The original Valkyria Chronicles surprised nearly everyone who played it. A wartime strategy RPG with a punishing difficulty and emotional story? There is certainly nothing like it, and many people recognized that and praised the game for it. People cried.
So when Valkyria Chronicles 2 was announced for the PSP instead of the PS3, many were disappointed, thinking that it would be an inferior experience to the original. Based on my time with the game, I don’t think fans have any reason to worry.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 picks up a few years after the conclusion of the original and involves an all-new cast, though some characters, like Welkin and Alicia, will return either for smaller roles in the story or via DLC, which is planned en masse for the game. Not much about the game’s story was revealed (nor did I want to spoil much for you or myself), but the presenter did say that the game’s emotional tone does return. While the game feels lighthearted early on, players should expect some darker turns later on.
Quite a few additions are in the game, making it sound like quite a step above its predecessor. For one, the game is expected to take players longer to complete then the original, both in terms of the story mode and the skirmish missions that accompany them. Depending on the pace that you take, the presenter believed that the game could take eighty hours if you’re hoping to see all the content, and this will be extended with DLC.
But there are plenty more surprises than just the length. While it was not available in the demo, I was told that a new melee class has been made available to your armies, which will provide one-hit kills if you can get close enough to your enemies. There are also new vehicles: now you’ll have access to both a heavy tank and a lighter tank that is faster but not as durable, nor is it particularly well-armed. This should provide a lot more variety in armored vehicle combat.
Maps also feel a bit different thanks to the inclusion of something called gateways, which are essentially transitions between two maps within the same mission. In the mission I played, you must first traverse an outside environment, capture a base, and move into a large building. Essentially, once you have taken the base, you can switch between the two areas easily, moving units back and forth.
One addition that I think is a fantastic idea is an easy mode. While I wasn’t able to compare it to the regular difficulty, its potential to allow a person to finish the story in spite of their own ineptitude (personal experience talking here) is rather exciting, especially in the face of one last addition: the moral meter. This is just a simple system that tracks how well the battle is going, and if your strategy is sound, you’ll receive boots to your accuracy and character potentials.
VC2 will also offer two player competitive multiplayer and four-player cooperative multiplayer, both available through ad hoc only. None of this was available on the show floor, but I was assured that it would work quite similarly to the main game.
The control felt just fine on the PSP, with the direction pad still used for fine aim. Using the shoulder buttons has never felt ideal to me for camera control, but it shouldn’t be too annoying for players to handle. And while the mission I played was quite straightforward and really rather easy, the difficulty and complexity of battles ramps up before long.
I walked away from the demo wanting to play more, and desparately hoping that I one day bring myself to finish those final missions in the original Valkyria Chronicles. While the extremely similar gameplay won’t change your mind if you hated the original, fans of the series should look forward to the game’s August 31st release date. It could very well be better than the original.