Valkyria Revolution comes to the West following initial release over in Japan, where it was known as Valkyria Azure Revolution. It comes localised to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita, and serves as a light spin-off to the acclaimed Valkyria Chronicles series. Unlike the series that this attaches itself to, Valkyria Revolution is an action-RPG that borrows some small but powerful elements from other genres of its kind. It’s worth pointing out however, that if you’re looking (or hoping) for something that sits inline with Valkyria Chronicles, you’ll be sorely disappointed. That’s not to say that Valkyria Revolution is a poor game, far from it, but in order to avoid feeling let down, you need to be aware that this houses a different formula.
First and foremost, expect plenty of cutscenes and gameplay interruptions throughout the first hour or two of the experience. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but I dare say it will test the patience of players that just want to get to the nitty gritty. With that said, Valkyria Revolution is a very story driven game that doesn’t lean too heavily on any singular plot point. There are heaps of story threads to follow throughout the adventure. The story tells of five lifelong friends that have been consumed by revenge, and as a result, spin an entire continent into war.
You play as Amleth, one of the five main characters in the game. Amleth (along with the others) are members of an Anti-Valkyria movement that instigate a war with the Ruzhien Empire, which ultimately sees them being branded as traitors, through the passages of time. I say that because the story is told via a history book, some 100 years in the future. What’s especially interesting is that the versions jotted down in the History books, vary from the actual events, leading you to question the outcome at every turn. I could go on and on and dish up a lot of juicy info, but taking the length of the game into account, and just how long it would take players to get through the beefy cutscenes to catch up, I’ll leave it there. What I will say however is that if you enjoy a strong narrative, you’ll find few reasons to dislike what’s on offer here.
Gameplay typically consists of taking on missions, ensuring that you have the necessary items and equipment to remain on par with the progressive difficulty, and going all-out into the countless battles that await. The offer of side-missions helps to shake up the pace a bit, but these optional objectives don’t tend to be as intriguing as the main servings. There are indeed different mission types that you can throw yourselves into, but I found the structure to be somewhat repetitive and sporadic. In any case, Revolution is a much more lenient game than any one from the Chronicles saga, which is a good thing in my opinion.
Another break away from Chronicles that Revolution houses is the combat system. In Revolution, the combat leans harder on the action-RPG setting, offering up swordplay and shoot-ups, depending on which character you choose to send out. The ability to quick-shift between roles using the D-pad, gets a big thumbs up from me. This makes swapping from short range to long range roles extremely easy, and something you’ll often need to do when you misjudge the weight of battle beforehand. It also comes in handy for when you want to use a tactical edge over your foes, playing your strengths against their weaknesses. It really is a well implemented system that doesn’t tax you too much, thanks to how fluid it is.
It pays off to understand your opponents, as well as their formations and attack patterns. It’s especially useful to send in a team of sword wielders if you’re facing off against multiple enemies that band together. On the flip side, if you’re going toe-to-toe with a tank or mech, you’ll want to mix up the roles and find the best middle ground, efficiently keeping on top of the grunts, yet tackling the tank / mech with ranged weaponry at the same time. Indeed, the combat does become quite rinse and repeat before long, but I guess that’s to be expected when you take the genre of the game into account. I cant say that I found Valkyria Revolution to be boring on this front, but it didn’t do much to keep the combat fresh throughout the entirety of play.
Battles are presented in real time, and as expected, you can dodge and guard whenever you need to. There’s a gauge that informs you on when you can attack. You can also utilise magic through the use of Ragnite for that extra powerful mana-fuelled kick. Ragnite can also be used to upgrade a character’s elemental stats, so it’s wise to make sure you balance the use of it in battle and for upgrade. Mercifully, the AI counterparts behave much better than I was expecting, presenting me with new hardships and challenges as I made my way through the game.
It may feel a little bit on the simple side to begin with, but when you clock in an X amount of hours, the energy and difficulty climbs almost perfectly. Throw in the fact that Valkyria Revolution gives you a massive amount of customisation to play around with, being weaponry, gear, skills and more. You’ll know where you stand in the game when you come across the boss fights, which are naturally the most taxing and toughest of fights that you’ll encounter within. If anything in this game is going to put you in your place, it’s the boss segments. That’s not a negative, in contrast the boss fights are actually well set. They don’t outstay their welcome, nor do they frustrate you, they just push you to your limit and make sure that you’re putting 110% of your effort into the experience.
Between missions, you have the opportunity to make your way back to the city of Jutland, Elsinore, and enjoy the freedom of venturing. You’ll learn that throughout the course of the game, the city and the inhabitants will change as the war rages on. Sadly, for something that effectively acts as a hub, there really isn’t that much to do here outside of shopping for gear, upgrades, and having the occasional party-member chat. This is a wasted opportunity that could have been used to really add some structure to questing, and furthermore, it felt like the perfect place to take some of the weight off the heavy cutscene story-telling and dial it down a notch for catch-up narrative, for those that decided to skip the lengthy scenes, much like the Kalm group-up from Final Fantasy VII.
Unfortunately, I cant commend every aspect of the game. Although the visuals are gorgeously presented in a watercolour-style art, I found the character animations to be quite stiff. Movement of each character (especially when talking) is somewhat distracting and not fully refined. I couldn’t help feel as though I was playing with last-gen character models, in a current gen game. That may sound like quite a bonkers analogy, but that’s the best way I could describe the vibe. Voice acting on the other hand is remarkably good, it’s clear that the cast, or most of them, put in their best efforts, and it truly pays off. The same can be said about the beautiful soundtrack, which provides that extra sense of depth to back up the drama when necessary, and pulls in the energy when you’re going into battle. Really, the soundtrack captures the tones of the story extremely well.
Valkyria Revolution isn’t a perfect game, but it’s certainly one that genre fans and newcomers alike can enjoy. The experience is absolutely polluted with cutscenes that last in excess of 20 – 30 minutes in rapid succession, which may indeed piss off those that just want to enjoy the game without risking the loss of a story thread. Another gripe of mine sits with the character animation and models, which just look stiff, out of place, and almost last gen. If however you can overlook those issues, there’s a hugely intriguing action RPG that’s just waiting for you to dive into. The combat is decent, the level up system is spot on, and the vast amount of customisation options is incredible. The plot (although long winded) is well written, well voiced, and well worth following to the conclusion, and to say that you have tens upon tens of hours worth of play, it’s a worthy exchange for the price point
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.