Sometimes sequels just take whatever their parent game did and do more of it better. If the formula worked well enough to merit a sequel, why shake things up all that much? That’s how we got fantastic titles like Half-Life 2, Injustice 2 and so on. Sometimes, though, a sequel decides to veer off into its own territory, which doesn’t necessarily improve anything; Devil May Cry 2, for instance, is generally held to be a pretty questionable sequel to the original classic hack-and-slasher.
When we’re talking about Valkyria Revolution, unfortunately, I think we’re leaning more toward the latter situation for Valkyria Chronicles fans; it’s a decent game for what it is, but as a sequel it’s certainly lacking more than just the coveted “2” suffix.
When the nation of Jutland is cut off from its neighbors by a crippling economic embargo, it’s not long before the land is in peril. Something needs to be done before everyone starves. With their back to the wall, Jutland is forced to resort to war, and on the front lines of the coming fight is the Anti-Valkyria Squad Vanargand. This is a smaller unit comprised of individuals with strong inherent magical affinity and led by Amleth, a brooding young man with darker designs on his mind than just leading his squadmates; namely, Amleth’s got a grudge to settle against the leaders of the enemy nation of Rus. We follow both the adventures of the Vanargand squad and Amleth’s quest for revenge as he conspires with his friends to run the war from behind the scenes.
The real focus here is on story as opposed to battle, and you can expect sizable chunks of cutscenes between each mission. We’re talking Metal Gear Solid levels of cutscenes. You’ll want some popcorn handy. I found these to be largely acceptable, though Amleth’s brooding hero shtick feels a little worn out compared to the more interesting heroes from earlier Valkyria games. On the other hand, if you’re coming into this expecting a combat-heavy strategy game, you’re going to be disappointed for two reasons. First, combat feels like an afterthought in the overbearing face of the game’s efforts at storytelling; second, well…
If you’ve played any of the other Valkyria Chronicles games, that’s great! Revolution isn’t like any of those. Rather than the turn-based strategy we saw in those games, we’ve got a sort of action-RPG going on here, where you control a party of up to four characters taking on enemies in real time. It plays out something like Secret of Mana, where characters need a brief period to prepare between attacks and can also access a ring menu to cast spells and activate special moves. Characters are armed with both melee weapons and customizable selection of firearms and grenades; the latter only have limited ammo available and need to be restocked by capturing enemy positions during long missions.
It’s certainly a different experience than you might expect from a game in this series, and it’s not entirely clear that the new system is an improvement. Combat suffers from drastic difficulty spikes; your average mooks are easily hacked to pieces with the cutlery of your choice, while bosses are more than happy to do the same right back to you, and there doesn’t feel like there’s much of a middle ground. Leveling your characters and their weapons as well as obtaining new Ragnite, magic stones that allow your characters to use magic, can help a bit, but especially early on Valkyria Revolution can feel a little spiteful by placing you in painful situations without many options for character improvement.
It’s a nice-looking game, at least, using the same sort of hand-drawn cel-shaded style seen in other games from the series. The “edgier” look that this game seems to be aiming for doesn’t suit the style quite as well as you might expect, but the graphics and character designs are largely inoffensive. For the record, character expressions are lacking a bit as well, which is a surprising issue for a game so hellbent on impressing with its cutscenes to have. As for the sound and voice acting, it’s passable; Revolution’s voice acting quality tends to swing wildly from character to character, and I found myself particularly irritated by overenthusiastic genki girl Sara and hamtastic leading lady Princess Ophelia.
Yes, Amleth and Ophelia. And one of the villains’ name is Claudiusz. And the game takes place in Jutland. Cute, huh? The Bard would certainly be honored.
I certainly can’t offer a no-strings-attached recommendation for Valkyria Revolution, given that it’s drastically different from its predecessors and it’s not the RPG epic that one might think it is. If you go in with the proper expectations, though, this game is certainly a passable experience. It’s pretty, the plot, while not mindblowing, works for what it is, and combat is a good enough time when not getting thrashed by the latest boss. I’m not sure I’d say this one’s worth the full price, but when it inevitably hits $30 in a few months, then knock yourself out.