Reviews: Valkyria Chronicles

Where The Cast of Axis Powers Hetalia Actually Kill Each Other

Valkyria Chronicles is a turn based strategy game set in a fantasy World War 2. If youíve ever seen Axis Powers Hetalia it feels a bit like that; obsessed with pretty people in immaculate military uniforms, whilst making a peculiarly soft presentation of one of history`s most brutal periods. I haven`t finished the game yet, I`m taking a break after being ass fucked by one of the gameís ludicrous difficulty spikes. Whilst I recover from that I have decided to put my thoughts together.

In game, you take control of a squad of specialists to complete specific missions. You also have a tank, which specialises in getting snagged on bits of scenery. I actually enjoy the gameplay a lot. It is simple yet varied enough to allow some imagination, which you'll need to deal with a variety of challenges. The turn based design means the game moves at a slow pace, but it always feels frantic as the firefights play out in real time.

The game does have the difficulty spikes however. I`m stuck fighting a ginormous enemy tank. It has taken one failed playthrough to learn the proper way to kill it. It has taken a second, longer failed playthrough to discover that whatever your plan was to deal with the tank, it`ll get shredded when a second boss character appears out of nowhere and kills half your squad before you`re permitted to respond. I`m hoping the game won`t keep pulling these dick moves in later levels, because it`s frustrating and at odds with the strategy premise.

One thing this game does really well is humanise the squad. Normally strategy games put you in the role of a ruthless leader, feeding faceless soldiers into a meat grinder. In Valkyria, every single soldier you recruit has a unique face, personality and background. They also permanently die, so you actually try not to get them killed.

The story is a very typically anime sort of thing, full of arm waving, gasping, navel gazing, and pedestrian sociology. I don`t mind it, except for this one rather odd subplot involving one of the squaddies, whom everyone keeps being racist to. Iím sure they`ll eventually put aside their differences through teamwork, but what makes it weird (weirder than suddenly finding your squad is full of racists), is how race is depicted; everyone is generic anime white, including the girl getting bullied. They only know she is different because of her black hair. I know there is a lot more to race than skin colour, but it is tonally odd to make an issue of racism with this setting whilst depicting everyone as the exact same race. I would say it`s a consequence of Japanís mono-cultural perspective, but then again Poland fell into the exact same trap with The Witcher III. It`s not a deal breaker but it is uncanny to be affronted with that lack of self-awareness on the part of the game designers.

For what itís worth I am dying to get back into the game and kill that tank. Give it a try and I imagine youíll be doing the same.

Six years later, still worth a look.

A fusion of third person shooter, and a turn-based tactical RPG released in 2009 on the PS3 (and on the PC in 2014), Valkyria Chronicles has aged well, especially in terms of the somewhat unique art style. One can say a player is playing an anime story.

The story itself is solid offering a variety of themes and a decent plot, although there are a few eyebrow raising moments, such as the big bad's motivations, and how one of the members of your squad is killed.

There are several characters to choose from to add to your squad, each with his or her own voice, personality, strengths and weaknesses, which humanizes all of them, and makes each character unique. A player will likely get to know each and every character, and (usually) take great care to ensure they don't die.

However, one of the main flaws of the game is that because of the aforementioned strengths and weaknesses, there is a clear tier list between awesome and awful characters.

Furthermore, the game grades players (and gives more experience and money) for ending chapters in fewer turns. For that reason, some character classes — mainly scouts, who are arguably game breakers — are more valuable than others (like shocktroopers) due to their ability to traverse the chapter maps faster (since actions per turn are limited), while other characters (mainly lancers) are situational due to their lack of mobility or accuracy.

Also, players will hate the menu system. While creative in the form of a book, it can be slow at times when a player wants to accomplish multiple tasks before the next battle. (e.g.: train or switch squad mates, upgrade weapons, etc.)

However, despite the flaws, Valkyria Chronicles is a fun game to play. There is a reason why this game is a cult classic for PS3 users, and is still playable today. For those interested in tactical games, it is definitely worth a look.

An exciting tactical game with significant but forgivable flaws

Valkyria chronicles is fun to play, rewarding you for coordinating foot units with tanks and learning to use your soldier classes and their special abilities. The squad roster gives you loads of interesting characters, whose stat buffs and ailments interact with the environment and each other. The only problem is that since you need to select the same squad leaders each time if you want maximum action points, I felt less able to experiment with character lineups than I wanted to. The game has to be played in a certain way that isn't necessarily intuitive if you want to avoid frustration, so you should look up class leveling, the tech tree, and tactical tips. Cash and XP are awarded based only on how few turns you complete the objective in, which rewards you for being quick and efficient but can encourage some bizarre strategies. Unfortunately the system is not as good for boss fights as for battles, with the Batomys and Selvaria's last stand being the only ones that stood out for me.

The story concerns the evils caused by war, genocide, and the rewriting of history by the victors, with Welkin and Alicia sharing the role of protagonists and Love Interests as they try to realize their dream for a better world. The main characters have plenty of personality and are easy to love because of their sweet and idealistic qualities, which makes it a shame that clumsy and ham-fisted writing tends to undermine the very messages of tolerance and martial pacifism the game is trying to send. For example, Squad Seven is made up of militia members with individual personalities and is depicted as a bunch of good people fighting to protect their homes, but all professional armies in the story—including that of Gallia—are effectively dehumanized and depicted as uniformly callous and evil. What Measure Is a Mook? and A Million Is a Statistic are in full effect, especially when The Dragon Selvaria gets more sympathy from the main characters than the whole Gallian army. The degree of gender equality in the Gallian militia is legitimately refreshing, but we occasionally have instances of Hysterical Woman in the story that seem to imply that females can't be level-headed leaders. Faldio is depicted as wrong for taking drastic measures to protect his country, but he ends up being a case of Straw Man Has A Point since using a Valkyria's power could potentially reduce the number of people whom Gallia would have to sacrifice. I didn't really notice these contradictions on my first playthrough, and one can overlook the problems with the message as long as they like Welkin, Alicia, and the other protagonists, but it's something you have to be prepared to deal with.