Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Price: $29.99 (Physical & Digital)
Genre: Strategy RPG
Also Available On: PS3, PC (non-remastered version)
If you’ve played Valkyria Chronicles on either the PS3 or PC, there isn’t anything new or groundbreaking in this current-gen remaster. It’s still the same unique and beautiful game that it has always been. Upon booting it up, I was immediately sucked back into the engrossing characters that make up the alternate reality World War II setting that the game takes place in. Never have I played a game that places so much care and attention on the lore of a fictional world as it does the tightness of the gameplay formula that it slowly rolls out to you over the first few chapters of the game.
I’ll admit it; I never pay full attention to the storyline in a game where I find myself scratching at the door for another taste of gameplay between the plentiful hand-drawn cutscenes and dialog exchanges. To keep it brief, you follow around a small squad of militia appropriately named “Squad 7” as they attempt to take back their land from the Empire, or axis power of the game. The story in the game goes much deeper than that of course; there’s more than a handful of tense and emotional moments between these characters that really do grow on you over the course of the game as you learn more about their backstory & relationships with other members of the militia.
Compared to more traditional RPGs, like Final Fantasy, the menus in Valkyria Chronicles are seldom and incredibly easy to navigate. Right after loading a save, the game throws you into a book-like menu where you can linearly progress through the missions and cutscenes of the game. Of course, you are free to navigate throughout the book’s chapters to go back and replay any cutscene again. Simple enough. Now, here’s where things get meaty. Hitting Triangle brings up a menu which allow you to select different “Tabs” including Headquarters (HQ), Skirmishes, Personnel, Weaponry and Glossary.
The HQ tab is the central hub, which you should regularly visit in-between story missions to adjust your squad, level up classes and explore the lore. From within the HQ, you can view a list of every single unique character that has joined your squad and swap out their weapons as you acquire upgrades for them. You can also ‘train’ the five different character classes as you amass experience points from playing skirmishes and story missions. Leveling up classes unlocks access to new abilities and skills for that class. Additionally, you can spend experience on new parts and upgrades for the tank you utilize heavily in combat. Finally, you can spend experience on pieces of literature to learn more about the events taking place in the game universe.
The skirmishes tab simply allows you to participate in battles from various story locations that have no effect on the story, but allow you to grind experience to level up your characters and unlock items. Depending on your play style, this could become quite necessary in the game’s later chapters. The personnel tab lists the many characters you encounter throughout the game; it allows you to expand each character to view details about their backstory and examine their character model more closely. The weaponry tab functions identically to the personnel tab; only instead of characters, you can learn about the various weapons your characters utilize. Finally, the glossary tab is more or less an encyclopedia of all of the battles, cities, and backstory in the game. Unless you care deeply about the story, the HQ tab will be your most frequented destination in the game.
Here’s what makes a game good; and in Valkyria Chronicles’ case, spectacular. Each mission begins with a briefing on the battle scenario as well as the set of conditions required to beat the mission. These can range from eliminating all enemies to capturing an enemy base; all while making sure your tank isn’t destroyed. This setup gives you an excellent idea of what you need to achieve without directly leading you along the shortest road to the end goal.
Next, you are tasked with positioning units at various predetermined spots across the map. You are free to place the maximum number of units allowed for the mission or strategically position fewer units only to spawn more from your base as needed. I found myself constantly restarting missions to rearrange or try a different strategy with my units. The game can be merciless if you make a few small mistakes with how you coordinate your unit placement. In terms of unit classes, you have the agile scout with plenty of stamina to move about the battlefield per turn; the shocktrooper who has more firepower, but less movement range; the lancer who is primarily used for taking out enemy artillery; the engineer who can be used to provide healing and support to fellow units; and the sniper who can swiftly take out far-away targets like no other. All classes have a stamina bar and some have limited ammo per turn.
After sweating over unit placement, you can finally begin the part of this game that truly shines. The player phase begins and you tap the first unit you wish to command. The game is both turn-based and real-time in the sense that each unit takes one CP point to take control of and you are only able to move one unit at a time. Despite this, if you move a unit within firing range of an enemy, that enemy will shoot at you until you hit R1 to enter targeting mode. You can then switch between your weapon and grenades and fire upon the enemy. Protip: the head is the best place to aim, usually. After that, you can then use any remaining stamina to move your character around or to cover. This process repeats until you have used up all available CP points for your turn. The enemy then takes its turn moving around AI units and attacking your squad. Every battle, I continue to be impressed by the strategies that the opposing AI employs to thwart my attempts at victory. From sneaking around trenches to sniping me from afar, I can never seem to outsmart the enemy on my first play of any mission. That’s one of the reasons I love this game so much. It challenges me in a way that few games have to outmaneuver the enemy with chess-like moves to take them out before they outmatch me. From the strengths and weaknesses that each class has against certain enemy types to the concept of stat boosts for characters when they are near other specific characters on the battlefield, Valkyria Chronicles boasts all of the characteristics that make a game simple to understand yet incredibly difficult to perfect.
One more thing I feel that’s worth noting. Whenever an enemy takes out one of your characters, you have three turn phases to get another unit to reach the downed combatant and evacuate them back to base. Otherwise, you lose that unit forever. There were battles where I forgot about my downed unit causing them to die and out of guilt I ended up restarting the battle. The micromanagement in the gameplay is a breath of fresh air compared to your typical point and shoot third person shooter or button-mashy RPG or RTS.
Valkyria Chronicles on the PS4 runs at a silky smooth 60fps in full 1080p for the very first time. Also new in this iteration is the long-awaited inclusion of PSN trophies. If you adored the game in the last generation, the absurdly cheap price of $30 more than justifies a double dip. And if you are one of those folks who has yet to experience this beautifully stylized action RTS RPG shooter, this is the time and place to jump in.
Depending on how you tackle them, each battle in the game can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Afterwards you can spend 30-40 hours in the game and still have things left to do and see. In an era of redundant, recycled games that get churned out yearly, Valkyria Chronicles is a shining beacon of uniqueness and creativity that big game companies should look to for inspiration and to see that creating something new and unique, when done correctly, can cultivate a loyal fan base that can, and will, last far beyond a game’s initial release.
DISCLAIMER: This is the first long-form review for anything that I’ve written in quite a few years. It may not follow the expected formula of a modern review, but I aimed to cover the aspects of the game that I feel are important. Hope you enjoyed the read.