Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Valkyria Chronicles 4
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (28.97 GB)
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
After the underwhelming Valkyria Revolution, we return to the old universe for a very comfortable sequel in the Valkyria Chronicles series.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 plays things especially safe as it goes back to many of the things that worked well in the original game years ago.

No surprise, all of those aspects still work great but the lack of many innovations does make Valkyria Chronicles 4 feel less unique than even the handheld sequels.

For those unfamiliar with the Valkyria Chronicles franchise, the series takes place in a fantasy take on World War II. In this universe, the scarcity of a valuable resource called Ragnite has embroiled Europa into a second Europan war.

On one side, the East Europan Imperial Alliance is slowly taking over the continent for the resource. On the other, the Atlantic Federation consists of a bunch of allied nations defending against them. In the middle is the Ragnite-rich but neutral nation of Gallia that was the focus of the previous Chronicles games.

Like the first and third games, this one also takes place during the Second Europan War. However, rather than focus on the Gallian army as in all previous games, this one follows Squad E from the Federation. That said, Squad E’s commander, Claude Wallace, and several of its key members are Gallians who joined the Federation early in the conflict with the hopes of preventing the war from spreading to Gallia.

At the start of the story, the Federation has been on the defensive for a while and has been dealing with a string of losses as the Imperial army slowly advances upon the allied nations. However, the Federation has devised a tactic they hope to use to end the war – a sudden and intense offensive that would penetrate straight to the Imperial capital, dubbed Operation Northern Cross. Squad E is one of the squads tapped for this offensive.

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

The story in VC4 is great, with some nice character moments and arcs while still giving a good holistic look at the squad and their place in the war. As with the other Chronicles games, war is somewhat idealized here with only a few glimpses of the horrific aspects.

Not that the series shies away from the consequences, previous games had some notable character deaths, but they can sometimes shift into silly anime antics amidst the weightier decisions that play a part of any war story. Some allegories for atomic weaponry and the role that weather played in the Russia/Germany Theater come in this entry, amid somewhat corny anime love stories and other tropes.

The one thing VC4 does better than previous games is help cement the scope of the war. As this focuses on the large alliance of many nations, many of the battles feel larger as well and VC4 even goes as far as tying in other branches of the Federation’s military. The main story still follows Squad E and a few major players from the Imperial side but parts of the game do aid in making it feel like they are just parts of a larger armies, albeit ones that play a huge role in said war.

That said, I would have liked to have seen a little more of the non-main characters of Squad E. As new recruits slowly join the squad, there ends up being a pretty sizeable number of members. There are some squad stories which focus on some of the side characters, usually in trios, to give players a little more about each one beyond their bio-page. But side members rarely show up or are even referenced in main story missions, an unfortunate side effect of the game’s perma-death. Characters who are killed in battle and not rescued quickly enough can permanently die.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 features a melding of gameplay styles, essentially marrying a strategy RPG with a third-person shooter. At the start, you’re looking at an overhead view of the map and you can see your team and visible enemies. Pick a squad member and the camera seamlessly flies down to a third-person view, at which point you control that character for their turn.

Characters have a limited amount of movement points and can take a single action, usually firing their weapon or tossing a grenade. After the character’s turn, the game returns to the overhead view and you can pick a new character, or the same again with reduced movement points, until you run out of actions for the phase, at which point the enemy gets a phase to attack.

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

Enemies are not just targets during your turn though, and will constantly fire upon you as you move in the third-person view if you’re in their range and sight. This leads to the tactical element of trying to get past or eliminate enemies as well as influencing where you leave your teammates at the end of your phase so they can provide intercept fire during the enemy’s phase.

Further influencing the tactical elements are the character classes: scout, shocktrooper, lancer, engineer, sniper, and, a new class for VC4, grenadier. This class has a portable mortar launcher that they can use to lob explosives at foes. They’re great at long-range offense and defense as they also provide intercept fire but can’t move far and actually have to set up their mortar launcher. Because of this, they’ll continue to take interception fire themselves while setting up.

The addition of the grenadier is an interesting one as it informs some of the map design. The long range intercept fire from allies and enemies puts a greater emphasis on making sure characters move from cover to cover, with many maps featuring small overhangs to protect against mortar.

Rushing straight into enemy territory is a lot more difficult as the game loves to have a main path covered by grenadiers who must be flanked and taken out before an ally can advance the main path. VC2 and VC3 played around with some new classes, such as the shield or sword class, neither of which appear here, but this feels like the best implemented addition to the series thus far.

Another addition, this time making a return from the PSP sequels, is the command system. This handy system allows any of the squad leaders to team-up with up to two allies, dragging them along as they move and having them in range for a team-up attack.

This adds another layer of strategy since it allows a once-per-phase ‘cheat’ on the movement of those two allies and can help you get snipers or lancers into position using the movement range of a scout. It was one of my favorite parts of the PSP games and I’m glad they brought it back here.

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

The command system complements the order system, which lets you use some of your actions for a phase to give buffs and other bonuses to your allies. These add more strategic depth to the gameplay and are vital to getting a good rank on a mission.

Some late game orders, tied to an aspect of the game I won’t spoil here, are even more beneficial to the point where they’re limited to only being used twice per mission. VC4 really gives players a lot of options. And because of those options, the combat in the game is a blast.

The weird nature between the turn-based aspect and the shooter aspect has enthralled me since the start of the series and it’s at top form here as well. Getting a good rank on a mission is usually the result of good tactics and it feels rewarding when it works out (there are some RNG elements, but they can mostly be minimized with planning). The missions also feel varied and interesting, which help give it some variation over the length of its main campaign.

Most missions still come down to “kill this target” or “capture this base” but there are a ton of unique gameplay elements to spice up the missions. Even up to the last mission there are mission-specific tutorials on a gameplay mechanic that can help make that mission easier to complete.

Because of the varied nature, missions don’t suffer from “rush the base with a scout” being the best tactic as much as in previous games. There are still parts where that tactic is good for capturing a mid-level base, but there’s enough use for each of the other classes that you’ll want to be using them all.

For better or worse, missions can be easy to cheese though. Because you can save and load during missions, you can redo some of the RNG aspects of the game like the randomness in your own aiming or the enemy getting in a good shot.

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

This ties into another issue I had, which was that some of the late game bosses are incredibly tanky unless you’re hitting a specific weak spot, at which point they’re only marginally less bullet spongy. That’s fine, but trying to find a vantage point to hit said weak spot, then relying on the random aspects of aiming made me cheese the hell out of the save/load system.

To be fair, I was probably under-leveled compared to what the game would have expected. Due to trying to finish the review, I didn’t do many of the optional missions and VC4 throws a lot at you. Just the main story took me about thirty hours, not counting time that was lost to loading old saves in missions, but there’s a lot of extra content here.

Even after finishing the story there’s some post-game content that unlocks including a new shop, some fleshing out of the story, and a whole host of harder missions. Not to mention going back and trying to unlock hidden weapons either from enemy aces or the royal weapons given out as rewards for certain things.

If anything, my biggest complaint, aside from the save/load cheesing which can be ignored at a player’s discretion and some of the maybe-too-tanky bosses, is that VC4 doesn’t do a whole lot to set itself apart, especially from the first Valkyria Chronicles.

The missions themselves feel pretty fresh, but the one new class and a few minor mechanics just don’t seem like a lot. Add in a decent amount of story similarity, this is the third game set during this war on the Western Theater, and I think like even just adding in some of the classes/weapons from the second and third game would have been cool.

Visuals:
The Valkyria Chronicles series is known for its unique art style and Valkyria Chronicles 4 does not disappoint. At a base level, the graphics are a simple cel-shaded style but the series has a special filter over the top to make it look like a painting.

It’s a striking style that looked great on the PS3 and looks even more fantastic now that they have the power of the PS4 to work with. I imagine they had to hold back a little bit due to the Switch version but if so it’s not too obvious.

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

On top of the specialized art, VC4 also has a lot of great effects for each individual map. Missions with snow or blizzards are especially fantastic, with very nice snow deformation as troops and tanks move around. There are unique effects added for other things as well, like one early on during a huge battle where there’s a very gritty sense of ash and errant bullet fire applied on top of the graphics.

Some late game missions impressed me a lot, but I’ll avoid mentioning anything specific for fear of spoilers. Extra flourishes, like sound effects showing up as written word are another key part of the visual charm of the Valkyria series and they’re equally great here.

Cutscenes bounce between styles with a dialogue box plus talking heads being the most common. Big action set pieces get true, full cutscenes but they’re pretty few and far between. The game can sometimes fall into telling rather than showing when it comes to things happening, probably the result of budget constraints. Still, the full cutscenes we do get are beautiful and well made.

Audio:
The soundtrack is equally stellar, with a lot of mood-appropriate pieces. From swelling military-inspired highs to somber heart-tugging lows, each song is great at invoking the appropriate feeling for the moment. Even during battle, the music does a good job at accentuating the game as you dive into each fight. Though there was one battle-piece that had a strange clicking/tapping sound that I found a little annoying and I’m not sure if it was an artifact of my home theater setup.

Voice work comes in both English and the original Japanese for fans who want either flavor. I’m partial to the latter myself so I used that and I thought all of the voice work was well acted. Sound effects are similarly well implemented and can be key to determining if your character is being attacked by interception fire and even what type of attack.

The only issue I had here was that there’s a klaxon sound effect used a few times that’s rather harsh and annoying. Which, granted, is the intent of a normal klaxon but I’d prefer if a fake one for a game were just a little softer.

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

Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4) Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

Conclusion:
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an absolute blast from start to finish. The gameplay is unlike most others on the market with enough strategy to be thought provoking but without getting too bogged down in the minutiae. The unique graphical style and engaging story make the whole package all the better.

My only complaints are minor: some late-game missions can be a slog, in part due to damage-sponge bosses. Plus, as a fan of the series I would have liked to have seen a touch more innovation, or even just one or two more carryovers from the other sequels. Still, the one new class does add a lot to the formula and forces some very interesting map designs.

I’d easily recommend Valkyria Chronicles 4 to anyone who wants some tactical RPG-lite gameplay. The fact that the story follows a new cast from a different faction as previous games mean that even those who haven’t played any previous games can jump right in, though Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is also on PS4 and well worth your time.

Fans of the series will appreciate a new game to explore with the added benefit of the way it adds more depth to some of the nations we saw only in passing in previous games. And I certainly hope that VC4 paves the way for even more exploration of the universe of these games. Or at least not having to wait eight years between titles.

Score:
9.5

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

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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