GENRE: Action Strategy RPG
PLATFORM: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
PRICE: $59.99 (Standard Edition) $99.99 (Memoirs from Battle Edition)
RELEASE DATE: September 25th, 2018
The Valkyria Chronicles series has been one that has seen many different platforms and even a genre change, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 returns the series back to its original strategy RPG roots. When the Valkyria Chronicles series first released back in 2008 on the PS3 I immediately fell in love with the art style, the story, the characters, and the gameplay. Unfortunately the second entry was released on the PSP and it didn’t get into the hands of very many fans of the series. I for one was disappointed that I had to play it on a handheld, but I still enjoyed everything about the game. The third entry was never released outside of Japan due to the low sales of the second entry in other countries, so unless you played the fan translated version most fans of the series missed getting their hands on this one. Then in 2017, Sega released a spin-off of the series titled Valkyria Revolution which strayed away from the strategy RPG format and went with a more action RPG playstyle. Reviews on the game ranged from low to average due to the changes that were made with this entry. Which brings us to 2018 and the release of Valkyria Chronicles 4 and the return of the original storyline.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in the same timeline as the original, but is told from the viewpoint of Claude Wallace and his friends in Squad E. The game is set on the continent of Europa where the Second Europan War is being fought between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance. In a last ditch effort to end the war, the Federation executes Operation Northern Cross, where you will command Squad E in their fight against the Imperial soldiers and the Valkyria.
The game introduces some new features such as the Grenadier class, radio ordered bombardments, and Last Stand, while returning with an improved BLiTZ system, more vehicles, training field, R&D Facility, and a wide range of diverse environments.
While the story hits familiar notes with most stories about war, the likable cast of characters is what brings out the depth of the story being told. From the very beginning of the game you will feel invested in both wanting to learn more about this ongoing war and the development of the members in Squad E. Claude, the Commander and tactician of the squad seems to be harboring a lifetime of regrets. Riley, the brilliant inventor and grenadier, shares some kind of history with Claude possibly not all of it good. Kai, the sharpshooter of the squad, has earned the nickname “Deadeye Kai” though she prefers eating baked goods over fighting in the war. Lastly there is Raz, the foul mouthed and reckless Sergeant whose top notch combat skills make him almost invincible. These four make up your main cast, but there are many other memorable squad members who backgrounds and personalities are detailed in the many squad stories you will explore. My favorite character is Ragnarok, the brave and very intelligent medic dog who just adds a whole lot of cuteness to the squad. Going through these squad stories not only give each character a time to shine, but can also give you the opportunity to improve their skills or remove their negative effects. This alongside the main story give each and every member of the squad some great character development and growth in their battle skills, resilience and perseverance. Using money and experience gained in the various missions in the R&D Facility or Training Field can also unlock new traits, craft powerful new weapons, and level up the various classes.
The canvas watercolor art-style returns and its as gorgeous as it was in the past games. The games menus being entries in Claude’s journal make them visually stunning and ties them into game well. The new CANVAS engine makes everything about the graphics seem more detailed and helps to draw you into the environments and the areas that the game takes place in. Once again Hitoshi Sakimoto returns to compose the game soundtrack. The music is enjoyable and fits well into the various moments of the game. Listening to the soundtrack while playing the game adds to the various moments of the story. The one thing I did find disheartening is that SEGA chose not to include the Japanese OP song “Light Up My Life” by Mai Kuraki into the localized version of the game as the song is amazingly beautiful and I believe it fit well into the game’s story.
Combat in Valkyria Chronicles 4 sees the return of the BLiTZ system from previous games. Veterans of the series will already be familiar with the way it works. Combat is split into a command phase and an action phase. During the command phase you will get an overhead view of the map that shows where your troops are located. By studying your surroundings and the enemies locations you can plan your action phase accordingly. Directly commanding a unit will shift you into the action phase where you will now view the battlefield from the character’s perspective. The character can now move and attack in real time, so making sure that every shot or move counts is key to your success. Keep in mind though that your enemies are not just mindless drones who will stand by and let you kill them. A missed shot or even a low damage shot could result in your enemy counter-attacking and possibly putting you out of commission. When aiming at an enemy you will be able to see how many shots are needed to kill them depending on what part of the body you aim for, so a well placed headshot could result in instant death for either side. With the addition of the grenadier, interception fire now has more impact as moving into range of an enemy during the player phase could result in an interception opportunity. When one of your units hit points reaches zero this can result into them becoming incapacitated. Leaving a unit like this for three turns will result in death, but if another friendly unit reaches them in time they can be evacuated by a medic. In such instances of a unit reaching critical status a new feature called “Last Stand” allows that unit to make a critical choice of either “Stand Up” and becoming invulnerable for an action or “Inspire” their teammates to continue the fight in their name.
The variety of battle encounters really makes you think about which classes have the most useful skills for completing the mission. From using your grenadiers to blow up a bunker, your snipers to shoot down a paratrooper squad before they land, or your scouts to easily spot an enemy ambush will leave you evaluating the best strategy to complete your tasks. Quite a few times I had to think outside the box or make multiple attempts using different strategies to complete a mission. The challenges you meet will feel much more satisfying when you complete them and a lot less frustrating, unlike many other strategy games nowadays. One of the best improvements to tank battles is movement now only cost one AP. Tanks are equipped with mortar rounds, AP shells and a mounted machine gun, so making sure you use your tank’s weaponry in the right situation is very useful. Customizing your tank with improved parts and decals will also help to give your squad an added boost in battle.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a beautiful return to its roots. Not only is the story told well and is emotionally touching, but the members of Squad E will make you laugh, cry, and cheer them on from beginning to end. The localization is done well and the personalities of every character make them shine. Combat is complex enough to be satisfying and makes you think outside the box at times. The soundtrack is phenomenal and it adds even more emotion and tension to the story of war and friendship. Character development is enhanced through the addition of Squad Stories giving every character in your squad their time to shine. Visually stunning through the use of the CANVAS engine gives the scenery warmth and depth, also making cut-scenes something you should not miss as they are eye catching and pleasing to watch. My only complaint has to be the scoring of your completed missions. Instead of using and “accomplishment based” scoring system it is more of a “how fast and how many turns it took to complete” scoring system. Overall I loved everything about Valkyria Chronicles 4 from beginning to end!
(Of course as I stated before – This game would not be as brilliant without the ADORABLY CUTE, BRAVE, and INTELLIGENT, RAGNAROK the MEDIC DOG! Now I just need to wait one more day to pick up my Memoirs of the Battle Edition for my Ragnarok Controller Skin and Hat.)
My final score of the game is a solid 9.5/10!