Valkyria Chronicles is a modern classic. One of the last Sega titles to live up to the company’s legacy, its arrival on PS3 in 2008 – eventually followed by remasters for PC and PS4 – showcased a development team well at ease with themselves and the console, allowing them to tell a remarkably tender and personal story of war.
Its tactical and thoughtful gameplay remains one of the best examples of the action-strategy genre, so when it was announced that there was going to be a follow up, it’s no surprise that people were excited. Unfortunately, much of what made the original such a fan favourite is missing here, making Valkyria Revolution a distinct disappointment.
The first disservice Revolution does to its predecessor is to do away entirely with its events, and indeed with its interpretation of the world. In this version of Europa, the discovery of Ragnite fuelled both an economic boom and conflict between nations as they all sought out the powerful mineral.
You pick up the story – told via flashbacks – taking control of the anti-Valkyria unit The Vanagard, who take up arms for the country of Jutland against the Ruzhien Empire in an effort to secure independence. An economic block has been put in place by Jutland’s neighbours which has seen their populace fall into abstract poverty, and it’s you and your team’s task to put an end to it.
It might sound like one of the Star Wars prequels, but it’s really just a tale of revenge against five Ruzi generals by the “Five Traitors” and any altruistic purpose feels tainted by that. It feels for fleeting moments as though the team at Media.Vision were searching for a similar tone to the original game, but decided instead to riddle their narrative with crass vulgarities and inconsistencies, all the while plagued by terrible dialogue, and played out by a bunch of characters you simply won’t care about.
The primary gameplay is an odd amalgam of the turn-based combat of the original and a hack and slash title, with each character’s action gauge slowly filling until you’re able to attack. You can guard, evade or run while you wait for that opportunity, while a quick tap of the triangle button pauses the action and opens the Battle Palette, which accesses alchemical spells, secondary weapons or items.
There are other nods to strategy, especially against some of the larger foes where you need to target different parts in order to weaken them before finishing them off, while Battle Manifests function much like Final Fantasy XII’s Gambits allowing you to set your AI teammates behaviour, and you can also choose from an array of formations for your squad. However, it all feels as though there are systems upon systems here for the sake of it, and they don’t gel with anything near to the elegance of Valkyria Chronicles.
There’s a clunky cover system that you’ll need to pay attention to, as being concealed lowers the damage you take while also recovering HP. Interestingly some of your actions can also trigger different emotional responses from your enemies such as panic or surprise, which can give you a fleeting advantage. Having said that, your own team is just as susceptible, and you’ll have to be wary of getting into any further conflicts while experiencing one of these emotions and its negative effects. There can be moments of fun as you work your way around clearing a map, but it ultimately feels a bit empty.
It’s possible that people may not know that much about Valkyria Chronicles, but they will likely know about its art style. The original’s soft, painterly effect added an immense amount of personality to the game and was just as striking when it returned in last year’s remaster, but for whatever reason it hasn’t made a return here. What we’ve got instead is some generic, anime-style characters, with a very poor static visual filter placed over the top.
They’re also poorly animated, most obviously during the frequent and overly long cutscenes, and there’s not a hint of lip-syncing to the English voice track, making the whole affair feel like an unfinished budget release. It seems obvious that being granted the Valkyria name has caused delusions of grandeur to what is an extremely ordinary action RPG.
Things aren’t helped by the odd performance stutter here and there when things gets busier, and an excruciating number of pauses while it loads the next section – which will mostly be another cutscene. There’s far more exposition than actual gameplay, which can work if what you’re watching is actually interesting. That is not the case here.
Valkyria Revolution’s biggest crime is that it is utterly dull. The tonal changes to the narrative, and to the combat system, are completely pointless, and not only do a disservice to the Valkyria name, they render it meaningless. Such are the differences between the two titles I don’t understand why they bothered to sully the series’ fantastic reputation with this release.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 Pro