So apparently Valkyria Chronicles has been out before, twice even (PS3 & PC) and I really don’t recognize it at all. Although I’ll have to admit that it looks and plays like one of those games I would have gladly watched someone else play instead of playing it myself back in the day. After getting my feet wet with this title, I can tell you that I have been sorely missing out.
The painted worlds and interesting story that are presented here are definitely a good argument for games being art if anyone still had any lingering doubts (which they shouldn’t at that point in time). Valkyria Chronicles is also a good reminder that games don’t have to be super photo-realistic now today to be considered good. With an almost cell-shaded anime style, you are teleported to a land at the start of a war that starts over-reaching (don’t most of them?) to a people group that have been largely peaceful (or at least neutral) in nature, but as when an animal gets cornered, don’t expect them to be a push over, the Gallians are ready and able to fight back… with their one, hand-me-down, tank.
You start out as Welkin Gunther, a man more interested in science (bugs and nature) than anything else and his dark-haired, adopted sister Isara who’s a pretty good mechanic. They get conscripted into the militia when their hometown of Bruhl is attacked by Imperials following their decisive advances against the Federation in the second Europan War which all started because of the scarcity of a natural resources. (It’s a good thing nothing like that happens in real life, am I right?) Either way, I know that’s the quick and dirty version of the plot, but I don’t really want to give too much of it away because it’s really well put together and I’m loving how most of the people in the game have great team synergy… mostly. In the past there was this “thing” about the Darcsen Calamity where supposedly all of the dark-haired people were super bad and did bad things and needless to say it all ended in a giant explosion and now most people have a thing against Darcsens. Hey, remember how your adopted sister had dark-hair? Yeh…
So with some of the people needing to get over blaming others in the current time for crimes of the past that none in the present had anything to do with (once again, good thing nothing like that happens in real life) the interactions with the main characters were all very well crafted. Each character has qualities that are either positive or negative to their own respective personalities. Some may perform worse in combat if paired with a Darcsen or next to a male. Some love being in the grass and get an accuracy boost while some shut down when in the proximity of another teammate since they are naturally a loner. However, this all affects my gameplay in a different way than I expected. Not only do I hate losing, I also have grown fond of my people and don’t like them to die. Yes, even the sniper that blames me every time he dies (or collapses more correctly). “Welkin, this is all your …” Really? Those are your last words dude?
So needless to say, if a mission is going very poorly I’m prone to reach into my X-Com bag o’ tricks and start save scumming like a madman. This means that levels can take a very long time. I know I can just save them by running over to them with any other character and summoning the medic. I get that, and they will live to fight another day, but I don’t like being set back. There was one mission where I was just getting wrecked by some Valkyrian lance wielding psychopath named Selvaria and there wasn’t really a good save to go back to. I had set myself up for failure, but I did learn that you can run your teammates over with your tank to summon the medic. A very valuable lesson indeed. Next time your teammate dies, just touch them with a tank. It makes them all better.
The combat is rather funky. The main interface starts as a strategic view of a battlefield map. From there it’s a tactical 3rd person shooter after you pick one of your characters. You have a specific number of turns in any given round specified by the game and which mission you are on. You can gain more turns if you don’t use all of yours up and if you kill specific baddies on the opponents team. Likewise, if they kill specific units (I think it’s “captains”… I just shoot people; I don’t pay attention to specifics.) on your team, you could be giving them the advantage on the next round. The last thing you need to do is give them an advantage. You can pick the same person every time, but they run low on stamina and can’t run as far on each successive turn. If you’re just jumping out of cover once and sniping three people, then it’s cool because cover is a foot away and even a sniper with crap stamina can make that “journey”. However, you have to end the round completely to reload your weapon (even though it looks like they reload after you end every turn…).
You’ll learn that, aside from RNG, combat is a beautiful looking version of rock, paper, scissors. Some units are better against armor while some are better against light infantry. I played with this trying to have/find that perfect balance that I could just run onto any battlefield every time with, but Valkyria Chronicles doesn’t let you have your way in that sense. You don’t get to see what you’re up against until you’re on the field, which I guess is like real life, but who likes that? It eventually de-evolved into me either losing and restarting or just grenading everyone or sniping everyone. Turns out grenades and sniper bullets are pretty good against everything except tanks/bosses. It’s not that I expected it to, but it feels like its warrants mentioning.
I’m not sure if this is really a negative, but there is only one thing that bothers me in the whole of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered game. I love not getting roflstomped as much as the next guy, but sometimes games are just difficult and you’ve got to come to grips with that. On the other hand, the objective based victories kind of kill me a little. Maybe it’s my OCD talking, but it doesn’t really make much sense. As an example, there could be twelve baddies on the field and maybe a tank or two. On the flip-side, your objective is to take over their base camp. That basically entails you running someone over to their camp and not even killing everyone, but knocking them out of their camp with a grenade and touching the enemy flag. Everything else is sitting on the field ready to kill you, but man you’ve got their flag so they just abandon all hope of victory. It leaves the battles feeling unresolved at times. This is me we’re talking about so that means there’s maybe a guy or two left, but one time there was a huge mother tank left and I got the flag and that was that. I don’t know; it just felt weird. However, it was easier than killing a tank the size of a building with a rifle.