Published on May 21st, 2016 | by Sean Warhurst
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered PS4 Review
Summary: An esoteric mishmash of genres and with an art style that belies the more sombre elements of the storyline.
All quiet on the eastern front...
Valkyria Chronicles is, at its core, a deep strategy title that puts an innovative spin on traditional turn-based combat and frames this all with a lavish, watercolour-esque art style and an engaging storyline that takes place in a setting very similar to 1930’s war torn Europe.
Gameplay is predominately handled in much the same way as games like XCOM or, if you like things with a bit more of a JRPG flavour, Advance Wars, where you’re offered an overhead view of the battlefield and given time to strategise and plan your methods of attack. There’s one major difference with Valkyria Chronicles, however – Once you put your plan into motion you’ll take direct control of your party members rather than relying on the game to handle the actual conflicts. This is dubbed the BLiTZ battle system, short for Battle of Live Tactical Zones.
This is achieved through careful and judicious use of the command point system, which dictates the amount of moves available to you. One command point equals one move, except for vehicles which require to points, and, once activated, the camera will pan down to a third person view and you’ll gain control of your character. From here you can move into position and launch an attack on your enemies, but with a caveat – You can only attack once per round, in keeping with the turn based side of things, and you can only move until a gauge on the bottom of the screen runs out.
Didn’t make it to cover in time? Tough luck, you’re now completely open to attack until the enemy finishes their move or you use another command point, which reduces the length of the gauge each time you use it on the same character.
This means planning your movements efficiently is an integral component of victory, more so than the actual combat portions; here you’ll gauge the HP of your target and whether your attacks will whittle their health down or outright kill them, but it’s a much less stressful process than positioning your soldiers as during these sections time freezes, allowing you ample time to line up the perfect shot. The gameplay mechanics do take a little time to get to grips with but after your first few minor skirmishes they should become second nature and everything is explained in a fairly concise yet comprehensive manner as you work your way through the opening chapters.
The controls can feel a little bit clunky at times, particularly when trying to line up precision shots, and just overall isn’t as smooth as modern gamers have become accustomed to. Again, though, it’s just a matter of adjusting to the slightly archaic control scheme and is never so bad as to impact accessibility.
The plot presents a conflict that is essentially an analogue of the Second World War and the invasion of Switzerland, with the Nazi’s replaced by the East Europan Imperial Alliance. It follows the story of Gunther Welkin, the son of a war hero who is thrust into the unlikely role of hero after coming across members of the rebellion who initially mistake him for a spy. Once his true identity is revealed due to the intervention of an old friend, invading forces attack and the true crux of the story begins.
Gallia, this reality’s Switzerland, has remained neutral throughout the conflict but is suffering attacks from encroaching enemy battalions as they move across Europa in order to seize control of the nation’s abundant supply of Ragnite, an energy source that civilization is dependent upon much like oil in the real world. It’s up to Welkin and a ragtag collection of freedom fighters to repel the enemy as best they can and do their part in breaking down the war machine.
The war itself serves as a backdrop to a much more personal element of the plot, with each main character having their own little subplot or exploration of their history and motivations and even many of the minor character feel like fully fleshed out human beings rather than generic cannon fodder. This adds an element of pathos to proceedings and makes each battle more than just a mindless race to victory… You genuinely want to see these characters succeed.
The gameplay and aesthetics of the game hold up remarkably well considering that Valkyria Chronicles initially came out in 2008 and the story is really quite entertaining once it starts to pick up some steam and starts to explore the underlying themes of xenophobic tensions and jingoistic patriotism, but, with all of that said, I sure hope you like sitting through cutscenes, because there’s a hell of a lot of them to wade through here… And I mean a lot, like nearly reaching Metal Gear Solid 4 levels.
Even more annoyingly, you’ll constantly be transported back to the history book that serves as the game’s narrative framing device and manually select the next scene, often three or five times before your next battle; it’s an anachronistic system that felt out of place back in 2008 and a subsequent 8 years hasn’t done it any favours.
Graphics and Audio
The cel-shaded graphics and watercolour aesthetic have aged extremely well and look even better when boosted to 60fps and 1080p. Character animation can be a little stiff at times and movement can appear stilted but this is to be expected after nearly a decade of being spoiled with ever increasing technical capabilities.
The sound design is a little unremarkable and is probably Valkyria Chronicles’ weakest point, with passable voice acting performances and a general lack of impact to the sounds of battle. One notable exception to this is the soundtrack, composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto of Final Fantasy Tactics fame, which is suitably uplifting and alternately panic inducing at appropriate moments and the sweeping score evokes fond memories of losing hours of my childhood to classic JRPGs.
An esoteric mishmash of genres and with an art style that belies the more sombre elements of the storyline, Valkyria Chronicles isn’t exactly an easy recommend. For me, personally, it all comes together to form a cohesive whole and has reignited my long dormant passion for strategising and turn based combat scenarios but some may come to the game thinking that the RPG elements are much more prevalent rather than simply informing the non-interactive cutscenes.
If you’re still on board after realising that the game is solely comprised of waging turn based battles, then you’ll find that Valkyria Chronicles offers up a satisfyingly deep combat system and engaging storyline as reward for the investment of your time.
With the tweaks to frame rate and resolution, this is the best the game has ever looked and the addition of DLC in the form of extra scenarios makes Valkyria Chronicles Remastered the definitive edition of the game, even if it is slightly disappointing that no truly new content or major graphical upgrades were added.
Primary Format – PlayStation 4
Game Genre – RTS/RPG
Rating – PG
Game Developer – Sega
Game Publisher – Sega
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst