Valkyria Chronicles came out for the PlayStation 3 in November of 2008, but went mostly unnoticed at launch due to the lack of advertising by Sega. Luckily we live in the age of the Internet; so, word of this great game did finally get around enough that they promised a sequel for the PSP…but first, let’s start at the beginning.
Valkyria Chronicles is an innovative tactical RPG that is more or less an alternate history of World War II in Central Europe. The game takes place in Europa during the year 1935 in the country of Gallia, a small independent nation that sits between the Atlantic Federation to the west and Empire to the east. The story opens as the town of Bruhl. Welkin returns to his hometown just as it is invaded by the Empire, and the town’s militia is forced into action, buying time for the citizens to escape. Welkin, son of a great general, joins the militia in defending his homeland, and after their escape, the suriviors are conscripted into the military. Welkin is given command over Squad 7, with Alicia from the militia as his second. The ragtag group of freedom fighters are given all of the dirty jobs and suicide missions the true military doesn’t want to touch. Your goal is to keep Welkin and company alive and stop the Empire from destroying Gallia, all while finding out the history and mythology behind the region isn’t quite what it seems.
The main interface for the game is presented in the form of a book. As the story progresses, new chapters are opened, and within each chapter, there are sections that are devoted to story and others devoted to battle, where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. The battle mode employs a unique system known as BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones). The BLiTZ system mixes tradtional tactical role playing game elements with some first person shooter elements. At the start of each turn, you are given a certain amount of command points, and each ground troop requires one point to move while tanks require two. You also gain orders that you can issue to improve attack, evasion, etc which also cost command points. Each turn starts with an overhead view of the battle map with icons representing the types of troops on the field. You can see all of your own troops on the map, but enemy troops are only shown if they are within sight, creating a sort of “fog of war.” Once you select a soldier to move, the map zooms in on the soldier, and you switch into a real time battle where you maneuver the soldier across the map, dodging crossfire along the way. Once you choose your target, you enter targeting mode which stops the crossfire and allows you a chance to aim at the enemy. If the enemy survives your attack, they get the chance to counterattack, and then the real time battle resumes. The system is pretty easy to get used to, and once you understand the intricacies, you can really use it to your advantage. That being said, there are definitely some battles that require some thought to survive. I died a couple of times late in the game due to mismanagement of my troops, and missing an ambush from their reinforcements. There are five different troop types at your disposal: Scouts who have long movement and sight range, shocktroopers that deliver the damage, heavily armed lancers who excel at taking out armored tanks, fragile engineers who disarm mines and repair your tanks and eagle-eyed snipers for long-range shots. Within each discipline, you will see a vast array of characters, each with their own personality traits, strengths and weaknesses. And in Valkyria Chronicles, those traits are more than just character development, they actually affect gameplay. For example, one character may be a “neat freak,” which means that if they are running through the dirt, it may distract them enough to lower their accuracy, while another is “country bred,” enjoying a boost to abilities while in the dirt.
The graphics of the game are beautiful. Rather than pursue realistic 3-D graphics, the creators of Valkyria Chronices chose a cel-shaded design. The characters and environments are all fantastically done, and the graphically displayed sound effects add a cute, comic book like touch. The character designs are well done and most of the uniforms are reminiscent of real military uniforms from the era. The music does a great job of setting the mood, both during battle and during the dialogue scenes. While in “Book mode” the music is quite peaceful, which juxtaposes well with the music that you hear on the battlefield. It creates a sense of urgency during the fight. And the voice actors are pretty good all around, nobody sounded terribly out of place, but if I had to pick favorites, I would say Zaka, Jane and Maria are my favorites.
The game is fantastically executed all around, and I would venture to say that it is in the debate for the best game on the PS3 to date. The BLiTZ system carries enough RPG elements for a diehard RPG fan to love it, while possibly making new RPG fans out of some fans of FPS games.
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