Before we can even start to discuss this game, a clear message needs to be relayed in case you missed one of the many notices put out by Media.Vision about their latest game, Valkyria Revolution – this is not another Valkyria Chronicles game. This is meant in every conceivable way as it’s set in a completely different universe where the concept of ‘Valkyria’ is entirely something else and the gameplay is drastically different; not to mention there are a range of stylistic changes. As such, comparisons back to the original series are essentially meaningless, so with this in mind, I approached it as one approaches any brand new game: with an open heart and an eager mind.
The combat system is, by far, the most interesting element to consider about Valkyria Revolution. It is as if they’ve taken a Dynasty Warriors game and added an ATB gauge to it: essentially, a game about defeating heaps of people en masse, but where you can only take a combat action every few seconds, while retaining full control over movement, blocking and dodging. This generates interesting decisions on the battlefield: aim for the leader or to take out a large mob, use a single mana-intensive move to end the battle or going in for a few rounds of ducking and weaving while throwing out cheap hits.
This holds out really well for the first few chapters, but it quickly becomes evident that the level variety is minimal. Each ‘area’ has a handful of different scenarios that can take place in them, which mostly play out the same way each time. Once you’ve locked on to your preferred and most efficient combinations, clearing these again is entirely unlike any kind of amusement, ultimately becoming little more than a chore.
Luckily, there is little need to repeat old levels too many times. While you have a cast that far exceeds the allowed party size, you can very reasonably make it through the game only picking your favourite four for every level. I couldn’t discern any tactical advantage to switching out party members between fights, save to go ‘more aggressive’ or ‘more defensive,’ but I found a balanced party would suffice for all circumstances. Given only your active fighters get a full share of battle experience, I saw it to my immense disadvantage to try anyone beyond my decided few.
It’s just so lucky my favourite four characters happened to be a balanced team; the main cast of characters is one of the worst I’ve seen in recent history. Each member of your squadron has one of two main personality traits that entirely define their every action. In cutscenes, each one will offer a single line of dialogue (generally a few characters a row) showing how their personality reacts to this input: silly response, posh response, rough response, and so on. They never change, grow, or develop in any meaningful way, and I outright couldn’t stand to listen to a few of them. Although, listen to them you must!
The worst decision made by the development team was to create a game with long and repetitive cutscenes but then deny the player any means to accelerate them. Unlike so many games before it, you cannot simply ‘Push X’ to advance one line of spoken dialogue: you must wait for it to be read out by the character. Yes, for every one of the frequently poorly written, often irrelevant, always-as-overly-wordy-as-this-sentence cutscenes. While they do still deign to allow you access to the ability to skip any of the story scenes entirely, this does you no good if you actually want to take in the story.
Even that statement is said with a knowing frown, though, as the story may well not be one you need to take it at all. By the end of Chapter 2, I had a good idea of exactly what I assumed was going to happen to each character, and why. As the game came to a close, almost all of my predictions had proven to be right, and even those I wasn’t spot-on about weren’t too far off the mark. The plot line itself is unoriginal, the character motivations are weak or sometimes outright nonsensical, and there is no real grand reveal to it all. I would probably have enjoyed the game more had I skipped literally every cutscene and played it as a plotless series of battles.
Narrative elements aside, Valkyria Revolution also fails to perform visually. The characters models are nothing special and locations are plain and straightforward to the point of feeling like artificial zones created just for combat. So many games have come before with so much more care put into these aspects, so it’s disappointing to see this. Character faces are a particularly weak point; there are a few close-up shots which caused me some unease at how unnatural it all looked. I find it remarkable that the game would choose to continue to use the title ‘Valkyria,’ not just because of how vastly different it is, but also because the original honestly looked so much more beautiful than this one.
This lack of attention to detail bleeds into the animation as well. Each character has a few preset emotions and a handful of stances, which they’ll use to match the current line of dialogue; the approach to animation one frequently sees in MMORPGs. What should be particularly emotional moments are literally just the cast using their ‘standing idle’ stance with a ‘sad’ emotion, which is the exact same stance and emotion displayed any time it was relevant earlier. While there are a small collection of scenes that have clearly had some extra treatment, the ratio is far too imbalanced towards the quick and easy option.
The biggest disappointment I must express here is that the concept for combat is truly an intriguing one that could have been put into so much better of a game. With more care to the level design, particularly later on, I could have at least said the overall experience was fun to play. Moreso, if the narrative had been up to the par we expect from games these days, or even halfway as good as the previous entries, then this could have been another excellent game to take the name “Valkyria.”
As a fan of the first two Valkyria Chronicles games, I was excited about getting to experience some more Valkyria adventures. While I was able to accept that Valkyria Revolution was completely incomparable to the other games that share the series title, and was even eager to try out the innovative approach to combat, the overall package fails to live up to any standards we judge games by. Between a dull story, irritating characters and long cutscenes, the narrative let me down entirely and is displayed in a visual style that I’d consider an overall downgrade. Ultimately, this much-anticipated game is a disappointment in many ways and not the revolution I was hoping for.