Fans have been waiting a long time for a true console sequel in the Valkyria Chronicles series after the original game released on the PlayStation 3 just over a decade ago. The 2 follow up titles in the series released exclusively on the PSP and fans of the series were left less than satisfied with the changes made in last year’s Valkyria Revolution. But finally SEGA have delivered to the fans exactly what they’ve been asking for over and over for the last 10 years. In a move that could be considered quite safe, Valkyria Chronicles 4 delivers a gameplay experience that has taken the foundations laid out in the original game and expanded on that with some new mechanics and the use of an updated graphics engine.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set during the events of the first game although features it’s own cast of characters and takes place in the land of Europa. Offering an alternate view on the events and the world from the first game. Because of this, the game is a great jumping on point for newcomers to the series as no prior knowledge of it’s characters or lore are required to enjoy this story. Valkyria Chronicles 4 has also returned to it’s traditional blend of turn based and real time combat that fans loved and retains the series’ iconic anime twist on an alternate history World War 2.
As I mentioned in the opening of this review, this game is similar in a lot of ways to the first game and it seems as though SEGA have played things quite safe. Sticking quite close to the framework of that first title. I don’t blame them really, it’s a clever business decision to give the fans what they’ve been begging for all these years. More Valkyria Chronicles. I just wish they had taken a few more risks or attempted to try make it more of it’s own thing. Don’t take what I’m saying to mean that this game is just a cookie cutter replica of the first game because that’s certainly not the case. There have been tweaks and improvements all round as well as new items, weapons and character classes added to make the game feel fresh enough.
The new character class the Grenadier offers a fresh layer to the battle system which for the most part uses what was already established in the earlier titles. The Grenadier is able to use a mortar style weapon to fire highly damaging explosives on top of the enemy from a great distance. But it’s a double edged sword as of course the enemy troops also have access to Grenadiers too keeping you always on your toes.
The update to the Canvas Engine has allowed for many technical improvements to the game. Not just visually but now that the game is running on newer hardware it has allowed for much larger battlefields and you’ll notice many more units populating each of the maps and moving around at once than ever seen before in a Valkyria Chronicles game.
The enemy AI can still be iffy at times though too. The upgraded engine hasn’t fixed that. Resulting in some unrealistic tactical choices being made by the opponent some of which can end up hilariously silly at times. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s a noticeable hiccup because of the strategic war-like nature of the game. Seeing an enemy mere metres away waste their turn moving around rather than taking an easy shot doesn’t seem like the smartest move.
Much like a game of chess you’ll need to be thinking multiple moves ahead at times, planning ways to out fight your opponent while also planning for and trying to predict what moves they will make next. Failing to prepare yourself for the enemy attack can easily see you overwhelmed and beaten in battle. This is a strategy game where strategy is at the forefront. Taking time at the beginning of battle to plan out the best approach will do you wonders and when a plan comes to fruition you’ll be glad you took the time to plan it out.
While planning is a critical requirement you need to balance that with getting the job done. Rewards and experience granted at the end of the match are increased the more efficient you are in battle. Eliminating the enemy in less moves will level up your characters more and allow you to develop better gear for your army quicker.
When you’re not in the midst of battle you’ll often be experiencing the story side of Valkyria Chronicles 4 which plays out in either cutscenes or visual novel style on-screen dialogue sequences. The thing that drew me to Valkyria Chronicles in the first place many years ago was it’s anime aesthetic and character designs, and they’re great again in Valkyria Chronicles 4. The characters each look unique while still appearing to fit in the same story. And the voice work in the game is really well done and features some of the voice over industry’s top talent for games and anime.
You’ll grow attached to your squad over time. The game does a really good job at making you like pretty much all the characters in your army. Developing them with their own history and backstories and making their involvement in your squad have real impact. The large number of troops you have in your squad by the end of the game really do feel like a cohesive unit or a really large family. Even characters that are given minor roles in the squad are still developed enough to make you care greatly about them and I love that they’ve managed to do that.
In a game with such a large cast of selectable characters it’s perfectly natural to gravitate towards the same handful over and over again. Whether that be because their class matches your playstyle, they’ve spent a large amount of time in your army or maybe you just like the look or personality of a certain character over another. In Valkyria Chronicles 4 you will be rewarded for sticking with certain characters. If you use the same character often enough you’ll be able to unlock side missions to further flesh out their character backstories and open up new abilities for them to use.
The game looks fantastic. It’s Canvas engine really shines in the vibrant outdoor area’s and it’s painterly art style offers a unique appearance to it’s fairly unique genre as an anime style strategy based war game. Even though the series has been around for over 10 years now, there still really isn’t anything like it. Which is another reason why fans of the franchise have been hanging out for this game for a long time.
Possibly one of the game’s greatest highlights is that it is now available on the Nintendo Switch. While I played the PS4 version for review I do feel like picking up the Switch version to be able to continue the great story and my fun strategic battles on the go.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a fantastic return to form and delivers on everything Valkyria Chronicles fans have wanted for years. The game also offers a lot of value, taking around 35-45 hours just to beat the main story then still having plenty more to do afterwards. While the game hasn’t pushed the boundaries of the earlier titles too far it is still a solid strategy RPG with a great cast of well developed characters. If you like strategy RPG’s and games that carry an anime aesthetic I highly recommend you check this out, even if it’s your first Valkyria Chronicles game.
A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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