War Never Changes:
I was a huge fan of the original Valkyria Chronicles and its unique brand of strategy RPG when it came to PS3 a decade ago. I was less of a fan as it moved to PSP for its sequel and, finally, even less of one when the third title never even made it to the West.
All of which is to say, I was delighted when I heard the series would be returning to its console roots – and enjoy a localized release – with Valkyria Chronicles 4. But now that it’s here, what’s the verdict? Is this a worthwhile sequel to a game that had its last proper release a decade ago?
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place during the same timeline of that first entry, focusing on a different countries struggles during the war. This parallel story makes for some interesting narrative twists that I admittedly wasn’t expecting, but whilst seasoned players will be able to glean some interesting story beats that newcomers might pass over the heads of newcomers, it’s still a welcoming starting point for anyone. I really dug this approach as it works on multiple levels.
Much like previous entries, the narrative lives and dies by the strength of its characters. After all, apart from some anime-inspired twists and turns, the game is a war story first and foremost. It’s a beefy thing too, with my playthrough clocking in around 35 hours. Luckily the cast of characters – even the periphery ‘side’ characters that make up the numbers in your squad – are all fairly great. They’ve each got their own personal stories you can unlock, and these characters that evolve emotionally whilst they’re levelling up physically really add to the melting pot that is VCs impressive ensemble. Personality shines through by the bucketload here, and I actually really cared about the fate of almost all of my squadmates.
If you’re played previous games in the series, you’ll know what to expect here. Most of the core mechanics of Valkyria Chronicles – playing tactician from above on a war map, and then diving into the action in strategic third person combat below – is familiar stuff. Whilst this beating heart holds up just as well as it did a decade, it’s good to see Sega iterating slightly on the formula with some interesting wrinkles.
One of most prominent of these is the new grenadier class, who can fire upon groups of enemies from afar with massive mortar cannons. It’s a little overpowered whether you’re playing with them or against them, and they threaten to turn the meta into a something that revolves around this blind death from above, but through careful tactics (and some smart hamstringing from the devs) they’re brought to a sort of balance. Despite the tricky balancing act however, they’re undeniably great fun to use.
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