Hey all, just recently finished valkyria chronicles and it's a game I have a lot of thoughts on so I figured ...I have little to no life and way too much time, why not blog about it!.
I've tried to dodge spoilers when possible but it's kinda hard to talk about it without at least implying some.
Valkyria Chronicles is one of those weird games where I both simultaneously hate and love it at the same time, I love the core concept and gameplay but the stuff that holds it down really does hold it down.
So lets start of with some good stuff about the game, the presentation is gorgeous, it's old but it's one of the best looking games I've played, the whole game has a watercolour aesthetic which really helps it stand out and it also manages to make it's characters all stand out as well, despite there being a lot of units all of them looked distinguishable from one another and there's clear thought put into the character design.
The voice acting in the game is also really great as well, there's a lot of recognizable voices here such as Steve Blum and Robin Atkin Dowes, Most of which do a really good job....barring John DiMaggio's performance as General Damon who has a voice that sounds like someone with a severe smoking addiction drank an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce and furiously fucked a cactus while using their hands to make the most ear piercing noise on a chalkboard possible(I'm sure this is someones fetish), I usually love DiMaggio's work but here i actually had to mute the game at times while he was talking.
I only played in English but there's an option for Japanese which I always appreciate, the more voice options in a game the better.
Music wise I feel mixed on it, the opening theme is fantastic and the rest of the music is pretty decent, however there's not much variety in the tracks that play regularly I can only count about 5 regular songs or so which include several menu music tracks and there's only variation in battle music during special missions which makes the soundtrack get repetitive very fast.
Story & Characters
Now the story and characters is where I begin to have some of my bigger issues with the game.
The story is set in a continent called Europa based on ww2 europe and involves 3 countries, the Empire, Gallia and the Federation, in this world the main fuel source is a blue substance known as ragnite which has been in shortage leading the empire to say fuck this shit and wage war on everyone, simultaneously going after the federation and Gallia a country rich with ragnite.
Alongside the Imperials and Gallian's, there's also two important races, the darcsen's a dark haired race of people who are treated horribly due to war crimes committed centuries before and the games titular Valkyria, an ancient race of super-humans who conquered Europa from the Darcen's 100's of years prior and have since disappeared and became a myth.
The game sets up an interesting premise however it never really capitalizes on it, the fuel shortage of ragnite and the repercussions of it for all the countries are never really touched upon and it could've been a good opportunity to parallel real world issues, the Valkyria are also never really explored much either past the basics of their powers and we never learn much about their culture or much at all about them, the federation are also completely non existent barring 1 mission to the point I almost forgot they existed at times.
There's also a distinct lack of any real ambiguity to the war, the Empire are pretty much a mixture of Nazi's, stormtroopers and the roman empire, to be fair there is one scene which paints some of the troops in a more human light however most of the game is so one sided that it ends up feeling pretty out of place, I'm not expecting metal gear levels of ambiguity but even so I feel story based war games do usually need more depth then this, essentially Empire=bad and Gallia=good, at the very least they should have made the empire a threatening force to make up for the lack of greyness but I never really found them interesting.
The game also has a severe issue with character deaths, there's a few deaths in this game and not a single one really felt to me like it had any lasting impact on the plot or characters, I won't go as far as to say it's simply there to get a cheap emotional reaction out of the player but it is poorly done, whats more is that some of the characters they kill still had plenty of room to develop which isn't bad per say but when their death has no meaning in the game whatsoever it becomes a missed opportunity. The game also has issues with dropping plot elements such as the federation popping up for a single mission then never being important again.
Moving onto the characters and I'm pretty conflicted, the games main heroes consist of the militia units of squad 7, Welkin Gunther the main character and the son of a famous war hero, Alicia a girl from the same town as Welkin.
Isara who is Welkins adopted darcsen sister, Largo a veteran of a previous war and Rosie a former singer who has a big hatred for the darcsen's, there is also their commander Eleanor Varrot and...General Damon who, yeah I think I've summed up my thoughts on him. The main cast is on a personality level great and I really especially Isara's character, her voice actor was terrific and she is pretty badass despite her initial appearance, I also do particularly like how some side missions flesh out the characters personality's more such as Largo's crazy love of vegetables. That being said there's not much character development here and those that do develop pretty predictably though while predictable I did still enjoy Rosie's character arc.
Welkin is my biggest issue with the main heroes, he starts of fine but he begins to really bug me later on. His responses to some situations don't feel real, a good example is later on when he reacts to a character death, his reaction is almost creepily nonchalant, the rest of the cast act as you'd expect them to in this scenario but not him, this is made even more jarring when he overreacts to a similar yet much less severe moment later on, there's also no real character development for him, he's pretty much the same person at the end of the game as the beginning.
One thing the game very much excels in though is making you care for your units, there are about 50 odd units in valkyria each with their own design and personality, they have likes, dislikes and different skills, it's a really great system especially since your units can all permanently die which I think is a great way to get the player emotionally invested in playing, I actually found myself enjoying some of the side characters more then the main cast despite them not appearing in cutscenes and having little dialogue.
The villains are a mixed bunch, the 3 villains being the ruthless king of the empire Maximilian, general Reager a foreign general who serves Max and Selvaria Bles a valkyria who works for and is infatuated with Maximilian.
I said before the game doesn't do a good job of humanizing the empire and that is true barring Selvaria, she is a great character showing a lot more depth then the other villains unlike Max she shows care for her soldiers and her loyalty to Max is thrown into question at some points, there were a good few ways she could develop unlike the other characters, however they suddenly drop any potential character development near the end of the game which was infuriating.
She's got great character development, personality, a great voice actor and gigantic...amazing......character design, yes...character design.
There's not much to say about Reager, he's kinda cool but he's pretty much just an honorable villain archetype, he works for max to free his country from the empire's rule, there's really not much more to him aside from that.
Max despite being the main villain is boring, the game seems to try and give him a bit of depth and try to make him slightly threatening..but it never commits to either, I like the idea of him at least, he has a strong roman emperor aesthetic and mannerism to him, but without being threatening or the least bit interesting he fails to be memorable.
I wouldn't harp as much on the plot if the story wasn't such a big part of the game, the game is clearly story focused and there are a good 4 hours worth of cutscenes, while by no means is it terrible as the characters are still fun it failed to really be interesting to me despite it's promising setup. The games odd style of presenting the cutscenes also contributes to this, it sets up it's cutscenes into many sections on the chapter select screen frequently stopping and starting them every few scenes rather then just before missions which prevents the cutscenes from gaining any pacing.
The basic gameplay of valkyria plays as a turn based third person shooter, when starting a battle you are put on a map screen that allows you to plan out your attack and shows your units and any visible enemy units.
You're given an amount of points called CP which allows you to move your units around and attack with each turn allowing 1 attack, tanks take two CP while units take 1, there's also special orders as well which can take up to 3 CP and give your units special buffs, after your CP is exhausted or you end the turn manually(allowing you to save CP for the next turn) the enemy's turn starts.
When selecting a unit and going from map to third person it allows you to run around and fire though depending on your class there's also a few other abilities such as repairing tanks, certain units and tanks can also use interception fire during the opposing units turn allowing you to get some quick kills if you line up units and the enemy runs near you, once you've attacked most enemy's that can use interception fire can also immediately respond with an attack.
Now the base gameplay is utterly brilliant I love the idea and it is quite addicting....however it's broken as fuck, the game's balancing is non existent.
Part of the reason the balancing is so bad are the classes of which there are 5, lancers, scouts, shocktroopers, snipers and engineers.
Lancers deal damage to tanks, snipers...well they're snipers, engineers repair tanks and disable mines, shocktroopers are the heavy weight unit killers and scouts are meant to run ahead and have a far longer range for seeing enemys.
Now in theory these should all be good classes, however the game has a massive balance problem with mobility over strength, most of your units can not move far and moving a unit several times in a turn lowers the distance they can move, it's fairly easy to get around scouts and engineers and shock troopers most of the time however the rest of them are annoyingly slow to move plus there's always a turn limit to each mission, a lot of the time I found myself leaving units at base, you can request units to spawn at enemy encampments you conquer, however when it comes to actually moving them around the field it can become a massive chore.
This is also made worse by just how broken scouts are as a class, the game tells you that scouts are fast but weak and can be killed easily....my fucking ass they are, scouts seem to have the best accuracy in the game and can take down most units with ease and with orders they can become ridiculously hard for the enemy to kill to the point where grinding XP in this game is accomplished by doing skirmishes(reoccuring missions for XP) and using orders so that you can just run through enemy and tank fire to the enemy encampment conquer it and win in 1 maybe 2 turns, with some buffs scouts can even turn tanks into flaming wrecks with 1 attack, this makes Lancers by far the most useless class in the game since what they do(barring rare boss attacks immune to bullets) can be accomplished easier by a faster class, I'm not exaggerating when I say I think this game could be beaten solely with the tank, scouts and maybe shocktroopers.
The ranking system makes it worse since there's no thought put into it, you are judged solely by how fast you won and nothing else, and its important to rank high if you don't want to grind a lot because it dictates how much XP you get.
Another issue is the games broken accuracy, every time you aim at an enemy whether you hit or not is luck based unless you are close enough for the aiming reticle to cover the entire enemy, now I have no issue with luck based gameplay as long as there's an element of strategy, games like Pokemon and XCOM do this fine...HOWEVER the default for Pokemon is that you almost always hit unless you are debuffed and in XCOM there's a percentage bar telling you your chances of hitting and you can move accordingly to increase those chances or try your luck, the default for Valkyria is that everyone aims like a fucking stormtrooper including the tanks and there is nothing telling you your accuracy either, my first shot with the tank missed my target destroying the gate I was supposed to be defending, the buffs for accuracy don't seem to do much either.
the whole accuracy thing makes the early to mid game frustrating as hell to play sometimes, snipers ironically are the worst offenders barely hitting shit until you level them up a lot, there's even special enemy's later on that take this luck based gameplay one step farther and can dodge your shots by slowly laying on the ground during an attack, you can get around this by shooting them from behind or using grenades(which you have to be ridiculously close to use) however when an enemy is right face to face with me, I don't think him laying down should negate being able to hit him especially given he can stand up and immediately shoot me square in the head.
Late game tones down the accuracy problem a lot however by this point, scouts and shocktroopers are usually extremely overpowered in general, snipers and lancers are also only useful in very specific circumstances due to a lot of levels being fairly cluttered with objects, the map screen before you enter a mission also doesn't give you a good idea of what to expect, so usually you'll find yourself entering a mission as a test run to see what units you'll probably need.
Didn't know what else to put here so here's more best waifu.
As said the game does have a levelling up system, you can level up units groups and this increases their accuracy and might unlock new orders or perks. Now perks are by far one of the most interesting parts of the game, each unit starts with con's and pro's such as being clumsy or firing better when alone, the perks you gain from levelling up however are always positive ones.
The perk system is genious since a lot of the time it perfectly fits the units personality such as the awesome gay dude Jann being buffed up around other guys or two of my favorites the shocktroopers Hannes and Jane being good friends who get buffed when near each other or Jane's sadism that kicks in sometimes when killing enemy's giving you a damage buff.
The units even have special dialogue for these abilities or even for circumstances, when Hannes or Jane is knocked down they'll have special dialogue when calling the medic for them, units each even have their own back story, Jane's being my favorite as her entire motivation for slaughtering the empire comes from them destroying her flower shop, Hannes is a fun character who speaks like a caveman my favorite line of his being him triumphantly declaring himself invisible when hiding behind cover, another great one is the Elvis impersonating lancer Walter. I'm extremely impressed by the amount of work they put into making all these units feel like characters without once putting them into any actual cutscenes.
One issue that does come about though is that a lot of units haven't been balanced well with their perks, some of them mainly having con's and not pro's, there are 50 odd units however you can only take a certain amount of them into your squad and even less can be on the field at a time, usually averaging around 9, 3 or 4 slots of which you usually want to be filled by character units such as Largo or Rosie who give you an extra CP. Because of this even within your party you'll usually only rely on a few specific units, the game doesn't do a good job of encouraging you to use a varied selection. I think the game could've fixed this if like XCOM units could get injured making them unusable next mission, upping the unit count you're allowed on the field(As well as the enemy's too) and balancing the pro's and con's of each unit are all things I think could've fixed this.
Other issues I have are the cover system, which..*takes a deep breath* oh boy...this system, possibly one of the worst cover systems I've ever seen. Units can hide behind cover which you'd think would serve only to make opposing units less accurate, no, instead what it does is make you take more shots to kill...much more, now this wouldn't be half as much of an issue if the cover system didn't fully envelop the unit however it does if you walk around cover to the point of having a full clear line of sight to the enemy..the cover still counts! you have to use a grenade or explosive based weapon to destroy the cover, this becomes extremely aggravating when dealing with units such as lancers who take barely a scratch from explosions meaning you have to run up, use a grenade wasting a turn then use another turn to kill the lancer with bullets... you have to be extremely close to use grenades and some enemy's get interception fire. You can only stop using grenades later on in the game when you get a flamethrower for the shock troopers(which still require you to be close but ignore cover and can hit multiple enemys) and the grenade morter which gives a longer distance to grenade shots and..of course is a weapon specifically for the scouts.
Another issue is just how bad the enemy a.i is, for the most part the enemy a.i does not have a strategy, units usually seem to have a straight path including bosses. Bosses will use orders to buff units that no longer exist, or repeatedly smoke bomb an area with no tactical advantage, units will sometimes ignore potential wins or attacks such as when a lancer ran right by my near destroyed burning tank, they will sometimes run straight into unit fire if it's in their way, one of the funniest of which happened when I had to protect a small base from the enemy's and realized most of them where trying to get into the base from a certain angle, placing my tank there meant 3-4 units ran headfirst into the tank Leroy Jenkins style and where mowed down.
The enemy a.i not being smart could be the biggest problem with the game the more I think about it, without them strategies can be completely cheesed and the enemy's being so dumb takes me out of the game and makes me feel like putting less effort into building my own strategies because when the enemy are as dumb as dodo's whats the point?.
All my issues with the game aside, I do still very much enjoy it...it's just frustrating as hell sometimes, the base gameplay is very fun especially later on when you can actually hit more often and have more tools available and the characters and units are fun at least on a personality level. But everything is so broken that it really makes the game less enjoyable, the story, characters and gameplay where capable of a whole lot more then this and I think thats the most frustrating and disappointing part of it all, with a bit more time spent on balancing and a.i and more time going over the story, I think it could've been one of my favorite turn based games, I know the sequels have fixed some of these issue so I'm looking forward to giving them a try though I know they apparently have their own group of problems, there's also a mod called gallia crossfire I'm hoping to try out that apparently balances valkyria more.
- Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.
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