new or unique strategy to be discovered and utilized as you progress through the game, if you're skilled enough to figure it out. In writing my guide for this game, I ended up with several pages of efficient strategies that can be employed in the game towards victory, including line of sight, CP management, crouching/sandbags, mines/explosives, tanks, and survival.
The scoring system consists of points rewarded for killing certain special enemies on the map (leaders, aces, and tanks), and a rank for turns taken per mission. The speed rank is almost always very lax in terms of getting a top score, so most of the games challenge involves getting both a high score and beating the 'A rank' speed by several turns, while not abusing orders or save/reloading.
The graphics are a fantastic mix of watercolors and WW2 design. Many of the sounds in the game are expressed in comic book style words coming out of the weapons or tanks, adding to the graphical storybook appeal. The music is excellent with inspiring and rousing classical military pieces, while the sound effects are strong and believable. The Plot is somewhat cliche and ignorable, thankfully all cutscenes are skippable so you can just get to the battles.
If you're a fan of turn based strategy, SRPGs, or strategy of any kind, don't miss this game. It has enough challenge and depth for players of all skill levels.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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