As I’m sure has been the case with many of its players, Valkyria Chronicles 4 was my introduction to SEGA’s long-running series – one that left quite the impression. The tactical role-player sported a rather unique but ever so satisfying take on combat, blending turn-based RPG elements with those of a shooter. It sounds like an odd mix but it’s one that worked rather well. If like me you’re after more from the franchise, SEGA has thankfully released the original on Switch. Is it worth going to war over though?
The game takes place in the fictional continent of Europa during the Second Europan War – in fact during a similar timeframe to that of the fourth game – as the Atlantic Federation and the East Imperial Alliance battle over a precious mineral called Ragnite. With the neutral nation of Gallia rich in the sought after Ragnite deposits, the former side decides to invade in hopes of claiming it all. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles 4 where players sided with the Atlantic Federation forces, the original instead has you take control as Welkin Gunter and his unit within the Gallian Militia as you defend your home from Imperial forces.
The game’ story is literally broken down into chapters within a book each of which consist of a number of cutscenes, conversations – the latter in particular do a great job of developing the game’s rich cast of characters – and of course missions.
The missions are essentially turn-based battles with a main objective – usually capture an encampment – accomplished by commanding your squad and taking down the enemy. Gameplay takes on two forms called Command Mode and Action Mode. The former offers a top-down view of the battlefield complete with the positioning of your soldiers. Choose one and you’ll enter Action Mode where you’re then free to control them and their actions. Movement of a character will slowly deplete their AP meter so you’ll need to plan your route carefully while you’ll also only get the one chance to attack. To assault an enemy, the game handles not too unlike a third person shooter albeit with variables like distance and terrain affecting the percentages and chances of successful shots. Turn over you can then move onto another soldier or reuse the same one (with less AP meter) until you’ve exhausted all your Command Points. Do that and its then the opponents turn to move their soldiers and attack.
Your crew’s made up of five different soldier types each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Welkin the tank commander, for example, is a beast against standard soldiers but awfully slow when it comes to movement. Scouts meanwhile offer limited firepower but thanks to their large AP meter can dash about the battlefield with ease while engineers will help heal, fix tanks and restock supplies for the team. Making sure you have the right mix of soldiers is important especially given the tough situations you’ll face.
If it all sounds a little overwhelming, it certainly can be in, at least in the early going. With the game throwing a lot of information my way it definitely took a few missions to truly get my head around all the mechanics at play. That’s before you even get into the matter of experience, levelling up, unlocking your squad’s traits and improving your artillery – all of which offer a good amount of customisation and reward.
Devote the time though and you’ll uncover a truly unique and worthwhile combat system. It’s one that incentivises good preparation and forward thinking but can also punish a sloppy more gung-ho approach. Just as was the case with the fourth game, you truly feel like you’re commanding a troop, accessing your environment and envisioning every possible advantage you can take.
Both the music and voice work in Valkyria Chronicles are solid although the real star is the game’s visuals. Sporting the same watercolour painting style seen in the fourth game, it’s hard not to sit back and marvel at its beauty. Unfortunately, it’s not without its faults. For one the game runs at 30fps unlike the PS4 version, which runs at double that. Furthermore, I’ve come across a few notable moments of slowdown when dealing with more built up and visually rich areas. Sometimes – especially in docked mode – the game can also come off a little burry. None of this ruins your experience but it’s just a shame that these sorts of things haven’t been tidied up after all this time.
Whether you’re fresh to the series or already experienced Valkyria Chronicles 4 on Switch earlier this year, it’s still worth checking out the original. What it might lack in visual polish it more than makes up for with a rich story, affable characters and satisfying and strategic gameplay. Here’s hoping we see the second and third game make the leap to Switch too.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SEGA