by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
When asked if I wanted to review Valkyria Chronicles, I said “Ha!, when pigs fly!” Little did I know that within the first few hours of the game you encounter a pig with wings. How foolish I felt... Nah, I’m actually lying: I was quite looking forward to reviewing the game. First released back in 2008 for PlayStation 3, it has just come out on PC as a re-release. Critically acclaimed six years ago, I was interested to see if it held up to the test of time as I took my first ever look at it.
It’s a highly tactical, part strategy, part action, part role playing game taking place during an ongoing conflict between two superpowers. Ragnite is a highly useful, yet scarce mineral which sparks a war between the East Europan Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation. It’s loosely based on World War II, but it’s easy to see the strong influences, even down to the shape of the continent and even the uniforms of each faction.
The game follows the story of Welkin Gunther, a young man with a famous, heroic general for a father. When his home town is attacked by the Empire, he fights back, eventually leading him along with his sister Isara and new found friend Alicia to the capital city. There, they join the militia, where Welkin is quickly given command of an entire squad thanks to his background and training.
The story is told as if they are chapters in a book, quite literally, as you are flicking through an actual tome selecting the cutscenes and missions to play. It’s very well told, and although it appears quite standard and dry at first, things pick up when you’re a few hours in, with love interests along with what can only be described as magic accompanying the usual perils of war. The depth of the story definitely harkens back to a time in gaming where you’d spend several minutes at a time watching exposition unfold in front of you. If you’re used to a more high paced adventure, this may not be the game for you.
Ready for action
This extends to the gameplay too. While it looks like a real time action game, in reality it’s very slow paced and methodical. During a battle, each side takes it in turns to move and perform actions. When it’s your turn, you have a set number of Command Points. From an overhead map, you select a unit to control, which takes a number of CP (usually one for a land unit, two for a tank). This unit then has an Action Point meter which limits its movement. During a turn the unit can move, perform a number of free actions, and shoot. Entering Target Mode allows you to aim your weapon freely, so you can target an enemy’s head for more damage, for example.
Once a unit has moved and shot, then their turn ends. However, spending another CP on them allows you to take another turn, albeit this time with a reduced AP meter. They will also run out of ammo depending on their weapon, so you won’t be able to use your entire number of CP to continually fire rockets on a turn, for instance. Those are the basics, but there are endless nuances which make the combat incredibly in-depth, even by modern standards. There are different units, scouts, snipers, engineers, shocktroopers and lancers, and they all interact with each other in a sort of rock, paper, scissors way. You’ll need a good balance to overcome your enemies.
Standing behind cover increases accuracy and renders you immune to headshots, but cover can be blown up. Tanks can crash through walls and barriers to create new paths, and your units can climb on top of buildings to gain vantage points. Anti tank mines can be stepped on by normal units and disarmed by engineers, but will do huge damage to your tank. When you fire upon enemies, if they’re able to they’ll launch a counter attack. And if you run by while they’re in range, they’ll take potshots at you even if it’s not their turn.
Value for money
There’s a lot going on, and if you’re impatient, like me, then it’s hard. Encounters have victory and loss conditions, and if you fail, you’ll have to do the whole thing again, even if you were a good half an hour or so into a multi-turn combat scenario. This, combined with a lack of auto save system caused a few frustrating situations where I’d lose a bunch of progress. I could deal with the slow pace when I could see what was happening, but if you don’t have line of sight of an enemy, you just have to watch the overhead map not give you any information. A little more streamlining on the enemy’s turn would’ve been appreciated. The third person camera angle also makes shooting tough at times, as bullets you thought would be heading straight for your enemy ricochet off a wall in front of you instead.
As it is, the campaign takes upwards of 25 hours to complete, and since the price is much reduced due to it being a re-release, you get a hell of a lot of bang for your buck. The graphics have started to show their age, but the actual art behind them is still sound. There are small frustrations, but for the most part, this is still a fantastic game six years on from its initial release. If you want complex, tactical combat, and a fascinating story told in a unique style, you’ll get a lot from Valkyria Chronicles.
Wonderfully complex combat, very well told story
Visuals starting to show age, slow and clunky in places