Format Reviewed: Playstation 4
Provided By: Sega
Valkyria Revolution is a game of half-measures, always providing an interesting premise, but failing in the execution. Instead of focusing on one core experience, Valkyria Revolution spreads itself too thin and provides only mediocrity.
The scene is set with the small country of Jutland struggling against an economic blockade set by the Ruzi Empire. Pushed to the limit, Jutland is forced to war against Ruz in hopes of giving its people the supplies they desperately need. Leading the charge is the Anti-Valkyria Squad, a special forces group skilled with mana weaponry and alchemy. Joining them is Princess Ophelia, seeking to liberate Jutland as a soldier and princess.
But not all is as it seems, as Jutland is being manipulated into war by a group of five traitiors, seeking revenge against the Ruzi Emperor. Of these is the Anti-Valkyria Squad captain, Amleth, a man hell bent on avenging his fallen friends and caretakers who were slain by the Ruzi Empire.
This strong premise creates the groundwork for a riveting and engaging tale of subterfuge and revenge. Sadly, this premise is quickly ruined with generic writing and needless melodrama. Each character becomes a simple archetype, creating predictable circumstances and repetitive dialogue. Every sentence spoken by these characters inorganically repeats their one personality trait, regardless of the situation. The worst offender of this is Princess Ophelia, who will consistently break the pace of both battles and conversations, to spout off a naïve speech on how “we should all get along.” It makes Ophelia one of the most obnoxious characters and ruins critical points that could have carried emotional weight.
The poor writing is accentuated by the repetitive nature of Valkyria Revolution’s cutscenes. Most scenes are devoid of animation, with characters speaking their lines with no visible emotion. The voice actors, while hit-or-miss, are the only source of emotion in almost any character interaction. When characters do move, it’s robotic and makes the scene feel awkward. With cutscenes this dull, the frequent load times that serve as breaks between cutscenes become aggravating, as if the games is trying to waste my time.
Combat tries to combine both action and strategy into a hybrid genre as your party takes on battle after battle. However, the game fails to provide catharsis or strategy to the battles, making them boring and repetitive. Action is overly simple and lacks any style to make up for the little substance. While you can give orders to your party for that strategic depth, it is mostly useless as the enemies never force you to think strategically. Those orders are also relegated to the party member’s special moves and lack the control needed for precise techniques. With combat lacking any core engagement, each battle quickly becomes a grind.
This is worsened with boss battles, whose only difference of the standard enemies is the high health and area-of-effect techniques. These boss battles don’t challenge the player strategically, instead creating a battle of attrition as you babysit your party members who consistently fail to avoid the telegraphed area-of-effect attacks. This is where the inconsistent lock-on actively harms the player. Sometimes, the lock-on is responsive and switches to targets quickly, but other times, it is unwieldy and causes the character to move in odd directions. Your defensive abilities are also relatively useless with only the dodge move occasionally being used to avoid enemy attacks. It is easier to just run around the boss than to actually guard or dodge.
Luckily, the stupidity of your allies is counteracted by the lack of punishment of a character going down. While there is permadeath, you likely won’t ever experience it due to the generous time given to revive your allies consequence-free. With no risk, death becomes another way to waste the player’s time and turn already long fights into a slogs.
Your allies stupidity and the boss’s ridiculous health aren’t the only thing dragging out these fights, as technical issues slow the game down when things get too hectic. This slowdown leads to unnecessary deaths as the characters become unresponsive and the camera bugs out. Speaking of the camera, controlling your party members become quite challenging when the camera randomly shifts focus to another object or enemy. This has lead to enemies blindsiding my party when the camera disorients me. These technical issues turn an already tedious combat system, into one that is genuinely annoying for anyone trying to make progress.
And you will experience this combat system continuously as Valkyria Revolution has an RPG system that requires grinding. Each mission has a recommended level which becomes so high near the end of the game that you either have to waste multiple hours grinding or face the enemies severely under leveled. Both drag out the game to the point that every combat encounter is a chore standing in the way of the half-baked plot.
In addition to the leveling system, there is an upgrade tree used to enhance your mana weaponry. This can improve damage, unlock the ability to use stronger alchemy, or increase the amount of alchemy you can use in battle. While the premise of using potential abilities as the currency for this upgrade system is interesting, you will get so many abilities that any choice becomes meaningless.
There is also gear, but it is honestly a waste of time. Armor is next to useless and the gear you will research are simple upgrades from the previous ones. The time invested into each battle discourages experimentation causing you to follow a set pattern you chose in the beginning of the game.
It doesn’t help that Valkyria Revolution looks like an HD PS2 game. Textures are muddy and animation is stiff, removing any visual flair that could give some sort of engagement in the grinding. The only saving grace of the presentation is the music, which is not only enjoyable, but sets the mood for each encounter.
Overall, Valkyria Revolution provides a mediocre experience that is further hindered by technical issues and a flawed presentation. It tried to please everyone and in turn, satisfied no one.