Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles has become something of a cult favourite. Debuting on PS3 back in 2008, its somewhat unique blend of real-time combat and turn-based gameplay proved a popular mix, and when combined with its striking art design and surprisingly layered narrative, made for one of the consoles’ more beloved exclusives. Since then, well, nothing much if truth be told. Sure, there has been a solid if rudimentary re-master for the PS4 and a handful of decent but inevitably underpowered handheld and mobile iterations that successfully captured the feel of the original but failed to match its scope, but honestly, we’ve all been waiting on a fully fledged home console sequel. Enter, Valkyria Revolution, a full retail follow up for PS4 that is……not much like the original at all.
For some bizarre reason, Sega and developer, Media Vision have seen fit to remove the vast majority of the tactical elements that helped distinguish the original game from its peers and and replaced them with a much more action oriented set of mechanics that are often more reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors series than they are of the original game. You can still swap between characters on the fly and you can pause time when casting magic or throwing a grenade, but for the most part, you’ll be charging head first into encounters to use your melee weaponry using very run-of-the-mill real-time battle mechanics.
That’s not to say that it’s all bad of course, it simply isn’t the Valkyria Chronicles follow up that most would have expected and many would have hoped for. This is fundamentally a very different experience, one that sadly looks and feels decidedly more conventional than its excitingly unique predecessor.
Despite some rather ropey AI and an overly simplified battle system, there is still fun to be had for those that can get over that initial disappointment. The turn-based combat is nowhere to be seen and most battles can be won by simply tearing into enemies with little thought given to your tactical approach, but the combat itself is fun enough, and when combined with the rudimentary tactical options and the games’ basic RPG mechanics, makes for a shallow but undeniably enjoyable brawler.
It’s a shame that the grunts don’t provide more of a tactical challenge, but despite many encounters turning quickly into mindless button-bashing affairs, the larger scale encounters and huge boss battles certainly provide glimpses of what this game could (and probably should) have been. It’s during these battles that the games’ tactical elements play a larger part, thus providing a unique combination of tactical RPG gameplay and fast-paced, melee-oriented action. It’s an odd mix, but one that actually works when placed alongside a suitable threat. Sadly, these moments are understandably fleeting and too much of the game is spent spamming the usual combination of basic attacks. There are systems in place that allow for a more tactical approach during standard encounters, but they’re simply not needed and outside of the boss battles, usually feel like a waste of time.
Speaking of time; plenty of that will be spent with Valkyria Revolution’s story – its interesting, overly long, occasionally moving and often poorly told story. Its Shakespearean narrative certainly doesn’t want for ambition and the difficult themes covered do fall in-line with expectations of the series, but for every moving moment and genuinely compelling story strand comes a painfully long and poorly animated sequence that will do little to move the narrative along or endear you to its characters. At its heart, Valkyria Revolution tale of battling orphans and the effects of history on war is an interesting one, it’s just a shame that its sweeping, ambitious narrative is so often undone by ropey presentation and poor pacing.
Visually too, while far from ugly, Valkyria Revolution’s much more standardised anime aesthetic makes for a significantly less interesting visual design; honestly, why they would have taken away one of the series’ most distinguishing features is quite beyond me. Still, when in motion, everything looks nice enough thanks to its cool looking character models and bright and breezy locations. Things aren’t so hot up close though. Some of the texture work is decidedly last gen and the complete lack of emotion during the games’ many conversations (I’m not even sure their faces move when they speak) is all but unforgiveable.
With more than 25 hours of core story and a multitude of surprisingly varied side missions that increase the playtime exponentially, Valkyria Revolution isn’t short of content with plenty to see and do for those who wish to experience everything that the game has to offer. Problem is, there isn’t much reason to do so. Sure, you’ll need to level up your characters, but with the majority of battles requiring little in the way of skill, a strict ‘story only’ approach should see you through to the finish without much of an issue. The side missions themselves are fun enough, but like so much of this game, they don’t fit into the wider experience in any meaningful or complimentary way.
It might be a perfectly enjoyable if admittedly flawed experience in its own right, but whichever way you look at it, Valkyria Revolution feels like a horribly missed opportunity to provide a fitting sequel to one of the last generation’s most beloved hidden gems. By removing much of what made the original unique, Sega and Media Vision have delivered an underwhelming and disappointingly bland follow up. The story is nothing if not ambitious and the combat certainly has its moments, but without the visual flourishes and distinct combat that made the Valkyria Chronicles stand out from the crowd, Valkyria Revolution is left as a solid if decidedly mediocre follow up to a far superior original.
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