Some games are perfect for pickup and play in between all the things life throws our way on the daily. Others are… how should I say… Hmm they’re there own thing. They dominate our time, disregard our responsibilities, they don’t care. They want us all to themselves, and we’d happily hand ourselves over to the best of em. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is one of those time sinks, and it’s one of the best too.
This is a game that requires all of your attention. Its deep systems punish rushed play, while rewarding patience. 40hrs is not even enough time to pass the mid section of this spectacular masterpiece. To truly get your money’s worth you’ll be playing this well over a couple hundred hours. The game is buried in interesting lore. Pages and pages of it. You can literally sit and read for hours without even moving a character, it’s that deep. This is also a good thing for the uninitiated, because all the lore of this series and its world is at your fingertips from the beginning. As you play more is added to that lore, making for an even more engrossing tale.
The game also features lore on the characters. Each one of them has a personal file, and that file is expanded the more you get to know them. Characters open up to their companions the more you use them together. They each have a story to tell. Some are sweet, others are horrible, all are interesting. They each have likes and dislikes, good quarks and bad ones too. They’re like real people just scalled back for easy consumption.
One character may have someone they admire in the squad, so they’ll try their best when that individual is in the party, while another may then be a bit of neat freak who’s stats lower when they crawl in the dirt. Each character has these traits, and each is different enough to allow for a variety of playing styles with units of the same class. In game this is managed by a system called the potential system. It buffs and debuffs character stats depending on certain criteria. Making each character unique, and their struggles more impactful.
There be permadeath
Characters can also perish in battle, and most can experience permadeath. If you’re not able to evacuate a downed character in time they’ll no longer be available for your party and certain story elements involving them will cease to exist in the game. Of course if you’re a legendarily epic JRPG player then none of your party will perish and you’ll also have the perfect waifu squad, more on that later.
Characters have subplots called ‘squad stories’ which play out as their own chapter with multiple characters getting to know each other better. Completing these will not only provide much needed exposition on the characters involved, but also provide them with new potential. A character’s negative potential can become a positive one just by completing a squad story involving them.
What helps these squad stories, AND the main plot even more is the expectational voice acting. The entire game is voiced in English, and I highly recommend using the English dub. It’s so good. The delivery, setting, and situations all make for an emotional experience that not even a dalek couldn’t empathize with.
There was another game that we reviewed that covered war, and the horrors of it, a game that we had problems with for celebrating the act. Valkyria Chronicles 4 does no such thing. It lays it all on the table. The good, the bad and the ugly. All of it with excellent writing and delivery. By the time the credits roll you honestly care about Squad E. You’ll care about the decisions made, the friends lost, and the bonds formed.
Three dimensional villains
Even the antagonist are three dimensional. They’re bad guys, yea, but they’re not bad from their point of view, and we get why that is. We get two sides of a complicated coin, and then some. Both being so well represented to the point that you’ll feel bad for your enemy on the battlefield, while knowing at the same time that you have to win to survive. Valkyria Chronicles 4 paints a very believable setting and covers it in a beautiful hand drawn anime style.
Nothing more needs to be said about the look, just look at it, look…
OK I actually need to say something about the look, and it’s about the character design. Have you seen my waifus? The character design is amazing and you get to choose who is or isn’t in your squad, so you can pretty much do what I did and drop all the nuts unless they’re needed for a acquiring a squad story and create the perfect waifu squad. Kai of course is best character for obvious reasons, and so she must never fall in battle.
Oh and I have a bit of a problem with the game, why can’t we move the camera under characters with skirts? This must be a mistake, something that will be fixed with a day one patch. I tell myself this every night or I can’t sleep. That’s right, stamp my P-Life card.
On a more serious note, the game does have its flaws, which are unfortunately ones that seem like minor oversight more than anything.
One is the disjointed way in which the story is delivered to the player. Its broken up into chapters, and these chapters are then broken up into small segments which sequentially follow each other. Most being visual novel sections with anime cutscenes in between. Now this may not seem like an issue just yet, so allow me to explain. Each of the segments require you to select them, then when it finishes you return to the menu screen and then select another.
This is such a major waste of time, and it holds up the pacing of an otherwise excellent story. The other issue is the fact that there is no auto play for these story sections. You sit and click for each sentence, one by one. It would have been better if we could just hit auto play and just relax as we watch what is basically a really good anime till the gameplay sections arise, however that’s not the case.
See minor issues…
Gameplay consists of the series staple turn based strategy battle system. Players are given a set amount of moves to make per turn, and any unused moves roll over to the next turn for a total of 20 moves. Each unit can be moved multiple times per turn, but they lose more and more mobility with each move thanks to a system called AP. This system uses a metre to depict how mobile a unity can be. Different unit types deplete this metre at different rates, scouts being the most mobile of them. Units can attack during each move as long as they have the ammunition to do so, and each unit is also capable of healing themselves or others. They also have different ability range and capabilities thanks to their equipment, stats and class.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 Unit Classes
Units each have different individual stats, but they all level up as a part of their class. The classes consist of Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers, Snipers, Grenadiers and tank units. Each unit type excluding the tank units are capable of leveling up through training back at your base. You do this by using EXP gained from completing missions. As you level up units they will gain new potentials, abilities and orders. These orders can only be used by the commander of the squad, and allow for swaying the tide of battles by using a certain amount of moves during the player turn. Orders include healing units, raising stats, and doing very interesting things on the battlefield. I won’t spoil what these things are, but you’ll have an idea what I mean after chapter 8, IF you play the game.
Tank units level up a bit differently from other units. They use the R&D system to gain better stats and abilities. This system allows you to develop new equipment for you tanks and other units throughout the game. The tank parts can then be fitted into a jigsaw puzzle style inventory system. You’re limited to what you can equip, so good management is a must. You do gain more slots in your inventory as you play, but that takes time.
When in battle you are able to maneuver units across the battlefield in many interesting ways. Crawling through grass prevents enemy units from targeting your units, excluding scouts. Scouts can see hidden units once they’re close enough to them. Units can also crouch behind cover to increase their defence stats, and they can climb ladders or interact with numerous things in the environment. Units can also team up for more attacks or to increase their mobility thanks to the command option. This is usable by high ranking officers in your unit to have up to two other units follow them.
Each map is different and very detailed. Some have great vantage points, or even hazards. Elements like weather and fire also affects units in different ways. For example only tank units or units using special orders can travel through flames, while blizzards can lower accuracy along with visibility.
Most missions boil down to basically capturing the enemy base, but there are some truly interesting ones like the chase missions where by your team is being chased by insurmountable odds, and allies are dropping left, right and centre. These truly affect the pace and strategy employed in game to make for a really exhilarating experience. Commanders of enemy units are also able to use orders in battle, so targeting them first is always a good idea as some orders are very devastating.
Where’s the difficulty?
That being said, this is a JRPG at its core, so the right amount of grinding can fix any difficulty. You can do this by participating in skirmishes, squad stories, or by replaying missions. Upon completing each you get a rank and EXP that can be used to level up your Units. The Ai is predictable, but competent enough to offer a good enough challenge. Add to that the map design that will keep you guessing what you can and can’t do throughout. You will have downed units, and you will complete missions without getting an A ranking, well unless of course if you grind. If you do that you can mainline pretty much any situation.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 shines because of the attention to detail that SEGA have added to this entry in such an iconic franchise. It’s the perfect strategy RPG because it focuses on the characters along with the gameplay. This is the game fans of this series have been waiting for, and I think almost everyone who plays it will agree. If you have a the opportunity to get this game, get it. Thank me later.
The copy of Valkyria Chronicles 4 used for this review was provided to us by it’s publisher, SEGA.