I finally slogged my way through this game to finish it. It took a long time, but I finally got it done. Now, the question is whether I want to torture myself with finishing Digimon: Next Order or go on to Tales of Berseria
The game tries to follow the Valkyria Chronicles style of a book narrative that retells the events of a war that happened many years ago. This time, it is in the form of The Five Traitors (sometimes called Circle of Five, Traitors, or Five Grand Criminals, it's inconsistent) and their role in instigating the war between Jutland and the Ruzi Empire. The immediate problem to the game is obvious in the extremely long cutscenes that tell the story. It is made worse by the fact that the narrator constantly interjects in the story, constantly reminding you that it is not as it seems. Even though the game is a short ten chapters long, the cutscenes are way too long.
The story follows several people: Amleth, the leader of the Anti-Valkyria Squad Vanagand, Princess Ophelia of Jutland, and Emperor Klaudius of the Ruzi Empire. The result is three separate stories that do not really tie together. Amleth's story follows his revenge against the people responsible for destroying the orphanage. Ophelia's deals with her experiences on the frontline of the war. Kladius's just shows what the bad guys are doing at any given point.
One by one, Amleth leads Jutland into war against Ruzi and takes down their generals, eventually cumulating in the fight with Kladius followed by the fight with the Valkyrie, Brunhilde. It cumulates with The Circle of Five, Amleth and his orphan friends, being put to death for bringing Jutland into war under false pretenses. However, the ending implies that Ophelia engaged in a plot with the members of Vanagand to attack the prison, burn some corpses, and hang them in public so that the Traitors can escape. Some proof of this is supposed to be the flowers on the gravestone at the beginning of the game.
The biggest problem of this game is its lack of its commitment to make Ophelia the main protagonist. The main story is divided into Amleth and Ophelia where we have separate long cutscenes for them that ultimately contribute very little. Ophelia is focused more on the war while Amleth is focused on his revenge sub-plot. Ophelia then also has a sub-plot with her attendant, Godot, who is researching the Traitors. We are presented with scenes of Amleth talking to the other Traitors frequently as well. Amleth acts more like a silent leader of the squad, which makes even less sense considering Ophelia is the princess and the royalty have taken commander roles in the past entries in the series. Rather than trying to do both at once, it would have been done better as a reveal later on that explained his behavior. We also have small social circles of various members of Vanagand that are not well elaborated on, which would have helped instead of forcing their witty banter into the main story scenes.
The ending of the game also results in a lack of payoff. Comparing this game's ending to Valkyria Chronicles 3 is why this is such a problem. The characters of Valkyria Chronicles 3 are traitors as well by the end of the game. All their efforts are wasted as the person they set out to save is dead and we are left guessing if they survive. By comparison, we do see what happens to everyone in the other Valkyria Chronicles games. And, we ultimately know that they do survive and live happily after the game's events. On the other hand, Valkyria Revolution fails to do this. Characters are still trapped in conflicts and struggles over ragnite as Ophelia now leads what is left of Vanagand into more conflict. Ameleth is missing and we do not really see what happens to him.
The only thing the game contributes lorewise is a little more about the Valkyria themselves. The Valkyria possess the body of someone, resulting in a host that ultimately may not have control. This would explain Alicia's behavior in the first Valkyria Chronicles compared to others. The problem is that nothing else in the story really fits the Valkyria lore or expands it in any way. We are not even treated with a grand Valkyrian weapon like we have been in the past games.
The graphics of the game are decent. One thing I was disappointed by was the lack of the distinct shading that is present in the Valkyria Chronicles games that gives the characters depth. Here, there is a noticeable lack of shadows. Everyone's face seems like minimal effort was put into it and lots of female characters have the two body types of big breasts and Valkyrian sized big breasts. While there is enough of a combination, the main distinguishing feature for characters for me is just their hair color. Enemies are very generic and only the bosses have anything to help distinguish them. Everyone else is just a faceless mook. For some reason, a lot of the character faces feel like they were recycled from past games as well. The spell effects are passable in this game. They are not great, but they are not bad. They are fairly simple.
Alright, first and foremost, way too many cutscenes. It is always like an hour worth of cutscenes before twenty minutes of battle in every chapter. It was worse than Metal Gear Solid 2. Just when you think a cutscene is ending, it turns out it is just loading another cutscene. This was insanely annoying. To top it off, the cutscenes contribute very little to the overall story. I would say something like two thirds of the game feels like nothing but cutscenes.
The gameplay feels extremely awkward due to poor controls. Every character has a melee weapon as their default weapon. When you use it to attack, you automatically perform the full chain of the attacks and then have to wait for a cooldown (unless an enemy is killed) before you can use it again. You can also block and dodge, but they do very little. Be careful with hiding behind cover because the same button is also used to jump over it. There are also guns, but the ammo is limited unless you have bases on certain maps to reload. As a result, guns are not very practical and it is probably easier to just run up to someone with a Shocktrooper class and just whack them in the face than bother to shoot them. Grenades are like spells with limited use and no mana cost. They are decent in strength, but can be used to clear out sandbags so the enemies cannot use them. It does not matter most of the time. Then, you have equippable ragnite you can use as spells. The spell cost is very low so you can spam them quite often.
The class system itself is not that useful either. They do not make a big difference like they do in the other games due to the action oriented nature of Valkyria Revolution. I found myself just using Shocktrooper (Damage/Tank), Ophelia (Scout with Magic), and 2 Sappers (Mages). Magic is generally strong due to its low cost compared to its effects, making it superior to guns and almost everything else in the game. The only problem is that they are not able to exploit weaknesses of bosses as well as some of the other classes.
There are elements of Valkyria Chronicle present in terms of stats and gear. Everyone who is in your squad levels up at the same time. You can use your earnings to upgrade equipment for everyone, but that is about it. There is some customization to gear by choosing what materials are put into it, but then you have to grind some battles before the item is successfully made. Each character has a separate stat system that requires you to use up ragnite in your inventory to boost their stats by a small amount. All it does is make the game a little more grindy. It sometimes feels like they took this from a Monster Hunter game and considering the shapes and behaviors of some of the bosses, you might think they wanted this to be a Monster Hunter clone.
The most annoying feature in the gameplay for me was the boss battles. Bosses here use the MMORPG area warning for a lot of their abilities. They also have the same one hit kill mechanics that most MMORPGs have and that is what further drags this game down. In a game where you cannot cancel your chain once you start it, one hit kills are almost always guaranteed to hit, making it very frustrating (another reason why I switched to almost a full magic team late game). Sadly, this is also the only thing that actually makes the game hard and one hit kills do not make a game hard in my opinion. It just shows how lazy the developers were and did not bother to make an AI. The warning circles do not do much when you cannot move because when you press attack, your character might as well not be able to move for two seconds. Spells on the other hand are instant cast, so you can just guard and run until you have enough mana to cast them.
In the end, this game feels like another retelling of Valkyria Chronicles while using a weird mix of Monster Hunter, Tales of, and Valkyria Chronicles controls. What could have been an interesting plot is ruined by the lack of a main character. The game's challenge mainly comes from bosses being able to one shot you. Warnings for one hit kills sometimes do not appear with enough time to react, which defeats the point of even having them. Customization feels like they were trying something different, gave up, then used Valkyria Chronicles's system to fill in the gaps. And ultimately, this is how the entire game feels. The story even feels like they ripped out parts of Valkyria Chronicles 3 to fill in the gaps. It feels like they were working on something else and then just shoved in Valkyria elements and into the title at the last moment to push out a game with a recognizable name.