Of the long list of PlayStation 3 exclusives that need to be played, there are a only a few 3rd-Party developed games on it. Almost immediately, “those in the know” will throw out Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots as one such 3rd-Party must play, for good reason. The other one that is almost always mentioned is Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles. While so many people have played MGS 4, Valkyria Chronicles is a game that many are guilty of not playing and should probably be ashamed of that fact.
This 3rd-person tactical-rpg was released back in 2008 to critical acclaim but didn’t get the recognition from the masses immediately. It took a very long time for PS3 owners to catch wind of it, and it is still one that a fair chunk of people admit to not playing it. Once you get your hands on the game though, it’s hard to believe its age and what it has to offer.
Valkyria Chronicles takes place in a fictional continent meant to resemble Europe around the 2nd World War. You have two factions, mirroring the Axis and Allies, a group of people meant to mirror the Jewish People of Europe and a country meant to mirror The Netherlands where the action takes place. You play as Welkin Gunther, a student who returns to his hometown of Bruhl, in the country of Gallia, in the midst of an impending invasion by the Alliance (or Axis if you want the real-world analogy).
Valkyria Chronicles is a different kind of take on the tactical-rpg genre. Whereas games like the previously featured Jeanne D’arc, Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre were primarily turned based and dealt with a grid layout, here the combat is quasi-turned based but with some real-time elements. Battles play out in turns, where you have a set amount of command points and a large area to move. But at any time as you move, if your character(s) are in the sight lines of an enemy, and they can fire, they will.
This adds an extra layer to the combat. In other t-rpgs, you can move around a battlefield and not worry about being attacked. In some situations, you can even explore your attack options to find the most devastating move. But here, if you move too much and/or not pay attention, your soldier can be shot down before they get the opportunity to attack.
Thankfully though, the game eases you into at a steady pace. The game is broken up into chapters and for the first few, you’re given a good idea on what is required of you and what everything entails: from the command points that dictate how many actions you can perform in a given turn, the roles of each soldier class (there being five: scout, shocktrooper, lancer, engineer and sniper), to how missions can be won and other important bits of information.
But because of this gradual learning system, the first few hours of the game may feel a bit too-hands-off for some. There are a lot of cut-scenes and non-interactive moments in the game. You will encounter a lot of different characters and learn a lot about not only Welkin but those around him, including his adoptive sister who just so happens to be a Darcsen, a group of people viewed upon by others as second-class. Additionally, after the first few chapters which take place in your hometown, you will head to the capital of Randgriz, join the Militia and get thrown into the middle of the conflict.
The RPG elements for Valkyria Chronicles take place with soldier class improvements and through weapon research and development. After every battle, depending on your performance, you will earn experience and gallian dollars which are spend on the two. Your experience points can be spent on level classes while the money is spent on improving weaponry, uniforms and outfitting your tank with better weaponry and armour.
Improving all aspects is very important. Unlike other games where characters improve individually, here, when the Scout class improves a level, every member of your squad that is a member of that class also improves. That way, even if you typically only field one or two members of a particular class, if the time comes where you may need additional soldiers, you won’t have to go back and improve each one individually to get them up to par. Additionally, within each class, characters do have different stats and skills which will factor into which ones are used for a given mission.
Squad development is very important. While your character Welkin is the tank commander, there are a number of different ways you can outfit your squad. You have twenty spots to fill with the five different classes. While most people will be content with only one or two of members from the engineer and sniper classes, depending on your strategy, the number of scouts, shocktroopers and lancers will vary greatly.
Every class has their strengths and weaknesses. While Scouts have the greatest mobility, they lack firepower, something the Shocktroopers have. At the same time, Shocktroopers lack that mobility and are useless against tanks, which is where your Lancers come in. They can take down tanks but against foot soldiers, they are useless. Engineers act as support units, as they can repair tanks, resupply other soldiers with ammo and can even heal others. Snipers are useless one-on-one but if you need to take out an enemy from afar, they can be extremely deadly.
Early missions with the larger squad haven’t had you deviating from a pretty standard squad. You can expect that as the game progresses, different set-ups and focusing on specific classes will come into play. Those used to the tactical games will absolutely eat this up and thrive at the challenges that get in the way. But for those new to it, the difficulty early on is reasonable and the missions haven’t been too long in the sense that you’d lose 30-45 minutes and have to replay a certain stage again..
Having played the first part of the game, Valkyria Chronicles is quite enjoyable. The visuals are incredible, with the art-style being the biggest highlight. It also doesn’t appear that the game is that long, but grinding may still occur if you wish to have the best squad heading into each battle. As long as the story holds up and doesn’t drag, I expect the later parts of this game to really hook me in and keep me wanting more.