Also available on PlayStation Vita and Xbox One
You know how most series have "that game"? The one game that breaks form, tries something new with mixed results, and is generally not well regarded? This is the Valkyria Chronicles' series "that game." Taking place in a separate Europa from the main series' universe, Valkyria Revolution sheds its predecessors' hybrid-but-leaning-turn-based combat for hybrid-but-leaning-real-time combat, and while it's good for a series to try to keep itself fresh, this was perhaps not the best way for Sega to go about doing that.
One thing that Sega did do well and for which I must commend them is making the game distinctly different but still feel like its predecessors. The combat, for example, felt a lot like Valkyria Chronicles except that instead of having a certain distance you can move before you have to end your turn, you move in real time; the only "turn" aspect is an action timer for your attacks. The action takes place, for all intents and purposes, in real time, but it still felt very much like the core series. The visual style also felt very similar. It looked a little less watercolor than Valkyria Chronicles, but the interesting use of visual filters made the whole game feel like a painting in a history book, a feeling that long-time Valkyria fans will recognize right away.
The game's story is a mixed bag. The basic premise is that you're a soldiers from Jutland, a small kingdom that's been under the thumb of the massive Ruzi Empire and suffering from an economic embargo orchestrated by Ruz for the past year. Jutland breaks its less-than-voluntary alliance with Ruz with a surprise attack on the formerly Jutish (now Ruzi) territory of Molda, starting the "Liberation War." In some regards, it's not totally dissimilar from Valkyria Chronicles - you play as a soldier from a small underdog nation that's going up against a massive empire. This game's problem isn't with the story, however, but with the story telling. The narrative is told in the form of a frame story, and while that works quite well, the pacing is slow and, at times, sluggish. The main story battles always seem to end predictably - you fight a big boss, beat the big boss, and then Amleth has a personal crisis at the most inconvenient possible time because plot devices and allows the big boss to escape. It's a shame, too, because the game's story is rooted in political intrigue and manipulation - it's got a distinct House of Cards feel in some ways.
The game's visuals are nice and very artistically done, but they're not impressive, per se. The somewhat blurred artstyle can take away from texture detail at medium distances, and it can make distant objects look much lower resolution than they are. Of course, those are part of that deliberate art style, but I personally think the game could have benefited from a little more sharpness. The biggest visual problem is with the animations in cut scenes. Faces are stiff with mouths that don't even come close to matching up with the words - legit 1950s Godzilla movie tier - and when characters walk off screen during a scene, they'll turn a full second before they start walking. The extraordinarily unnatural movements in cut scenes deals a hefty blow to my immersion.
The sound design here is hit or miss. The soundtrack is great, but the voice acting and sound effects are very 50/50. Some of the voice acting is good - the voice actresses for Uni and Blanc from my beloved Hyperdimension Neptunia series lend their talents here - but some of it is stiff and just awful. The enemy AI's lines also get extremely annoying because they'll get stuck; you'll have an enemy who says "I'm attacking!" over and over again without end until you attack them. Generally, though, outside of the most prominent characters, the voice acting is utterly forgettable.
Despite the issues with pacing, and despite the lackluster voice acting, and despite my personal nit picks with the visual art choices, the game's biggest flaw is without a doubt the bugs. There aren't many that I found, and the ones that I did find were all isolated to the Finale chapter, but that chapters was relentlessly frustrating with the bugs I encountered. The first issue that I encountered was that my weapons would randomly not work; about 85% or 90% of the time, if I had a character use his or her gun or throw a grenade, nothing would happen. No sound effect, no visual effect, no damage. The attack wasn't blocked; it just didn't exist. That continued in all three battles of the Finale as well as the boss battles. Even my magic attacks wouldn't work for anyone except Amleth meaning that I had to just smack giant tanks with my sword until they exploded from the sheer force of my stubbornness. Then there's a bug that I encountered my first attempt that the Finale that, if you run into it, makes it literally impossible to kill the second to last boss. He just won't take that last point of damage. THEN when I finally made it to the final boss, there are orbs indicating which magic types its weak against. Guess what didn't spawn and, I assume, therefore didn't trigger the magic weakness? Yep. Those orbs. So all of my attacks were doing 1 HP of damage, and the boss had like 250,000 HP. Needless to say, I died. Granted, close and relaunching the application fixed most of these (except that bug with the second to last boss), but the fact that they appeared at all was supremely vexing.
Valkyria Revolution is, all things considered, an alright game. It's definitely going to resonate better with newcomers to the series, I think, than veterans and longtime fans, but it's worth playing if you find it on sale. I would not, however, pay any more than $20 for it. It's not a great game, but it's definitely not bad. I was disappointed in it, but I think this is less a case of a sub-par game and more that it just didn't live up to the standards set by the series that preceded it. For newcomers to the the Valkyria Chronicles series, give it a play; you'll probably enjoy it. For series veterans, unless you're like me and have to play every release no matter what reviewers say, I'd suggest just going online and watching the cut scenes to get the narrative; they're so lengthy as it is that I jokingly started calling the game Valkyria Gear Solid, so there's a good bit of story to be had.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.