Valkyria Chronicles has a unique battle system called the BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones), and this is where the game shines. Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based tactical role-playing game with third person shooter elements, or should I say Valkyria is a turn-based third person shooter with role-playing elements. There are no grids like many of the traditional tactical-RPGs have. Instead, you can roam around freely through the battlefield until the character’s AP finishes. Your turn is over when you use up all your command points, or when you decide to end your end. When you decide to end your turn but you still have command points left, those points are transferred to your next turn.
Before battling, there will be an overhead map of the battlefield. Here you deploy your squad members as you please, except for the tank which will be deployed on its own. In addition, you can watch a few, not all, of the enemies’ positions along with their class and the enemies’ bases. In battles, you can capture the enemies’ bases, and it is recommended to capture these bases because the enemies can’t call for reinforcements without their base. With these bases, you can use them to your advantage and call for reinforcements or retreat squad members who are severely injured.
Saving your allies is important. If your ally’s HP falls to zero, you can still save him/her. Reach the body before the enemy does, and the medic will carry the squad member out to safety. If the enemy reaches the body before you do, you’ll lose the character forever. The character will make a death speech, and the character will fade away into a colorless image. No new members will appear to be recruited. It’s a great penalty and motivates you to save your members.
Controls work well for the most part. The learning curve is very easy and accessible even for those who haven’t played a SRPG before. Pressing the square button switches the character’s weapon during battles, and pressing R1 puts you into the aim mode. As a first person shooter fan, using the left analog stick to aim was a little weird at first, but eventually, I got used to it. You can also use the D-pad for a more precise aiming which is certainly helpful for the snipers to achieve a headshot. My biggest complaint with the controls is controlling the tank as it was a frustrating process moving the tank the way I wanted to. Whenever I wanted the tank to go forward, sometimes it would make a turn, move the camera and make me waste some of the tank’s AP.
The best thing about the battles is that the enemies will react and try to stop you while you’re roaming through the field. Instead of just standing still and letting you advance, the enemies will shoot you whenever they see you. When the enemies move through the field during their turn, your character can shoot at them as well. Only scouts, tanks, shocktroopers and engineers can shoot their enemies when they see them on the field while the lancers and snipers can’t, so make sure you keep them in a safe spot. When you aim, time stops. None of the enemies will shoot while you are aiming, so you don’t have to rush your attacks. Take a deep breath and attack. Enemies can dodge your bullets even if you’re right in front of them which can be frustrating. Aiming with the lancers and tank can be a pain. Even if the aim points towards the center, the lances or shells can sometimes go directly to the ground or fly towards the sky.
Another great feature in the game is you’re not force to use all your characters. A character can be used more than once, but the character’s AP will be lower each time you use the character in the same player phase turn. After performing an action, the character’s turn is not over until you say it’s over. After shooting an enemy, you can still move the character until the AP finishes, but you can’t perform another action in the same turn. Characters are able to take cover behind sandbags and doing this reduces the damage taken by enemies and eliminates the risk of getting a headshot. The enemy’s AI is mostly dumb. Sometimes the enemy will run towards your tank and get blasted with bullets, or enemies will also waste their turn by taking a few steps forward and then going back to where they started.
The battles never feel repetitive and can be approached in many different ways. Each battle is set in different environments, with different situations and sometimes with mid-battle twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat hoping nothing goes wrong with your squad. Making a wrong move can cause you to be in the defensive side and use some turns trying to get the momentum back. The battles can be challenging, especially towards the end. Some battles can take over an hour to finish, but luckily, you are able to save during battles. Whenever you finish a battle, experience points, money and rating are given. Getting the highest rating in a battle mostly has to do with speed instead of killing everyone. If you need to level up, skirmishes are available to gain more money or experience points, and they are pretty much the same battles you played in the story mode but without the mid-battle twists which is a little underwhelming.
Music composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, known for his work on Final Fantasy XII and Tactics, does a fine job in Valkyria Chronicles. While the music is beautiful and relaxing, it does get a tad repetitive. Some songs are available to listen by choosing the soundtrack tab while on the book mode. Sound effects are underwhelming; the scout’s rifle sounds like you’re knocking on a hardcover book. Voice acting is surprisingly good, and each character has a distinct voice, including all 50 squad members. Anime fans will be pleased to hear that the Japanese voice overs are included.
War has never looked so beautiful. Anyone who has seen screens or videos of Valkyria Chronicles would agree that the art direction is fantastic. Valkyria uses Sega’s CANVAS engine which makes the game look like a sketchbook or watercolor painting. Uncolored palette surrounds the game giving the game a more interesting look and keeping true to the book style presentation.
Valkyria Chronicles will be overshadowed by the big anticipated titles such as Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty, but those who decide to get Valkyria over the anticipated titles will be satisfied with their purchase. Valkyria brings something fresh to the SRPG genre and delivers one of the best RPG experiences of 2008.
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A fantastic art-style, and the book storytelling presentation gives you the feeling Valkyria wants to tell a story.
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A fun battle system but there's a few problems with the enemy AI and controlling the tank. Valkyria is challenging and motivates you to plan out your moves ahead of time.
The soundtrack is beautiful and relaxing but can get repetitive. Voice acting is great while the sound effects are not.
The main story takes around 30 hours and beating the game unlocks a new difficulty mode. Getting all medals, reports and weapons will take quite a while.
A rich presentation, fun battle system, great story and characters along with an excellent art-style. This is a game PS3 owners shouldn't miss.