Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review
As a novice to the Valkyria Chronicles franchise, I wasn’t sure what to expect when booting up my first experience. From friends in the industry, the original Valkyria Chronicles was very good, followed up by some lackluster – and even downright terrible – releases and rereleases, across almost all platforms. When my colleague Daniel Fugate reviewed the demo on Nintendo Switch, my interest was peaked, and I decided to take the plunge, thanks to our good friends at SEGA. How good is Valkyria Chronicles 4, and can you jump in without playing the original games in the series? Let’s dive in!
This review was carried out on an Xbox One X provided by Xbox Canada.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set during the Second Europan War, a play on the real-life World War II conflict between the axis and allies forces in Europe. Here, the battle for continental supremacy rages between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance. As the Alliance moves further and further west, taking a lot of territory from the Atlantic Federation, it all comes down to one hero and his platoon to dive deep into enemy territory and grab a key stronghold. This mission – dubbed Operation Northern Cross – is lead by our main hero of Squad E, Claude Wallace, and his band of friends and allies.
The game menus are laid out in a book format, with each chapter taking up two side-by-side pages. Each moment within the game is broken down into it’s own ‘playable’ portion, whether an actual combat, gameplay situation, or just cinematics that build the story. The presentation here is actually quite nice, and the ability to re-watch specific parts of the story – which can be helpful in case something important is forgotten, such as the backstory of a character – is a great feature that I wish more games added in.
The colourful and beautiful painted art style presented in the book menu is also on full display within each battle/arena sequence. As a turn-based combat experience, it’s fun to take a break from the fighting and marvel at all the work that went into creating such fantastic environments. Regardless of the battle environment, the development team was able to bring it to life in unique and story-driven ways. Whether it is as deep as flowers in a field that represent hope, or vines crawling up broken buildings that simply add to the aesthetic feel, everything in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is presented with stunning, paint-focused artistry.
Beautiful graphics, however, can only bring a game so far, and without a solid mechanic to back up a beautiful look, a game can quickly faulter. Thankfully, the combat sequences – while very safe and normal in terms of mechanics – are incredibly satisfying, and easy to understand and execute. While players can use a menu heavy headquarters to upgrade characters, weapons, and more, the RPG elements in Valkyria Chronicles 4 are very mute overall, which makes this a great entry title for those less familiar with RPG experiences.
Each combat scenario is broken up into phases, first a player phase and then an enemy phase. The players roles continue until the battle concludes. During a phase, players can use combat points to command units to move around the map. Each unit can move using Action Points (AP), which diminish the further the character moves. Each character will also have the opportunity to fire one projectile at an enemy combatant.
There are numerous different unit types, all of which will have their place in specific combat scenarios. Before each battle, you can deploy a specific number of units – Scout, Assault, Engineer, Lancer, Sniper, or Grenadier – and these unit will appear on your temporary base to begin the combat sequence. Each scenario will require a different strategy, so being familiar with what units you have at your disposal is critical for success. In some, having multiple snipers will help clear a bath for assault forces, while in others you’ll want the anti-tank Grenadier characters to blow through heavy defenses. What’s great, however, is that as you capture more bases on a map, you can bring new units into the fight using Combat Points (CP).
CP serve a variety of purposes, first and foremost to move your units in battle. Each time you select a unit, a combat point is consumed. Unused combat points can be carried forward to your next player phase, so it’s not always necessary to blow all your points just for the sake of doing it. While useful for attacking, CP can also be used to bring new characters onto the field of play. The number of points you earn each turn is dependent on the number of senior ranking officials in your party. As key players – such as Claude Wallace – die or are removed from battle, your CP points awarded to you each player turn will diminish by 1.
Strategy plays a key role in Valkyria Chronicles 4, and that is where the top-down map view comes into play. Command Mode is where you will spend CP, selecting which units you want to move around the map, and which you need to put into strategic positions for a few phases down the road. Thinking ahead is key to success, and the sooner your learn the ins and outs of your units and capabilities, the better.
Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a fantastic turn based role playing game that shouldn’t be looked over by anyone who is a fan of the genre. If you’ve never played a turn based RPG before, this is an excellent place to start. The story builds and introduces the complex layers of the current political climate in a way that allows new players to feel like they aren’t missing out on anything the series has displayed in previous releases. As a new player to the franchise, I never felt like I was missing out on something, and if there hadn’t been a ‘4’ attached to the title, I might have assumed I was playing a brand new franchise all together.
While I would have liked more challenge on the battle field from time to time – mostly due to incompetent AI enemies that do things that make little to no sense – the overall experience is one I really enjoyed. The actual RPG elements are simple to understand, and upgrading characters and weapons doesn’t impose a steep learning curve like in other games. This is a light experience, and for some that might be a bad thing. For me? I couldn’t be happier.