The name Valkyria Chronicles has been whispered in my ear for six years now. I can’t even say how many times this PlayStation 3 title has been recommended to me – this is not a dramatic exaggeration either. People love this game and after receiving the opportunity to review it the PC-Steam port, I can say I finally get what all the hype has been about. I only have myself to blame for not playing this game until now.
The game takes place in an alternative universe version of Earth in Europe during World War II. Instead of Europe, Valkyria Chronicles takes place in Europa where the East European Imperial Alliance (Axis) have declared war on the Atlantic Federation in the west (Allies). The game takes place in Gallia (Switzerland) who has been neutral until the Imperials invade their borders. The main character is Welkin – a nature-loving, university student, son of a great general from the First World War who will quickly become a Lieutenant in command of the militia based Squad 7. Oh yeah, he also has a tank.
The Imperials went to war to dominate the Ragnite deposits in the world. With Gallia rich in Ragnite, Welkin must defend the borders of his homeland from future oppression. As a turn-based tactical role-playing game, Valkyria Chronicles adds a third-person shooting element to the combat. After deploying your troops, you get a certain amount of Action Points (AP) which decides what you can do in one turn. After you end your turn, the enemy takes all its moves in a similar manor. All actions require a specific amount of AP. While moving and attacking with one troop costs one AP, moving and firing with a tank requires two AP. Welkin can also order commands to give buffs or take actions on the battlefield which also require various AP depending the order.
The beauty of the combat in this game comes from your personal preference. Everyone that has been dying to talk to me about Valkyria Chronicles has told me they use completely different strategies than what I do. That alone is the sign of a well thought out tactics game. Without that ONE game breaking strategy that you’re reduced to use (*cough Orlandu cough*), you can be decisive in your very own devious ways. Outmaneuvering your foes, using ballsy tactics, or using ultimate efficiency strategies are extremely rewarding upon success; rewarding and fun.
Outside of combat there is a ton going on as well. The story is told through the annuals of a historic tome. While most tactics game suffer from a weak plot, Valkyria Chronicles excels in story. Playing as Welkin as he transforms from bug observer to battle strategist is engaging. Between battles you can watch cutscenes which occur behind the scenes and / or leading up to the next conflict. If you help fund Irene Ellet’s journalism efforts you can even receive more story and sometimes conflicts. All of these events can be rewatched or experienced through back tracking in “Book Mode.”
Out of combat strategy comes from where you spend your money and experience points. Instead of individual units leveling, the class they are level with distributed experience points off the battlefield. Thus the Shocktropper you just recruited midway in the game will be the same level as Rosie who you’ve had since the start. Where your EXP points go all depends on the strengths of your strategies. With the chance that permanent death of characters, this system can be a safety net for the hardcore. With money you can upgrade weapons, uniforms, and your tank. Without grinding you won’t have the bling for everything so this falls into your individual strategies as well; what do you prioritize?
While on paper this may sound complicated, the game does an excellent job of teaching you these methods and makes all these steps simple for the user. After every battle you’ll probably get into the groove of heading back to HQ to run through everything to see who you can level and what upgrades are available. War is a technology race after all; you don’t want to be massively behind your enemy. For those looking for an extra edge or if you are having difficulty in a mission, there is a grinding system where you can do maps over and over infinitely under the “Skirmishes” tab. While you can get money and EXP here, perma-death is also on the table if you get careless with your troops.
My first impression of the combat was that it felt rather clunky which redeems itself over time. Optimization of your units requires a deeper understanding of how your foes will react and part of the meta behind the system itself. For instance, when your unit is moving certain classes will fire at you but the second you hit the aim button they stop so you can aim. Stopping a moving unit’s turn will also stop the enemy from firing upon you. In one map I had a unit get surrounded by enemy reinforcements but by ordering her to have a high defense and using her over and over but only having her fire then instantly ending her turn she barely took any damage, killed five enemies, while surviving. This isn’t as strategic as it is milking the system.
Despite that one system, the game is remarkably smooth. The transitions from the command mode map to the third person view of the unit are so damn fluid. Even though it has been six years since Valkyria Chronicles was first released on PlayStation 3, this game absolutely still holds up today. Now on Steam-PC availability and with low requirements – now is the exact time for you to either replay this tactical classic or play it for the first time. Despite its low requirements, the game still looks absolutely gorgeous in your native PC resolution, however high it may be, and at full 60 frames per second, though cutscenes still retain their PS3 resolution. Like I said before, this is the game people have been telling me to play for years. Now I’ve graduated to the status of the obnoxious person to tell you to play it. So, you know, go play it.