Haven Review: Valkyria Chronicles

First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

War, war has changed.
On an alternate Earth, sometime around the first World War, Gallia sits on a wast deposit of ragnite and is caught between two giant empires. The only reason they can keep their neutrality is through superior army strength and training. Unfortunately the enemy did not listen, and so they invaded. The game starts as Gunter Welkin returns to his hometown as it’s suddenly invaded by the enemy. From here on out, he teams up with his sisters, the local baker, a tank his father left in the garage and a bunch of ragtag misfits who are supposed to be the Gallian Militia.

Valkyria Chronicles is a story about war, love, duty and some questionable unit designs. Pretty much all of the female characters strut around in a militarized version of a school uniform, complete with skirt, leggings, blue bloomers and bits of armor. The cast is composed of anime stereotypes from end to end…both the good and the bad. I’m also sure that all resemblances to Asterix is completely intentional.

So many enmeis
Everything stops when you’re aiming at the enemy.

The thing that really sets this franchise apart from any other turn-based game is the attractiveness of the combat. It’s quite simple. Each turn there is set number of action points. The player selects a friendly unit and takes direct control over it until it’s dead, or the turn has been cancelled. As each class has a different movement range, the player must actually walk the distance to get anywhere. Any units who can shoot at you while running will do so if they can see you. However if one starts to aim, everything will stop. Should the target in question survive, it will return fire. The more of the target that’s within the ring, the higher the hit chance. This means that the damn lancers have virtually no accuracy and are essentially pointing their sticks with rockets toward their target.

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Between missions, the player can upgrade and outfit the army with weapons unlocked from fallen enemies, gifts or through research. This allows for some customization. The commander tank can be customized in many ways, but at some point it would be virtually impossible to drive due to weight. I call it an acceptable break from reality. As the story progresses, many orders are unlocked as well. These cost command points, but can boost units to heck and back. Nothing is more impressive than a rifle killing a tank with five bullets in one move. Should one of the non-main characters die in combat, there are three turns to rescue them. However if the enemy touches them, they are gone forever.

Each individual in the army is unique, with various good and bad traits; some worse than others. Some are unlockable or class/level-related. For sanity’s sake, anyone with pacifism and klutz should be avoided like the plague, unless you’re an achievement hunter.

Hidden enemy movement
The tactical map and hidden enemy movement.

What is bad, you might wonder by now? Trying to control the damn tank, that’s what! The vehicle turns according to the camera and can easily get stuck in scenery and be unable to cross tiny ditches. I’ve seen an excavator cross with ease, and sometimes the environment will prevent you from hitting when next to a corner. It also feels a bit too “floaty” and could have a bit more impact. The biggest difference between PS3 and PC are the resolution, stable frame-rate, customized controls and loading speed.

anime like action scenes.
Epic scenes and questionable vehicle designs.

The art style is fantastic, but it also highlights a very common trend with the current generation of anime. Even though they are capable of facial animations and emotion, they chose instead to keep the face very stylistic. Most of the characters’ looks and personality are taken from the usual tropes; over-the-top and very predictable. There’s also a big fascination with spirals and lances throughout the series. For the purist out there, all the dialogue can be set to Japanese voice-over at will. The localization team did not do a bad job, but the choice is there and that’s what matters in the end. The music and sound effects are quite decent, with a fitting sound track. But it sort of just hangs there and leaves no lasting impression. After some hours I just muted the music.

The Steam version of Valkyria Chronicles comes with all DLC and is quite often on sale.

-Njål Sand-