Review: Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

Review: Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes*
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No

* Vita Version

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Title: Valkyria Revolution
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (17.65 GB)
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Media.Vision
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Let’s get this out of the way quick: Valkyria Revolution is not Valkyria Chronicles.

It shares some design aspects in terms of world building and aesthetics and is named like a spinoff. But the bulk of the game is in no way related to one of my all time favorite games.

And sadly it’s nowhere near as good as the Valkyria Chronicles series either.

Valkyria Revolution is set in an alternate-world Europe, just after an industrial revolution. A rare ore, Ragnite, was discovered and a few countries catapulted themselves into world superpowers on the back of the capabilities of Ragnite, taking over smaller countries who were slower to adapt.

The game partially follows an Anti-Valkyria Squad who is working to free the small country of Jutland from Ruz rule. It also follows a group of five Traitors who are working behind the scenes to ignite the war.

The common thread is that the leader of the Anti-Valkyria squad is one of the Traitors. The lens of the story is actually 100 years after the events taking place, through an inquisitive man who’s seeking answers on the Traitors and why they ended up branded as such.

I really like the basic setup, where a knowledgeable insider is setting straight the history books. While the overarching story is interesting, the moment to moment scenes can be rather tedious, even for someone who plays a lot of JRPGs.

Scenes sometimes jump oddly between serious and silly in a way that feels off. And it doesn’t help that the characters a feel a little stiff and archetypal.

Despite a decently sized cast, few of them get any character development, and even then it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The ones that get short changed all feel one-note, like they’re filler to toss in a random line here and there. I never felt particularly attached to any character and a few, Isaak in particular, were actively annoying.

Combat suffers some of the same problems as the story: namely that there’s some interesting things in the high level that are annoying in the moment to moment gameplay.

Unlike the Chronicles series, Revolution is nearly an action RPG. Running around and basic attacks all happen in real time and avoiding damage mostly comes from dodging and blocking rather than tactics.

It tries to make the action combat feel more tactical a few ways. One is to have the game pause for using the variety of magic or secondary weapons, guns and grenades. But really, this just means a short breather while selecting the attack and isn’t all that tactical.

Another is that there are a lot of status effects and bonuses for attacking in certain ways. For example, taking out a commander will cause nearby enemies to panic, reducing their defenses.

An overall battle meter tracks the tide of battle, which affects how quickly characters can recover from actions. However, this means most battles start the same way: the player starts out weak, taking longer between attacks but slowly getting better as they mow down dozens of hapless foot soldiers.

The overall combat feels like a mediocre Dynasty Warriors game rather than a Valkyria Chronicles game.

Boss battles can be more interesting but still suffer a few issues. Some bosses take advantage of an elemental weakness chart, making magic important to stun or damage the boss.

They’re generally more enjoyable to fight than the tons of nameless grunts. But they’re also often damage sponges, soaking up attack after attack as the battle drags on and on.

The player’s party is rounded out by three AI controlled allies most of the time. There are a lot of options for setting the AI. There’s a very in-depth system to affect who each character will target as well as the ability to give allies direct commands in battle and more. However, since the player can simply swap characters at any point and issue commands to AI allies, a lot of these systems feel meaningless.

There are the requisite RPG upgrade systems as well: buying new weapons, crafting new armor, or sacrificing magic stones to upgrade characters. Nothing here feels particularly new but nothing is bad either.

It mostly feels like a bit of busy work to make sure characters don’t fall behind the curve. I’ve come to expect some level of this in RPGs and what’s here is passable as far as customization goes.

Other busy work includes a variety of free missions to pursue alongside the story. They seem perfunctory but oddly the enemy forces can sometimes retake territory if these side missions are not completed at specific times.

As far as I can tell, there are no negative aspects to the enemy taking this territory back, but the story also doesn’t address it at all. In fact, at least once the characters off-handedly mentioned controlling an area I had lost by not doing side missions.

Visuals:
The visual style was one of the most striking things about the original Valkyria Chronicles and they’ve clearly tried to replicate some of that in Valkyria Revolution.

The overall rendering style is done to make the game look a bit like a painting, with an effect that makes it seem like there are brush strokes making up the screen. The overall effect is striking.

However, something about the designs feels a little off to me. Particularly, the character’s faces and eyes, which are a bit of a turnoff for me. The designs are also odd, particularly because despite being a military team the Anti-Valkyria Squad does not have a consistent uniform and several characters don’t fit at all.

The environments are a little boring as well and most of the side missions just use the same areas over and over again.

Audio:
The soundtrack is easily one of the strongest parts of the game. A lot of the themes have a very military style to them, which is fitting for the setting.

While it may not be one of my all time favorite soundtracks, and at the moment it doesn’t seem like it will be as memorable as its predecessor, the music is very good overall.

Voice work is likewise pretty good. It’s the script more than the performances that turned me off to the game’s scene-to-scene story. It does include both the original Japanese voices and an English dub, for both sets of fans.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I love the Valkyria Chronicles trilogy, yes, even the much maligned second game. I wanted to love Valkyria Revolution, but I just couldn’t.

The game gets close but ultimately falls short in several areas, the most important being that the gameplay just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s fun for a while but quickly becomes repetitive and dull.

The story likewise starts out decently but the paper-thin cast and too many uninspired individual scenes drag it down.

It does have a few redeeming qualities: namely the graphic style, which is still unique and striking, and the good soundtrack. Those are hardly worth giving a carte blanche recommendation, but with at least some passing good qualities in the story and gameplay, I would say this is worth a look if picked up at a discount.

The overall experience is uneven and ultimately average and I hope it doesn’t hurt our chances at a new, proper Valkyria Chronicles game.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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