The notion of an established franchise taking chances and trying new things via spinoffs has an inherent draw to it, but that doesn’t mean execution is easy. After three relatively well received (though perhaps increasingly less influential) Valkyria Chronicles games, Sega rightly decided it was time to try something new with Valkyria Revolution. While I can’t say with certainty that fans across the spectrum are going to enjoy the changes, I do appreciate the intent even if what Revolution aims for is too often not exactly achieved. Thankfully the game doesn’t go so far as to call itself Valkyria Chronicles 4, allowing for the proper player mindset going in.
A World You’ll Almost Get Lost In
Valkyria Revolution is brand new material in terms of plot and lore, and its name isn’t mere fluff; the game deals primarily in European historical influences, its story beats shrouded in deception and conspiracy that at times feels all too familiar to waking life. The plot centers around war and its hardships, with conflict borne primarily from power struggles over a coveted and non-renewable resource called Ragnite.
While exposition in Revolution is impressively detailed and thorough, it was clear from the start that plot and gameplay are each their own silos. While this can certainly work in theory, here pacing begins to feel a bit stilted as a result. Shiny cutscenes and movies press things along at a respectable clip, but they can also start to feel lengthy or even yawn-inducing despite their quality. Then, suddenly, it’s time for gameplay again, where you’re unlikely to learn anything of importance until the next story-unload comes along. It’s enough to fatigue the player far more quickly than it should.
As Revolution wears on it sadly falls victim to an all-too-common enemy of immersion in gaming today: its own voice acting. The dub is goofy and fun as is common for JRPGs, but unlike many JRPGs Valkyria Revolution is actually taking itself and its story completely seriously. As such, the voice performances become tiresome quickly, and add little if anything to my ability to invest in the world Revolution attempts to conjure. With this attempt does often succeed, it isn’t consistent, which means Valkyria Revolution falls short of being must-play due to immersion and worldbuilding alone.
Jack of Some Trades
Thankfully I did find gameplay to be substantial fun, and with a lack of true Valkyria strategy-depth expectations lashed to my experience I was largely able to overlook narrative shortcomings and enjoy myself. Revolutions is far more of an action title than its predecessors but hasn’t completely abandoned strategy, and its serviceable pallette of attacks, dashes, and defense capabilities function respectably alongside familiar albeit deemphasized Valkyria strategic trappings.
A menu accompanies most combat situations to house said strategy options, most of them centered around time manipulation and the player’s ability to gain an advantage. There’s also a cover system and magic involved, the totality of these systems amounting to a bit more juggling than I tend to prefer - thankfully, not to the extent of feeling overwhelming. Once you get the hang of combat you’ll no-doubt start mowing down enemy forces and faceless goons with near-Warriors levels of ease, but success doesn’t automatically equate to satisfaction. With the clear separation between plot and gameplay that I mentioned earlier, after a while I began to feel a bit numb to it all.
An undeniable highlight and important pacemaker are boss encounters, and while a handful of bouts amount to little more than peppering hulks with as much fire as possible, others require clever strategy and wit to get the better of and take down. You’ll also need to employ pre-fight planning here, identifying means to deactivate enemy shields, stage advantageous matchups, and generally put your team in the best possible position to win. Some encounters do repeat themselves with slight variation, but all-in-all boss fights in Valkyria Revolution struck me as enjoyable and well worth the time spent taking them down.
Ultimately I’m not sure that fusing action and strategy for the latest Valkyria was a wise move, especially when the latter ultimately feels tacked-on in comparison with the depth found in previous games. Throw in gameplay that feels wholly isolated from Revolution’s original, compelling, but also convoluted and overwrought plot and narrative delivery, and overall pacing and flow end up becoming a weak point despite their success during individual sections.
I’ll emphasize again that Revolution is not Valkyria Chronicles 4, nor is it a full $60 title; $39.99 will net you the full experience, and for that price the game is, if nothing else, a very solid value. In my estimation series newbies lacking preconceived expectations will probably have the most fun with Revolution, but it’s hard to imagine fans being thrilled with the game’s at-times confused direction even if they do fully understand its proclaimed spinoff nature.
Griffin Vacheron is a Contributing Editor for GameRevolution. You can follow him on Twitter @novacav.
A PS4 copy of Valkyria Revolution was provided by its publisher. Valkyria Revolution is available on PS4, PS Vita, and Xbox One.