Top critical review
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Stops at the innovative part.
on 14 August 2011
Valkyria Chronicles tries something new by mixing the Turn-Based Stategy genre with the now very common Third-Person Style shooter. The game carries that innovation well, but unfortunately it ends up not adding very much to the formula. In most games, as you progress through the game, you get new tools or abilities to play with, in Valkyria Chronicles, you start off having 5 different classes and a tank. You don't get much more throughout the game. In any run-of-the-mill strategy game, having simply 5 different classes, some of which aren't even completely unique from eachother would be quite shameful.
The game is presented in a fairy tale-like picture book fashion, by turning and filling the spaces in the pages of a book as you progress through the game. This automatically gives you the ability to go back and watch previous events, if you wish to do so. Unfortunately the coming chapters aren't completely faded out, which in the end, give you an idea what the next battle's outcome is going to be like. In many Japanese games, especially Role-Playing games, the story is the most important thing. Having it spoiled for you just ruins any aspect of surprise, twists and even the sense of hard-earned victories, because you already know the outcome, you just have to get there. The book-like presentation isn't an original idea by any means, and a game that was released in 2008 executed it badly.
In terms of gameplay, at first I found the game to be quite addictive. The idea of mixing third person shooter and strategy was completely new to me and I loved it at first. Like I said earlier, unfortunately the game does little to throw anything new towards you, so even this innovation may get old rather quickly.
At the start of your turn you are given a certain number of, coins I suppose, to spend. To move one of your soldiers it costs one coin. To move your tanks, it takes two. Each of your soldiers and tanks have one Action Point to spend per coin. While moving one of your soldiers, he/she can do a number of things, but only one of those things, and that one thing costs you the soldier's action point. For example, a Scout can carry a rifle, a potion and a grenade. While you move your Scout around the battlefield, he/she can either fire the rifle, or throw the grenade, or heal via use of a potion, your soldier can not do all three, unless you spend extra coins. You can spend another coin to use that Scout once again and get another action point do another move. But, there are exceptions. If there are interactions on the battlefield that require you to press X when you approach them, like disarming a mine with your engineer(always have at least one engineer on the field), or hitting a switch to activate a transport mechanism, that does not take away your action point; you can still fire your gun, or heal afterwards. Once you have spent all of your coins, it switches to your enemy's side and you watch their whole turn progress.
At certain times, the game throws an Full Motion Video at you. Whenever that happened, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The scenes are beautifully done, the colours are wide, the anime style is mixed a bit with watercolour, it all looks beautiful in motion. Those are the high points of the game for me. The music is done by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who's most famous work is Final Fantasy XII. Sakimoto's music is very recognizable, and it will remind you of his past games, if you had played them, of course. I, personally, don't like his music very much, I feel like it sounds like one massive line of music, where the melody isn't clearly heard and just meshes with the background music.
I give this game a Thumbs up rental, if you can. I would not suggest buying it. If you like games that take their time, have a beautiful anime style and you like the idea of mixing those two genres, then you should try this out.
This game does have something which a lot of strategy games don't, though. Every character in the game is unique. They all have different Like and Dislikes(in terms of liking a person, not food or things, e.g. Jane likes Hannes.), different abilites, different voices(English and Japanese) and different looks. In a lot of strategy games, everybody just feels like a cog in a massive machine sometimes. In Valkyria Chronicles, everybody has their own story, which you can view in the "Personnel Tab". This is a feature I always look for in a strategy game, and I was very glad Valkyria Chronicles had that.