Writing this review was a bit strange for me, because unlike my regular style of just contextualizing my thoughts after completing a game. I found myself making a pros and cons list after my first hour with this game. The reason for this being that though I was finding things that I liked about it, I was also finding just as much if not more game design choices that completely baffled me. Things like the game loading after almost every scene during cutscenes puzzled me.
So like I did with our God Wars Future Past review, I’ll be addressing all the things about this game that bothered me first, then I’ll cover those that I liked.
Valkyria Revolution’s plot has a great setup in that it is told as a history lesson by characters in the future. The story is focused on the small country of Jutland, that is economically blockaded by Ruzhien, a powerful empire that expanded its territory and achieved rapid industrial development after discovering the azure mineral Ragnite; this mineral is used as an energy resource, but also has magical properties. Wanting independence from colonial rule, Jutland strikes the base of the empire’s army. This setting makes for an interesting tale about the complexities of politics, ecommerce, war, and revenge. It has all the elements for success, but sadly it is burdened by the aforementioned loading issues I just mentioned.
During the game you are presented with numerous cutscenes that are short by themselves, but lengthened by a ridiculous disjointed loading system. At first I thought this was a few isolated scenes that the developers were trying to highlight at the beginning of the game, but I quickly realized that this happened every time there was a cutscene. It also happens too frequently to be anything less than annoying. For one it prevents the story from flowing seamlessly enough to hold the attention of the player for long. I’ll even admit to zoning out on multiple instances while watching the cutscenes, because of the constant loading. If these cutscenes were more seamless I’m sure I’d have been able to enjoy the game a lot more, because It does have an intrigued story with interesting characters; however, that is not the case, and the problems don’t end with just the cutscenes.
After coming to the realization that the cutscenes were botched, my assumption was that the developers were more focused on the gameplay elements, and thus the cutscenes suffered. That turned out to be a false assumption, as the gameplay was arguably worse than the the cutscenes. Though the cutscenes were affected by the constant loading they were still backed by an interesting cast of characters, and strong voice acting. The gameplay wasn’t backed by anything good really. To me it seemed uninspired. It’s so basic that most of it is done by mashing the same button over and over till the enemy dies. This tactic is not necessarily by design, but it is how you will most likely find yourself playing the game due to it’s other battle mechanics being too cumbersome, or vastly ineffective in battle. The game attempts to use a tactics wheel type system to decide how other characters support the player during battle. Note I said attempts, because none of it feels intuitive enough to encourage use except the grenades, special attacks and magic.
It was so bothersome that during my time with the game I mostly ignored my companions while battling because of this. In essence I played the game as if it were a Warriors title. In fact the enemies are not that different than those you’d find in such games. Most just stand around waiting to be hit, and the majority die after just 3 hits. The bosses are stronger than these basic enemies, but tactically I found it most effective to just set my team to support me before battle with healing magic, while I repeated the same 3 hit combo with the occasional special move or grenade toss till the boss eventually died. Which if you ask me is some of the most boring combat I’ve experienced in a while.
There were other issues like less animations for some enemies on the Vita and some slowdown, but these were not very noticeable, or frequent enough to affect the game, so I’ll just mention them as minor annoyances and leave it at that.
With all that out of the way, we can finally begin talking about the things that I liked about the game…
The voice acting is one of this game’s saving graces. It’s some of the best English VO I’ve experienced in a JRPG, and if I had to guess where all the development resources for this game went, I’d have to go with the VOs, because of how good they are. And thanks to an impressive cast of intriguing characters this aspect of the game tends to seem mismatched because of how unimpressive most of the other stuff is.
Graphically the game looks as you would expect a Valkyria game to look. It’s got that unique look that you only see in Valkyria games. Something like moving pastel art. Blending this style with the voice work, it’s even more of a shame that the cutscenes were ruined by the darn loading…. sigh … I mean who’s idea was it to do that? Who thought, “you know what would be great, let’s have a loading screen after every few words in each cutscenes”, and the everyone else were like, “yea that sounds fun”. What the FRAK Media.Vision. You ruined a game that I was looking forward to so much all thanks to poor design choices, why….?
This was a game without focus, a mixture of good ideas with poor implementation. If the focus was placed on making a good action RPG or a good Tactics RPG then this would have likely been an amazing game to play. If the cutscenes were more seamless then this would have been a more enjoyable story to experience. With both of these aspects lacking proper implementation what we got from Valkyria Revolution was a good concept, not a good game. As a fan of this franchise, who wants another entry in it, I’d recommend it to other fans only on the consideration to keep SEGA from shelving it. Hopefully we get a Valkyria Chronicles 4 with the proven tactics RPG gameplay that we’ve come to expect from this franchise, and better cutscenes.
The copy of Valkyria Revolution used for this review was supplied to us by the game’s publisher, SEGA.