Valkyria Revolution does an excellent job pulling me in two different directions at the same time. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the game for what it was, being a fan of similar combat systems found in Kingdom Hearts, Star Ocean, and Dynasty Warriors. On the other hand, I found myself missing the elements that made Valkyria Chronicles so special and such a wonderful, under appreciated game. Playing through this new entry, it’s hard not to keep comparing it back to the original, since it’s the one that sticks out most for fans. While it may have a lot of flaws and certainly doesn’t have the same charm as Chronicles, I do still think there’s a game worth exploring here. Read on for our full Valkyria Revolution review.
Title: Valkyria Revolution
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita (digital only)
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Review Game Provided by the Publisher
The most important thing to stress here at the beginning is this. Valkyria Revolution is not a direct sequel to the Valkyria Chronicles trilogy of games. Gone are the days of Welkin, Alicia, and the Edelweiss. In the simplest terms possible, Revolution can best be looked at as a spinoff title, since it takes place on a different continent, timeline, and universe than its predecessors.
Instead of a World War II influence, this game takes direct inspiration for its story by the European industrial revolution and focuses on a war of liberation between two competing nations. Jutland, a small independent Kingdom, is struggling to overcome an economic blockade from the Ruzi Empire to the north. The Ruzi Empire came into this position of power thanks to Ragnite, a mineral mined and used for energy sources, but it also has magical powers. But that’s not the only thing Ruzi has going for them. Much to the dismay of Jutland, they also have a Valkyria, the living embodiment of death in a demi-god form. These take on a slightly different appearance than what fans are used to seeing from the original trilogy, but it’s nice to see some lore aspects still carried over into this new installment.
Players take direct control of the Vanargand, a powerful team of ragnite specialist soldiers selected to take out the Valkyria that the Ruzi Empire holds so dear. Most of your time will be spent with Captain Amleth Gronkaer, the main protagonist of the game. Together with Princess Ophelia and a handful of other characters, your purpose is to slowly occupy enemy settlements and strike at the opponent whenever possible. But, as introduced in literally the first few minutes of the opening sequence, Amleth hides a dark secret. There was a sub-sect operating undetected right under the noses of the Jutland Kingdom, and these five individuals end up being known as The Five Traitors. Why? Play the game and find out!
Without a doubt, the strongest element in Valkyria Revolution is the story telling. I’m a huge fan of a great story in a roleplaying game, and luckily, this game succeeded my expectations on this front. It is presented in a similar style to Chronicles, in that everything is housed within a book, and the story is basically being told from one person to another. However, I will say that this is a very traditional, old-school JRPG in terms of the way the story is presented. Be prepared for 70% cutscenes, 30% gameplay throughout the fifty-to-sixty hours it’ll take to complete the main story. This ratio definitely brought back memories of the Xenosaga trilogy, so just keep this in mind before diving into the game.
The biggest change is unquestionably the battle system, and is the reason for a lot of negative press when the game released in Japan, and has had fans of the franchise worried since the original announcement. This game is not a tactical strategy RPG by any means. There are still some slight strategy elements involved with battles, but nothing like the original game and what fans wanted to see moving forward. Think Kingdom Hearts, mixed with Star Ocean, and sprinkled with Dynasty Warriors. You move around in a 3D environment, and the sole objective is to eliminate the enemies. You do this via attacking, but you can only attack three times before your gauge is depleted and needs to be recharged. Don’t worry, the recharge happens within seconds, and you’ll be back to hitting the attack button and taking out the Ruzi Empire. The more enemies you defeat and the stronger your influence in a particular area, the quicker your stamina meter will fill back up, with a full influence bar causing it to basically never run out.
This is clearly a massive departure from the original Valkyria Chronicles, but I’m content with the new system. I prefer these action battle systems more so than tactical strategy, but that system is what really made Chronicles so unique and beloved amongst the community. And I have to agree that they should have stuck with that system and made this franchise something different from all the other roleplaying games out there at the moment. The artificial intelligence is also rather poor. The game is pretty easy, and this has a lot to do with the fact that enemies often just stand around, making it rather simple to dodge their incoming fire and take them out. Compare this to the original game, which had me restarting and retrying missions over and over again because I just couldn’t get past a certain area, or wanted to get things done in fewer turns for a better ranking. Speaking of which, the ranking system is still involved after missions, but as long as you move quickly, achieving a high score isn’t very hard.
Missions are selected by going to Headquarters and choosing which one you want to embark on from a war map. I liked this aspect, and the amount of Free Missions was a nice touch. There are several missions which are basically side quests contained in each of the eleven chapters, and they can be completed over and over again to keep gaining experience for your party members. Unlike in most roleplaying games, experience is not directly gained from defeating enemies, and instead is rewarded all at once upon successful completion of a mission. My favorite thing to do is over level in a game so I never get stuck later on, and Valkyria Revolution makes this extremely easy to do.
Weapons and characters can be customized through a menu and system that is very reminiscent of the Sphere Grid system found in Final Fantasy X. Each character in the Vanargand has a unique grid attached to them, and you can use items found in battles and during missions to attach experience to certain skills, like Attack Up, Magic Up, etc. Once you unlock a node, the surrounding ones open up, and it’s actually really well done. I enjoyed this mechanic a lot in Final Fantasy, and am glad to see other games still going back to something that worked.
Graphics wise, Valkyria Revolution is a step up from the original game. The updated engine certainly puts out some nice looking backdrops at times, but other times, things look and feel rather dull. Especially during the cutscenes, as everything is rendered in real time using the game engine. These cutscenes are rather poorly executed, and there are literally no facial animations during them. It’s often hard to tell who is speaking, because even though the text is on the screen, the game doesn’t attach a name to the text, and with mouths that aren’t really visibly moving, you’re going to need to quickly learn voices to keep up with what is going on. The voice acting is actually really good too, which makes this somewhat depressing. More animations and a better pacing for the cutscenes would have greatly improved my outlook in this area.
But then there’s the soundtrack. Oh man. As a lot of people may know, soundtracks and the way a game can make you feel certain emotions using music is perhaps one of my favorite things about the gaming medium. Valkyria Revolution nails the soundtrack, just as it did in prior games. World renowned composer Yasunori Mitsuda is responsible for this beautiful soundtrack. Known for his work on fantastic titles such as Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Xenosaga Episode I, and Xenoblade Chronicles, he has a certain style that cannot be duplicated. I have personally added this soundtrack to my list of ones that I will continuously go back to and listen to time and time again.
Valkyria Revolution is going to get a significant amount of hate from the roleplaying game community. Is it justified? I actually don’t think so. Even though the battle system is such a radical change from the original games, the graphics are hit or miss in certain areas, and the cutscenes can be down right brutal and quite lengthy, there’s still a lot to enjoy. An impressive cast of characters and interesting story, beautiful accompanying soundtrack, fun sphere grid leveling system, and a different take on the battle system more in line with action RPG’s. Yes, I purposefully included the battle system in both the positive and negative category. People like myself are going to enjoy it for what it is. Others are going to downright hate it. Revolution pulls back and forth on many different strings, but because of the inconsistency, it’s hard to recommend the title to anyone but the diehard fan base and those who already made up their mind on a purchase. I would implore you to try this game for yourself. You may just find that you’re like me, after all.