Valkyria Chronicles as a series has an interesting history. The first game launched exclusively for the PS3 but failed to meet the expectations of SEGA leading to them reducing the scope and changing the platform for its sequels. The next two games were both released for the PSP but they were a radical departure from the origins of the series. After SEGA managed to release the first Valkyria Chronicles on PC, it became something of a surprise hit and sold through more than half million copies.
The surge of interest in the series uncovered the eyes of SEGA who ultimately decided to bring it back, beginning with a remaster of the first Valkyria Chronicles and promptly leading to the 4th entry. Indeed, this is a proper sequel to the first Valkyria Chronicles game that the fans have waited for a long time now. It offers the same unique art style from the CANVAS Graphic Engine that powered the first Valkyria Chronicles. Even the story is more of a prequel with the events directly tying into the first game. Fans who fell in love with the series will have a great time with it, but what exactly changed here?
If you haven’t played any of the previous games, you might find it odd at first how the story focuses on an alternative version of the world. Set in the 1930s on the Europa continent where war is brewing between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance, the game does a great job at explaining the origins of the war and how it has affected this world. Ragnite serves as the primary source of fuel in this fantasy world and as the empire marches forward to manage the supply for Ragnite in Europa, the Federation has to step up to defend their homeland from this invasion.
You will control Claude Wallace, who remains the leader of Squad E working for the Federation. The Federation is under threat of an attack by the evil Alliance Empire and to counter it, they hatch a plan called Operation Northern Cross. This will task Claude Wallace along with his Squad E to attempt to take on the Imperial Capital. He has to confront his way through countless Imperial Soldiers and even face the divine powers of the Valkyria.
The main cast is completely new even though the events in the game take place around the similar time as the first game. This makes it easier for newcomers to get accustomed to the story and characters. Squad E will start with just a few members but grows across the course of the story. You keep unlocking new members for the Squad after clearing each chapter. These are not just given a name and job but offer their own backstory. They can also have unique abilities that can come handy during battles. Depending on who you will pick for each battle, the outcome and interaction among characters can change substantially.
In Valkyria Chronicles 4, the story gets presented in the form of the memoir of Claude Wallace and the narrative divided into chapters on each page of the diary. You can navigate to any specific page to watch a story cutscene or play through the key battles offered in each chapter. It is a progression system that doesn’t leave room for a branching narrative but retains the focus on linearity, and it works effectively here. It is possible to gain access to some other important options on the diary, e.g. saving the game, going to a specific chapter or changing the difficulty, which by default sets to normal but you can also pick easy.
What I liked about the story was it was rather laid back and pretty straightforward. I thoroughly enjoyed how each character was given a personality and developed accordingly. This is all handled exceptionally well and it is an improvement over the first game. Nevertheless, the story equally suffers from a lack of meaningful new development since it is the same timeline. The cut scenes themselves are pretty entertaining though, but they can suffer from being overly long. The writing is not that clever but you can detect traces of humor in between the somber tones of the story. These cutscenes, that you experience in each chapter get labeled as episodes. Some of these are animated cutscenes while others are mostly comic-book style character portraits laid over on the screen with dialogue boxes to advance the plot.
The gameplay this time is more of the same, but I wouldn’t term it a disappointment. The key gameplay elements from the first Valkyria are present and there is little to change here since they were already excellent enough. There are, of course, recent additions to the combat system like an extra type of squad member called grenadier with the ability to fire mortar rounds and expanded support options. The cast is comparatively large thus presenting you many choices in how to approach each encounter, but this exerts a negative effect on the class customization, which feels lacking compared to its predecessors. Sadly, despite the game offering a fun strategic combat system, the AI is rather dim-witted and can often simply waste their time instead of offering something competitive thus leading to some easy battles.
Each battle that you will complete gets ranked, and you receive points and a grade letter based on your performance. Typically, you get limited to just 20 turns per battle but if you can complete the battle conditions quickly, it is possible to end up with a superior grade. If we combine this with the character pairing system that leads to new squad stories presenting an insight into the backstory for a potential character, it adds some replay value to the main story chapters. The issue with the story over here is not the content offered but the presentation, and it is basically chopped into a piece of tiny episodes that you can select at any point, therefore leading to a system that encourages replay value but it comes at the cost of a disjointed experience.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a tactical role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 in March 2018, and is scheduled to be released worldwide in September 2018, in addition for the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.
Final Score - 8.5/10
I have consistently advocated good character development and a likable cast and this is all present in Valkyria Chronicles 4. The strategic combat is more of the same but the new cast offers a refreshing change of pace that can overcome the lack of innovation in the gameplay department.